Archive for the ‘Great Lives’ Category

First Poles Arrive: not erected

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012


Skilled craftsmen of Polish origin recruited by the Virginia Company began arriving in Jamestown aboard the Mary and Margaret about 1 Oct. 1608. Poles contributed to the development of a glass factory and the production of potash, naval stores, and wood products. Soon samples of their work were shipped back to England. The workers were so highly prized that they were assigned apprentices so that their skill “shall no dye with them.” Capt. John Smith praised their work ethic in his writings. Court records indicate that as a result of a dispute, Poles were granted full voting rights on 21 July 1619.

Further Research

Depiction of 17th Century Glassblowing

When the Virginia colony was first forming, it was crucial to its survival to maintain propaganda and to establish firm governmental support and adequate financial backing.  To help establish this, a lawyer named Richard Haklyut wrote “Inducements to the Liking of the Voyage Intended Towards Virginia.”  In this treatise, he stated “Men skilful in burning of Sope ashes, and in making of Pitch, and Tarre, and Rozen, to be fetched out of Prussia and Poland, which are thence to be had for small wages, being there in maner of slaves” (Barbour, 77).

Captain Christopher Newport

According to Captain John Smith, “there are no better workers than Poles.” (Grizzard and Smith, 171)  Polish craftsmen were originally brought to the Virginia colony of Jamestown a the urging of Captain John Smith.  He had observed their work before and was impressed at the skills they possessed with their trade.  On October 1, 1608, famous Sea Captain Christopher Newport embarked on another journey to the Jamestown, this time bringing with him “8 Dutchmen and Poles” (Barbour, 78).  After arriving in the colony, these Dutch and Polish workers were responsible for creating a glass house, which would be the factory in which glass would be produced.  They were also responsible for making pitch and tar and soap ashe.  The Polish workers were also responsible for cutting down the timber for their woodworking projects, and they frequently would send examples of their work back to England.  These Polish workers can be seen as the first creators of American industry (Barbour, 81).

On Strike

In 1619, after years of Polish men working in Virginia, the Governor declared the first election of a legislative body for the people, but only those who were born on English soil would be allowed to vote in the election.  Outraged, the Polish workers began the first strike in American history and they refused to do anymore work until they were allowed to vote.  On July 21, 1619, the court record of the Virginia Company stated:

“Upon some dispute of the Polonians resident in Virginia, it was now agreed (notwithstanding any former order to the contrary) that they shalbe enfranchized, and made as free as any inhabitant there whatsoever: and because their skill in making pitch and tarr and sope-ashees shall not dye with them, it is agreed that some young men, shalbe put unto them to learne their skill and knowledge therein for the benefitt of the Country hereafter.” Basically, the courts determined that the Polish workers had the right to vote as well.

Interesting Facts

The refusal to work by the Polish laborers has been referred to as “the first labor strike in American history.”

There were actually two men by the name of Richard Haklyut that were involved in the process of colonizing Virginia.  One was a preacher and worked in conjunction with Sir Walter Raleigh; the other was a lawyer who wrote “Inducements to the Liking of the Voyage Intended Towards Virginia.”

Captain Christopher Newport was one of the original members of the group of colonists to arrive in Jamestown in 1607.  He sailed back to England shortly after arriving in Virginia and then made a second trip back in 1608, this time bringing with him the Polish and Dutch workers.


Further Reading

Barbour, Philip L. “The Identity of the First Poles in America.” William and Mary Quarterly, vol. 21 (1964).

Grizzard, Jr. Frank E. and D. Boyd Smith. Jamestown Colony: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2007.

“The First Polish Settlers,” Polish American Cultural Center Museum, (accessed April 29, 2012).

Photo Credits

“Depiction of 17th Century Glassblowing,” The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, (accessed April 28, 2012).

“Christopher Newport,” Encylopedia: Christopher Newport, (accessed April 28, 2012).

“On Strike,” First Polish Settlers, (accessed April 28, 2012).

 View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources link not available

First Germans at Jamestown WT-2

Thursday, March 29th, 2012


The first Germans to land in Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in Virginia, arrived aboard the vessel Mary and Margaret about 1 October 1608. These Germans were glassmakers and carpenters. In 1620, German mineral specialists and saw-millwrights followed, to work and settle in the Virginia Colony. These pioneers and skilled craftsmen were the forerunners of the many millions of Germans who settled in America and became the single largest national group to populate the United States.

