Posts Tagged ‘19th century’

First Africans in English America WT-1

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Inscription:

The first documented Africans in English America arrived at Jamestown in August 1619. A dutch man-of-war captured them from the Spanish, who had enslaved them, and sold them to the Virginia colonists. The “twenty and odd” Africans, some of whom had been given Spanish names, may have been treated like indentured servants and later freed after their periods of servitude expired. From this beginning the institution of slavery evolved during the 17th century as the Virginia colonists extended the lenght of service for Africans from a fixed term to life. The United States abolished slavery in 1865.


 Further Research

The first Africans came to Jamestown in 1619 from aboard a Dutch ship, in addition to other cargo that had come with it. These were the first laborers of the colonies but it is unclear now as to whether these Africans were originally brought over as slaves or as indentured servants (The Terrible Transformations). A total of 20 Africans were traded in 1619 in exchange for food. The number then increased to 23 during the survey of 1625. According to records past 1623 and 1624, there were a significant amount of “free blacks,” or blacks who were allowed to be property owners. By 1640, there was at least one recorded slave within the Jamestown colony.

The first “slaves” that were recognized by the state of Virginia were in 1660, when slavery was put into Virginia law. This came about due to the increase in demand of tobacco. The number of Africans in Virginia increased from roughly 1,000 to 6,000 over the course of forty years, and would then rise to 23,000 around 1715 (McGinnis, 136). Past this time, Virginia still relied on English labor for its tobacco, while many Africans were moved to the West Indies to work on the Sugar Plantations (Smedley, 93).

The first Africans in Jamestown had Spanish names, such as Isabelle and Anthony. Anthony was in fact the first free African, earning enough funds to import five servants and gain 250 acres of land in 1651. Not only was he the first freed African, but he was also the first African landowner in Virginia (McGinnis, 135-136). This was not overly common past 1660, however, as more and more Africans were being brought into Virginia as lifetime slaves. The numbers grew exponentially, with over 290,000 slaves in 1790, followed by over 517,000 slaves between 1830 and 1840 (McGinnis, 136).

Africans Aboard a Ship

Further Reading

“Arrival of first Africans to Virginia Colony.” The Terrible Transformation: Africans in Americahttp://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1p263.html (Accessed March 20, 2012).

McGinnis, Carol. Virginia Genealogy: Sources and Resources. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1993.

Smedley, Audrey. Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview. Boulder: Westview Press, 1999.

Photo Credits

“Africans Aboard a Ship,” Sisters of Providence: The Beginnings, www.spsmw.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

“First Africans in America,” Africans in America: Arrival of First Africans in Virginia Colony, www.pbs.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

Historical Marker “First Africans in English America WT-1,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

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Department of Historic Resources

Charles Church NP-1

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Inscription:

About one mile east, on north (lefthand) side of road (see stone marker and old foundations) stood the last colonial church of Charles Parish, built about 1708 and burned a century later, on the site of two earlier churches of the parish, built about 1636 and 1682. The parish was first known as New Poquoson Parish in 1635 and was renamed Charles Parish in 1692.

Further Research

Regarding Charles Parish, the House of Burgesses on Dec. 11thof 1692 ordered that, “upon the peticon of ye pishioners of New Poquoson in ye county of Yorke yt from henceforth forever hereafter ye old pish Church shall be called and named Charles Church. And ye river formerly called New Poquoson river shall from time to time and all times hereafter be called and written, Charles river.” (125) After this proclamation, the parish officially became known as Charles Church. The Register of the Parish has offered a long history of the Church’s reverends, and members. One of the first entries was made in 1687: “Ye Rev. Thomas Finney, rector of this parish, died and was buried in the chancel of New Poquoson Church.” (126)

