Posts Tagged ‘19th century’

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

Olive Branch Christian Church W-28

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Inscription:

In 1833 the founders of Olive Branch Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) met for worship at Hill Pleasant Farm. By 1835, the congregation had built a brick church on land donated by Dr. Charles M. Hubbard and Mary Henley. During the Civil War, Union soldiers occupied the church; they reportedly slept in the gallery and stabled their horses in the sanctuary. The congregation worshiped in the Farthing house until 1866, when the church was restored to usable condition. With that exception, Olive Branch Christian Church, one of the oldest churches of the Disciples of Christ in Virginia, has been in continuous use since its construction.

Further Research

The Olive Branch Christian Church is one of the oldest churches of the Disciples of Christ in Virginia.  In 1833, twenty “Disciples of Christ” met at Hill Pleasant farm to worship and eventually constructed the original church building in 1835 (OBCC).  The Disciples of Christ emerged during the Second Great Awakening in the 19th century (McAlister, 27).

Olive Branch Christian Church - Present Day

During the Civil War, Union soldiers used Olive Branch as an outstation.  The cavalry used the galley as sleeping quarters and the sanctuary as a stable.  The pews and flooring of the church was used for fuel and the windows broken during this war.  The Church was not returned to usable condition until 1866, until which time the congregation worshipped in the Farthing House (OBCC).

The Church does regular services for the public today.

Further Reading

McAlister, Lester G and William E. Tucker. Journey in Faith: A History of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). St Louis: Chalice Press, 1975.

Olive Branch Christian Church. “History”. www.ob-cc.org (accessed March 8, 2012).

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Olive Branch Christian Church W-28,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Olive Branch Christian Church-Present Day,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

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Department of Historic Resources

Hot Water/Centerville V-47

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Inscription:

Royal Governor William Berkeley, owner of nearby Green Spring Plantation, purchased the land here by 1652, then known as Hot Water. After Berkeley’s death, the Hot Water tract passed to the Ludwell and Lee families. William Ludwell Lee inherited the property in 1796 and died in 1803. Lee’s will specified that his slaves be freed when they reached the age of 18. They were allowed to live on the property for ten years at no charge and “comfortable houses” were to be built upon the tract for them. Lee’s philanthropy gave rise to one of Virginia’s early free black settlements located at Centerville.

Further Research

Governor William Berkeley

Governor William Berkeley, also owner of Green Spring Plantation, purchased this tract of land, known as Hot Water, in 1652.  The land also served as the ancestral home of the Ludwells and Lees.  The Plantation itself housed many African American slaves who also took part in Bacon’s Rebellion and in the American Revolutionary War.  After Berkeley died, he passed the tract to the Ludwell and Lees.  When William Ludwell Lee inherited the estate, he had it assessed and completely tore down the aging mansion to build a new house (Cotton). After William Ludwell Lee died, he decreed that all of his slaves be freed and also made provisions for their continued support and education.  More than thirty slaves were freed and received farmsteads in the Hot Water Tract, which consisted of more than 8,000 acres.  They were allowed to live on the property for ten years at no charge in horses built on the property.

The Hot Water tract soon became a part of Centerville and served as the site for many

The final of three recreated cabins was completed in 2008 in Freedom Park. On this original tract is a purposefully established community whose inhabitants consisted of Free Blacks.

battles in the future. Because of Wiliam Ludwell Lee’s generosity to his former slaves, the descendants of those freed slaves were able to create one of the first Free Black communities in Centerville during the antebellum period.  Furthermore, Centerville also served as a hub for colonial activity as a central port for trade of tobacco and produce (Knight).

 

 

 

Further Reading

Cotton, Lee Pelham. Green Spring Plantation: An Historical Summary. http://www.historicgreenspring.org/plantation_history.php (accessed March 7, 2012).

Knight, Priscilla. History of Centreville and Virginia Run. http://www.virginiarun.com/system/files/CentrevilleHistory.pdf (accessed March 7, 2012).

African American Historic Sites Database. Green Spring Plantation and the Hot Water Tract. http://www.aaheritageva.org/search/sites.php?site_id=262 (accessed March 7, 2012).

