Tag Archives: virginia

A Very Revolutionary Road Trip: Colonial Williamsburg, VA

6 Jun
The Capitol at Colonial Williamsburg.

The Capitol at Colonial Williamsburg.

It seems appropriate that, as most of the events I blogged about this week either happened in Williamsburg or were instigated in Virginia, I ought to recommend it as a stop on the Very Revolutionary Road Trip. … I would have included it anyway because if I was given the opportunity, I’d pack up and move there tomorrow because I am the nerdiest girl who ever lived… but that’s a story for another day.

Williamsburg, as I discussed earlier this week, became the capital of Virginia in the 1690’s after fire destroyed the Jamestown Statehouse for the third time.  It remained the capital until 1779 when Governor Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia legislature moved to Richmond, which was considered a more defensible position (perhaps against the British, not so much).

It was in Williamsburg where the Virginia legislature instructed Richard Henry Lee to make a motion in the Continental Congress for independence from England. Williamsburg was where Thomas Jefferson learned law and liberty from George Wythe, where George Washington got his first lick at politics in the Virginia House of Burgesses, where Patrick Henry served as the first governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia… I could go on for days. It’s importance cannot be understated.

Also not to be understated is the magnificence of the restoration of the historic area and the historical programs. Every day on Duke of Gloucester Street, you can walk into shops and government buildings as though you had walked through a door into the 18th century. In the afternoons, you can take part in the Revolutionary City program, which is a sort-of roving outdoor play that portrays the different experiences of early Americans during the War for Independence.

If you go, don’t miss any opportunity to see George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, and be sure to stop at Chowning’s Tavern at 9pm for 18th century tavern entertainment! Drinks, games, music, and other entertainment make for an excellent end to any day.

Visit their website for more details — but just take my word for it and go. I mean it. Now. Why are you still here?? Get in your car and start driving!

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Today in 1779: Virginia gets a new capital

5 Jun

Today in 1779, Virginia’s house of delegates approves legislation to move the capital from Williamsburg to Richmond, hoping that the more inland location will assist in a better defense against the invading British. … Alas, not really (see: yesterday).

Richmond was also home to Patrick Henry during some of his most boisterous years; he argued the Parson’s Cause case in Hanover Courthouse on Route 301, and he delivered his “give me liberty, or give me death!” speech at St. John’s Church.

The capital city of Virginia also served as the capital city of the Confederacy during the Civil War. You can still visit and tour the Museum and White House of the Confederacy today.

And while I’m on the subject of the Civil War, you know we’re in the sesquicentennial years, yes? At this moment 150 years ago, Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army was invading the North, driving towards what was widely assumed to be a Confederate victory and ultimate end of the war. Wedged between the Confederate Army, the Union Army, and victory, was a little town in Pennsylvania named Gettysburg.

Today in 1781: Jefferson and the Virginia legislature flee from the British

4 Jun

As I mentioned on Saturday, 1781 wasn’t Thomas Jefferson’s best year ever. He was in his first and only term as governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and with the Commonwealth’s economy limping along and its best-performing militia employed elsewhere, Virginia was an open field for the British. The government of the Commonwealth had recently moved the capital from Williamsburg to Richmond, hoping that a more inland location would make the capital more defensible. Alas, it was not to be.

A gent by the name of Benedict Arnold (ahemhem), who was in command of the British regulars sent to maraud along the James River, made its way to Richmond, and burned it to the ground. Separately, another detachment of British troops closed in on Charlottesville and Monticello. Governor Jefferson got wind of their coming just in the nick of time to saddle his horse and flee, a move which saved his life but haunted his political career for the rest of his life.(1)

Of course, it was 1781, and the British’s triumph would not last for long. In the following October, the Americans trapped Lord Cornwallis in a little town on the York River… But that’s a story for another day!

As a matter of interest, you can still tour Richmond’s Capitol, which was designed by Thomas Jefferson (2).

(1) Ellis, Joseph J. (1997), American Sphinx. New York, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
(2) OF COURSE IT WAS. I mean, what colonial-era building HASN’T been designed and/or blue-printed by Thomas Jefferson?!

This week: Adventures in Virginia

3 Jun

I had a rather productive weekend. … Well, at least as far as blogging is concerned, I should say. The pile of laundry languishing in the corner of my bedroom is mocking my use of the word “productive.”

ANYWAY.

I’m trying to get in the habit of updating more regularly to link my tweets with little essays, rather than just tweeting articles at random. We’ll see if I can manage it.

After examining my “this week in history” calendar, I decided to kick off my regular posts by declaring an unofficial Virginia History Week. Gird your loins.

The preview!

  • June 4, 1781: Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia General Assembly flee invading British forces.
  • June 5, 1779: Virginia’s capital moves from Williamsburg to Richmond.
  • June 7, 1776: Virginian member of the Continental Congress Richard Henry Lee moves for Independence.

Some of these events I discussed in brief on Saturday, which was the 234th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s election as Governor of Virginia. Also, keep a look-out for a post highlighting a stop along my Very Revolutionary Road Trip. I’m working out a Facebook page, too, as soon as I can get myself to focus long enough on any one thing.

Happy Monday!

Fun, not-Virginia-related-but-still-historical fact for today: On this day in 1800 President Adams becomes the first President to reside in Washington, D.C., in Tunnicliffe’s City Hotel where the present-day Supreme Court building sits.