Further Research

Glassblower in Colonial Jamestown

Various tradesmen constituted the labor force of the Jamestown colony, including blacksmiths, bricklayers and even jewelers and perfumers.  However, the most prominent skilled laborers mentioned in the history of Jamestown are the Dutch, German and Polish glassmakers and carpenters (Grizzard and Smith, 226).  The first group of these men arrived in the colony around October of 1608 as a small portion of Captain Newport’s crew aboard the ship the Mary and Margaret.  Out of a total number of about 70 passengers, only 8 of them were Dutch, German or Polish workers.  Known for their glassmaking abilities and craftsmanship, Captain Newport acquired these men from Prussia and Poland before setting sail for Jamestown (Wust, 3).

Upon arriving in the colony, the craftsmen got to work constructing various buildings and fabricating glass and other commodities for the colony.  It is important to note that when the Germans arrived, they had to build everything they needed from scratch in order to blow the glass, including the ovens that were used (Graasl, ).

Map Showing a Glassblowing Building

Because of their impressive skills at their trade, Captain John Smith assigned them a task to build a house for Chief Powhatan.  The chief requested a home that would be similar in architectural style as the German homes commonly seen in the colony.  Captain Smith however, had different motives.  Smith was making an effort to build a better bond and relationship with the natives because the winter months were fast approaching and food was becoming scarce for the colonists.  He proposed that the Germans and Dutch could build the house for the chief and in return, they could trade precious commodities such as corn.  Unfortunately for Smith, his plan backfired and the German workers traded their loyalties with the colonists for sanctuary with the natives.  The Germans preferred to be allied with Powhatan’s people and they stole weapons from the colonists to give to the natives in return for their alliance (Grizzard and Smith, 226).

Further Reading

Grassl, Gary C. First Germans at Jamestown. Washington D.C. : German Heritage Society of Greater Washington, 1997.

Grizzard, Jr. Frank E. and D. Boyd Smith. Jamestown Colony: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2007.

Schuricht, Herrmann. History of the German Element in Virginia. Baltimore: Theo. Kroh & Sons, 1898.

Wust, Klaus. The Virginia Germans. Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1969.

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “First Germans at Jamestown WT-2,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Jamestown Glassblower at Work,” National Park Service, (accessed April 29, 2012).

“Map Showing a Glassblowing Building,” Glassmaking at Jamestown, (accessed May 2, 2012).

View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources

Sir William Berkeley V-42-A

Thursday, March 29th, 2012


Oxford educated, Sir William Berkeley (1605-1677) was governor of Virginia from 1641 to 1652 and from 1600 to 1677, holding office longer than any other governor of Virginia, colonial or modern. Under his leadership, Virginia changed from a colonial outpost to a center of agriculture and commerce. His creation of the bicameral General Assembly helped establish the origins of American political self-rule. Nathaniel Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 threatened Berkeley’s legacy. After Bacon suddenly died on Oct. 26, Berkeley regained his authority as governor and ended the rebellion by January 1677. The site of Berkeley’s Green Spring House is north of here.

Further Research

Sir William Berkeley

William Berkeley was born on a wintry day in 1605 to Elizabeth and Sir Maurice Berkeley of Somerset, England.  After developing a close relationship with King Charles I, Berkeley was appointed to the titles of governor and captain-general of the colony of Virginia (Billings, 32).  On March 8th of 1641, Berkeley officially assumed his duties as governor of Virginia.  He arrived in Jamestown in the spring of 1642 and upon specific instructions from King Charles I, he was to “promote stability and patriotism and stimulate economic growth” (Grizzard and Smith, 27).

Chief Opechcancanough

In 1644, Pamunkey native Chief Opechancanough attacked the colony of Jamestown in what would  come to be known as the Indian Massacre of 1644.  Berkeley quickly assumed command of the armed forces and after about six weeks, the colonists were finally able to ward off the natives.  After a few more years of colonists and natives fighting, Governor Berkeley was able to capture Opechancanough and in October of 1646, Governor Berkeley was able to negotiate a treaty with the new Pamunkey chief, Necotowance (Grizzard and Smith, 28).  In this treaty, Governor Berkeley established a land boundaries and a peace settlement that would be understood as long as the natives stayed on their land and promised to pay an annual tribute to the Governor.

During the 1660’s, tensions had begun to rise once again between the colonists and the natives.  Colonists were having difficulties economically, mostly due to crops and in many cases these problems were being blamed on the natives.  More and more attacks and fights were occurring between the colonists and the natives and ever since the formation of the treaty the Governor had established between himself and the Pamunkey natives, Berkeley had developed a very “laissez faire” attitude.  He did not perceive smaller quarrels as being anything that would amount to a large-scale attack, so he did not react to these.  Disgruntled colonists and planters all throughout the colony were angry regarding Berkeley’s complicit attitude and in the summer of 1676, one planter was desperate to make some changes.

