Archive for the ‘Routes’ Category

Jamestown Road W-38

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Inscription:

The ancient road that linked Jamestown, the original colonial capital, with Middle Plantation (later Williamsburg) followed a meandering course. It departed from Jamestown Island and then turned northeast, crossing Powhatan and Mill Creeks. As it approached Middle Plantation, it traversed a branch of College Creek that by the mid-17th century was dammed to form Rick Neck plantation’s millpond, today’s Lake Matoaka. Improvements to Jamestown Road, completed in time for the Jamestown Ter-Centennial Exposition, constituted the first project completed with the assistance of the State Highway Commission, formed in 1906.

Further Research

The English colonists originally referred to what now constitutes Jamestown Road, as the “Greate Road”. The original road was a natural path that was abundantly rich in natural resources and the natives had previously used it as a hunting trail that led from the mainland to the Jamestown Forte (Grizzard and Smith, 82). Unfortunately for the colonists, this path was heavily used by the natives and since the natives were so familiar with the area, this road was a site for many sneak attacks led by the natives on the colonists.

Remnants of this ancient road still exist today and they can mostly be seen from Glasshouse Point (www.nps.org).  Originally, the Greate Road was a route that began at James Fort and continued to travel west across the isthmus and onto the mainland near Glasshouse Point.

Since 1939, excavations have taken place on the various sections of the original Greate Road. It was discovered that the settlers would pack down the dirt and soil through the use of horses and oxen. As more traffic would begin to use the road, the colonists would expand the road another 30-35 feet and the road would be built up with sand (www.nps.org).

Further Reading

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

“The Greate Road: An Early Highway Pre 1607-1700’s. National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/jame/historyculture/new-towne-the-greate-road-an-early-highway-pre-1607-1700s.htm (accessed March 17, 2012).

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Jamestown Road W-38,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“The Great Road,” Williamsburg, Virginia, www.ancestry.com (accessed May 2, 2012).

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Department of Historic Resources

Green Spring Road V-42

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Inscription:

The 17th century road to Green Spring, home of Governor Sir William Berkeley, was the eastern part of the Great Road, the earliest-developed English thoroughfare in Virginia. The Great Road ran from Jamestown Island toward the falls of the James River. The road was an important thoroughfare used to transport goods and forward communications between settlements. Originally, the Green Spring Road followed close to the James River, linking Jamestown to Green Spring. On 6 July 1781, the Revolutionary War Battle of Green Spring was fought in the fields flanking this road. By this time, the lower portion of the road (a part of present day Rte. 614) had shifted eastward.

Further Research
Green Spring was known for numerous events in American history, such as a point in Nathaniel Bacon’s Rebellion as well as for the Battle of Green Spring during the Revolutionary War. The Battle of Green Spring was fought between the forces of the Marquis de Lafayette and General Charles Cornwallis on July 6, 1781. It ended in a rout of the Revolutionary troops, but was not a total defeat as General Cornwallis did not pursue the fleeing Americans (Clary, 311).

On that day, there were a number of Americans who recorded what they had seen firsthand. With the many viewpoints, the personal accounts range from strictly military to more personal views with biases. The first comes from Captain John Davis of the 1st Pennsylvania regiment, where he describes the events of July 6, 1781 with a strategic approach. He lists the numbers of units and casualties of that battle.

“At sun rise we took up the line of march for Jamestown; which place the enemy lay  at.   The Ist  Batt” was detached with some riflemen, which brought on a scattering fire that continued many  hours, when the  2nd  &  3rd  Batt’ with one  of  Infantry arrived in sight;  we formed & brought on  a  Gen’ Action.  Our advances regular at a  charge, till we got  within 8o  yds.  of their main body, under a heavy fire of  Grape shot,  at  which   distance we opened our musquettry at their line;  3 of  our artillery horses being wounded;  & then their right flanking our  left, rendered a retreat necessary, with the loss of  2  pieces of Artillery.” (Davis, 2).

William McDowell of the same regiment included more of a look on the aftermath of the battle, including the lists of those wounded and some of the events post-retreat (Rees, 6).

The most interesting accounts comes from the leading officer of the Advance Guard, Major William Galvan. His retelling is the only known detailed narrative of the battle by an American. He writes not only about the general statistics of Green Spring, but also about the battle from his own point of view. It is a good portrayal of the struggle from a commanding officer of a group of units when forced to retreat or forced into any tight position (Rees, 7-8).

Of the troops available to General George Washington before and after this battle, 542 of 830 soldiers remained as fit for duty (Rees, 9).

 

Further Reading

Clary, David A. Adopted Son: Washington, Lafayette, and the Friendship that Saved the Revolution. New York: Bantam Books, 2007.

Davis, John. “Diary of Captain John Davis, of the Pennsylvania Line.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 1, No. 1. July, 1893.

Rees, John U. “A Smart firing commenc’d from both parties…” http://revwar75.com/library/rees/pdfs/Virginia.pdf (Accessed March 12, 2012).

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Green Spring Road V-42,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.


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Department of Historic Resources link not available

Quarterpath Road W-42

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Inscription:

James Bray owned land nearby in Middle Plantation by the 1650s, and Quarterpath Road probably began as a horse path to one of Bray’s quarters or farm units. Over the years, the road was improved; it extended to Col. Lewis Burwell’s landing on the James River by the early eighteenth century. As Williamsburg grew, Quarterpath Road became one of the principal routes by which travelers and trade goods were brought into the colonial capital.

