The historic site of Yorktown Battlefield includes a Visitor Center with a 16 minute film, museum, sales shop and restrooms. We dropped in here at the end of the day, saw the film and we bought our Golden Age passport which gives us admission free or at reduced rates for life.
From here you are supposed to do the two self-guided auto tours that will allow you to enjoy and learn the history of the Siege of Yorktown at your own pace. A 7-mile Battlefield Tour Road, which takes about one hour, will give you a first-hand look at where the events of the siege took place. A second, 9-mile Encampment Tour Road, which takes about one-half hour, reveals the locations of the allied encampments during the siege, including Washington's Headquarters.
Also included in the National Park are parts of the Town of York, including the historic Nelson House. We didn't have enough time to do the whole battlefield tour, but because Bob's grandmother was a Diggs, we did go in to see the Dudley Digges house, built in the mid-18th century by Yorktown lawyer Dudley Digges, who held several important positions in Virginia's colonial and state government.
Here is the town's Main Street, lined with historic buildings and fine colonial architecture. The most important is probably the Nelson House. Thomas Nelson was a local resident, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and commander of the Virginia militia at the decisive battle here. His home is a fine example of 18th century Georgian architecture. During the Civil War, it became a Confederate hospital.
Nearby is the Custom House, packed with exhibts and memorabilia from the town's colonial past.
One of the oldest homes is the Dudley-Digges House, from 1760. Digges participated in the Revolution until his capture near the war's end. His home was badly damaged, but is now restored.
Cole Digges, the father of Dudley, built his home nearby. A prominent businessman, he was a member of the colonial governor's council. His house is now the Carrot Tree Restaurant.
Just off Main St, on Church St, is Grace Episcopal Church. This is the oldest church in the town, built in 1697. Despite two wars, it has been in use for over three centuries.
During the Civil War, the Confederate forces constructed fortifications over many of the Revolutionary War earthworks. In the Siege of 1862, during McClellan's Peninsula Campaign, General Magruder's 56,000 Confederate soldiers in Yorktown held off a 100,000-man Union army for over a month. Confederates abandoned the town on 4 May, and Union troops occupied the area for the remainder of the Civil War.
Many of the Civil War-era earthworks have been preserved and are visible today. There is also a National Cemetery that contains the remains of some 2,200 Civil War dead.
Construction began in 1881 in honor of the 1781 French and American victory, and the monument was completed in 1884. It was actually approved by Congress in 1781, but took a century for work to begin. The monument contains descriptions of the siege and surrender, is topped by a statue of liberty, and towers 98 feet over the surrounding town.
The Yorktown Victory Monument is located at the east end of Main Street near the national park visitors center
General George Washington with his army moved south from New York to advance on Cornwallis and eventually the battle commenced. The British were defeated and Cornwallis surrounded.
This victory at Yorktown was the last major battle for American Independance. The french stayed in Yorktown for the winter and in the summer of 1782 they set sail for France.
From the photograph taken of a cannon belonging to General Laffeyette you can see that it was damaged by a cannon ball. This cannon is in the visitors centre.
This cave is reported to be where Lord Cornwallis hid from the bombardment of Yorktown.
It is also said that Blackbeard himself may have used this cave!!!!
Confederate soldiers later used this cave and enlarged it and added a roof.
To celebrate the victory at Yorktown a momument was commissioned but due to lack of funds work did not start until a 100 years later.
It was completed in 1884. The original figure at the top of the column was damaged by lightening and a new one was put in place in 1956. It stands 98 foot high.
The driver on the trolley bus who gave a running commentary, said one of the hands was now also damaged leaving some fingers missing, and what was left looked like a 'victory sign'.......well it was something along these lines :-)
Thomas Nelson Jr (Grandson of the above) also lived here. He was born on 26th December 1738 and was educated in England. He married a Lucy Grymes and they had 11 children. He was a very prominent businessman and a delegate to Congress in Philadelphia, where he signed the declaration for Independance.
The house was hit by cannon balls during the battle for independance and you can see a couple still stuck in the walls of the house.
The Nelson's lived in this house until 1907. It was acquired by the National Park Service in 1968 and was restored.
The house is of Georgian architecture and is open to the public.
Open daily 10-4.30 summer
1-4 pm rest of year.
This is a copy of the Declaration of Independance signed by Thomas Nelson Jr and Thomas Jefferson, it is in the Nelson House.
York's port was thriving in the 17th century, their main export being tobacco, which was very profitable. Agents living in York exported the tobacco through the port to England.
By the mid 1800's when the port was at its peak, the plantations had exhausted the soil and planters had to look further afield for fertile soil.
The tobacco was compressed into large barrels called hogsheads. These barrels were then fixed to a shaft and then the shaft to an axle and then hitched to a horse and rolled down to the port.
If you enlarge the photo, you can just about see the grassy track that the barrels rolled down to the port. We are standing on a small bridge overlooking it.
In 1697 Grace Church was built. It has survived wars and a great fire in 1814.
Gun powder and ammunition was stored here during the siege of Yorktown. During the Civil War it was used as a hospital.
The church is open daily 9-5pm
This plaque says that these are the original walls. The bell was made in London in 1725. The communion silver which is still in use today was made in London in 1649. The first confirmation service held in Virginia was in this church.
Thomas Nelson Jr is also buried in the churchyard.
Dudley Digges house was built about 1760 in the Tidewater style. The outbuildings, granary, kitchen, smokehouse are typical of the time. It was restored in 1960.
Dudley Digges served with Thomas Jefferson on the Committee of Correspondance. After the war he became the rector of the College of William and Mary in Williamsberg.
When we visited the Nelson house, as I said we could tour round it. There was a lady sitting at a desk just inside the door, who was very helpful and answered lots of our questions. When we entered there were no other visitors at that time, and a gentleman was walking up the stairs dressed in clothes of the time of the revolution.
When we went upstairs to have a look round, he greeted us, and told us his name was Dr. Corbin Griffiths and he had some to see Mrs Nelson as one of her children was not very well. We chatted about the house and the people etc, and then my husband said something along the lines 'of it being before electricity' What is electricity' !!!! he asked. There was no way he was going to talk to us in the 'present time'. He was a lovely man though.
The Customs House was where the sea captains came to pay the duty for their cargoes.
It was originally a private storehouse of Richard Ambler and was built in brick. It became General Magruder's headquarters during the Civil War. Now the Daughters of the American Revolution maintain it as a museum.
107 English arrived at Jamestown Island on 13 May 1607, and built a tiny village surrounded by a triangular fort. After several hard years where the population dwindled to about 60 people, the colony rebounded and continued to grow into the 1620s. In 1622, 300 settlers were killed by an attack of the Algonquian Indians. Jamestown, at this time the capital of the Virginia Colony, soon moved to a new location just to the east on the island, and the old fort was virtually forgotten. In 1698 Williamsburg became the new capital of Virginia, and much the town turned into farmland. The western side of island--where the original fort was located--had eroded over time and most people concluded the original Jamestown fort site had been lost to the river. In 1900 a seawall was built along the site of the old fort, and the National Park Service acquired the site in 1934. After the NPS took over the site, they discovered the original fort, only a small part of which is now underwater, and the rest protected by the seawall.
Today you can visit the old fort site and see the ruins of the "new" town that was the first capital of Virginia and has been long abandoned.
Entrance is $8 for a 7-Days Pass.
Nearby is an area called Jamestown Settlement.