Nathaniel Bacon

Nathaniel Bacon was a 29-year-old planter who lived in the Jamestown settlement and harbored ill will towards the natives.  He was appalled by Berkeley’s complacency and in 1676 he led a rebellion against Governor Berkeley and his assembly.  Bacon led about 500 men into Green Spring and later Jamestown, before burning it down on September 19th (Grizzard and Smith, 29).  Embarrassed, Governor Berkeley was recalled back to England by Charles II to answer for his failure at protecting the colonists.  Governor Berkeley died on July 9, 1677 and was buried at Twickenham in Middlesex.

Policy towards Natives

“Forbid all persons whatsoever to receive into their houses the person of any Indian or to converse or trade with them” (Billings, 51). Initially, Governor Berkeley harbored no ill will towards the natives of the area and he encouraged the colonists to do the same. However, in 1667 after an attack by the natives and the consequential loss of slaves, an uprising of disgruntled planters led by Nathaniel Bacon Jr. occurred in an effort to revolt against Governor Berkeley. This skirmish that came to be known as Bacon’s Rebellion resulted in the loss of many lives and the embarrassed and shame filled governor was summoned by King Charles II to return to England and he was further reprieved of his duties (Grizzard and Smith, 29).

Bacon’s Rebellion

Bacon's Rebellion

In the mid to late 1600’s, tensions between the local natives of the Virginia colony and the colonists themselves were beginning to rise. Native attacks were occurring more frequently and they were becoming more violent as well. In 1676, natives attacked the home of Nathaniel Bacon Jr. and in doing so they stole his slaves. Being as Bacon was an established planter, slaves were the key to his trade and his livelihood, and this vicious act infuriated him. Immediately, Bacon contested to Governor Berkeley of Virginia, but with no avail as Governor Berkeley maintained a strict non-violence policy towards the natives. Outraged, Bacon commanded a rebellion against the Governor and his conformist policies towards the natives and he acted out violently, burning down various houses and other buildings. As a result, Governor William Berkeley was renounced of his position as governor of Virginia and he was forced to return to England by demand of King Charles II (Billings, 235).

Bacon’s Declaration to the People

The Declaration of the People, against Sr: Wm: Berkeley, and Present Governor’s of Virginia

For having upon specious Pretences of publick Works raised unjust Taxes, upon the Commonaltie, For advancing of Private Favourites. And other sinister Ends, but noe visibile Effect, in any Measure adequate.

Nathaniel Bacon's Declaration of the People

For having abused, and rendered Contemptable, his Maties: Justice, by advancing to Places of Judicature, Scandalous and ignorant Favourites.
For having wronged his Maties: Prorogative, and Interest, by assuming the Monopolie of the Bever Trade.

For having in that unjust Gaine, betrayed and sold, His Matie: Countrie, and the Liberties of his Loyall Subjects to the Barbarous Heathen.

For having, Protected, favoured, and Emboldened, the Indians against his Maties: most Loyall Subjects; never Contriving, requiring, or appointing any due or proper Meanes of Satisfaction; for thiere many Incusrsions, Murthers, and Robberies, Committed upon Us.

For having when the Armie of the English, was upon the Tract of the Indians, which now in all Places, burne spoile, and Murder, And when Wee might with ease, have destroyed them, Who were in open hostilitie.

For having expresslie, countermanded, and sent back, our Armie, by Passing his word, for the Peaceable demeanours of the said Indians, Who Immediately prosecuted their Evill Intentions – Committing horrid Murders and Robberies, in all Places, being Protected by the said Engagement, and Word passed by Him the said Sr: Wm: Berkeley having Ruined and made Desolate, a greate Part of his Maties: Countrie, having now drawn themselves into such obscure and remote places, and are by theire success soe Emboldened, and Confirmed, and by theire Confederates strengthened. That the Cryes of Blood, are in all Places, and the Terror, and Consternation of the People soe greate, That They are not only become difficult, but a very formidable Enemie Who might with Ease bin destroyed.

When upon the loud outcries of Blood, the Assemblie had with all Care, rasied and framed an Armie, for the Prevention of future Mischeifs, and safeguard of his Maties: Colonie.

For having only with the Privacie of a fewe favourites, without the Acquainting of the People, only by Alteration of a Figure forged a Commission, by I Know not what hand, not only without, but against the Consent of the People, for the Raising and Effecting of Civill Warr, and Destruction, which being happily and without Bloodshed prevented.

For having the second time attempted the same, thereby calling down our forces from the Defence of the frontiers, and most weakened and Exposed Places, for the prevention of Civill Mischeife, and Ruine amongst our selves; whilest the Barbarous Enemie in all places did Invade Murder and spoile us, his Maties: Loyall Subjects.

