Category Archives: Virginians at War

Jamestown Settlement – A Flawless Weaving of American History

Christy Coleman, Executive Director, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation

by James C. Sherlock

Sunday, on a brilliant fall day in Hampton Roads, my wife and I went on an outing.

Despite having lived in Virginia for many decades, neither of us had ever been to Jamestown.

We all know the outlines of the story. Jamestown was founded in 1607 as a commercial venture by British investors, the Virginia Company. It was ill-conceived and badly executed, but survived, if barely.

We know, or think we do, about John Smith and Pocahontas. The arrival of African slaves. The beginnings of the General Assembly. Bacon’s Rebellion. The abandonment of the settlement in 1699 when the capitol was moved to Williamsburg.

It turned out that neither of us knew enough about Jamestown to avoid being constantly surprised and educated during a visit to Jamestown Settlement, a living history museum presented by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation (JYF).

What makes that museum very special is the way the JYF has woven together the stories of early Jamestown:

  • the 1607 voyage of three ships and 104 colonists under the command of Captain Christopher Newport;
  • the managers hired by the Virginia Company, then royal appointees from 1624 when the settlement became a colony, and wayward sons of the well-to-do like Nathanial Bacon;
  • the other European immigrants, mostly indentured servants;
  • the indigenous peoples; and
  • Africans, both slave (starting in 1619) and free.

The museum presents not only their history, but their humanity. Continue reading

It’s a Memorial, Not a Racist Ideology

by Carol J. Bova

Accounts from lawyers, reporters, pundits and other outsiders have severely distorted the debate over the Confederate memorial in Mathews County.

To The Washington Post, the controversy is about the ”enduring power of the Civil War’s legacy.”

To the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs and Wilkie, Farr & Gallagher, LLP, writing on behalf of the local NAACP, it’s an endorsement of white supremacy. “Confederate monuments were intended to assert that white supremacy would remain a dominant force of social control.”

To Mathews families whose ancestors never came home from the war, the monument in front of the county courthouse provides an enduring connection to their ancestors – a love and commemoration of family. The monument is not a political statement. 

The controversy originated with a proposal before the Mathews Board of Supervisors to deed the land underneath the statue to a private preservation group. The County neither commissioned nor paid for the memorial. It did allow its placement on the corner of the Courthouse Green in 1912 because, at that time, there were no paved roads in the County, and many were impassable in bad weather. The business district was centered near the Courthouse Green, so when families came to shop, the location of the memorial was accessible to pay respect to the Mathews war dead. Continue reading

The Robert E. Lee of Appomattox

by Kenneth G. Everett

Adversity is the first path to truth.
Lord Byron, DON JUAN, Canto XII, Stanza 50

Few things in life reveal more clearly the true character of a man than his response to the circumstances of defeat and failure. The deepest impulses of the soul emerge when cherished hopes collapse and undertakings of much labor, sacrifice, and suffering end in ruin. All of this we see in Robert E. Lee at his surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox in April of 1865.

Given the severely reduced and depleted state of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia by April 1865, and short of the useless sacrifice of this remnant of faithful veterans in a defiant last stand against Grant, Lee saw no option but that of surrendering the army. This exigency of circumstances, however, did not put Lee under the necessity of making peace.

On the eve of Lee’s meeting with Grant at the McLean house near Farmville, Virginia, Gen. E. Porter Alexander, Lee’s Chief of Artillery and one of his most gifted officers, passionately implored him to order the army to “scatter in the woods & bushes & either to rally upon Gen. Johnston in North Carolina, or to make their way, each man to his own state, with arms, & to support his governor,” rather than to surrender, arguing to Lee that “the men that have fought under you for four years have got the right to ask you to spare us the mortification of having you ask Grant for terms. . . .” Continue reading

Marginalizing Another Dissident

Ann McLean

by James A. Bacon

The Washington Post recently published a story about a gubernatorial appointment to one of Virginia’s more obscure commissions: the state Board of Historic Resources, which oversees state historic-site designations. The article focused on Governor Glenn Youngkin’s selection of Ann McLean, who believes that Virginia’s heritage is “under attack,” and has condemned the destruction of Confederate monuments as a “dangerous” rewriting of history.

Only three years ago, before the protests unleashed by the George Floyd protests, views on Confederate statues were radically different. A special commission appointed to study the statues on Monument Ave. was debating what to do with the monument which, even before George Floyd’s death, some considered a problem. The committee was leaning then toward “recontextualizing” or “reinterpreting” the statues to reflect the fact that the public understanding of the monuments had changed since they were erected more than a century ago. It was a perfectly acceptable position to argue at that time, as McLean did, that these magnificent works of public art should be preserved in place.

Today, some paint that view as racist. Continue reading

The President Had Somewhere Important to Be

Credit: Getty Images

by James C. Sherlock

The caption of the photo:

“US President Joe Biden looks down alongside First Lady Jill Biden as they attend the dignified transfer of the remains of a fallen service member at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware, August, 29, 2021, one of the 13 members of the US military killed in Afghanistan last week.”

I watched.  I am sure I had lots of company.

  • Virginia Veterans — nearly 730,215 — one out of 10 adults.
  • Virginia active duty (89,303) and reserve military (25,977) = 115,280
  • Virginia Army National Guard 7,500 soldiers and 46 armories
  • Virginia Air National Guard 192nd Fighter Wing at Langley AFB Hampton – approximately 200.

In an unblinking story for The Washington Post, Matt Viser exposed a failure of leadership and understanding of the moment that was a direct insult to all Americans.

The President was there to representing us all. He shamed us. Continue reading

Virginia Beach and Afghanistan

by James C. Sherlock

It was never a Navy war.

But in this Navy town, it was brought literally home to us again and again. We are home to nearly half of the Navy SEALs, including SEAL Team 6.

Something like 4,000 to 5,000 total plus their families.

SEALs are America’s special operations forces specially trained for undersea, coastal, river and swamp operations. They train on our beaches, in our swamps, bays and ocean. Some of us can hear their live gunfire at night.

Folks in the Navy flight paths hear big transports take off at 4:00 in the morning, guess that’s them going God knows where, wish them well, and try to go back to sleep.

About 15 years ago, I went through physical rehab in a civilian facility here with one of them, a Chief Petty Officer who you would not have recognized as a sailor. He and I were there for different types of injuries.

I was retired and rehabbing a knee operated on for arthritis. He was rehabbing muscle damage from a bullet wound. Affected his trigger finger. Continue reading