The Siege of Yorktown was the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War, and definitely one of the most important battles. In the spring of 1781, Cornwallis moved his army north to Virginia and set up base in Yorktown. Meanwhile, French ships sailed up from the West Indies to blockade the Chesapeake, cutting off any chance of British escape by sea. General George Washington then led his 17,000 men down from New York to gather in Williamsburg, Virginia. On September 28, the patriots moved to Yorktown and began preparing for a siege. Soon after, they began to attack Cornwallis’s 8,300 man garrison, and after a failed escape down the York River, Cornwallis surrendered. Though this didn’t mark the official end of the war, it secured independence for the United States.
Now, as for the touring of this national treasure, I highly recommend getting an audio CD to play in your car as you drive through the battlefields. We got our CD at the Yorktown Visitor’s Center, and not only did it explain all of the events of the siege, but told you where to go, how to get there, and exactly what happened at each of these sights. At certain points, you’re going to want to get out and explore the beauty that this park holds. Most of the pictures you see here were taken at Redoubts 9 and 10. Here you will be able to read about and explore how American and French troops captured these British posts, and even see how Hamilton helped secure the victory! Another important spot on the grounds is the Moore House, where both sides met after the battle to discuss terms of surrender. To completely take advantage of everything the battlefield has to offer, you should put aside a couple hours to take the audio tour and completely explore all of the wonder these historic grounds have to offer. Planning your tour around sunset is perfect.
Founded in 1613, Shirley Plantation is the oldest plantation in Virginia. It is also the oldest family-owned business in North America, for the same family has owned Shirley for eleven generations! The history of this family is truly facinating , and I recommend touring the Great House. In this tour, you will learn about all the famous Hill Carters, as they travel with newly founded America throughout the revolution, civil war, and all the way to present day. Honestly, I had no idea all the history this family was a part of and this tour was truly one of the highlights of our entire 2 week trip. It is so worth it!! You can purchase tickets inside the Gift Shop.
After you’ve done the tour, visit all of the little buildings scattered around the property. You can learn even more about how life was during this time, and see how the plantation was maintained. Behind the Great House you can see the mighty James River, and a beautiful, enormous almost 400 year old Willow Oak. Under the tree is a huge rock – which is the laundry rock that Anna Strong uses to wash that mean ‘ole Simcoe’s uniform. When you’re done sightseeing and exploring, make sure to stop by the gift ship. Buying merchandise here will help to keep Shirley Plantation maintained and fund other future projects around the grounds. We bought several things, including a souvenir book detailing the history of the plantation – which you will learn during the tour. If you do drop by the gift shop, make sure to say hi to Julian. He is super friendly and gave us so much information about the filming of Turn: Washington’s Spies.
Below are some of the places around the grounds that AMC’s Turn: Washington’s Spies is filmed.
The Kitchen is shown in the picture to the left. Near the right of the picture you can see a brick post surrounded by bushes. In the the picture to the right, Anna Strong is standing in front of the very same post.
Inside the Kitchen is an exhibit detailing the making of food in the early days of Shirley Plantation. The same room is used during the first episode of Turn: Washington’s Spies after Benjamin Tallmadge gets shot. Notice the bake oven in both pictures.
The stables are used as the prison in Turn: Washington’s Spies. Notice the 2nd from the left wooded gate in the picture to the left – Tallmadge and Brewster are having a discussion near it – I wonder what they’re talking about?
The interior of the stables is the prison to hold Abraham Woodhull in the first episode of Turn: Washington’s Spies.
The 400 year old Willow Oak is located in the rear of the property. Below the tree is the “laundry rock” that Anna uses to clean uniforms for the British soliders.
Shirley Plantation is open to the public but is also available for private events and weddings. Make sure to visit their detailed web site for current dates and info here.
Laurel Housden is a professional photographer based in Gainesville, Florida.
Day 1 – July 16, 2016 – Day one of our Revolution Road trip was an 11 hour drive from our home in Gainesville, Florida to Colonial Williamsburg. I won’t bore you with the details of the drive – it’s just I-95 straight on through.
Day 2 – July 17, 2016 – We stayed at the Woodlands – a Colonial Williamsburg property. I highly recommend staying here – especially if you have children. The rooms are comfortable and includes a buffet breakfast with all the standard hot and cold breakfast goodies. I will warn you – it gets very crowded and it’s sometimes hard to find a seat. The Woodlands is the perfect location for your Colonial Williamsburg vacation. It’s just a short 5 minute walk that leads to the Colonial Williamsburg Visitors Center. This is the main hub for all things Colonial Williamsburg. From here you can purchase tickets, make dinner reservations, and get tickets to special events in the historic area known as Revolution City. The staff are very knowledgable and kind. If you are going to be staying at the Woodlands – I highly recommend purchasing a package that includes your tickets to the Revolution City for the entire length of your stay. You will save a lot of money on your tickets. Plus you get discounts on shopping and special events when you stay at any of the properties of Colonial Williamsburg. You don’t need a car once you are at The Woodlands. Your stay includes complimentary shuttle bus service that has several drop off points around Colonial Williamsburg.
