Tag Archives: American Revolution

Colonial National Historical Park

Overview

Jamestown and Yorktown, Virginia are linked by the 23-mile Colonial Parkway, which passes through the well-known tourist attraction of Colonial Williamsburg.  After the colony of Fort Raleigh proved a disaster, it was not until 1607 that the first successful English settlement was founded at Jamestown, Virginia.  On October 18, 1781, General Charles Cornwallis surrendered his British troops at Yorktown, effectively ending the Revolutionary War.  Though it was more than two years before a peace settlement was reached and General George Washington was able to march back into New York City, from where he retreated in 1776. 

Highlights

Historic structures, Voorhees Archaearium, glass blowing demonstrations, French ship replica, cannons, historic trails, Yorktown Victory Monument

Must-Do Activity

Remember back in 1777 in the aftermath of the battles of Saratoga when the French said they would help kick the British out of the 13 colonies?  Well, not much happened until nearly four years later when Admiral de Grasse defeated the British fleet at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.  The ships were unable to resupply General Charles Cornwallis’ troops at Yorktown, who then faced a siege by the combined American and French forces.  Inside the National Park Service visitor center at Yorktown is a replica of a French ship that you can walk aboard without getting seasick.  It also has a replica of General George Washington’s battlefield tent.  Outside, cannons abound along the auto tour.

Best Trail

Five miles of trails wind through Old Towne and New Towne in Jamestown, Virginia.  There is an entry fee charged, since most of this section of the park is run by the non-profit organization Preservation Virginia.  This includes admission to the excellent Voorhees Archaearium, a museum built atop the foundation of the historic statehouse.  Do not miss the reproduction glassblowing house.  This area also contains portions of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary War National Historic Trail and Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The original 1607 James Fort was triangular in shape and, of course, had cannons facing the James River.

Peak Season

Summer, though it can be muggy

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/colo/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

Visiting Yorktown is $10 per person or free with the America the Beautiful pass, but entering Jamestown requires a payment of $20 per person or $5 per person with the America the Beautiful pass.  There is a separate entry fee for nearby Jamestowne Settlement living history museum , but it is free to walk the streets of Colonial Williamsburg (more info on our other travel blog).

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There is no camping permitted within the park, but several private campgrounds can be found in the area, as well as numerous hotels since you will probably want to spend more than a day given the park’s proximity to Colonial Williamsburg.

Explore More – When an “ill” General Cornwallis sent his second-in-command to formally surrender his 8,000 troops, General George Washington was insulted and deferred the honor of accepting to whom?

Cowpens National Battlefield

Overview

In 1780, there were 8,000 British troops in South Carolina and Georgia, but none were as feared as the 270 cavalry under Colonel Banastre Tarleton.  Following an attack at Waxhaws where his men inflicted 75% casualties on the retreating Patriots, he became known as “Bloody Ban” and a slaughter of surrendering soldiers was known as giving “Tarleton’s quarter.”  After the major American victory at nearby Kings Mountain, the British were also defeated here on January 17, 1781 as they retreated to Yorktown, Virginia. 

Highlights

Museum, Battlefield Trail, U.S. Memorial Monument, Robert Scruggs house

Must-Do Activity

The fiberoptic map in the National Park Service visitor center provides a good understanding of this 20-minute battle.  Following the Patriot victory at Kings Mountain, Colonel Tarleton was sent to capture a Patriot army under Brigadier General Daniel Morgan.  On January 17, 1781, Morgan used his militiamen to sucker in the aggressive Tarleton, instructing them to fire two shots then retreat towards the lines of trained infantry and cavalry under Lieutenant Colonel William Washington (George’s second cousin).  The British took the bait and lost 80% of their force (110 killed, 229 wounded, and 600 captured), though Tarleton escaped. 

Best Trail

The Battlefield Trail partially follows the historic Green River Road and is 1.25 miles roundtrip from the visitor center.  The auto tour route closes at 4:30 p.m. but after hours parking is available at the trailhead off Highway 11, which also accesses the Battlefield Trail.  It is part of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, which has 87 of its 330 miles publicly accessible, starting in Tennessee.  There is also a 2-mile nature trail near the picnic area.

Instagram-worthy Photo

A 1932 monument marks the beginning of the Battlefield Trail.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/cowp/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Kings Mountain State Park is 30 miles east of the park next to Kings Mountain National Military Park.

Explore More – What locally grown fruit provided the inspiration for the painted water tower in Gaffney, South Carolina?

Kings Mountain National Military Park

Overview

In 1780, the conclusion of the Revolutionary War was anything but decided with the British army firmly entrenched in New York City, Charleston, and Savannah.  General Charles Cornwallis commanded 2,200 troops in the colony of South Carolina and his plan was to meet up with Major Patrick Ferguson’s 1,100 men near Charlotte, North Carolina.  Many historians consider the events that took place here on October 7, 1780 the beginning of the end of the war that culminated less than a year later at Yorktown. 

