Knox

General Henry Knox was another character that I encountered and learned about when visiting Colonial Williamsburg. I listened to the actors portraying General Knox and General Anthony Wayne discussing about their plan to attack the British troops under Lord Cornwallis in Yorktown.

One of the topics they discussed during the planning was whether the light infantry under General Wayne should attack the British troops first, or whether they should perform a siege using the artillery under General Knox. True to the character, General ‘Mad Anthony’ Wayne suggested they should attack more aggressively, while General Knox suggested for bombardment by the artillery. They could not resolve the decision, and later asked General Washington for his opinion (who went for the siege — as it ended up happening in Yorktown). I thought it was pretty entertaining to listen to these actors reenacting such discussion among the leaders of the Continental Army on this decisive siege that was going to happen. It truly brought the history alive.

I noticed also that General Knox wore a black cloth covering one of his hands. I wondered why, and found out later through reading that Knox accidentally fired a shotgun on his left hand at one point and took off two of his fingers. So true to the real character, the actor also had the black cloth to cover his hands.

Like several other historic characters I ‘met’ during my visit to Colonial Williamsburg, General Henry Knox was honored by having places named after his name (Knoxville, Tennessee; Fort Knox, Kentucky).

Below you can see the reenactment of General Henry Knox addressing the troops before they went to Yorktown.

General Knox addressing troops

Mad Anthony

General Anthony Wayne was another historic character I came to learn about during my visit to Colonial Williamsburg. As I went to a historic home in the old town where the generals gathered to plan for their attack on Yorktown, I listened to a couple of generals, General Anthony Wayne and General Henry Knox, discussing the plan of attack with a couple of guests who seemed to know the history very well and engaged the characters in discussion as if they were talking with the real characters. The actors portraying the generals knew their characters very well, and answered the questions from the guests as if they were answering in first person.

One of the questions asked by the guests was whether General Wayne was really mad like his nickname ‘Mad Anthony’ suggested. The actor who portrayed General Knox answered that the reason for the nickname was because General Wayne was know to have fiery temperament and ‘hot blooded,’ and the nickname came about because of his treatment on a subordinate who showed incompetence. But he was also known as a strict disciplinarian who demanded obedience and loyalty from his men, and in return he showed loyalty and constantly tried to improve their circumstances. Many people in Pennsylvania where he came from repeatedly returned to fight with him.

General Wayne was one of the trusted generals who served under the command of General George Washington. When Washington became the first president of the country, his high regard for General Wayne’s military skills and judgment was demonstrated by appointing Wayne as the commander-in-chief of the American armies. Wayne led the Continental Army in fighting a confederate of Indian tribes in the Northwest Territory (now the Midwest states of Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan) that secretly served the British. Today we find places named after Wayne in those areas (the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana; Wayne County in Michigan) as well as in his home state of Pennsylvania.

In the photo below, you can see the actor who portrayed General Wayne explaining how his light infantry troops planned to attack the British in Yorktown.

General Anthony Wayne

Lafayette

After listening to the lecture in front of the Courthouse at Colonial Williamsburg, I stayed to watch a reenactment of the Continental Army under General Washington arriving in Williamsburg. Several actors who played generals of the Continental Army waited in front of the Courthouse until General Washington arrived. He was greeted by one general who spoke in French accent. Later on, I found out that the general was supposed to be Marquis de Lafayette.

The name Lafayette today can be seen in many places in the United States — streets, parks, cities, etc. I remembered also hearing about Marquis de Lafayette as a friend of Thomas Jefferson’s when I visited Jefferson’s home, Monticello, in Charlottesville, Virginia. I thought it was quite curious however to have one Frenchman among the Americans during the reenactment in Williamsburg. So later on, I read some more about Lafayette and watched a documentary about this historical figure on Netflix.

There were several facts about Marquis de Lafayette that I found interesting. He was born into a noble family in France, so he was among the wealthiest in the nation during his youth. At early age (sixteen), he joined the French army and he learned about the struggle for independence in America. He decided that he wanted to help the cause, even when it meant he had to find his way to get to America, and even enlisted in the Continental Army as a volunteer to avoid being perceived as a mercenary. General George Washington took Lafayette under his wings. His first battle was the Battle of Brandywine, where he was wounded but received citation from Washington for his bravery.

