My crossing of the Delaware

Since I came this far to visit a friend in Philadelphia, I wanted to take advantage of being here, since I’m not sure when I’ll be in the neighborhood again.  Because of that, I booked a hotel by Valley Forge and planned to spend time today (7/13/17) in Trenton.

By the time I actually located my hotel (a fiasco that’s a story for another place) and navigated through the construction and traffic to actually reach the right entrance, I discovered I was unable to check in (despite the website claiming 24 hour check-in.  Apparently, it was not the official website.)  So, I left already frustrated with this leg of the journey.

Navigating around New Jersey is nothing like navigating around Virginia.  I desperately missed the times of going hours as the only car going in my direction and one of only a handful on the road.  But, finally, I made it to Trenton.  Now to figure out where to go.  If I had such famous events as “The Turning Point of the American Revolution” to my credit, I would shout it from the mountaintops.  I mean, this is how we became a nation! But, to find places in Trenton requires a bit more work.  After a bit of sleuthing (trying to decide where to actually go), I landed on the Visitor Center for Washington’s Crossing Historic Park.  I navigated around a path, illegally backed up, went the wrong way on a one way, and finally ended up in a parking lot for the center.  All the lights were off.

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Inside the Visitor Center.  I’m not sure where you weren’t supposed to take pictures, so I included a far away shot.

I went in, and the lone man at the desk informed me he had the lights off to help with the heat.  Understandable.  I paid my $1.00 to see the movie (I offered to pay the park entrance fee as no one had been at the gate, but he said they only charge on weekends.) and started to look around.  This is actually an incredible site with some incredible artifacts, including some of the first medals given out to a number of military men who made a huge difference in the American Revolution.  The movie explains about the time leading up to the American Revolution.  While the museum may not seem like much, the directors were apparently all at the American Revolution Museum in Philadelphia deciding how they wanted to make this museum better.  But, he assures me that project is still 6-10 years down the road.

One of the most interesting things I learned is that the story of the Hessians being hungover for the Battle of Trenton is a myth!  The site calls it the biggest myth in American History that is even in school textbooks. But, the series of skirmishes in the area and the journals of the Hessians revealed that they were on guard against Washington and his men.  The fact that the weather was horrible (freezing rain at our backs and in our enemy’s face, which also affected their gunpowder) and that Washington had crossed undetected and attacked forcefully made the real difference.

After looking through the museum, I asked the curator what he would recommend in town.  He drew me a map to the Old Barracks Museum and the Monument, but told me to head down to the Johnson Ferry houses.  One of the historians was down there, and she would be “a good one to talk to.”  He was more right than he knew.

The Johnson Ferry House

When I asked at the Ferry House, one of the historians said the other would be better as she’d grown up here and had been a docent here forever, whereas she was only a lowly seasonal employee (for 9 years!).  But, she brought down Nancy Ceperley, who is a jewel indeed.  For the next hour or so, Nancy and I sat on chairs in the Johnson house and talked about Washington.  We discussed the fact that he was an eloquent man, reserved, focused, and determined.  Nancy believes his aspirations to be in the gentry class stem from a desire to be able to serve on a greater level.  Our conversation then turned to Washington’s faith.  She mentioned his many letters and family observations that he was a deeply Christian man–not just a religious or moral man. We discussed his mason involvement, and the fact that the masons changed after Washington was in it, and that men at the time wrote to Washington to see if he could stop the changes, but he had a country to create by that time, and wrote that he could not focus on that at the time.

Lighting in the Johnson Ferry House

Our conversation then turned to the Crossing of the Delaware–the painting, the event, and the people who lived in this house located in a loyalist state who were willing to help Washington actively with ferrying troops and simply with their silence about the plan.  What a great risk they took!  This launched Nancy into a favorite subject of hers:  The Great Awakening.  While she covers the aspects of the house that are of interest to whichever visitors she has, her true passion and course of study is the affect the Great Awakening had in preparing for the American Revolution.  Were it not for that event pulling people together and giving them the principles, determination, and resolve to see Independence achieved, things might have been very different.

Replica of the flat boats that ferried troops and supplies

What an incredible privilege to meet Nancy!  We prayed together for the state of our nation today and for our respective roles in serving the public.  She gave me a copy of her book Whitefield in Philadelphia:  The Great Awakening of 1740, for which she spent years researching the connection between the Great Awakening and the American Revolution.  I can’t wait to read it!

