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.
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).
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).
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.
“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.