Jamestown (part 2) and Yorktown, VA

After our morning at the Preservation Virginia area of Historic Jamestown… we had a picnic lunch and took Island Drive (if you have bikes with you – it looked like a great loop to ride on) to a small trail that overlooked the James River. Sadly AB got stung by a wasp so we had to get back to a first aid kit. But looking forward to the Glasshouse helped her tough it out and we all really enjoyed watching the artist shape her pieces!

At 2,400 degrees F the sand and soda ash transform into glass. In the early 1600s when Jamestown was settled they used wood (and 2 weeks worth of stoking to achieve a melt) — but now they use natural gas and melt the material overnight.

They stick it in this bucket if they want a “print” on the outside:

The natural color of most glass is green because of the rust (iron oxide) in it. Adding manganese makes it clear, cobalt makes blue, carbon makes brown, silver produces yellow, tin makes white, gold produces red.

We now have a beautiful teal glass piece sitting on our bookshelf to remind us of this special vacation together!

Next, we road on Colonial Parkway:

To get to Yorktown Battlefield.

The kids worked on another Junior Ranger badge. (So we earned 2 in one day this time!) and enjoyed running around in the beautiful sunshine.

They especially liked playing “battle” in the redoubts.

The Yorktown Battlefield Tour is a driving tour with 12 stops. 6 Battlefields and 6 Encampments.

For a history review… after the Continental Army’s defeat of the British at Saratoga in 1777, France signed military and commercial alliances with the United States. (Which we learned quite a lot about at Washington’s Headquarters in New Jersey we visited last year! A note to the kids – remember Lafayette?)

The British then tried to refocus on holding the southern colonies and had some success in GA and SC so Cornwallis eyed NC and VA and the wealthy plantations and ports. In August 1781 Cornwallis and 8,300 men occupied Yorktown.

In late August the French kept the British from the Chesapeake Bay so Cornwallis and men could not be rescued or supplied and then the siege of Yorktown began. (We did not have a navy so here’s another example of how our victory was impossible without the French!).

October 17, 1781 the white flags were raised, parley beat on the drums, and the firing finally stopped.

We visited this area on October 18th and didn’t even realize we were so close to the surrender anniversary until we got there!

2 days later – October 19, 1781 the British marched from Yorktown and surrendered right here on Surrender Field:

Cornwallis claimed illness and avoided coming and surrendering to George Washington face to face.

Next to the field, you can see some of the cannons the British had to give up that are now “trophies” of the war inscribed with “Surrendered by the Capitulation of Yorktown. Oct 19, 1781”

It was very interesting to read the displays and try to picture what it must have been like that day as the British walked miles from Yorktown, many of them very liquored up, to lay down their arms. The American army lined one side of the road with the French on the other for more than a mile. Spectators from miles around crowded behind the lines to see at 3 pm the British “parade” walk through. The French troops in complete uniform looked very formal and noble… the Americans were rough looking but beaming with satisfaction. One display said, “Besides the beating of drums there was universal silence and order prevailed”. Hard to imagine!

This quote was particularly interesting to me:

“In passing between the two armies, the British showed the greatest scorn for the Americans… for most of these unfortunate persons were clad in small jackets of white cloth, dirty and ragged, and a number of them were almost barefoot.”

George Washington, AB’s favorite president, is truly so incredible! We have really enjoyed learning about him in our travels. Something new I learned this trip was the “Society of the Cincinnati”. Before the Treaty of Paris was signed, this Society was formed in May 1783. Washington was elected its first president and served until his death in 1799. The Society was named for Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus who was a Roman farmer of the 5th Century who, like Washington, was called from his fields to lead his country’s army. George Washington was such a beloved hero and there was such a brotherhood among our first patriots. Members of the society today are descendants of American Revolutionary War officers and hold fast to the original purpose of the group which was, “to preserve the rights and liberties its founders fought for, to promote national honor and dignity, and to reinforce cordial affection by caring for its members and families”. I’ve never heard of this! And now I can’t wait to visit Washington DC and go to the Society’s Headquarters.

We briefly stopped at the Moore house where the 4 officers selected by Washington and Cornwallis negotiated terms of surrender.

What a view!

The British fought for better terms but in another redemptive act, Washington made sure that the British would be treated exactly as they had treated (without honor) the Americans at their defeat in Charleston). At the surrender ceremony, the British would have to case their flags and their band would have to play British music instead of professionally saluting the victors with American and French songs. Apparently this was a harsh decision for the British to accept even though I can’t see why. Everything was so much more formal then so maybe it was a real dishonor to not do things the “usual” way. I am sure there’s more to this story! Did Washington demand this be part of the terms because he refused to let the British “touch” one of America’s treasured songs? Was that him taking another stand for independence? A message that we were independent states and no longer British and not linked to them anymore!? Did he make the British play a British song that was a direct kick in the pants to King George and a mockery of him? I’ve heard that could be the case. I guess we will never know.

Anyway! 🙂 At that point the kiddos were tired and it was time for dinner so we missed going to “downtown” Yorktown and seeing the historic port area and many 18th century houses. It was a full day and we learned a lot!

3 thoughts on “Jamestown (part 2) and Yorktown, VA

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