Washington’s Crossing spot

As I stepped out to head to my car, contemplating the difference between my Turbo tour of yesterday, and this jewel, where I could literally sit for hours for a personal conversation with an expert, it began to pour rain!  So, I drove down to the crossing site and took pictures of the boat replica in the pouring rain.  But, as it was around 5:00, most things were closing.  Though I drove by the Old Barracks Museum and the War Memorial, I didn’t have opportunity to visit either.  Perhaps I’ll make it back before I head home.  But, regardless, I had an incredible day enjoying two of New Jersey’s hidden treasures!

Mount Vernon

Today (7/12/2017), I headed into Mount Vernon to catch up with some dear friends from high school who made the sacrifice to drive a few hours to see me and suffer the heat to visit with me.  Because of morning commitments, they were going to be later in the day, so I made the hour drive a bit early so I could do some research before they arrived.  When I arrived, however, I discovered that the research area had been moved from Mount Vernon itself to a library across the street–closed to the public until November, except by appointment only.  (My second time to be stuck in that situation.)  But, once again, the helpful people at customer service made arrangements for me to be able to go over to the library.

The study room 💗

After going through intense security (having to be buzzed in at two different entrances), I arrived at the new facility.  I’m sure I could have spent hours, but I only had about an hour before my friends arrived.  The librarian gave me a list of databases and helped me navigate their collection.  Right away, I found an amazing collection of George Washington’s memories of the French Indian War, and found it is still in print, so I ordered it from Barnes and Noble.  I also found a hardcover collection of the writings I had spent hours in Williamsburg reading online (Though this one ran almost $200–But, I discovered my home library may have it.)  While I didn’t really find anything new, per se, I found amazing resources to peruse at home, so it was definitely a great stop.

Part of the farm area

Then, it was off to Mount Vernon.  While it has been a while since any of us were here, there was so much I remembered and loved.  The grounds are beautiful, the wharf was neat to see, as were the gardens and farm area (though the walk back up was rough).  My favorite Mrs. Washington wasn’t there, which was a disappointment, as she is always a highlight.

But, the thing that struck me the most was the tour itself.  I jokingly called it the turbo tour.  While they had narrators in every area of the house, we actually spent less than a minute in any room.  We were shuffled along, catching only scattered pieces of information as we hustled through.  Yes, it was cool to see, but we wanted to learn.  I don’t know if I’m romanticizing my previous visit, but I feel like we lingered longer last time–that we had an actual guide who took us around.

A handsome George–around the age he is in my book

As we walked out, discussing the turbo tour, one of my friends pointed at the line, and said, “Yes, but imagine how long we’d have to wait if each group got an individual tour.”  I don’t know–somehow, I feel there has to be a better way to get the information.  Perhaps that’s what the Premium Tour covers.

All in all, it was still a good day, and as Jenny Roberts commented on Facebook, “That place is where history really hit me once.  Standing in the dining room, it became very real to me that George Washington himself had stood there, too!”  I’m hoping more people can slow down long enough for it to hit them too.

 

The Handley Library in Winchester, VA

I set out today (7/11/17) to find the library recommended to me by the Culpepper Library. (I also ran in by the Culpepper Library to copy some family tree info for a friend.  I had been scanning the shelves looking for things on Washington and ran across a book on his family.  I messaged him to see if he was aware of it, and was able to get him information for his upcoming family reunion!  Amazing God timing!)

The Handley Library in Winchester is an incredible building architecturally.  I headed down to the archives and started looking through their collection of Washington items.  While I didn’t find really anything new, (though I got to see some cool things), I learned that they have a French Indian War Organization whom I decided to try contacting.

Site of Fort Loudoun

When I stopped by the headquarters of the Organization, however, I discovered it was located at the site of Fort Loudoun, which George Washington designed and oversaw.  Unfortunately, there isn’t anything left of the fort but a filled in well–it now has houses on the site–but, they had an audio tour with some good information.

Jackson Headquarters

As I was heading to the Fort, I had noticed a sign for the Stonewall Jackson Museum in Winchester.  Since he’s my favorite Civil War General, I decided to swing by.  I’m so glad I did.  The site, known as Jackson’s Headquarters, was used by Jackson from 1861-1862.  The house itself was built in 1854 and first belonged to a dentist, but he sold it to Col. Moore (Great Grandfather of Mary Tyler Moore).  When Jackson came to town, he first stayed at the Taylor Hotel, but he had become famous (the whole “Stonewall” incident), so people were constantly trying to see him, and he never got anything done.  Col. Moore knew of the situation and had planned on vacating the house, so he offered it to Jackson.  Jackson moved in November of 1861, and his wife came the next month.

