Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Exploring SE Virginia: Cape Henry

After Yorktown, we knew we wanted to see where the first 105 colonists landed before settling in Jamestown. What we found was a historic sight situated inside Ft. Story, a military base that serves as special operations training for the Army, Navy & Marines. So, after our car was searched, we drove onto the base and went to look for the 1st Landing Memorial.

The history of the site goes like this: On the morning of April 26, 1607, 3 English ships, the Susan Constant, Discovery, & Godspeed made landfall. Led by Capt. Newport, the 105 colonists spent the next 2 days exploring the lower bay region. On the 29th, 30 of the colonists gathered to raise a wooden "crosse" claiming the land for England & named it Cape Henry for Henry, Prince of Wales, son of King James I. As instructed, the new settlers then sailed inland and on May 13, 1607, established the first permanent English colony in America at Jamestown, VA. A stone cross was dedicated on April 26, 1935, commemorating this historic event.

Also off the coast of Cape Henry is the  site of  the battle between the French, under the command of Adm. De Grasse, and the British at the end of the Revolutionary War. In our Yorktown post we described how Cornwallis had surrendered there.  But why?  Cornwallis headed to Yorktown for its port, expecting to establish a winter camp and get resupplied by British ships.  DeGrasse sailed his fleet from the Carribean in hopes to blockade the Chesapeake Bay and prevent British ships from entering.  On September 5, 1781, after a one day naval battle off the coast of Cape Henry, the British were turned away.  This put Cornwallis in a difficult position as Washington and Lafayette marched from New York - dwindling supplies and no escape route.  Thus, by October 19th the surrender became formal.  Right next to the cross is a granite map showing how that naval battle played out.

There were other historic buildings at Cape Henry, but what we decided to see was the First Cape Henry Lighthouse which  happened to be the government's first Lighthouse started in 1791. We walked the stairs up to the top of the 94 ft lighthouse and had a spectacular view!

Next up...Virginia Beach, baby!!!

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