Of these the aforesaid Articles Wee accuse Sr: Wm: Berkeley as guiltie of Each and Everie of the same. As one who hath Traiterouslie attempted, Violated and Injured his Maties: Interest here, by the Loss of a greate Part of his Maties: Colonie, and many of his faithfull and Loyall Subjects, by Him betrayed in a Barbarous and shamefull Manner Exposed to the Incursion, and murder of the Heathen. And We farther declare the Ensuing Persons in this List to have bin wicked and Pernicious Councellours and Confederates, Aiders, and Assisstants against the Commonaltie in these our Civill Commotions.

Sr: Henrie Chicekly Wm.: Cole
Coll: Chritopr: Wormly Rich: Whitecar Jon: Page: Clerke
Phillip Ludwell Rich: Spencer Jon: Cuffe: Clerk
Robert Beverlie Joseph Bridges Hub: Farrill
Richard Lee Wm: Claybourne John: West
Thomas Ballard Thom: Hawkins Tho: Readmuch
Wm: Sherwood Math: Kemp

And we farther Command that the said Sr: Wm: Berkeley, with all the Persons in this List bee forthwith delivered upp, or Surrender Themselves, within foure dayes after the notice hereof, or otherwise Wee declare as followeth.

That in whatsoever place, House, or Shipp, any of the said Persons shall Reside, bee hid, or protected, Wee doe declare the Owners, Masters and Inhabitants of the said Parties, to bee Confederates, Traytors to the People and ye Estates, of them; as alsoe of all the aforesaid Persons, to be Confiscated, this Wee the Commons of Virginia doe declare.

Desiring a firme union amongst our Selves, that Wee may Joyntly and with one accord defend our selves against the Common Enimie, and lett not the faults of the Guiltie, bee the Reproach of the Innocent, or the faults and Crimes of the Oppressors, devide and sepperate Us Who have suffered, by theire oppressions.

These are therefore in his Maties: Name to Command you: forthwith to seize the Persons abovementioned, as Traytors to the King, and Countrie, and Them to bring to the Middle Plantations, and there to secure them till further Order and in Case of opposition, if yu: want any farther Assisstance, you are forthwith to demand It. In the Name of the People, in all the Counties of Virginia.

-Nathaniell Bacon Generall, by Consent of the People.
[30 July 1676]
(Grizzard and Smith, 21-22)

Interesting Facts

Governor Sir William Berkeley and Nathaniel Bacon Jr. were actually cousins by marriage.
Sir William Berkeley holds the title for the longest established governor of colonial Virginia, and any colony or state for that matter.

Further Reading

Billings, Warren M. Sir William Berkeley and the Forging of Colonial Virginia. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004.

Carson, Jane. Bacon’s Rebellion: 1676-1976. Jamestown: The Jamestown Foundation, 1976.

Grizzard, Jr. Frank E. and D. Boyd Smith. Jamestown Colony: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2007.

Washburn, Wilcomb E. The Governor and the Rebel: A History of Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1957.

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Sir William Berkeley V-42-A,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Sir William Berkeley,” Friends of Green Spring, (accessed May 1, 2012).

“Chief Opechcancanough,” Powhatan Museum of Indigenous Arts and Culture, (accessed May 1, 2012).

“Nathaniel Bacon,” National Park Service, (accessed May 1, 2012).

“Bacon’s Rebellion,” Friends of Green Spring, (accessed May 1, 2012).

“Nathaniel Bacon’s Declaration of Grievances,” Encyclopedia Virginia, (accessed May 1, 2012).

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Department of Historic Resources link not available

Pocahontas V-45

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012


Matoaka, nicknamed Pocahontas (“mischievous one”), the daughter of Powhatan, was born about 1597. She served as an emissary for her father and came to Jamestown often in 1608. In 1613, Samuel Argall kidnapped Pocahontas while she visited the Patawomecks on the Potomac River. Argall hoped to exchange her for English prisoners and brought her to Jamestown. During lengthy negotiations, Pocahontas married John Rolfe in 1614, credited with developing Virginia’s first marketable tobacco crop. Pocahontas took the baptismal name Rebecca. In 1616, she traveled with Rolfe and their son, Thomas, to England where King James I and Queen Anne received her. She died at Gravesend, England, in March 1617.

Further Research

Portrait of Pocahontas

Pocahontas was born sometime between 1595 and 1597 to the chief of the Powhatan tribe, which was a division of the Algonquian natives. She was known publicly as Amonute and privately as Matoaka, and she gained the nickname “Pocahontas” which roughly translates to “little mischievous one”.  Despite false historical narratives, Pocahontas was never romantically involved with Captain John Smith nor does any proven historical documentation exist that cite Pocahontas as being a savior to John Smith.  If anything, she could have been performing a ritual of the tribe when it seemed as if she was saving his life.  In 1610, Pocahontas was married to a native warrior named Kocoum.  As far as the historical record shows, the couple never had any children together.