When he leaves in January for the Romney Campaign, his wife goes to live with the Grahams, so when he returns, he’ll go to her there and use the Moore’s home as his office.  Incidentally, the wallpaper in his office, which Jackson described vividly enough that it was able to be reproduced, and when they found the original, it was the same design.  Mary Tyler Moore paid for the office to be wallpapered again.

Jackson, seen through a cannon wheel

Jackson came close to quitting the war in this room as well.  He and General Loring had secured Romney (despite Loring’s delays and complaints over the conditions his men were enduring.)  Jackson left Loring to keep Romney secured.  Though the men were safe, Loring was frustrated with Jackson, felt vulnerable, and went over Jackson’s head to the War Department to have his men recalled.  Without consulting Jackson, the War Department ordered Jackson to recall Loring.  Jackson was furious and promptly resigned (asked for a transfer to VMI).  Joseph Johnston talked him out of it, however.  Still, Jackson was proved correct when the Union forces regained Romney as soon as Loring’s men had left it.

The Museum is also unique in that it has the Battle flag of the 33rd Virginia (Stonewall Brigade).  When battle flags were surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse, a soldier managed to keep this one hidden.  Another amazing artifact is Jackson’s prayer book.  The curator explained he has lots of personal notes inside, but they’re not opening it.  That’s disappointing to me–I would love to have read Jackson’s notes and prayers.  She explained that Jackson’s habit was to pray three times a day.  He used to hang a handkerchief on his tent so his men knew to leave him alone.

Manassas

While I only got the abbreviated tour (I got there at 3:30, and they close at 4), I absolutely recommend this site!

From Jackson’s headquarters, I finished the drive to Manassas, where I will spend the evening before heading to Mount Vernon tomorrow.  It was perfect at the end of the day to see where Stonewall became Stonewall.

 

Washington’s Birthplace

After church at Crosswalk this morning (7/9/17), I set out from Williamsburg to take in two spots from Washington’s youth:  his birthplace, where he lived through age three, and his boyhood home, where he lived until he was a young teenager.  Both were incredible to see.

When I arrived at the birthplace, I learned that it had been the intention of George’s father Augustine to secure farms for all of his sons, not just the first one as was traditional.  He had the Pope’s Creek plantation first, then acquired Mount Vernon, and finally Ferry Farm.  Because of these acquisitions, George only lived at the Pope’s Creek Plantation until he was three, but often returned often during his youth. The house was in the family until 1779 when it burned in a fire on Christmas Day.

The reconstructed house–where they thought it stood.

While there is an outline of original house, the house on the property was built for the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birthday.  They built it on the spot they assumed was the original, but later archaeology confirmed a different location.

Our house tour was given by the lively Chris Kennedy, who told Washington’s whole story in rhymed verse–very fascinating information and delivery.  Kennedy stated that the stories about Washington (like the Cherry tree incident) were not meant to be taken for real events, but rather served as moral examples to the character children should acquire.  Chris said that the point of the Cherry tree story is to teach children (and grown ups as well) to admit when they’ve made a mistake.

Washington’s view out to the Potomac River

Chris also shared a bit of the Washington family history.  Washington’s dad’s first wife Jane died, leaving 3 kids.  Augustine’s second wife Mary gave birth to five more, of which George was the oldest.  As I mentioned, Augustine Washington was actively working to acquire farms for each of his sons, but when he died, all of George’s prospects changed. Now, he couldn’t go to England to study (a fact that would hinder his advancement in the British Army).  Additionally, Mary pulled George out of school at the age of 11 to help her run the Ferry Farm (she decided not to remarry–her property would be affected.  Additionally, with her older step sons (both in their 20’s) running Mount Vernon and Pope’s Creek, she felt she and George could manage Ferry Farm–George’s inheritance.)  George wanted to be in the British Navy, but his mom wrote letters so they wouldn’t take him (I’m curious to find what these say!)  Instead, she reluctantly sent George to his half brothers’ farms to learn.

The cradle came from the Washingtons, so it could have been George’s.

It is at his brothers that George does his first survey:  his brother’s turnip garden. His brother introduces him to Lord Fairfax, the richest man in Virginia and Lawrence’s father-in-law, who will hire him on as a surveyor.  George had always imagined he’d be a British officer and played with toy soldiers as a boy, but because of his lack of education, he was looked down on, even when he was able to join the militia.  George worked first as a farmer, then as a surveyor. Because of this, he knew much of the land, a fact that would advance him in battle later.