Further Research

Field school students excavating near a brick chimney foundation at the Quarterpath Road site

Very little remains in Williamsburg in regard to defenses during the Civil War. Quarterpath Road shows the placement of a Confederate line, however (Konstam, 91). It was located within site of one confederate fort named Fort Magruder. It was a highly defensible point which also had a view over the point where York and Hampton Roads met. The Confederate troops had set up earthworks of a sort to aid in defense, but the area had revolutionary works still remaining from years past. There were issues, though, such as the possibility of Williamsburg being completely bypassed via the James River (Dubbs, 69).

Depiction of a fight at Fort Magruder

General Magruder, of the fort, had requested for both reinforcements and a blockade of the James River with sunken ships. The second request did not happen, but Magruder and the Confederates did gain some reinforcements, as did the Federal troops under McClellan. Over the course of one month, the numbers of the Confederate and Union troops would increase to roughly 54,000 and 112,000 men, respectively. A series of small skirmishes would take place over the entirety of the Hampton Roads and Yorktown areas (Dubbs, 69-87). It was more or less a Union victory.

Middle Plantation was also an important place, though not for the same reasons. With the burning down of Jamestown when Nathaniel Bacon and his followers left, Virginia’s General Assembly met several times at the Middle Plantation. Of the members, one was James Bray whom served as a councilor that died in 1692. Two other major things that came about in Middle Plantation include the Bruton Parish Church, as well as the College of William and Mary (Morgan, 24).

Further Reading

Dubbs, Carol K. Defend This Old Town: Williamsburg During the Civil War. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Press, 2002.

Konstam, Angus. Fair Oaks 1862. McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2003.

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

Photo Credits

“Depiction of a fight at Fort Magruder,” CWDG Online, http://cwdgonline.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Field school students excavating near a brick chimney foundation at the Quarterpath Road site,” The African Diaspora Archaeology Network, www.diaspora.uiuc.edu (accessed May 2, 2012).

Historical Marker “Quarterpath Road W-42,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

 

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Department of Historic Resources

New Kent Road W-26

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Inscription:

By the 1720s, several taverns stood on New Kent Road (also called the Old Stage Road) between Williamsburg and New Kent Court House. During two wars, the road served opposing armies as well as travelers. In June 1781, near the end of the Revolution, British commander Gen. Charles Cornwallis marched his army from Richmond to Williamsburg on the road, with the Marquis de Lafayette and his army in cautious pursuit. During the Civil War, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate army withdrew west on the road toward Richmond after the Battle of Williamsburg on 5 May 1862; Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac slowly followed.

Further Research

Old Stage Coach

New Kent Road has been an important pathway in both the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars. It had previously been known as the “Old Stage Coach Road.”

Around the later portion of the American Revolutionary War, General Cornwallis of the British army had used this road to move his troops between Williamsburg and Richmond in June of 1781. The Marquis de Lafayette had cautiously followed. Upon watching, Lafayette had a tactic of keeping a solid defense in the case of Cornwallis turning around and launching an attack against his pursuers. This was a focus on maneuvering and complete abstinence of any general engagement (Johnston, 54).

Bottom's Bridge

The exact date in which Cornwallis had passed along this road was on June 24, 1781, and a day later he passed by the American reconnaissance group at Bottom’s Bridge. Lafayette, who arrived two weeks prior and lied in wait for the British troops to pass by, had beaten him there. The primary reason for this surveillance tactic was to enable the General Washington to know if a surprise attack would be launched against the American troops (Harris, 19).

“My Dear Sir,
By the time you receive this you must have accounts from the enemy. Should they be near us, this would be the good time for the night attack; but I am afraid we shall not have the opportunity. Whatever road the enemy take, you will please to proceed in that route, and, if opportunity offers; to attack them. You will do for the best.
Yours,
Lafayette”
(Johnston, 54)

Along the way, General Cornwallis had destroyed American goods. Some of the goods included tobacco, food, uniforms, flour, and muskets (Russell, 261)

Further Reading

Harris, Malcolm Hart. Old New Kent CountyVol. 1. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2006.

Johnston, Henry Phelps. The Yorktown Campaign and the Surrender of Cornwallis, 1781. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1881.

McClellan, George B. Letter of the Secretary of War Transmitting Report on the Organization of the Army of the Potomac and of Its Campaigns in Virginia and Maryland Under the Command of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan from July 26, 1861 to November 7, 1862. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1864.

Rafuse, Ethan Sapp. McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.

Russell, David Lee. The American Revolution in the Southern Colonies. New York: AS Barnes, 1877.

Symonds, Craig L. Joseph E. Johnston: A Civil War Biography. New York: WW Norton and Company, 1992.

Photo Credits

“Bottom’s Bridge,” The National Archives, http://arcweb.archives.gov (accessed May 2, 2012).

Earle, Alice Morse, “Old Stage Coach,” The Project Gutenberg. Stage Coach and Tavern Days. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1900 www.gutenberg.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

Historical Marker “New Kent Road W-26,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

Department of Historic Resources

Magruder’s Defenses W-44

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Inscription:

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. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fma15 (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, www.nps.gov (accessed May 2, 2012).

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

“Battle of Yorktown,” U.S. History Images: Battle of Yorktown, www.ushistoryimages.com (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

Inscription:

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, www.civilwar.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

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

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

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

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Department of Historic Resources