Smith Rescued by Pocahontas

Over the next few years, tensions began to rise between the natives and the colonists all throughout the newly settled areas.  In 1613, Englishman Captain Samuel Argall devised a plan to kidnap Pocahontas and hold her for ransom in exchange for English weapons her father Chief Powhatan possessed.  Argall frequently traded with the tribe of the Patawomecks, and as soon as he received word that Pocahontas would be visiting a neighboring tribe nearby, he persuaded the sub-Chief Iopassus to join him in an alliance against the Powhatan tribe.  With the help of Iopassus and his wife, Argall successfully kidnapped Pocahontas and took her back to Jamestown where she would remain for months while waiting for her father to submit to the ransom demands.

A Depiction of Pocahontas being Kidnapped in 1612

          During her captivity, she was treated well and remained unharmed.  Her captors saw to it that she learned the ways of the Anglican Church and in sometime in 1614 she was baptized and given the name Rebecca.  While in Jamestown, the historical record shows that she met and married John Rolfe, with whom she would later travel to England and bear him one child.  (The record does not indicate which side of the Atlantic Thomas Rolfe was born on).  Pocahontas died while she was in England in 1617, roughly around the age of 21.  She was taken to St. George’s Church in Gravesend, where she is buried.

Interesting Facts

Pocahontas’s account is the first recorded act of interracial marriage, although many white men viewed native women as exotic creatures and exotic princesses.

Further Reading

Barbour, Philip L. Pocahontas and Her World: A Chronicle of America’s First Settlement in Which is Related the Story of the Indians and the Englishmen- Particularly Captain John Smith, Captain Samuel Argall and Master John Rolfe. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1970.

Grizzard, Jr. Frank E. and D. Boyd Smith. Jamestown Colony: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2007.

Kupperman, Karen Ordahl. The Jamestown Project. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007.

Mossiker, Frances. Pocahontas: The Life and the Legend. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1976.

Rountree, Helen. Pocahontas, Powhatan, Opechancanough: Three Indian Lives Changed by Jamestown. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2005.

Rountree, Helen C. Young Pocahontas in the Indian World. Yorktown: J&R Graphic Services, Inc., 1995. (accessed March 13, 2012).

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Pocahontas V-45,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Portrait of Pocahontas,” APVA Preservation Virginia: Historic Jamestowne, (accessed May 1, 2012).

“Smith Rescued by Pocahontas,” Library of Congress, (accessed May 1, 2012).

“Depiction of Pocahontas being Kidnapped in 1612,” Williamsburg Private Tours, (accessed May 1, 2012).

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Department of Historic Resources link not available

Church On The Main V-46

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012


Less than one mile to the east is the site of the Church on the Main, a brick Anglican church built by the 1750s to serve James City Parish as replacement for the church on Jamestown Island, which had become difficult for communicants to reach. The Rev. James Madison(1749-1812) was its best-known rector, serving the church from about 1777 until it fell into disguise after the American Revolution and the disestablishment of the Anglican Church. Madison became president of the College of William and Mary(1777-1812) and Virginia’s first Episcopal Bishop in 1790. By 1857 all aboveground traces of the church were gone.

Further Research

Rt. Rev. James Madison, D.D., first bishop of Virginia

Two miles south of Jamestown, an agricultural area known as “the Main” became home to an anglican parish sometime in the early 1750s. As the population of Jamestown and Williamsburg exploded, the Church on the Main became a popular place of worship.

The land on which the church stood was owned by Mr. Richard Ambler of Yorktown. Upon his death in 1766, Ambler left 301 acres of the Main property to his eldest son John. John died soon after his father, and the land then was given to John’s eldest brother Edward. The youngest Ambler brother Jaquelin, married Rebecca Burwell of the Kingsmill Plantation. All three brothers were prominent members of colonial Virginia society. Both eldest brothers held seats in the House of Burgesses, and the youngest served on the Council of State, was Treasurer of Virginia, and participated in the Revolutionary War.

Early Drawing of College of William and Mary

During the War, American forces serving under General Wayne met British regulars under General Cornwallis at the Battle of Greenspring. The battle took place on the property of the Church of the Main, where the American forces were outnumbered and strategically retreated towards Yorktown. Around forty total casualties were suffered in the foray, including French sodliers under General Lafayette.

In 1788, Edward’s share of the Main was purchased from the College of William and Mary by his son John.

Further Reading

Selby, John E., and Don Higginbotham. The Revolution in Virginia, 1775-1783. Williamsburg: Colonial Williamsburg, 2007.

Morgan, Timothy E. Williamsburg: A City That History Made. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2004.

Lytle, Richard M. The Soldiers of America’s First Army, 1791. Scarecrow Press, 2004.

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Church on the Main V-46,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Rt. Rev. James Madison, D.D.” NYPL Digital Gallery, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Early Drawing of the College of William and Mary,” The American Cyclopaedia, (accessed May 2, 2012).