You will receive a schedule of the days activities on a detailed handout for every day of your stay upon checkin. Each day has its own set of things to do and places to see. It makes planning your day so much easier. Most activities are free with your ticket but there are times when you will need to purchase tickets to an event because of lack of seating. For instance, we reserved tickets to see and talk with George Washington but because of limited seating – we had to reserve a ticket. By the way – this was a hit with my son – he just LOVED this presentation. You really feel like you are talking with President Washington in the flesh!
Also, there is a really cool Colonial Williamsburg app that you can download which makes it even simpler. Just download it – it will make you life so much easier.
I have to share that the middle of July is not the best time to visit Colonial Williamsburg if you don’t like the heat and humidity. I come from Gainesville, Florida – so that is an everyday occurrence for us. But, it was really HOT when we visited. So much so, we cut a lot of activities short because we just got too tired. The humidity really got to us. We did go back in December to make up for things we didn’t get a chance to see on this trip – that trip is in the Bonus Chapter coming soon.
There are many, many fun activities to experience in Colonial Williamsburg. We tried to cram in as much Revolutionary War fun as well as see some of the many places in the town where Turn: Washington’s Spies was filmed. I just loved seeing all the colonial architecture and learning of how these historic buildings were restored. The interpreters that work at CW really add a special touch and make you feel like you are really back in time. You are welcome to talk and take pictures with them and of course ask as many questions. They are very knowledgeable about this time period.
Below: The magazine was used to store weapons, ammunition, and gunpowder. These supplies were carefully guarded by the magazine keeper, who gets picked by the House of Burgesses. You can take a tour of this building with a skilled interpreted, who will tell you all you need to know about colonial weaponry.
Below: The Governors Palace was built in 1722, and quickly became known as one of the most elegant buildings in Virginia. It housed the governors of Virginia until the capitol moved to Richmond. The building housed general Charles Lee in early 1776 and was turned over to Patrick Henry when he was elected first governor of the commonwealth. Later in the war it was used as a hospital, and on December 22, 1781, burned to the ground. Thomas Jefferson later helped rebuild it. Today in Williamsburg you can take a tour of the massive palace and learn even more of its rich royal history. You can even learn to ballroom dance along the way! After the tour you can enjoy strolling around the luscious gardens in the back
Below: The Capitol was the center of political life in Virginia, and witnessed many dramatic moments in American history. The House of Burgesses regular met in the Capitol until Virginia’s royal governor, the Earl of Dunmore, dissolved it. One example of an important achievement in the Capitol was in 1776, when the Virginia Declaration of Rights was adopted after fierce debating by Patrick Henry and James Madison. You can find yourself in the midst of one of the events by journeying to the eastern end of Duke of Gloucester Street, where the Capitol stands tall.
Below: The costumed interpreters in Colonial Williamsburg are extremely talented and very friendly. You can talk to them and even ask for a picture. We particularly loved visiting the many trade-shops and talk to the tradesmen and ask questions about how they made their products.
As I mentioned in my introduction to our Revolution Road trip, part of the reason for visiting Colonial Williamsburg was to see all the places that Turn: Washington’s Spies was filmed. Below are side by side comparisons of how it is seen in Turn and my pictures on this visit.
Below: Colonial Williamsburg steps in as Philadelphia in Turn. The scene on the right was filmed behind the Courthouse in CW. You can see some of the original buildings in CW including Bruton Parish church, but the production team used a green screen to add in elements of Philadelphia. See if you can figure out which buildings were added in!
Below: One of my favorite scenes from Turn. Simcoe storming out and returning to Setauket. That was filmed at the magazine.
Below: The Governors Palace is used as the Shippen Residence (Peggy’s home) in Philadelphia. I noticed that the cupola was removed in post production for Turn. I’m not sure why they did this – maybe that was not part of Philadelphia architecture at the time.
Below: The Capitol is used for the home that Gen. Arnold purchases for his new wife, Peggy.
Below: The Wythe House stands in as Benjamin Franklin and John Andre’s home in Philadelphia.
Below: The carriages in CW were used in this episode of Turn – the CW driver is even driving it. Did you know that you can actually ride in this very same carriage when you visit Colonial Williamsburg? Ask for the Blue Carriage! It’s a little pricey – when we went in December it was $15 per person for a 20 minute tour around the city. We thought it was well worth it – especially if you are a fan of Turn: Washington’s Spies.
Below: This scene of King George, III in his throne room was filmed at William and Mary College in the Great Hall inside the Wren Building.
Next Monday, February 6, 2017 I will be posting Day 3 of our trip which features Shirley Plantation and Yorktown Battlefield. Please feel free to leave your comments and questions below.
Last summer our family embarked on a massive two week Revolutionary War themed road trip from Gainesville, Florida to Boston. It all started with a Monopoly Game.
Last spring, like most American history nerds, my 14 yo son Aidan and I could not get enough of Hamilton: An American Musical. We decided to make a custom Hamilton themed Monopoly board for Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast and crew of the New York Cast. The fun part was recreating the Property Cards. We spent hours researching possible properties that would make sense and in doing this – we discovered that many of the places mentioned in the musical where places that could be visited today. Like, A Winter’s Ball – which actually happened at the Ford Mansion in Morristown, N.J. (a National Park Service), Washington’s Headquarters. Or “The Room Where it Happened” – Thomas Jefferson’s home in New York City – the house is no longer – but there is a plaque that honors it on the hotel that replaced it. As you can see from the video below – this in itself was a labor of love. It took a couple months to complete but it was so worth it. After all, it inspired a life changing road trip. We sent the Monopoly Board in June of 2016 to New York and actually received a tweet from Lin himself in January that he thinks its AWESOME! Here is a video of the game:
At the same time we were researching items for the Monopoly Game, we discovered AMC’s historical drama entitled: Turn: Washington’s Spies. It is based on the book written by Alexander Rose about the real Culper Spy Ring and how they helped General Washington get intelligence that helped the Patriots win the war! We were hooked with the first episode and binge watched the entire 2 seasons on Netflix and then were caught up by Season 3 to watch it in real time. As of today – Season 1 and 2 are still on Netflix and you can purchase Season 3 on DVD or iTunes. In fact, you can watch now along with a slew of other Turn fans via Twitter on Monday nights at 9 p.m. e.s.t.. Follow @turnland on twitter to join and get all the latest Turn news. Turn is currently filming their final season (4) in Virginia with a release sometime this summer on AMC. Turn is filmed in lovely Virginia – with Colonial Williamsburg stepping in as Philadelphia in the show. I’m in love with this place – more on that in a different post!
The pieces started to fall together and we thought it would be so great to combine places of interest from Hamilton and Turn: Washington’s Spies for the ultimate Revolution Road trip. After a couple of weeks and a lot of Google Mapping – I created our two week itinerary. The dates were based on making sure we were in Setauket, Long Island for their annual Culper Spy Day! I was impressed to find out that a few of the places we visited were also featured in Hamilton’s America: A Documentary Film that was aired on PBS.
Below is a screen capture of the trip I made using Google Maps. I could not have done this without it!
Below is our 14 day Itinerary . I will write a separate post for each day of the trip. Once I have posted that day, I will make a link to the actual post on this itinerary. I will update each day on Mondays starting January 31, 2016.
Turn/Hamilton Revolutionary Road Trip: July 16-30 2016
Day 1 – Saturday, July 16th: DRIVING Gainesville to Colonial Williamsburg – 11 hours
It’s hard for me to express how this trip has changed me. My eyes well up everytime I try to explain what this trip has meant to me. I discovered places that I never knew existed and learned in much more detail about the men and women that sacrificed and fought for this nation. Before this – my only recollection of learning about the American Revolution is those Saturday morning Schoolhouse Rock cartoons. Which I still love! “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?”…..
Sharing this journey with my son, discovering together about our early American history was truly an incredible experience and by far the best family vacation I could ask for. I have to mention my sweet British husband, Stuart, he tagged along on this adventure and was just as interested and euthusastic about this trip as us. So much so – we went back to Virginia during the Christmas break.
I have to thank our National Parks Service for keeping these important historical places open and available to all of us to visit. They truly do an important service by maintaining our history. Without them – our history would be long forgotten! Do visit them!! Make it fun for your kids by making a game out of all the parks you can visit – they can even collect pins from each park. Aidan loved collecting pins from all the NPS parks on our trip. He has a lanyard filled with them. We now collect National Parks coins.
I’m going to share each day of our trip as a separate blog post. I’ll share our pictures and thoughts about what we experienced and some tips to make your trip easy. I hope that families think about visiting these places with their children this summer. Please leave your comments below and I will do my best to answer.
We did make a beautiful book of our trip I created on Blurb but it is way too expensive to sell. I would love to publish it but have no idea a cost effective way to do it. Maybe someone can contact me with some suggestions – or if there are any book companies that are interested – feel free to contact!
Welcome 2017 and to my first Senior Session of the New Year! We headed over to the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens on a beautiful – albeit a wee bit muggy – January afternoon. She is a member of the Buchholz Golden Regiment and loves playing her flute. It was great to see you and I so enjoyed hanging out with you and your family!