Posts Tagged ‘Army of the Potomac’

New Kent Road W-26

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012


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.
(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, (accessed May 2, 2012).

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

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

Department of Historic Resources

Aviation Field Yorktown W-232

Thursday, March 15th, 2012


 From July 1919 until Aug. 1921, the U.S. Navy operated an aviation training school north of here at what was then known as the U.S. Navy Mine Depot (U.S. Naval Weapons Station). The school provided the first advanced aviation and gunnery operations. In Oct. 1922 the aviation field supported the first flight made from a U.S. aircraft carrier, USS Langley, which was anchored in the York River. Also, on 8 May 1925 likely the first overland commercial flight from New York City to this region landed there.

Further Research

The land that the Naval Weapons Station sits on has been around through much of our history.  Military men trudged up and down Old Williamsburg Road, which today runs straight through the station.  The oldest structure at the station is the Lee House, which was built in 1649 and was inhabited by many families until the United States Government acquired the property. During the Civil War, the Army of the Potomac established numerous fortifications around the site.  As the war progressed, these fortifications were used as defensive protection from Confederate attacks (Freeman).

In 1916, Congress requested a site on the Atlantic Coast for a weapons handling and storage facility to fit the following criteria:

  1. Sheltered inland waterway deep enough to accommodate capital ships
  2. Sparsely populated area sufficient in size to provide quantity distance separation for explosive material processing and storage facilities
  3. Close to the naval base at Norfolk to permit short boat trips for explosive loadings in the Hampton Roads area (Global Security).

    Yorktown Mine Depot 1945 Ordnance Department

When found, the site was commissioned by the US Mine Depot, Yorktown in July of 1918.  During World War I, the US Mine Depot received, reclaimed, stored and issued mines, depth charges and related materials.  During World War II, they expanded and further developed mines and advanced underwater weapons.  Furthermore, a laboratory was installed to the facility.  The US Mine Depot became the US Naval Weapons Station, Yorktown on August 7, 1958.

U.S.S. Langley CV-1

The aviation field was located on a bluff above the York River and was within the Navy Mine Depot (Yorktown Naval Weapons Station).  The Yorktown aviation field was the first naval air station in the mid-Atlantic region and was established in 1919.  At the Aviation field, aviators were trained in bombing, gunnery, and torpedo operations.  Furthermore, the aviators also spearheaded tests of high-altitude bombsight, which further developed during World War II.  The airfield was officially closed in 1921 and all units were reassigned, the base itself also served as the deep-water channel to support the testing of the Navy’s first aircraft carrier: the USS Langley, CV-1 (Harring). The first take off took place on October 17, 1922 and the first landing took place only nine days later (Gabriele).  The aviation field played a pivotal role in naval aviation.

Further Reading

Global Security. Naval Weapons Station (NAVWPNSTA) Yorktown, Virginia (accessed April 11, 2012).

Gabriele, Tony. “Yorktown Airfield Played Key Role in Naval Aviation.” The Roanoke Times, October 17, 2006, News Section. (Accessed April 11, 2012).

Freeman, Paul. Abandoned and Little Known Airfields: Virginia. (Accessed April 12, 2012).

Hills, Waring. First Landing on the Navy’s First Aircraft Carrier. Patriot’s Point: Home of the USS Yorktown. (Accessed April 12, 2012).

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Aviation Field Yorktown W-232,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Yorktown Mine Depot 1945 Ordnance Department,” Hampton Roads Naval Museum, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“U.S.S. Langley CV-1,” Department of the Navy: Navy Historical Center, (accessed May 2, 2012).

View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources link not available.