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Hot Water/Centerville V-47,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Governor William Berkeley,” Historic Green Spring, www.historicgreenspring.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Recreated Cabin,” Freedom Park- James City County, www.williamsburgoutside.com (accessed May 2, 2012).

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Department of Historic Resources link not available

The Theft Case of Mary Aggie: not erected

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Inscription:

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. http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Aggie_Mary_fl_1728-1731 (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, www.pbs.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

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

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

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Department of Historic Resources link unavailable.

Indian School at the College of William and Mary W-229

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Inscription:

Using funds from the estate of British scientist Robert Boyle, the College of William & Mary established a school to educate young Indian men in 1697, just four years after the college’s founding. To encourage enrollment, in 1711 Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood began remitting tributes for area tribes who sent students. Students from tribes outside Virginia also enrolled. The Brafferton was constructed in 1723 to house the school, which provided education in reading and writing English, arithmetic and religion. The American Revolution caused British financial support to cease in 1776, and soon the school closed.

Further Research

Brafferton Building, College of William and Mary Campus

Upon Sir Robert Boyle’s death in 1691, funds from his estate were used to purchase Brafferton Manor in Yorkshire, which was then used to donate money from its revenue to support the newly formed College of William and Mary. There were two other buildings put up on the college grounds in addition to their center ground. The Brafferton Manor was then converted into a building to educate the local Native American populace in 1723 (Dickon and Nichol, 11-13). It would remain an active until the Revolutionary War, where funds had been cut and the school was closed down (Lancaster, 15).

Alexander Spotswood

The school had been made up of a mix of both Indian boys and white children from Williamsburg and the outlying tribes around the town. They would be taught reading, writing, and arithmetic (W&M Quarterly, Vol. IV, 73). The Native Americans would also be taught to spread the word of God and to aid in converting the other Native Americans around Williamsburg (History of the College of William and Mary, Vol. 258, 29). In the Civil War, both Confederate and Union forces used the Brafferton. Those who were at the college at the time had primarily joined the Confederate forces, and the Brafferton became a makeshift hospital and barracks. It was then taken over by Union troops in 1862 and would be held as a Union fort up to 1865 (Dickon and Nichol, 22).

In 1915, the Brafferton was used as college dormitories (Lancaster, 15) but it is currently being used as the offices of the president and the provost of the College of William and Mary (The College of William and Mary).

Further Reading

The College of William and Mary. “The Brafferton”. William and Mary. http://www.wm.edu/about/history/historiccampus/brafferton/index.php (Accessed April 12, 2012).

Dickon, Chris. The College of William and Mary. New York: Arcadia Publishing, 2007.

Lancaster, Robert A. Jr. Historic Virginia Homes and Churches. Philadelphia: JB Lippencott Company, 1915.

Randolph, JW, and English. The History of the College of William and Mary. Richmond: Main Street, 1874.

Tyler, Lyon G, edit. The William and Mary Quarterly, Volume XIV. Richmond: Whittet and Shepperson, Publishers, 1906.

Photo Credits

“Alexander Spotswood,” Encyclopedia Virginia, www.encyclopediavirginia.org accessed May 2, 2012).

“Brafferton House,” The College of William and Mary, www.wm.edu (accessed May 2, 2012).

Historical Marker “Indian School at the College of William and Mary W-229,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

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Department of Historic Resources link not available

First Balloon Flight in Virginia W-40

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Inscription:

On May 7, 1801, J.S. Watson, a student at William and Mary, wrote a letter detailing attempts of flying hot air balloons on the Court House Green. The third balloon, decorated with sixteen stars, one for each of the existing states, and fueled with spirits of wine, was successful. Watson wrote, “I never saw so great and so universal delight as it gave to the spectators.” This is the earliest recorded evidence of aeronautics in the commonwealth.

Further Research

The Brothers De Montgolfier

In November of 1783, the Montgolfier brothers launched the first manned hot air balloon flight in France. It was a thirty minute flight that went over 8,000 feet into the air. This was an achievement that added to their prestige with their previous exploits, which explains why the French word for hot air balloon is la montgolfiere (Haven 2006, 76).