The bridge (reconstructed) over Pope’s Creek

Another tragedy struck when Lawrence died.  His widow inherited Mount Vernon. (George was next in line after her.)   George asks her to rent it to him, and she does. Shortly after, George receives a commission in the British army. His job?  Take letters to Ft. Duquesne.  Along the way, the French ambushed the company and an unarmed French nobleman was shot. Washington took prisoners so he’d have a chance to explain the situation (at Ft. Necessity.)  But, George still became the fall guy. (Apparently, he signed a confession he couldn’t understand because his translator had died–a good lesson in not signing something without reading it!)

Washington’s parents’ coats of arms

Later, General Braddock was advised by George to fight behind trees. Braddock ignores George’s advice and gets caught in an ambush where he and other officers are killed. The virtually leaderless soldiers flee to the woods. Washington is able to lead them out by a trail he knew as a boy. George himself had bullet holes in shoulder and hat. He did, however, learn that the British only want to hear what they want to hear instead of how to best protect their men.  That knowledge will help him with the attack on Trenton in the American Revolution.

Entrance to Ferry Farm

From Washington’s birthplace, I headed out to Ferry Farm.  I was surprised to enter this formerly 600 acre plantation by means of a dirt and gravel road. I knew that Augustine Washington had owned an iron works 6 miles down the road, which was probably the reason he chose this spot–that and it was near Fredericksburg, which was a bustling tobacco port. But, Ferry Farm was to be George’s property.  I found out when I went in the main building that George’s mom finally sold this property and moved to Fredericksburg in 1772. She sold it to Mercers, who rented it out. Later, a soldier in Civil War wrote a letter home in which he stated they had torn down Washington’s house for firewood. After that, Youth For Christ bought the property for a boy’s home. In 1996, the Kenmore foundation (Washington’s sister’s home) purchased it. Finally, in 2008 archaeologists found foundation of the house, and they are currently rebuilding on original site.

The Visitor Center

At the visitor center, I received an ipad to take a tour around the grounds.  There is a series of 10 flags which mark various points on the property.  At each point, you can listen to historical information as well as hear from the archaeologists.  Here are a few of the nuggets I gleaned along the way:

1.  When George moved here from Mount Vernon, he left a plantation for urban life–the city is obviously very different from the country.

2.  George’s first survey was of brother’s turnip patch. When Lord Fairfax enlisted him as a surveyor, this gave George a substantial salary.  Additionally, surveyors got to see the land first for claiming.

3.  Some slaves came with the property, some the Washington’s already had, and some came from Africa. One of the beads found on the property marked a chief.  I was reminded of the story of Cinque on the Amistad.  I wonder what his story was.

 

4.  Archaeology tells a lot about the family.  Since all of the estates were separated when Augustine died, Mary, who is 35 at the time and has 5 children, is left in charge of all the plantations. One thing archaeologists found is a punch bowl that Mary had mended–this shows that while they were comfortably situated, Mary is still being frugal.

 

5.  Being at the crossroads of trade, George undoubtedly conversed with people coming and going, which would improve his gentlemanly standing.  Also, from his surveyors wages, he paid for his own dancing and fencing lessons and to go to the theatre–which I think is both cool and hilarious.  He also learns cards and billiards, joins the masons, and is taught tea table manners. He learned gentlemanly behavior both at Ferry Farm and from Lawrence and the Fairfaxes.

6.  Archaeologists found over 115 wig curlers on Ferry Farm.  (George didn’t wear a wig–he liked his own hair better….)

The Rappahannock–this is the river Washington threw things across, though stones, not silver dollars

7.  Two court cases draw very public scrutiny of the family.  First, in there’s a trial in which one slave kills another–there wasn’t much information on that.  The other court case concerns George swimming in the Rappahannock and 2 indentured servants steal his clothes (I also think this one is hilarious!)

Construction and archaeology

Though it was unfinished, I’m glad I made a stop here, and will enjoy seeing the progress they’ve made the next time I come!

Governor’s Palace

Today (3/29/17), we had planned to do another tour of historic Jamestown with the woman who was giving the Roads Scholars’ tour, but when we called Jamestowne, we were told her tour wouldn’t be until 3 (Turns out, it was a miscommunication and she wasn’t giving a tour today.)  So, with our initial plans out the window, we were left to explore new territory.

We spent the morning running errands and trying to obtain contact information for the new man in charge of Colonial Williamsburg.  As long time guests, we believe he’s making some major mistakes in direction and wanted to address them before it’s too late.  While his schedule wouldn’t allow us to meet this week, I received assurances that his chief of staff would contact me.  We’ll see.