The next minister, Rev. James Sclater served the parish for 35 years, and died in 1723. After Sclater’s death, it was reported to the Bishop of London that Charles Parish’s leadership was vacant. Rev. James Falconer was then called from Elizabeth City to serve as rector, but died shortly after in 1727. After Falconer’s death, Rev. Theodosius Staige came from Fredericksburg, and then died in 1747. The Register then mentions Rev. Thomas Warrington as the church’s rector, but was called away from the church in 1756. Rev. Samuel Shields is the last name mentioned on the register in 1789. Throughout 140 years of existence, Charles Parish had only six ministers. (127)

"Charles Parish" book

Today, The Register of Charles Parish, York County, Virginia is the oldest surviving database of Colonial Virginia genealogy that exists. It provides the records of the births and deaths of its members from 1648 to 1789.

Further Reading

Bell, Landon C. Charles Parish, York County, Virginia: History and Registers, Births, 1648-1789 and Deaths, 1665-1787. Indexed. Clearfield Co, 1999.

 Colonial Churches in the Original Colony of Virginia: a Series of Sketches by Especially Qualified Writers. Southern Churchman Co., 1908.

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Charles Church NP-1,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Charles Parish,” The Virginia Shop at the Library of Virginia, www.thevirginiashop.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

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Department of Historic Resources

Hickory Neck Church W-30

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Inscription:

Hickory Neck Church was built about 1740. Militia opposing the British camped here on April 21, 1781. A few miles north is the foundation of an ancient stone house, dating possibly from about 1650.

 

 

Further Research

Hickory Neck Church

According to the current congregation…

“The Historic Chapel has a glorious history of survival. The northern two-thirds of the present building was built in 1774 as a transept to the original 1734 church. After the Revolutionary War, the church fell into disrepair and the original church was torn down and the southern third of the present building was added around 1825 to provide space for Hickory Neck Academy. The Academy also served various denominations as a place to worship before the Civil War. The war years were hard on Hickory Neck leaving it in near ruinous condition, but again, it was repaired and put back into service as a school. Eventually James City County erected a public school in Toano and our building was reconsecrated as an Episcopal church in 1917. “

Hickory Neck Church - Present Day

Further Reading

Hickory Neck Church. “Historic Chapel Fund.” http://www.hickoryneck.org/historic-chapel-fund/ (accessed March 17, 2012).

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Hickory Neck Church W-30,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Hickory Neck Church,” Library of Congress, www.loc.gov (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Hickory Neck Church- Present Day,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

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Department of Historic Resources

Kingsmill W-47: Not Erected

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Inscription:

Kingsmill Plantation, the home of Col. Lewis Burwell, was built in the mid-1730s and consisted of a mansion, outbuildings, garden, and 1,400 acres. The house burned in 1843. Only the office and the kitchen still stand; they are among the earliest brick dependencies in Virginia. Burwell, the naval officer (colonial customs inspector) for the upper James River, built his inspection station here at Burwell’s Landing, which included a tavern, storehouse, warehouse, and ferry house. In Nov. 1775, American riflemen skirmished nearby with British naval vessels; later, the Americans built two earthen forts here that the British captured in 1781.

Further Research

One of Remaining Houses on Kingsmill Plantation

Richard Kingsmill, who was granted one of the first land grants by the Virginia Company, initially purchased the land that Kingsmill Plantation was located. In the mid-1730s, colonial customs inspector and British Colonel Lewis Burwell III purchased 1,400 acres of Kingsmill’s original plot, and constructed a plantation with several other structures. The headquarters of his inspection station (Burwell’s Landing) was also located on the property along the James River, which included a tavern, warehouse, and ferry.

Kingsmill Archaeological Site

Kingsmill Plantation saw action in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. As Patriot forces began to assemble near Williamsburg in the fall of 1775, the Colonial Governor of Virginia Lord Dunmore ordered that British ships patrol the James River to stop potential ferry crossings of these rebels. On Sunday, November 5th, militiamen from Chesterfield County began to assemble near Williamsburg with intentions to embark upon Norfolk. The British vessel the Kingfisher patrolled the river with three other supporting tenders, but failed in stopping a thousands Colonial militiamen from crossing the river. Despite this, the Kingfisher exchanged fire with a Colonial vessel at Burwell’s Ferry without any decisive action. At the end of the War in 1781, French forces under the Marquis de Lafayette utilized Burwell’s Landing as they docked and moved inland from there. Later that year in January, Colonial General Thomas Nelson and his militia foiled Benedict Arnold’s plan to land at Burwell’s Ferry.

