WILLIAMSBURG, VA – From the early days of the Jamestown settlement through the dramatic and brave growth of Williamsburg’s revolutionary role to the final days of America’s victory over General Cornwallis and the English forces at Yorktown, visiting the Virginia’s Historic Triangle is a series of fun, interactive days for the whole family.
Visiting the Triangle, history fans can choose to explore the beginning of America Jamestown, her declaration of independence at Willliamsburg or our victory at Yorktown.
In the beginning there was Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the Americas, and where colonists first landed only to endure the extreme hardships of a new land.
Jamestown was settled on the lands the James River, so named in honor of King James I of England, a piece of land that was surrounded by deep water and navigable by their ships – the Susan Constant, Discovery and Godspeed.
The land was also uninhabited by the large tribes of Native Americans that lived nearby but for good reason. Native Americans did not live there because the lands were swampy, limited in space, home to swarms of mosquitoes and biting flies in the warm weather and brutal ocean winds and storm in the winter and the water, brackish as fresh and ocean wate rs converged, was not potable.
Only sixty-one of the original 500 colonists survived from the original landing in 1607 to the end of what is termed the ‘starving-time” of 1610.
This dramatic period in our history is deftly exhibited at the Jamestown Settlement that takes visitors back to 1607, thirteen years prior to the pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock. The first ships brought a group of 104 English men and boys, sponsored by the Virginia Company of London who were financing the journey and settlement in hopes of find an embarrassment of riches in the new land.
Learn of this group and the hardships, and certain death, they encountered through film, gallery exhibits and living history. A full day is needed to fully explore the film and museum, learning the true story of the relationship between the English, Captin John Smith and John Rolfe and the Powhatan Indians and their most famous princess, Pocahontas.
Stepping outside to the recreation of the colonist’s fort, a Powhatan Village and the water front, visitors can watch, and sometimes partake in, demonstrations of daily life including matchlock musket-firing, leatherworking, woodworking and blacksmithing life in Jamestown.
On the exact place where the fort and the building, barns and church of the settlement stood, replica buildings have risen. On the waterfront dock, visitors can walk on the decks and peer into the cabins and storage spaces of the Susan Constant, discovery and Godspeed, marveling that so many men could endure an cross Atlantic journey in the limited space allowed.
Next to Jamestown, visit the National Park Service’s Historic Jamestown a national historic site. An active archeological dig site is constantly uncovering the actual places that early settlers lived, died and were buried.
The Nathalie P. And Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium is filled with the objects that belonged to the Jamestown settlers and that have been largely unearthed at the archeological sites. Within the Archaearium there are skeletons of two Jamestown residents, Capt. Bartholomew Gosnold, a founding father and “JR” a young man who died of a musket ball to his knew. Facial reconstructions of these men are nothing short of eerie.
The Archaearium was built over the site of 70 burials sites that are visible beneath clear flooring and in courtyards behind glass walls. All in all it is an incredibly well designed look at our history located along the beautiful James River.
Before you plan your visit, find out more information and print out fact sheets and other information at their website.
Colonial Williamsburg circa 1776 emerges from the shops, restaurants, and homes that line the town’s main street as the city comes alive in a fully immersive experience. Local residents, shopkeepers and tradesmen, politicians, women, Native Americans, and slaves come out into the streets to reenact daily life and the extraordinary happenings that gave birth to the revolution.
Costumed dramatizations have loyalists and patriots representing the people that lived in Williamsburg from the early days of revolution, 1775-1776, to the days of building a new nation, 1779-1781.
Vignettes of conflict play out as through challenges of loyalty to the Crown or a burgeoning new country based on the fundamentals of freedom, equality, and liberty for all. Though these were hard won rights, it was still many more centuries for these rights to be realized, for slaves (Emancipation Proclamation 1863) and Women’s Suffrage (19th Amendment/1910).
During our visit we saw three programs one featuring a loyalist being called out by a Military Tribunal of the patriots and sentenced to a “tar and feathering” for utterings against the revolutionists and the birth of new freedoms from King George’s oppressions.
The second featured actors portraying the Native Americans conflict of loyalty to their heritage, the crown or this new country emerging over top their history and lands along with the story of African American slaves hoping for freedom from oppression and the cruel servitude they endured.
Our third experience was outside the historically accurate, but rebuilt, House of Burgess, where we had early taken a tour lead by a costumed interpreter.
During the tour we learned of the roles of the various political and social leaders of the time and we learned how the Declaration of Independence is actually based on seven different documents including Thomas Jefferson’s preamble of the Constitution of Virginia and George Mason’s draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights.
The development of those documents is widely based on the 1689 English Declaration of Rights, ending the reign of King James II and which Jefferson and other Americans looked toward during the American Revolution as a map on how to end the reign of an unjust king.
Jefferson wrote that a number of authors exerted a general influence on the words of the Declaration including the English political theorist John Locke, whom Jefferson called one of “the three greatest men that have ever lived.
Sitting in the chairs that, in the day, would have been filled by the founders of these United State, we learned that The Declaration of Independence, is a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, announcing the formation of thirteen American colonies, then at war with Great Britain.
Thirteen colonies that regard themselves as independent states.
Meaning that the United State of America no longer recognizes the British Empire as having power over us.
Stepping outside, criers announce that arrival of the Declaration of Independence, which was delivered to each of the Colonies after being signed in Philadelphia. Actors provide stirring readings of the Declaration bringing to life the longing and personal stirrings that this statement of freedom from oppression meant to the people of Williamsburg, then and now.
Any good revolution is filled with intrigue and spies, secret codes and hidden clues left in very public places. Rev Quest: Sign of the Rhinoceros keeps the kids involved in the Williamsburg story, passively learning through very active play as they search through the Historic Williamsburg to find the clues that lead to revealing a treacherous plot against a Revolutionary Patriot and saving the day.
At Yorktown, visitors can spend the afternoon on the two-acre beachfront , open for bathers through October 19, after a morning spent visiting the Yorktown Victory Center where the America’s journey from struggling colonists to nation is explored.
It was at Yorktown that the final battles of the Revolutionary War were fought and ranger led tours will take visitors through the town, battlefields and historic building from which America’s independence was won.
Where to stay:
Williamsburg Hotel and Conference Center (877-817-0157)
50 Kingsmill Road
Duke of York (757.898.3232)
508 Water Street
Yorktown, VA 23690
HISTORIC YORKTOWN BED & PEAKFAST
Hornsby House Inn B&B (757.369.-0200)
702 Main Street
Yorktown, VA 23690
Marl Inn Bed & Breakfast (757.898.3859)
220 Church Street
Yorktown, VA 23690
York River Inn Bed & Breakfast (757.887.8800 / 800.884.7003)
209 Ambler Street
Yorktown, VA 23690
HISTORIC YORKTOWN COTTAGE RENTAL
Yorktown’s Charming Battlefield Cottage (757.872.7337)
121 Lafayette Road
Yorktown, VA 23690
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