Highlights

Museum, film, Battlefield Trail, U.S. Monument, grave of Major Ferguson

Must-Do Activity

Though the museum in the National Park Service visitor center is small, it is well done and very informative.  You will learn that throughout 1780, a ragtag band of Patriot militia dogged Major Ferguson, forcing him to make a stand 39 miles south of his destination at Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780.  When the Loyalist force finally surrendered, the enraged Patriots gave them “Tarleton’s quarter.”  Killed during the fighting, Major Ferguson was the only person in the battle born in the British Isles (in Scotland).

Best Trail

Start at the visitor center, then walk the 1.5-mile Battlefield Trail.  It is part of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, which has 87 of its 330 miles publicly accessible, starting in Tennessee.  Just be sure to be out of the park before the gates close for the night.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The 83-foot tall U.S. Monument was dedicated in 1909 by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Peak Season

Late summer when 18th-century military encampments occur on select weekends.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/kimo/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There is one backcountry campsite on the grounds, which requires free registration at the visitor center.  Neighboring Kings Mountain State Park offers 119 campsites and many miles of trails.

Explore More – What earlier event provoked the Patriots to give “Tarleton’s quarter” after the Loyalists surrendered?

Saratoga National Historical Park

Overview

Saratoga National Historical Park was the site of two 1777 Revolutionary War battles at Freeman’s Farm on September 19 and Bemis Heights on October 7, which together are considered the turning point in the war.  Following this decisive victory when 6,000 British soldiers surrendered, the French King officially entered the war on the side of the Americans, providing the equivalent of $1.4-billion in aid by war’s end. 

Highlights

Museum, film, Neilson Farm, Boot Monument, Bemis Heights, the Great Redoubt

Must-Do Activity

Start at the National Park Service (NPS) visitor center where displays describe the two separate battles that took place here.  The 10-mile driving tour has ten stops that provide more details.  Do not look for Saratoga, New York on maps today, it was renamed Schuylerville in honor of a Revolutionary War general.  Nonetheless, since 1883 it has been home to the 155-foot tall Saratoga Monument commemorating these battles.

Best Trail

There are a few short trails accessed along the driving tour, but you should at least plan to park and climb the stairs at Breymann Redoubt.  At the top, an unmarked monument draped with a boot commemorates the leg injury suffered in the fighting by General Benedict Arnold, whose name would go down in history synonymous with his later traitorous actions downstream at West Point. 

Instagram-worthy Photo

The American defensive location at Bemis Heights was chosen by Colonel Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a Polish engineer serving in the Continental Army, to block the British army from moving south down the Hudson River.  It still provides commanding views of the valley.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/sara/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Not far north on Interstate 87, Moreau Lake State Park offers a campground with running water.

Explore More – Although France had not officially entered the war at the time, how many muskets had they donated to the American cause by the beginning of the Battles of Saratoga?

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Valley Forge National Historical Park

Overview

The winter of 1777-78 was actually mild by Pennsylvania standards, but for 12,000 poorly-clothed rebels it was hard enough.  Following a retreat from Philadelphia, General George Washington’s army arrived at Valley Forge on December 19 to keep British soldiers from scouring the countryside for winter provisions.  Soldiers quickly set about building log cabins and cutting firewood, establishing the fourth-largest city in the colonies. 

Highlights

Museum, film, reconstructed cabins, National Memorial Arch, Washington’s headquarters

Must-Do Activity

The Encampment Tour is a 10-mile driving route that takes you to reconstructed cabins, earthwork redoubts, and General George Washington’s headquarters which contains 80% original artifacts.  Primarily due to a lack of food and hygiene, approximately 2,500 soldiers died at Valley Forge, many from typhus, influenza, and pneumonia.  This represented about 7% of the army’s total fatalities during the Revolutionary War.  Those that survived the hardships became an elite fighting force; however, many of them would spend the remaining years of the war waiting for orders that never came to attack British-held New York City. 

Best Trail

A paved trail follows much of the driving tour route and is popular with joggers and bikers.  The Schuylkill River Trail goes all the way from Valley Forge to Philadelphia.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The National Memorial Arch was dedicated in 1917, one more reason this beautiful park is frequented by local joggers.

Peak Season

Summer.  Although it would be more authentic, you may not want to visit this park during the cold and snowy winter months.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/vafo/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but freeway traffic in this Philadelphia suburb can be congested during rush hour.

Camping

French Creek State Park (next to Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site) offers a campground 25 miles northwest of Valley Forge National Historical Park.

Explore More – What was the name of the Prussian general that led the troops through months of drills?