Lord Dunmore

Many battles in the Civil War were also fought in the vicinity of Kingsmill Plantation. Union General George B. McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign engulfed the plantation, as an army of 120,000 men landed and moved inland through the area with the task of reaching Richmond. Several Confederate defensive lines also ran through the property such as the Warwick Line, and the Williamsburg Line. On May 6th of 1865, the Battle of Williamsburg was fought here where the Confederates lost 1,682 men and the Union lost 2,283.

Present Day Kingsmill Plantation

Today resorts, theme parks, a brewery, and a golf course have enveloped much of the Kingsmill land. Busch Gardens, Kingsmill Resort, and the community of Kingsmill on the James are all located on this former plantation.

 

Further Reading

Russell, David Lee. The American Revolution in the Southern Colonies. McFarland, 2000.

John S. Salmon, compiler. A Guidebook to Virginia’s Historical Markers, Revised and Expanded Edition. University Press of Virginia, 2001.

Sears, Stephen W. To The Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign. 1st ed. Mariner Books, 2001.

Photo Credits

“One of remaining houses on Kingsmill Plantation,” National Park Service, www.nps.gov (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Kingsmill archaeological site,” National Park Service, www.nps.gov (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Lord Dunmore,” The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, www.history.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Present Day Kingsmill Plantation,” Golf Williamsburg, www.golfwilliamsburg.com (accessed May 2, 2012).

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

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

White Hall Tavern W-27

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Inscription:

This was a station on the Old Stage Road between Williamsburg and Richmond, before 1860.

 

 

 

 

Further Research

Original White Hall House

The original White Hall Tavern was built in 1805 by William Geddy, who was an upper middle class planter and blacksmith.  He built the home for his son who was a silversmith, James Geddy and the purpose of the home was to represent “the improving quality of housing for all Virginians during the early Republican period.” Tax records have indicated that because William Geddy was a wealthy planter, he most likely possessed a number of adult slaves as well.

During the mid-1800s in the midst of the United States Civil War, the plantation home served as a site crucial to the Confederate Army. Due to its convenient location within a somewhat close proximity to Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, it was a site that provided important intelligence gathering and distribution of information pertinent to the South’s advancement in the war.

The 200 acres of surrounding land has been in the family since the 1760’s and remains in the Geddy family’s possession still today; however, the United States Department of the Interior declared it a national historical landmark in 2007.  It is now referred to as White Hall Plantation, and it is located in Toano, James City County, Virginia at the intersection of routes US 60 and US 30.

Further Reading

“History at Whitehall.” http://www.whitehallwilliamsburg.blogspot.com/. (Accessed April 4, 2012).

United States Department of Interior National Park Service. “National Register of Historic Places Registration Form.” http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/registers/Counties/JamesCity/0470041_Whitehall_2007_NRfinal.pdf (accessed April 4, 2012).

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “White Hall Tavern W-27,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“White Hall Tavern,” White Hall,  www.whitehallwilliamsburg.blogspot.com (accessed May 1, 2012).

 

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Department of Historic Resources

Eastern State Hospital W-40-b

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Inscription:

Eastern State Hospital is the oldest psychiatric hospital in the United States. It was established on 12 Oct. 1773, when Virginia was still a British colony, with the mission of treating and discharging the curable mentally ill. In 1841, under the leadership of John Minson Galt, the hospital initiated new reforms characterized as “moral management,” a self-directed form of rehabilitation that changed the social perception and treatment of mental illness in America. Beginning in 1935 and ending on 28 Jan. 1970, the entire institution gradually moved to Dunbar Farm.

