Posts Tagged ‘Magruder’

Goodwin Neck NP-12

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012


This area, locally known as Dandy, was part of the land granted to John Chew July 6, 1636, and was sold by his heirs to James Goodwin, a member of the House of Burgesses from Jamestown, August 27, 1668. The area was strategically important both to British General Charles Cornwallis and to Confederate General John B. Magruder, who erected earth redoubts at the heads of several creeks on Goodwin Neck.

Further Research

Lord Cornwallis

A strategically important area, Goodwin Neck was instrumental to the British army of Cornwallis in the Revolutionary War, and to the Confederate General John B. Magruder during the Civil War. The “Neck” aspect of it’s name signifies the various creek basins, that come to a head on this part of Virginia’s peninsula.

On July 6th, of 1781, the Battle of Green Spring was fought around this location. General Cornwallis fought the heavily outnumbered Colonial Army of General Lafayette, and there was no clear outcome. Though fought to a stalemate, the Colonial Army was able to maintain its composure thanks to a fearsome bayonet charge led by “Mad” Anthony Wayne.

John Magruder

During the Civil War, the defensive lines of General John B. Magruder ran through Goodwin Neck. There were a total of three defensive lines, which were meant to deceive Union General George McClellan. These fortifications were successful, as they delayed the massive Union army’s progress, until Confederate General Joe Johnson was able to gather a force large enough to defeat them. Unfortunately, General Magruder’s drunkenness was his true downfall, as Robert E. Lee assigned him elsewhere soon after this campaign.

Further Reading

Cadorph, Paul D. Prince John Magruder: His Life and Campaigns. New York: John Wiley & sons, 1996.

Cutrer, Thomas W. “Magruder, John Bankhead.” (accessed March 10, 2012).

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

Ramsay, David. The History of the American Revolution. Printed and sold by James J. Wilson, 1811.

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Goodwin Neck NP-12,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Lord Cornwallis,” Library of Congress, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“John Magruder,” Library of Congress, (accessed May 2, 2012).

View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources

Community of Grove WT-4: not erected

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012


After the Civil War, the Freedman’s Bureau confiscated land for refugees and free African Americans in the area that became the community of Grove. In 1967, the seized land was restored to the previous owners. Some of the African Americans settled on lands to the west. In 1918, many descendants of the first refugees returned to Grove after the U.S. government forced their removal to make way for the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station and Cheatham Annex. These immigrants formed the nucleus of Grove, which was enlarged when further removals during World War II displaced friends and family from the nearby community of Magruder.

Further Research:

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands was created by Congress in March 1865 to assist for one year in the transition from slavery to freedom in the South.


During the American Civil War, there was a mass emancipation of slaves and despite Virginia’s secession from the Union, the U.S. Army retained control of Fort Monroe, which had become a destination for slaves who sought freedom.  After the War, many of the freed African Americans settled inland of the Peninsula as landowners or tenant farmers and many freedmen moved to the area that would soon become the Community of Grove (Walsh).

Present Day Aerial View: The oldest structure onboard the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station is the Lee House, built around 1649, where many generations of the family lived out their lives before the property was acquired by the U.S. government.

The community was named after a nearby creek and a plantation where many of the African Americans had worked as slaves and it remained a relatively small community until the mid-twentieth century.  During World War I, many members of the community returned when they were displaced because of the construction of the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station (Walsh).  Also, during World War II, the U.S. Navy took over the small town of Magruder and more descendants were forced to relocate to Grove.

Further Reading:

Walsh, Lorena S. From Calabar to Carter’s Grove: The History of A Virginia Slave Community. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997.

Photo Credits

“The Freedman’s Bureau,” PBS: The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Aerial View,” CNIC: Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, (accessed May 2, 2012).

View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources link not available.

Whitaker’s House W-45

Thursday, March 15th, 2012


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. “John Whitaker 1745 – 1823.” (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, (accessed May 2, 2012).

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

View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources