Monday, November 21, 2011

Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown

This may be a little ambitious to put these three historic places into one post, but I've got so much stuff to post right now it'll have to do. So back when I still had morning sickness and never went anywhere I asked Robert if we could have a "babymoon" and go off together without Julia for a while. We tossed around a few ideas and finally settled on checking off some of our to-do list in Virginia. So last month we left Julia with Robert's Mom for five days and took off to explore Virginia.

The first place we visited was Williamsburg. Williamsburg was the capital of Virginia pre-American Revolution. It's now like a history Disneyland with lots of restored houses, working 18th century artisan shops, and actors in period clothing walking around.

My favorite house was the governor's mansion.
The front entry way and hallway is crazy with all the arms they had as decoration.
Another important building was the Capitol Building. It was where the Virginia House of Burgesses met, whose members around the time of the Revolution included people like Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry. Eventually the same body of men led Virginia to be the first state to propose declaring independence at the Second Continental Congress.
Williamsburg is super close to Jamestown and Yorktown, so the area is called the Historic Triangle. The next day we did Jamestown in the morning and Yorktown in the afternoon (BTW, of you go, besides the sites run by the National Park Service there is also a Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center that are tourist spots for live history reenactment type stuff. We just went to the NPS sites and didn't feel like we were missing out on anything since the actual history happened at the NPS sites.)

I loved Jamestown! It was so cool to see the actual site where John Smith and the rest of the Virginia Company first tried to settle in America. Part of the reason we had such a great experience at Jamestown was we took the archaeology tour given by one of the archaeologists excavating the site. The archaeologists take turns giving a one hour tour of the site once a day, and since we were there at the right time and without a toddler, it was perfect for us! The tour was great. The archaeologist had actually been there for most of the large discoveries and was really exited and knowledgeable about the work being done. It was cool to hear about how they discovered the artifacts, and then go into the visitor center and actually see the artifacts she had been describing.

It wasn't until recently that they even knew where the site of the original fort was. A lot of historians and archaeologists thought the site had probably been washed away into the sea since so much erosion had taken place along the banks from all the big boats going past on the river. For the 400th anniversary of Jamestown they decided to actually look into it and discovered
that most of the original site was still there!

This is our tour guide standing in their current dig site, the site of the original church building in the fort. This would have been the place where John Rolfe and Pocahantas were married, probably right about where the guide is standing.

Robert takes a work call as we pose in front of the John Smith statue.
This is pretty much a view of the entire fort, it wasn't all that big. You can see the graveyard right in front. They lost a lot of men in the first little while and they had to bury them all within the walls of the fort so the Indians wouldn't know how many men they were losing.

So after Jamestown we headed to the site of the Battle of Yorktown, the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. After the American's won this battle the British surrendered (although the commanding British general. General Cornwallis, had his second in command surrender for him, claiming he was sick.)

A major part of the battle was the storming of the redoubts. Redoubts were like elevated earthen forts where the British had cannons they were firing. The Americans needed to get control of the redoubts to continue moving towards the town of Yorktown and the British. Here is Robert in front of a redoubt (Redoubt #10?)
This may look like just an empty field, but this is where the Revolutionary War came to an end. This is where the British surrendered to George Washington. Well, actually, the second British General in Command tried to give the sword of surrender to the French General Rochambeau, still not acknowledging Washington and the Americans as a separate nation. Rochambeau refused and pointed towards Washington. Washington also refused the sword and pointed to his second in command, seeing it only fitting for the second in command to surrender to the second in command.
The day we were there these French "soldiers" were also there singing songs and marching around the field. I have no idea who they were or why they were there, but they were actual Frenchmen. I mean, the French did have a major role in the Battle of Yorktown (the Americans never would have won if the French Navy hadn't blocked the British Navy from sending in more troops by sea) but I don't know why these particular Frenchmen were there that day. Anyhow, they were cute and good at posing for pictures.
Whew, if you made it to the end congratulations, you must like history. It was a lot of history for us packed into two days, and we still had three more days of visiting more historical sites. To be continued...
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