Lafayette then was given the command of a division of the Virginia troops, and later fought the British in New Jersey and Rhode Island. He also went home to France to lobby for French aid to America. Working with Benjamin Franklin, he secured French troops under General Rochambeau to come to America and helped the Continental Army to fight the British. When he came back to America, General Washington ordered Lafayette to lead the troops to pursue and capture Benedict Arnold (a Continental Army general who defected to the British). While he was not able to capture Arnold, he was able to help defend Richmond from being occupied by the British. Later that continued to his participation in the Siege of Yorktown, where the British surrendered and marked the end of the Revolutionary War.

After the war, Lafayette went back to France and continued to be an advocate for the Americans. In return he was given an honorary American citizenship by the Congress; he was the only foreigner to receive such honor until Winston Churchill in 1963. He came to America in 1824 to celebrate the country’s 50th anniversary at the official invitation of President James Monroe and the US Congress. He was honored as the only surviving general from the American Revolution through a grand tour around to visit all 24 American states in the period of almost a year.

When Lafayette died in 1824, the US gave him the same funeral honors as given to other American heroes. Today, his gravesite in Paris is decorated with an American flag. A park in Washington, DC very close to the White House was also named after him, Lafayette Park.

The photo below was the actor who played Lafayette providing explanation of the plan to attack the British in Yorktown.

Lafayette

Battle Planning

My visit to Colonial Williamsburg started with an orientation by a staff dressed in the era’s costume, providing the lay of the land of the area and giving us pointers to interesting things to see and programs to attend during the day. After the orientation, I continued with attending the first program of the day, a retelling of the history by a resident historian.

I was not expecting to attend a lecture, but listening to the historian providing the background about the events that led to the particular event we were commemorating (the battle of Yorktown) provided an excellent context to understand the historical event reenactments throughout the day.

One of the unique things you can do at Colonial Williamsburg is to locate an actor playing a historical character and interacting with him/her as if you were talking to the real character during the Colonial period. The actors not only dress up in periodic costume, but also talk like those from that era. They are also very knowledgeable about the historic character they represent, and can answer questions about the character that may not even be directly related to their relation to Williamsburg.

After the lecture, I went to one of the houses in the middle of the old town where the Continental generals spent time planning before their march to Yorktown. It was pretty neat to listen to a couple of actors who played the role of two prominent generals during the war, General Anthony Wayne and General Henry Knox, talking with each other and also interacting with a couple of visitors who seemed to know a lot about the history behind these two characters. They asked them some trivia questions about these characters’ personal lives, and the actors answered the questions with ease that you could have thought for a moment you were transported back in the history and listened to the real characters talking about themselves.

Here were the two generals sitting near a make shift discussion table and talking with audience about their plans to attack the British in Yorktown.

Battle Planning

History Triangle

The area around Williamsburg is also known as the History Triangle as there are three places where important events in the American history happened. Jamestown is the site of the first British settlement in the new world. It was the first capital of the colony of Virginia until it was moved to Williamsburg. Williamsburg then served as the capital of the colony for several years. Yorktown entered the history due it’s strategic location from maritime perspective, and it was the place where the British troops surrendered that led to the end of the American Revolutionary War and the United Stated became gaining recognition as an independent nation.

Today history buffs can come to the area and spend some time to learn and relive history by visiting these three places. They are connected through a route called the Colonial Parkway, so you can easily drive between the places. Alternatively, you can also park your car at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center, and take shuttle bus to visit the three places.

During my day trip to the area, I arrived at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center right before it opened around 9 am in the morning. I considered trying to visit the other sites on the same day, but later I decided to just spend the day in Williamsburg and attend the special events that went on throughout the day as part of commemorating the siege of Yorktown.

The photo below was taken right at the heart of Colonial Williamsburg. You can see the governor’s palace at the end of the grassy area, and a reenacted encampment of the Continental Army to commemorate their stay in Williamsburg prior to going to Yorktown.