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Department of Historic Resources link not available

Samuel H. Yonge, Civil Engineer (1843-1935) V-440

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012


Near this location in 1901, Samuel H. Yonge, a civil engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, spearheaded the design and construction of a seawall/revetment that halted the rapid erosion and loss into the James River of the most historic part of Jamestown Island. His efforts saved large portions of the island including Jamestown Fort, making possible continued significant archaeological finds at Jamestown. Yonge located, unearthed, and published many of his findings on the Island. Another one of his achievements included the dredging of the James River from Richmond to Norfolk. He is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.

Further Research

The area of and around Jamestown is very historically important.  However, the James River was quickly eroding the most historic part of Jamestown where historical celebrations would take place.  During the Civil War, Confederate forces constructed earthworks around Jamestown and discovered pieces of armor and weaponry.   Shortly after the

Col. Samuel Yonge of the Army Corps of Engineers discovered and mapped the foundations of Jamestown's best-known row house about 300 yards west of New Town.

war, the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities began to explore foundations around the 22 & ½ acres of Jamestown that they owned.  Samuel H. Yonge, a revetment’s engineer, proposed that the old Fort at Jamestown was buried in the very island that the river was eroding (Lindgren, Encyclopedia Virginia online).

In 1901, he supervised the construction of the concrete seawall that was built in order to prevent further erosion of the riverbank.  Furthermore he located many archaeological discoveries such as the foundations of the country house, the Ludwell house, and the third and fourth statehouses.  He also was able to save the Jamestown Fort.  Yonge argued that the 1861 discoveries by Confederate soldiers indicated that the fort was

"The Site of Old James Towne" book

extremely close to Confederate earthwork at the end of the island (NPS, Jamestown National Historic Site).  After his finds, he was able to use the evidence he had discovered and Yonge was able publish his work The Site of Old “James Towne,” 1607-1698, which is still in circulation today (NPS, Chronology of Archaeology).  It is thanks to Yonge’s brilliant ideas that many historical buildings in Jamestown are still safe from erosion by the James River.



Further Reading

Lindgren, James M. “Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities.” Encyclopedia Virginia. Ed. Brendan Wolfe. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (Jan. 18, 2012). (accessed March 9, 2012).

Lindgren, James M. Preserving the Old Dominion: Historic Preservation and Virginia Traditionalism. Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1993.

Lindgren, James M. “‘Virginia Needs Living Heroes’: Historic Preservation in the Progressive Era.” The Public Historian 13 (1991 Winter): 9–24.

National Park Service. Chronology of Jamestown Archeology. (accessed March 9, 2012).

National Park Service. Jamestown National Historic Site. (accessed March 10, 2012).

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Samuel H. Yonge, Civil Engineer (1843-1935) V-440,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Map of James City,” APVA Preservation Virginia: Jamestown Rediscovery, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“The Site of Old James Towne,” Dancing Eye Books, (accessed May 2, 2012).

View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources link not available

Magruder’s Defenses W-44

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012


Here is a redoubt in the line of the Confederate defenses, built across the James-York Peninsula in 1861-62 by General John B. Magruder.

Further Research:

John B. Magruder, Confederate General born in Port Royal, Virginia known for his military expertise in delaying federal troops during the Peninsula Campaign in 1862.

Major General John B. Magruder, or “Prince John,” was a military officer who served in the American Civil War. General Magruder was assigned to the artillery but resigned from the U.S. Army when Virginia seceded the Union.  After he resigned, he was commissioned as a colonel in the Confederate army and rose quickly through the ranks to Major General.  His most important role during the war took place during and against Major General George B. McClellan’s Peninsula campaign in 1862 (Eicher).

At the Battle of Yorktown, Magruder was able to successfully deceive McClellan in regards to his strength – he made McClellan believe that he [Magruder] was actually stronger than he was.  In order to do so, he did things such as give illusions of larger troops, move his artillery frequently and use tons of ammunition whenever Union troops were in sight.  Furthermore, Magruder had prepared three defensive lines across the Peninsula.  The first was about twelve miles north of Fort Monroe and contained infantry outposts and artillery redoubts, and though it was insufficiently manned, its sole purpose was to deceive the Union forces about the second line of defense.

Plan of the Battle of Yorktown

The second line of defense stretched from Yorktown to Mulberry Island and was called the Warwick Line.  It consisted of more redoubts, rifle pits and strong fortifications by the river.  He built dams in order to pose a strong obstacle for the Union forces.  Finally, the third line was the use of a series of forts in Williamsburg, which were left unmanned so that the army could fall back on it if they had to from Yorktown (Sears, 70). His actions successfully delayed McClellan for weeks and earned him an enlightened seat in General Johnston’s eyes.  General McClellan was convinced that Magruder was stronger than he was and thus held back while general Johnston was able to bring in serious reinforcements for Magruder – though he still was unable to gain enough to defend his lines. However, it was not long before he fell from favor because he was not aggressive enough in battle and his drunkenness proved to be a problem.  He immediately was blacklisted in the eyes of Robert E. Lee, and reassigned elsewhere (Cutrer).