Another man who made his name with the use of the hot air balloon was Joseph Shelton Watson in Williamsburg, Virginia. He was born in 1780 and died at the age of 25 in September of 1805. A collection of his letters had been compiled from his time at the College of William and Mary between 1798 and 1801. In his letter that is dated April 1, 1801, he tells his brother David about his construction of a hot air balloon. “I have been engaged in for several evenings in the construction of an Air-balloon. I’ll let you know in my next whether it succeeds” (Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 166).

Balloon Flight

Ballooning had been an active hobby at the college. Even prior to JS Watson’s attempts to build a balloon, Thomas Jefferson had had brought back the concept with detailed explanations after the Montgolfier’s successes in France in the 1784. The Balloon Club had been organized under a science professor on campus known as Reverend James Madison. in the Spring of 1786, the club had begun to succeed in building their own hot air balloons (Crouch 1983, 99).

The College of William and Mary

“Who would have supposed a few years past that… the bold aeronaut should dare to attempt excursions in so rare a Medium, and even be able to direct his course nearer to the Wind than the best Sailing Vessels. It is probable that these aerostatic machines will in time be applied to other purposes than a mere Philosoph. Experiment, tho in that respect alone they are certainly very valuable. Yet I have seen no result of observations made by them, relating to several matters for which they seem particularly adopted. Such as the rate of decrease in the density of the atmosphere at different Elevations, also the Rate in which its Temperature varies, Meteors in general, Propagations of Sounds, Descent of bodies, etc., are all proper subject of Investigation, and which no doubt will be investigated as those Machines are more perfected (The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 1921).”

Further Reading

Crouch, Tom D. The Eagle Aloft : Two Centuries of the Balloon in America. New York: Smithsonian Institute, 1983.

Haven, Kendall. One Hundred Greatest Science Inventions of All Time. Westport: Libraries Unlimited, 2006.

“Letters of Reverend James Madison, President of the College of William and Mary, to Thomas Jefferson,” William and Mary Quarterly (April 1925).

“Letters from William and Mary College, 1798-1801.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 29, no. 2 (April, 1921): 166-169. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4243811 (accessed April 12, 2012).

Photo Credits

“Balloon Flights,” Circling Hawk Paragliding, www.circlinghawk.com (accessed May 2, 2012).

“The Brothers De Montgolfier,” Aeronautics Learning Laboratory for Science, Technology and Research, www.allstar.fiu.edu (accessed May 2, 2012).

“The College,” The College of William and Mary, www.wm.edu (accessed May 2, 2012).

Historical Marker “First Balloon Flight in Virginia W-40,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

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Department of Historic Resources link not available

Whitaker’s House W-45

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Inscription:

A mile north of the road is Whitaker’s House, headquarters of General W. F. Smith, battle of Williamsburg, May 5, 1862.

 

 

 

Further Research

William Farrar Smith

May 5, 1862 saw 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.

Map of Peninsula Campaign

General William Ferrar Smith served with one of the corps divisions under Major General Erasmus Keyes.  Smith, also known as “Baldy,” led the division that attacked Johnston from the South.  Furthermore, Smith had made Whitaker’s House his headquarters during this battle (Warner, 463).   Unfortunately for General Hooker, in the midst of battle when Hooker was expecting Smith’s support, Smith was halted more than a mile away from Hooker’s position by General Sumner because he believed that the Confederate soldiers would leave their fortifications to attack him on Yorktown Road. This belief turned out to be true, but the Confederates ended up attacking Hooker, not Sumner and Smith.

In the end, however, the battle ended up in the favor of the Union and it was portrayed as an amazing victory over superior forces.

The house itself belonged to John Whitaker, born on May 21, 1745 in Yorktown, VA.  Whitaker played a key role in the process of forming Wake County out of wilderness and establishing the County’s Government. Also known as a “Trustee of the Peace,” Whitaker served in the Wake county Militia and as a Justice of the Court in Wake County from 1777 to 1787.  In addition to his public life, he was a successful planter and businessman and thus held a substantial amount of land.

Further Reading

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

Ancestry.com. “John Whitaker 1745 – 1823.” http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~glendasubyak/col_jwhitaker.html (accessed March 20, 2012).

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.

Smith, William F. Autobiography of Major General William F. “Baldy” Smith, 1861-1864. Edited by Herbet M. Schiller. Dayton: Morningside House, 1990.

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

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Whitaker’s House W-45,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“William Farrar Smith,” House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu (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