Further Research

Eastern State Hospital

The eighteenth century in Europe brought upon great cultural change through the Enlightenment movement. Also known as the age of reason, people began to reject popular negative connotations regarding the mentally ill. Instead of deeming them fools, the mentally ill were seen as people with a disease of the mind. Royal Governor of Virginia, Francis Fauquier acknowledged these newfound sympathies while addressing the House of Burgesses of Williamsburg on November 6th of 1766; “a legal Confinement, and proper Provision, ought to be appointed for these miserable Objects, who cannot help themselves.” Fauquier’s idea directly led to the foundation of the Eastern State Hospital in 1773, but the Royal Governor did not live to see the patients institutionalized, as he died in 1768.

Eastern State Hospital

James Galt, the previous keeper of the Williamsburg Public Gaol, was the first administrator of the hospital and his wife was the hospital’s matron. During this time period conditions in the hospital were horrendous as the patients were only provided a straw mattress and chamber pot, in their small cells. It wasn’t until 1841 when Dr. John Minson Galt II became the superintendent, which conditions improved. In 1845, patient’s rooms resembled small apartments as opposed to the previous small cells. Dr. Galt also provided social activities for his patients in the form of lectures, concerts, visits into town, and carriage rides. In addition to these, Dr. Galt also created a patient library, shoemaking shop, game room, sewing room, and carpentry shop.

During the Civil War, Union General George McClellan’s massive Peninsular Campaign overwhelmed the Williamsburg area, and the Eastern Lunatic Asylum was captured by Union troops on May 6th of 1862. This marked a period of transition for the hospital, as Dr. Galt’s improvisations were largely forgotten. On June 7th of 1885, a fire destroyed the original 1773 hospital building.

Eastern Lunatic Asylum

In 1894 the Eastern Lunatic Asylum’s name changed to Eastern State Hospital. Due to the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg around 1937, the hospital moved to the Dunbar Farm where it remains functioning today.

 

 

 

Further Reading

Jones, Granville Lillard. The History of the Founding of the Eastern State Hospital of Virginia. Williamsburg: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1954.

Drewry, William Francis, Richard Dewey, Charles Winfield Pilgrim, George Adler Blumer, American Medico-Psychological Association. Committee on a History of the Institutional Care of the Insane, and Thomas Joseph Workmann Burgess. The Institutional Care of the Insane in the United States and Canada. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1916.

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Eastern State Hopsital W-40b,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Eastern State Hospital,” Eastern State Hospital, www.ancestry.com (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Eastern State Hospital,” The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, www.history.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Eastern State Asylum,” Colonial Williamsburg Digital Library, www.research.history.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

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Department of Historic Resources link not available

 

Church On The Main V-46

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Inscription:

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 http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/dgkeysearchdetail.cfm?trg=1&strucID=257721&imageID=em14526&word=Madison%2C%20James%2C%201749-1812&s=3&notword=&d=&c=&f=2&k=0&lWord=&lField=&sScope=&sLevel=&sLabel=&sort=&total=65&num=0&imgs=20&pNum=&pos=2

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 http://chestofbooks.com/reference/American-Cyclopaedia-3/College-Of-William-And-Mary.html

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, www.digitalgallery.nypl.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Early Drawing of the College of William and Mary,” The American Cyclopaedia, http://chestofbooks.com (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

Inscription:

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). http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Association_for_the_Preservation_of_Virginia_Antiquities (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. http://www.nps.gov/jame/historyculture/chronology-of-jamestown-archeology.htm (accessed March 9, 2012).

National Park Service. Jamestown National Historic Site. http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/hh/2/hh2c.htm (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, www.apva.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

“The Site of Old James Towne,” Dancing Eye Books, http://dancingeyebooks.com (accessed May 2, 2012).

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Department of Historic Resources link not available

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.