Freedom Park cabins

So, we had time to kill before our 5:30 lecture on George Washington.  Last night, I had Googled a “Must see” list for the area to see what we had missed in our devotion to our favorites.  One area that caught my eye was Freedom Park.  While it is known for its hiking and biking trails and zip lining, it also is the site of one of the oldest free black settlements.

Reconstruction of a cabin like John Jackson’s.

The place got its start when William Ludwell Lee of Green Spring Farm not only freed his slaves in his will, but also made provisions for comfortable homes to be built for them. His executor saw to the project which allowed the former slaves to live rent free for ten years.  One of the homes represents the home of John Jackson (with his wife Nancy and two children.)  Jackson was able to purchase and develop his own property, and his descendants still live in the area!

The park guide also references an 18th century cemetery, and though there were archaeological digs on the grounds and bodies were found, they were reinterred after research was completed.  Unfortunately, there are no markers nor clues to the information archaeologists found, and the area is simply blocked off by rail fences.

Botanical Gardens

The park does, however, have a visitor center which displays a small collection of artifacts and information.  My favorite piece was a map from the Civil War simply listing the area as “Free Negro Settlement.”  There aren’t any houses marked or details, indicating the artist didn’t explore the area. I wished I’d gotten a picture of it, but alas,  I didn’t.

There is a beautiful botanical garden as well, which is run by volunteers.  Though I don’t expect Freedom Park to become a new favorite, it is definitely worth visiting, and since it’s only about five years old and a county park, I’m sure it will continue to improve.  It will be fun to see the changes that occur.

A sampling of period clothes

We left Freedom Park to head back to Colonial Williamsburg for a lecture in the building formerly known as the Dewitt Wallace–now the Art Museums of Williamsburg.  Being a reenactor and a seamstress, I wanted to check out their collection of Colonial Fashion, now on display.  There was a beautiful exhibition of clothes and quilts–well worth visiting, even though I didn’t have much time before the lecture.

The lecture by Professor Peter Henriques was entitled I cannot tell a lie. Myths about George Washington that should be discarded. In his discussion, he gave twelve myths and his reasons why they’re “fake news.”  I’ll recount them here.

Washington’s false teeth

Myth #1:  He had wooden teeth.  Actually,  Washington’s false teeth were a combination of human, ivory, and animal.  In fact, he even bought teeth from his slaves!

Myth #2:  He threw a silver dollar across the Potomac. First, silver dollars hadn’t been invented, and Washington wouldn’t have thrown money away if they had.

CW not GW

Myth #3:  He cut down his father’s cherry tree and said,  “I cannot tell a lie…” This myth was popularized in the book by Mason Locke Weems called The Life of Washington, but, though it appears in the book, it wasn’t added til 5-6 edition. There is some background, though. A vase in Germany (1770-1790) depicts Washington cutting down a tree with GW over his head. Unfortunately, on this case, “Washington” is a grown man, and the initials?  CW.

Myth #4:  Washington prayed on his knees at Valley Forge. While there is nothing implausible about Washington praying. He was a very private man, not given to such ostentatious displays. The story only was added by Weems in the 17th edition of his book. Additionally, the description of the man who supposedly witnessed this differs in accounts.  One has Potts as a Quaker encouraged by the event while others portray him as a Tory disheartened by the event.  In either case, he didn’t buy the farm in Valley Forge until after war was over, so could not have witnessed Washington there.

Myth #5:   Washington was a great curser. The reference to this comes from an account of his clash with Lee in 1778 at the Battle of Monmouth. Lee had turned his troops, and Washington had to rush in to save the day.  A quote by Colonel Charles Scott says, “He swore til the leaves shook the trees.” First of all, Scott wasn’t there, and recounted the story many years later. Also disputing this character portrayal, Alexander Hamilton said Washington never cursed. Charles Lee himself said in his testimony that Washington’s manner was stronger than his language. Finally, Washington prided himself on self- mastery and disdained use of profanity.   All of these are good reasons to doubt the account.

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Sculpture of Washington

Myth # 6:   He was cold and aloof.  Apparently, his friend Gouverneur Morris said he was remote. This stems from a story circulated that Morris had told Hamilton he thought Washington quite genial.  Hamilton apparently bet him dinner and wine if Morris would put his hand on Washington’s shoulder and say, “General!  How happy I am to see you looking so well.”  Supposedly, Morris did it, and Washington removed his hand from his shoulder and glared at Morris until he left.  As with the other myths, there is no contemporary evidence. First, the record is third hand gossip 80 years after the event. Additionally, the story is out of character for both men. Delegates who served with Washington said, “He is sensible, amiable, virtuous, modest, and brave.” To publicly embarrass someone would go against his rules of civility; therefore, it’s safe to assume the incident never happened.

