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It’s History

Last day in Williamsburg. Ah, a mixture of melancholy. More to do, but time to go.

Although I had dreams of making an early start today, I was wiped last night. I notied glancing over my BLOG from last night that I made some really bad typos. I mean, there are typos, and then there are “I’m half asleep and this won’t make sense later” typos… I see the latter…. Joy, I’ll have to fix that later. So, that’s why it was not an early start. Not in the cards when I’m nodding off at the keyboard before going to bed.

But, I got up and out to Yorktown. Again, I drove myself. I didn’t want to wait for a bus and lose more time. Like Jamestowne, Yorktown is two different attractions, administered by two seperate groups. One is the actual site of the battle, which is handled by the National Park Service. The other is a dramatic re-enactment down the road from the actual site. I had a feeling I wouldn’t make both given my late start, so I made my choice for the legitimate article. I can’t say I made the right choice or the wrong one, but I don’t regret it.

Now, there’s a lot of imagination required at the original site. We are talking about a battle from 1781 after all. Yorktown was the site of the last major battle of the American Revolution. The victory there by the American and French decided the outcome of the war, although it would be two more years before an official treaty was signed. I managed to walk in perfectly in time for a ranger led walking tour. She showed some of the artilery used in the battle and where and how the earthworks were made by both sides. And she explained how this really was a battle that was decided by firepower more than anything. The Americans and French boxed Cornwallis and his forces in and then pummelled his earthworks with artilery until he surrendered.

To those who actually read this, it probably feels like I always find a family member to mention, but there’s a reason I’m going where I’m going, you know? My great, great, great grandfather, William Johnston, was said to have been at this battle and to have been there for the surrender. Honestly, that’s probably the only reason I didn’t spend another day in Williamsburg. Honestly, if you’ve seen one pile of grassy earth works from the Civil War or Revolution, it feels to me as if you’ve seen them all. There’s some really cool information to be had there, but you could get the same from, GASP, a book! Still, it was the first in-depth information I’d gotten on the battle and it was interesting to me in the context that a scant few generations back was there. In fact, I could swear I’d read somewhere that at the time of the Revolution he lived in York County. He was a Virginian at any rate, wherever he might have called home while he fought in the Revolution as a young man.

Oh, funny thing for the day. The park service offers an audio you can purchase to listen to as you drive around the site…. Okay… It was only $4.95 for the CD, so I got it, popped it in the changer and started out…. uhmm… It was recorded for someone with a “tape recorder” and a portable one at that… I kept waiting for the beep to advance the film to the next slide (if you don’t remember those, I don’t want to hear it!). So, it was a scary old audio guide…. That would have been enough… But, they also expect you to be using a portable player to listen to it… It’s in the changer in my trunk…. So, everytime I got somewhere, I had to listen to the commentary, then get out and go try to figure out what it was talking about. By the time I finally reached Surrender Field, I realized that I wasn’t even at the right part of the guide anymore, so I listened to the past two stops and surrender field before getting out. Yes, it was that confusing. And yes, I finally understood why I hadn’t seen anything described at the past stops…. So, the moral is if you visit the national park, ask about the audio guide and if you need a portable player for it. If you go to Yorktown, you can have my audio guide with that caveat…

Back in Williamsburg, I ventured over to the old Gaol (jail in modern day). Was very interesting, especially since it’s the same vintage as the capitol (well, the capitol is a re-creation, but Gaol is original). So, early 1700’s jail that survived and was still used by the city into the early 1900’s! Yoiks! I meandered through quite a few buildings and then finally made my way down to the College of William and Mary. I wanted to see the Wren building, as it’s called. The original main building of the campus is supposedly designed by Sir Christoper Wren of London fame (think St. Paul’s Cathedral for example). Now, there’s some question as to the truh of this. Still, very old college building. I never made it down to tour the inside, but it’s a beautiful building, so I followed the outside of it taking shots here and there.

After that, I watched “General Washington” talk to the townsfolk about how the war is faring. And then watched a fife and drum corp march down the main street. Those are the moments where the old music is going and you almost feel transported back. For a moment, the out of place clothing of all the tourists is gone and you’re just there.

The last stop on the agenda was a re-enactment of the debate of whether or not Virginia would support the Revolution or not. We got to hear from multiple townsfolk and why they were supporting the Patriots or the King. And then we were all given little slips of paper with the name of a person who reprsented their county at that meeting and whether they were Patrio, Loyalist, or Moderate. I was a moderate from Amelia County. The funny part? Guess where William Johnston was born? Yep… Surprise, we voted for independence, altough it was like 30-something to ten. The original vote was near unanimous.

That done, I walked around and took my last shots of Williamsburg before I ran out of space on my memory cards. And back here for dinner. Yum McD’s… where they seem to think a ketchup only burger means mustard only… garrggggghhhh….

Oh well, first real fast food in days and the only meal I had today other than breakfast… Still, I digress. The trip was great fun. In a matter of a few days up here, I got to see the beginning of the English colonization at Jametowne, the middle of that time when the first sparks of the Revolution played out here in Williamsburg, and the concluding moments at Yorktown. And the mark of any good trip, in my eyes, is when there was such a wealth of things to see that there are things I didn’t see but hope to some day. Would I come back next week? No, but between the 400 year anniversary next year and the consant research and changes at these sights, the landscape will be different down the road and worth another visit, I’m sure.

Tomorrow I leave Williamsburg, and I’ve decided it’s a one way long trek back to Georgia. I had thought I’d stay on the way back somewhere, but I could never come up with somewhere I just wanted to stay the night. So, I plan to actually make a real early start of it and get my butt home. I do plan to stop at Flowerdew Hundred and see the land my 10 greats grandparents called home. It’s not like there’s a house there or anything, but there is a museum, etc. So, it could be cool. It’s not per se on the way, but it’s not out of the way. It just means that like I did on my way in, there will be a round-about journey back to the interstate. Here’s hoping it’s at least scenic!

Now to bed, and then the next stop, my own bed sometime tomorrow night!

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