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Yorktown and Jamestown, VA

Yorktown is where the end of the American Revolution began when Washington cornered Cornwallis and his british troops there, forcing them to surrender. British ships sent down from New York to help Cornwallis failed when they were met at the harbor entrance by French ships sent to help the Americans. I found it interesting that soldiers from many nations fought in this war on both sides and both sides offered freedom to negro slaves and indentured servants if they would join their armies when more men were needed. Unfortunately, those on the losing side did not all get what was promised and likely met harsh punishment from their masters. Many were driven out of the british lines during the war when smallpox appeared and the former slaves were found to be particularly susceptible to it.

You can tour the entire battlefield and encampments for both sides as well as the final place of surrender by car. There is a museum there with a partial replica of the inside of a period ship, Cornwallis’s portable war table, and Washington’s actual sleeping and dining tents. Yes, they still exist and look pretty good. I got to stand inside Washington’s dining tent. How cool is that? The tents were handed down through Martha’s relatives and ended up with the wife of Robert E. Lee, the famous confederate general. They were well protected by the family and during the civil war were protected by the patent office then eventually returned to the Lees. You will also see a LOT of cannons there of all different makes. One cannon in the museum was identified as actually having been used during the revolutionary war there at Yorktown by General Lafayette during a return visit. He could tell by a distinctive mark where it was hit.

Cannons galore and earthworks

For more Yorktown pics and details, click here.

On over to Jamestown on the Colonial Parkway which is a very nice drive, I saw the first permanent English colony. While most of the buildings are gone, the brick bases for them still exist and have been dug up by archaeologists, the patterns noted, and reburied to save them from the weather, etc. The church, graveyard, and fort are there along with a museum containing the artifacts found and the body of what they believe is the captain of one of the ships which brought them there. Here is the land of Pocahontas, Chief Powhatan. Capt. John Smith, and John Rolfe.

If all you know about it is what they teach in school, you are missing a lot of information and some of what you know is wrong. They came to again exploit the new world for England and find gold. What they found was hardship, death, and an Indian chief that wanted them gone or better yet extinct. John Smith was imprisoned aboard the ship on the way over and sentenced to die when they arrived but was saved when they opened their orders upon arrival and found that he was put in charge. Oops! You can blame tobacco on John Rolfe who came up with the idea of raising it as a crop when nothing else was working and they hadn’t found gold and other riches. He knew East Indies tobacco was very popular in England. Pocahontas did marry John Rolfe but died in England in her twenties and he remarried the daughter of another colonist. As for her saving John Smith’s life with Powhatan, that is a story John Smith told years later and was never verified. He tended to tell similar stories involving the ladies a lot.

Taxes were high there, affecting the poor more than the rich, and that along with the Indian problems and other things sparked a big rebellion (Bacon’s Rebellion) among the colonists. Jamestown was burned at one point. With the Virginia Assembly there too later and being a major port for goods to be delivered, it was anything but peaceful from what I can see.

The museums there are excellent and the presentation in their ultra-modern theater is a must see. There is also a replica of Jamestown nearby which you can tour to see what it was like living there. They have excavated many of the old buildings but then had to rebury them to protect them from the weather. They have created foundation replicas above the originals from bricks found there so you can still see the layout of the town. I liked the virtual viewer that is installed overlooking the township. When you point it at certain spots, a presentation or dramatization for the location plays.

Trash was interesting. When wells played out, they turned them into trash dumps thus preserving many significant items of the past. You will also see many gullies there by houses. Those too were used as trash dumps.

I also saw a herd of deer grazing about. In the evening as the tourists are departing, they come out.

Oh my aching back!

For more Jamestown pics and details, click here.

The one location I did not have time to see while at these two places is Williamsburg, also on the Colonial Parkway and part of the Civil War.

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