Battle of Yorktown

Further Reading

Cadorph, Paul D. Prince John Magruder: His Life and Campaigns. New York: John Wiley & sons, 1996.

Cutrer, Thomas W. Magruder, John Bankhead. Handbook of Texas Online. (accessed March 10, 2012).

Eicher, John H. and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. New York: Stanford University Press, 2001.

Latimer, Jon. Deception in War. London: John Murray, 2001.

Sears, Stephen W. To the Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.

Settles, Thomas M. John Bankhead Magruder: A Military Reappraisal. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2009.

Warner, Erza J. Generals in Gray. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959.

Photo Credits

“John B. Magruder,” National Park Service, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Plan of the Battle of Yorktown,” U.S. History Images: Battle of Yorktown, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Battle of Yorktown,” U.S. History Images: Battle of Yorktown, (accessed May 2, 2012).

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Department of Historic Resources– This marker has since been removed due to construction.

Peninsula Campaign W-37

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012


During the Peninsula Campaign of 1862, both Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan led their armies west toward Richmond on this road. Johnston evacuated Yorktown on 3-4 May and withdrew up the Peninsula, with McClellan in pursuit. On 5 May, two Federal divisions clashed with the Confederate rear guard east of Williamsburg in a bloody but indecisive battle. Johnston’s army continued its march west and on 6-7 May eluded McClellan’s forces at Eltham’s Landing on the York River opposite West Point. By mid-month the Confederates were secure behind the Richmond defenses.

Further Research

Major General George Brinton McClellan, often called “Little Mac” or “Young Napoleon”

The Peninsula Campaign took place during the American Civil War as a major Union operation in southeastern Virginia from March 1862 through July 1862.  The first large-scale offensive, the campaign was head by Major General George B. McClellan and was an attempt to capture Richmond.  While at first successful against Joseph E. Johnston, Robert E. Lee soon emerged and the campaign turned into an Union defeat.

McClellan’s Army of the Potomac consisted of 50,000 men in the beginning but quickly grew to 121,000 before the campaign took place (Sears 361). The amphibious campaign started in Alexandria on March 17 (Sears, 168).  In response to McClellan’s campaign, Magruder set up deceptive defenses, which were actually weaker

Joseph E. Johnston

than they appeared.  In response, McClellan began the siege preparations at Yorktown with a variety of heavy artillery (Sears, 58).  It continued to be a constant battle of the Confederates improving their defenses and McClellan increasing his artillery.  In early May, McClellan found out that the Confederate defenses were deceiving and thus McClellan began to pursue Johnston up the York River (Salmon, 80).

The Peninsula Campaign also included the Battle of Williamsburg, which occurred on May 5, 1862.  This was the first battle of the Peninsula Campaign, which was spearheaded by Major General George B. McClellan. This battle was the result of General Joseph E. Johnston’s shocking evacuation of the Yorktown-Warwick River line just two days prior (Salmon, 80).  As a result of Johnston’s evacuation, McClellan hastily pursued him.  McClellan sent Brig. General George Stoneman to pursue Johnston’s rear guard, which was headed by Brig. General J.E.B. Stuart’s Calvary and with whom his men skirmished many times.  Furthermore, McClellan had ordered Brig. General William B. Franklin to sail up the York River to cut Johnston off and thus prevent him from escaping.  Weary because of foul weather, Johnston decided to wall up his troops at Fort Magruder.  While McClellan considered this battle as an amazing victory, many southerners saw it as allowing the Confederate army to escape towards Richmond (Sears, 82).

The Peninsula Campaign

The campaign continued to Etham’s Landing where McClellan hoped that Franklin would hinder Johnston’s escape.  However, it turned out that the Confederates were prepared and Union troops were forced to seek cover in the woods.  Franklin could not intercept the Confederates and thus allowed them to pass (Salmon, 85).  The next event to mark

Map of Peninsula Campaign

the Peninsula Campaign occurred at the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff.  This amphibious battle resulted in the stagnation of the Union advance and took place on May 15, 1862 at Fort Drewry (Sears, 94).  The armies converged in Richmond but the next major battle did not take place until May 27.  Also known as the Battle of Slash Church, the Battle of Hanover Court House resulted in a small Union victory but allowed for McClellan to be more prepared at Seven Pines or Fair Oaks.  Furthermore, McClellan’s reactions made him look like a weak target to Johnston (Sears, 117).  The final battle occurred at Seven Pines on May 31 and June 1.  It was the end effect of the offensive by McClellan when he finally reached the outskirts of Richmond.  This battle is considered the biggest battle of the time with both sides attempting to claim victory.  Union soldiers called it the Battle of Fair Oaks because that’s where they were most successful whereas Confederates fought best at Seven Pines, hence the name (Sears, 149).  However it was not long before Robert E. Lee drove McClellan from the Peninsula and it took around three more years before the Union army finally captured Richmond.