Governor's Palace

Day Trip to Colonial Williamsburg

Williamsburg, Virginia, is a city located about 3.5 hour-drive away from Washington, DC. The city was the capital of the Colony of Virginia before it was moved to Richmond. It is the home of the second oldest college in the United States, the College of William and Mary. Part of the city is known as Colonial Williamsburg, where an area consisting around 50 buildings has been preserved from the Colonial era. It serves as a living interactive museum as life from that era is reenacted by actors daily.

I had heard of the Colonial Williamsburg since a long time ago, having lived in Virginia for several years. However, I had never visited the place until earlier this fall when I made a last minute trip on Saturday. I found out that during that particular weekend, they were going to commemorate the preparation before the American troops went on to nearby Yorktown to attack the British under General Cornwallis. The siege that happened in Yorktown was an important event during the American’s fight for its independence as it marked the surrender of the British troops during that war.

I did not grow up and go to primary or secondary school in the US, so I never really learned about the US history. During this visit to Colonial Williamsburg, I learned some interesting historical facts and about some important figures from that era. So in the next few posts I will write about that day trip to Williamsburg.

The photo below was taken in the Colonial Williamsburg area. You can see here the actors and volunteers reenacted the American troops marching into Williamsburg following General George Washington, on their way to Yorktown. For a moment, you can be transported to that era and feel that you are reliving the history.

Colonial Williamsburg

New York State of Mind

After a lunch stop near Toledo, Ohio, we continued on our coast-to-coast road trip east bound. We considered driving straight through to New York City, but it would’ve been quite exhausting and logistically then I would have to figure out a way to get back home to Washington, DC. So we decided to take a little detour and end our fourth traveling day in the suburb of Washington, DC, where I live, and to continue on the next day with the last leg of our trip. From home, I would drive my own car separately from my brother and then I would continue on with a couple more days of road trip to New England on my own.

So on the last day of the trip, we got up early again to start driving on the last leg of our coast-to-coast road trip. Each of us drove a car and we tried to keep close to each other since I had GPS and traffic notification in my car. We used the Motorola Talkabout two-way radios to communicate between the two cars.

The drive from DC to New York was not that memorable, partly because we were driving with only few hours of sleep the night before, and because we were focused on getting back to New York as soon as possible. We had to return the car that day, and before that, we would have to unload my brother’s belongings first, so we thought we didn’t have much time to spare.

We finally reached New York City, and after unloading my brother’s belongings in his apartment in Brooklyn, we went to Midtown Manhattan to return the rental car that had served us well during the coast-to-coast road trip.

After returning the car, we went for a late lunch in Chinatown at a restaurant that had become one of my brother’s favorite restaurants in New York City. Then we went to the South Street Seaport area to find a place where I could take another photo to bookend our trip. We started with at the Santa Monica Pier on the West Coast, so I thought it would be appropriate to finish at the Pier 17 near the South Street Seaport with the iconic Brooklyn Bridge and the Brooklyn area, my brother’s new home, to finish the trip.

While writing about this last part of the trip, I couldn’t help to remember how much our view of New York City had changed over the years. I remembered when I visited New York City with my brother for the first time how after half day of sightseeing on the Grayline double-decker bus, my brother commented that he didn’t like New York and wouldn’t want to live there. Not long after, I also spent a couple of months working on a work project at my company’s New York office. I enjoyed visiting the city, particularly going to the Broadway shows, but I didn’t really think it’s a place I would like to live in.

Several years later, my brother was ‘forced’ to move to New York City to pursue his graduate degree. Then he got a job that allowed him to stay in the area, and along the way, he came to love the city and its unique lifestyle. After I moved to Washington, DC, I could visit my brother more frequently, and during those visits, I came to see and appreciate what it was like to see and experience New York City from the perspective of its resident. Now my brother lives with his family in Brooklyn, very much a New Yorker. I still don’t think I could live there (for the same reason I wouldn’t like to live in downtown DC either — I rather live in a suburb with easy access to the city than live in the heart of the city itself), but it’s becoming a place that I do like to visit.

Brooklyn Bridge