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Day 96 & 97 - Henricus and Petersburg NBF

Henricus was built in 1611 as a healthier alternative to Jamestown, it was the second successful English town in America. Petersburg was the sight of the final Union breakthrough in the Civil War.

sunny 54 °F

Logistics:

Miles Driven - 110 (We almost made it to North Carolina)
Weather - Overcast and cool, but no more snow. Not that bad.
Camped at Chesapeake RV Campground, a few miles north of NC border.

Confessions:

OK, I really did want to visit at least one more Civil War battlefield...
Stayed at Campground an extra day to take care of some business stuff.

Narrative:

When we were at the museum yesterday, we learned that Chesterfield County has the second 'successful' English settlement in America. This seems a strong word for a town that only lasted 11 years, but I guess that's longer than Roanoke & Popham. Anyway, it was right across the way from us, so we decided to visit it. Henricus doesn't have the resources that Jamestown Settlement does, after all it is a county park rather than a state park. However it's pretty impressive for a county facility!

I'm afraid I didn't get a picture of John in the gift shop, he was again very helpful and I think relieved to actually get some tourists in (this being the wrong season for this sort of activity). After helping us part with the requisite portion of money, he called ahead to have the fort guide meet us outside.

We met Lindsay, a working class man of the town.

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Before the English arrived, the native Powhatan people lived in the area and we went through a replica of a Powhatan compound before going to the fort. Lindsay related details about how they fished and farmed and lived in the area long before the newcomers. I tried my hand at scaping a deer hide with a shell. (Thumbnail alert - click to enlarge).

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After learning more about the Powhatan, we went to the Fort.

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Some experts don't think Henricus actually exists anymore, other's are sure they know where it is, in any event some sort of reasonable recreation is possible given descriptions and journals from the era. The location was near the Dutch Gap project, where Union troops tried to dig a bypass for the James River during the Civil War to avoid a Confederate artillery position guarding Richmond. If they dug the bypass over the ruins of the town, it's gone. But in 1611, Sir Thomas Dale took about 300 colonists to the site to build a town since Jamestown was so swampy and not a very healthy place to live. Conditions were harsh and Thomas Dale was likewise. They successfully built the town in fairly short order, including palisade (walls), watch towers, houses and whatever they needed.

For some reason, I took more pictures inside the buildings than outside (maybe because it was cold?) We got a good idea how the different buildings were constructed, furnished and used however.

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One building at the site doesn't actually come from Henricus, but was in a nearby community. This is a reconstruction of Mount Malady - it is considered the first hospital in America. It wasn't a hospital in the modern sense, with surgery and physicians, but it was a place people could go to be tended to - such as for recovering from the Atlantic voyage.

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So having visited Plymouth Plantation, Jamestown Settlement and now Henricus, we certainly have a much better idea how the earliest English colonists in America lived. As far as yesterday's snow storm, it was largely forgotten and by the time we left Henricus, it was starting to get slightly warmer.

A few miles south of Henricus is the town of Petersburg, VA. This is also the site of a major Civil War battlefield. Since we skipped all the Civil War sites at Fredericksburg and were also dropping Appomattox Court House off the agenda due to time constraints, I resolved to at least visit Petersburg NBF. We were right there and had a little time before we needed to head to Chesapeake. I didn't know much about the Petersburg battle, but at least had heard of it.

The visitors center is only a short distance from the highway and is open year round.

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Inside is a small museum with a few artifacts, but mostly sign boards and pictures about the battle and other contributing technologies. The rangers played a short film about the battle, it wasn't that well done but I did learn a lot (it was just lines on a map jumping around to a narrative - boring, but it does explain the sequence of what happened at least).

The short version is that Petersburg was the end of a long line of battles where the Union, under Gen. Grant, tried to break through the Confederate lines and take Richmond, the Confederate capitol. After several terrible defeats at places such as Cold Harbor, Grant realized the key to Richmond was Petersburg. On June 15, 1864 Grant's troops began a campaign of trench warfare to try to break through Lee's lines. After several fights and nine long months, the Union was finally successful on March 25, 1865 and Lee had to retreat. Richmond was evacuated and taken by the Union. Lee surrendered a short time later at Appomattox Court House a little farther west.

Rather then try to rewrite a book about the battle, as is my usual practice of late, perhaps you would be better served by reading a more expert and thorough analysis on Wikipedia (or elsewhere):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Petersburg

Since we wanted to get to Chesapeake before dark, I didn't drive around to all the battlefield sights. The museum was complete enough that I felt I learned a lot more about what happened there. Here is a picture of the earthworks that are directly behind the visitors center.

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This cannon is positioned at the entrance. Also, I didn't hike out to the replica 13" mortar, so just took a picture of the picture in the museum. Notice the size of the mortar compared to the men in the picture.

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Mom doesn't care for any of this Civil War stuff (or any war stuff for that matter), but did go through the museum a bit. On the way out we saw this small bird on a hedge - nice touch, once the terror of war has passed, the beautiful things of nature & life return.

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So we hopped back on the road and headed for Chesapeake Campground, near the North Carolina border. The road was straight and flat, typical coastal plain terrain (some marshland). We also passed several peanut farms along the way, so I stopped at this store (fronting for a farm) and bought a couple varieties (roasted & boiled peanuts). Their Virginia Hams were a bit pricey for my wallet.

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Got to the campground, took care of some chores, and settled in for a couple comfy nights. (I had some business to attend to, so we stayed over here Friday also).

Posted by jl98584 18:23 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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