Myth #7:  He had no sense of humor.  James Madison said Washington “enjoyed good humor and hilarity, though he takes little part in them.”  Additionally, Washington’s bad teeth might have given credence to this rumor as well, since most people don’t like smiling and laughing if they’re self conscious–and self-mastery was extremely important to him.

Myth #8:  Washington had a child with his slave.  This rumor has two sources.  The first was letters put out by the British during the war trying to slander Washington’s character.  The other comes from West Ford, who was the son of George Washington’s brother John’s wife’s slave.  The Ford family gave oral tradition that he was Washington’s son.  A number of facts dispute this, however.  First, West didn’t come to Mount Vernon until three years after Washington died. Additionally, there is incredible difficulty with putting Venus (West’s mom) and Washington together.  Since West was born during the war when we have very credible evidence where Washington was, the only possibility would be when John’s family visits Mount Vernon. There’s no plausible reason why Washington–a happily married man who valued duty and self discipline above most else–would do that. West is most likely the son of one of Washington’s nephews.  Doctors now think that Washington was most likely sterile. This doesn’t necessarily disprove the Fords story of having Washington DNA.  The Fords may be directly related to Washington without being directly descended from him.

Myth #9:  Washington struggled about whether to be a king. In actuality, he was fundamentally a believer in republican values. The origins of this belief may be because of a letter from a French officer suggesting it may be better for America to have a king (strong leadership in tumultuous times.). George responded with a blistering letter contradicting that view and even went as far as to have witnesses sign that he sent it. It would have caused him to be viewed as a traitor if he abandoned his republican principles.

Myth #10:  Washington added “So help me God” to his presidential oath.  First, there isn’t contemporary evidence to this.  A letter from the French ambassador which spells out the whole scene of the inauguration in vivid detail doesn’t include it.  But, 65 years later, it appears in a book. It seems out of character for Washington to tamper with the constitutional text when he’s such a stickler for the Constitution being taken literally. The tradition may come from the fact that he’d said it in other oaths.

Myth #11:  Washington is a front man for Alexander Hamilton.  This myth had its origin with Jefferson who immensely disliked Hamilton.  Unfortunately, Washington tends to side with Hamilton’s perspective more than Jefferson’s.  Jefferson’s answer to this frustration is that Washington is deceived by Hamilton, since he cannot consider Washington evil like he considers Hamilton.

Myth #12:  Washington originated the 2 term tradition. It’s important to understand the factors here.  First, Washington steps down from a combination of fatigue and a desire to establish a transition of power. He was not opposed to the idea of serving a number of terms. In fact, in a letter to Lafayette, he said that he saw no problem with serving multiple terms, and thought limiting terms stifled the voice of the people, who might desire a particular person to serve longer (or be in circumstances that would make it easier or better for a leader to continue.)

All in all, it was a fascinating evening, and I see why his lectures are so popular and well attended.

Hulling cacao beans

Mortar and pestle grinding

Rolling out (further grinding)

Closer…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We started the morning (3/28/17) at Colonial Williamsburg to check out the chocolate making process. It is a long, time-consuming process. Because of this, at the time, most chocolate was purchased in the stores.  The chocolate was produced in chocolate factories in the North located in Boston, Newport, Philadelphia, and New York.  Those who were extremely wealthy (or had a love for chocolate worth the sacrifice) had their own chocolate stones and employed slaves to make their chocolate. There were 3 chocolate stones in Virginia–the Governor’s Palace, Thomas Jefferson’s, and Lee Hall. In the 1700’s, most cacao beans were bought from the Caribbean. Today, we mostly get it from Africa. Colonial Williamsburg gets theirs from Mars Company, which I think is cool!

Preparing the Massachusetts flag

From there, we headed to Yorktown where it was Massachusetts Day.  I expected the opening ceremonies to be bigger than they were.  They basically consisted of opening comments (welcome) and a member of the National Park’s staff putting Massacusetts’ puzzle piece into a joined snake from the Ben Franklin “Join or Die” image, symbolizing the unity of the colonists in joining the nation.  After that, we followed the members of the fife and drum corps as they led an army of middle school students to the artillery area for an opening ceremony.  After comments introducing the speakers and events for the afternoon, they raised the Massachusetts flag over the encampment.  It was a cool celebration, but not necessarily something I’d go early again to see.

