Posts Tagged ‘York River’

Seaford NP-3

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012


Settlement began here in 1636, when John Chisman patented 600 acres on Crab Neck, a peninsula bounded by Chisman Creek and Back Creek, a tributary of York River. The neck then lay in Charles River Parish in York County, one of the eight original shires created in 1634. A Confederate fortification stood near the narrowest part of the neck in 1862, and during the Civil War Union troops destroyed Zion Methodist Church here. Crab Neck post office was established in 1889; its name was changed to Seaford in 1910.

Further Research

Chief Powhatan

Tribes of the Algonquian-speaking Indians, who were united by Chief Powhatan, thrived in this area before English settlement of their colonies in the seventeenth century. (Gleach) These tribes became known as the Powhatans to the Powhatan Confederacy, with their primary village located near Glouchester, and hundreds of other villages were located throughout the Chesapeake Bay area and the Virginia coastal plain. (Spaar) The area was a prime region for fishing and seafood. (Wiggins)

Map of Southeastern Virginia

The community of Seaford was originally known as Crab Neck, Crab Rock and Calamar, and only 30 families lived there prior to the Civil War. (Quass) General John B. Magruder’s defensive lines also ran through the area, while the Confederate Ship’s Point Battery was nearby on the Poquoson River in 1862. Ship’s Point Battery contained around 16 heavy artillery guns, meant to thwart any advances by Union vessels.

During the Revolutionary War, this area was crucial to General Cornwallis’ defense of Yorktown in 1781. (Payette)

Further Reading

Gleach, Frederic W. Powhatan’s World and Colonial Virginia: A Conflict of Cultures. (Omaha, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 2000).

Payette, Pete. North American Forts. “Seaford Defenses.” Online at (Accessed April 12, 2012).

Quass, B. “Seaford Virginia” Online at (Accessed April 11, 2007).

Spaar, K. “The Potomac Appalachian trail club-short history of the Powhatan Indians”. Online at (Accessed April 11, 2007).

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Seaford NP-3,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Chief Powhatan,” Find a Grave, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Map of Southeastern Virginia,” Library of Congress, (accessed May 2, 2012).

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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).

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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).

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Department of Historic Resources