Further Reading

Eicher, David J. The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.

Miller, William J. The Battles for Richmond, 1862. National Park Service Civil War Series. Fort Washington: U.S. National Park Service and Eastern National, 1996.

Salmon, John S. The Official Virginia Civil War Battlefield Guide. Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 2001.

Sears, Stephen W. To the Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.

Warner, Erza J. Generals In Blue: Lives of Union Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964.

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Peninsula Campaign W-37,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Major General George Brinton McClellan,” Civil War Trust: The Peninsula Campaign, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Joseph E. Johnston,” Civil War Trust: The Peninsula Campaign, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“The Peninsula Campaign,” Lee Hall Mansion: 1862 Peninsula Campaign, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Map of Peninsula Campaign,” Civil War Trust: Maps of the Peninsular Campaign 1862, (accessed May 2, 2012).

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Department of Historic Resources

The Theft Case of Mary Aggie: not erected

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012


Mary Aggie, an enslaved woman, was convicted of theft in York County in 1730. Lt. Gov. William Gooch, impressed with Mary’s profession of faith when she sued previously for her freedom, supported her 1730 claim for “benefit of clergy,” which then allowed only white men to escape the harshest penalties for most first offenses. Gooch’s support resulted in Mary’s pardon. In 1732, the General Assembly extended a limited form of benefit of clergy to all races and women. Mary was sold out of Virginia in 1731, probably never knowing her appeal’s significant legal effect. The benefit was abolished in 1849.

Further Research

Dred Scott

Mary Aggie was an African American slave in the mid-eighteenth century and was often related as the Dred Scott of the next century.   Mary Aggie was and still remains and obscure person in history, but her case, however, earned her a place in history as the central figure for an important legal case resulting in laws with respect to convicted felons: white, women, Indians, mulattos and African Americans alike.  There is not much background on Mary Aggie as  there are no records of her birth or her parentage.  Mary Aggie had previously attempted to sue for her freedom in the 1720s from her owner. During this case, Mary Aggie had impressed the current governor with her proclamations of faith in Christianity – something that would prove to be in her favor when she was facing her conviction (Encyclopedia Virginia). At this time, Lieutenant Governor Sir William Gooch presided over her case and thus denied her the freedom she so desired.

Lt. Gov. William Gooch

In 1730, Mary Aggie was accused and convicted of stealing three sheets from her owner of a value of forty shillings, a crime that often yielded the penalty of death or severe corporal punishment.  Fortunately for Mary Aggie, Sir William Gooch also presided over this case and was able to send her case to the General Court in which she would possible receive the benefit of clergy.  Benefit of clergy was best known to be provided to literate persons only which allowed the convicted persons to escape death and other serious penalties – dating back to the Middle Ages English law (Encyclopedia Virginia).  However, before the final verdict, Gooch was able to pardon Aggie on the condition that she be sold out of the colony.  Her case was a precursor for the law in 1732, which allowed for almost all Virginians to plead benefit of the clergy in most cases for the next sixty years.

Mary Aggie's Pardon

After her case, it was still unclear as to whether women and slaves of Virginia were entitled to plead benefit of clergy during a first capital conviction.  The General Assembly, thus, using references to Aggie’s cases, presented evidence to the General Court and ended up passing that law in 1732.  However, though this was extreme progress, there was still a specific list of people who could not plead benefit of the clergy.  The law also allowed for courts to apply other punishments and to deny the rights of the criminals to give testimonies in court (Snyder).

Further Reading

Hemphill, John M. II. “Aggie, Mary.” In the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 1. Edited by John T. Kneebone, J. Jefferson Looney, Brent Tartar, and Sandra Gioia Treadway. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 1998.

Hemphill, J. M., II, & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. “Mary Aggie (fl. 1728–1731)”. Encyclopedia Virginia. (Accessed March 13, 2012).

Snyder, Terri L. Brabbling Women. Disorderly Speech and the Law in Early Virginia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003.
Photo Credits

“Dred Scott,” PBS: Africans in America, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Lt. Gov. William Gooch,” Brooklyn Museum: American Art, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Mary Aggie’s Pardon,” Encyclopedia Virginia, (accessed May 2, 2012).

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Department of Historic Resources link unavailable.