We spent the afternoon listening to four talks.  While I will not try to cover four hours of lectures in a blog, I will merely point out a few of the fun facts I learned from each.

John Mascarene’s Custom’s papers

First up was Curtis White, who presented Customs enforcement in Salem, Massachusetts: Prelude to War 1760-1775.  Most of his talk focused on John Mascarene, who went from being a glass maker to a customs official.  Most customs officers received a minimal salary from the crown and made up their money from fees.  One of the most interesting discoveries Mr. White made was the rules for customs officers.  Interestingly enough, he found the John Mascarene’s own papers.

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Gage’s order for destruction of Colonial property

 

 

 

 

The second lecture was Leslie Obleschuk’s on The Battles of Lexington and Concord. One of the most fascinating facts here was that when Gage gave orders to march on Lexington and Concord, he gave orders how to destroy the property taken from the armory.  He’s very specific that the musket balls were to be disposed of by degrees–scattered in fields, etc.  Instead, they dumped the 500 pounds of ammunition they confiscated into the mill pond, where it was easily recovered later.  I’m sure this had to do with the British army’s speedy retreat out of town.

Ms. Obleschuk also explained the vital choice behind the shot heard round the world.  John Buttrick (father of 10 kids and Member of the Committee of Correspondence) was the commanding officer at the North Bridge. While positioned on the high ground outside of town, the men saw smoke coming from the center of town.  They assumed the worst–that the British had set the town on fire.  Buttrick has to make the choice between staying put and facing the British.  They decide to face off. The British are tearing planks off the bridge, and a shot rings out.  Buttrick orders his men to fire–even though firing on the King’s troops is treason.  Both sides have a “Now what?” monent.  The day has not gone the way either side had planned.  Finally, British soldiers who are exhausted (having left at 10 pm the night before) decided to leave.  Ms. Obleschuk believes Concord was the true “Shot heard round the world” for two reasons.  First, Emerson (who coined the phrase) had a grandfather who lived in a house directly by the North Bridge.  No doubt he gave Emerson an account of what happened that day.  Additionally, this was the first time an American commander gave a direct order to fire against British troops.  While this wasn’t a point from which they could not turn back, the reality is, they didn’t.

Howe’s plan of attack

The third and fourth talks were given by Garrett Cloer.  He began with Joseph Warren and the Battle of Bunker Hill.   While Joseph Warren is an amazing character and often overlooked, I was most fascinated by John Stark and the New Hampshire boys (whom I’m sure they’ll discuss on New Hampshire day).

Howe’s plans were to make a major attack, cutting off the colonists in the redoubt. He first orders the navy to burn Charlestown so colonists have nothing to hide behind–obviously learning a lesson from the British retreat from Lexington and Concord.  But when John Stark brings his regiment from New Hampshire to the redoubt and is allowed to position them as he sees fit, he immediately anticipates Howe’s flanking maneuver and orders his men to the gap.  There, they fortify a two rail fence, all that would have stood between Howe and the redoubt.  Stark also puts his men in 3 deep to be able to rotate the men firing.  When the British attack, 90 British soldiers are killed in the first volley.  They would never breach the fence.  In fact, many British commanders would lose between 3/4 and 9/10 of their men.

Outside Yorktown Victory Center

Cloer’s second talk was on Washington:  “The gentleman and the soldier looked agreeably blended in him.” He explained what an adjustment it was for Washington as a Virginian to enter Massachusetts society and lead.  It was indeed a clash of cultures.  It really gave some perspective on exactly what it took for such different colonies to work together–something that should give us hope today.

The final talk of the day was Jason Halin on The Revolutionary Partnership of John and Abigail Adams. One fascinating detail he pointed out was that the average age in Boston was 16.  So, you have a young, discontented population in the middle of economic depression, ruled by an authority they don’t agree with.  No wonder Franklin described it as a powder keg waiting to erupt!

Honoring Massachusetts

Another fascinating detail was Abigail Adams role in the revolution.  In addition to holding down the fort in Boston, caring for sick family members, running a farm, and making supplies for the army–John Quincy remembers her making her own musketballs–she also served as John Adams’ eyes and ears, passing vital information which he could share with congress.  Another fun fact about her is that she pushed her husband to ensure women’s rights in the new independence–something John Adams doesn’t push for in light of everything else they were fighting.  She truly is a remarkable woman.

Definitely incredible information to learn!

Colonial Williamsburg

The nice thing about having annual passes to both Jamestown/ Yorktown and Colonial Williamsburg is that we can spend time in multiple places in the same day.

We started the morning (3/27/17) at Colonial Williamsburg to check out A Difference of Opinion. This program features three perspectives (Gowan Pamphlet http://www.history.org/almanack/people/bios/biopam.cfm, Robert Carter http://www.history.org/almanack/people/bios/biorcarter.cfm, and George Washington http://www.history.org/Almanack/people/bios/biowash2.cfm on slavery.

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Gowan Pamphlet

Gowan Pamphlet began the discussion with his journey from being a slave and pastoring to being set free and continuing to pastor up to 500 people.  Other than himself, 10,000 slaves were freed in Virginia (by 1791) after passing the law of manumission (ability to free slaves). That may sound like a lot, but in actuality, it represents only 5% of Virginia’s slaves. He also shared about religious freedom, his church–which continued until it had to take a hiatus due to the Nat Turner rebellion, which made many nervous about African Americans gathering in large groups.  After both tragedies and reorganization, the church continues in existence today.

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Robert Carter

Robert Carter was next to speak.  I especially appreciated him because he shared about his transformation from having an intellectual faith in God to having a personal faith in Jesus Christ and how that transition changed his view of slavery.  Initially, he was a slave owner, having inherited hundreds of slaves.  But, when he converted to Christianity, he first tried to battle slavery legally, but he eventually had to do something personally.  Robert emancipated over 500 slaves–the largest single emancipation until the Civil War.  Because the manumission laws required slave owners to pay a fee and provide support for free slaves so they wouldn’t become burdens to society, this emancipation was gradual, at a rate of fifteen/year.  Freed slaves were also given the freedom to continue to live and work on the property under a variety of relationships from tenants to hired help.

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George Washington

George Washington was the last to speak and shared about an incident that occurred during the end of his presidency.  Martha Washington’s maid ran away and an ad was placed in the paper to give information at the president’s house. Washington, who kept his opinions on slavery largely out of the private view, was apparently embarrassed by this.  He personally was in favor of gradual emancipation, allowing slaves to be equipped to survive as freedmen able to adequately support themselves.  Because of the cost involved in freeing slaves, most people, including Washington, set their slaves free upon their death.  Washington has often drawn criticism for not setting his wife’s slaves free, but as they were part of her entail, he could not legally do so.  He also stipulated that his slaves’ freedom would take effect after his wife died.  But, when some events gave Martha reason to suppose some slaves were trying to hasten that time, she set them free.  Her own slaves were part of inheritance property and therefore were passed down instead of freed.

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Afterwards, these three men were available to take questions from the audience about the issue of slavery, etc..  With it readily apparent that we still need to make strides in race relations, I love any format where open dialogue takes place, so I especially appreciated the candor of each actor, who stepped out of character (usually unheard of at Williamsburg) to discuss a difficult issue.

We then went to the coffee house.  This is one of our favorite tours for the simple reason that they offer incredible hot chocolate!  (In fact, we’re planning to return tomorrow for the chocolate making demonstration!)   One of the interesting things I learned over chocolate is that Handel wrote The Messiah in order to combat Deism and return people to true faith in God.  Very cool!

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Finding slate

When we finished our tour, we headed to Historic Jamestowne to see what has changed there.  Because Jamestowne has ongoing archaeology, there is always something new to see!  I got to see a volunteer discover a piece of slate from a 1700’s roof.

One fascinating piece  of luck was the Roads Scholars tour we happened upon.  The tour guide who has taken groups around Jamestowne for the past 18 years shared many interesting pieces of information.

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Colonial Grafitti

One of the coolest things she pointed out was the graffiti carved in the original tower bricks. She also discussed the way to tell original mortar (looks like sand and shells because it is) from different eras of reconstruction.  The church was abandoned when the capital moved from Jamestowne to Williamsburg, leading to the deterioration of the building accelerated by the removal of bricks to new locations in Williamsburg (early repurposing!). The church addition to the tower in Jamestowne was added on in 1907 for the 300th anniversary. When building the addition, many time period bricks were bought from people getting rid of their big brick houses in favor of different modern styles.

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Interior of the 1907 church

Additionally, the guide pointed out that the pattern of bricks used is uniquely English from the 1760’s. The pattern varies between headers (width of the brick) and stretchers (length of the brick). It also boasts a stylistic feature known as the Flemish bond (a pattern of header, stretcher, header, stretcher, etc.)

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Pattern of headers and stretchers

Leaving out of Jamestowne, we decided to take the nature loop to see if Jenny (the eagle) was moving around.  While the nest is still there, we didn’t see any activity.  All in all, it was a fun day catching up with some favorites.