ACTION OF NANCE’S SHOP:
In this vicinity the Union cavalryman, Gregg, guarding army trains moving to Petersburg, was attacked by Wade Hampton, June 24,1864. Gregg was driven back toward Charles City Courthouse, but the wagon trains crossed the James safely. This action closed the cavalry campaign that began at Trevillians, June 11-12, 1864.
Benjamin Harrison (1726 -1791)-Virginia planter, politician, and signer of the Declaration of Independence-was born at nearby Berkeley plantation. He first served in the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1752, though elected in 1749, and remained in office until 1775. In 1774, the Virginia Revolutionary Convention sent Harrison to the Continental Congress, where he served through 1777. He was Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1778 to 1781 and governor of Virginia from 1781 to 1784. His son William Henry Harrison and great-grandson Benjamin Harrison were presidents of the United States.
BERKELEY PLANTATION OR HARRISON’S LANDING:
A short distance south, it was first settled in 1619 when the first Thanksgiving was held here. The present mansion, built in 1726, was the birthplace of Benjamin Harrison, signer of the Declaration of Independence and President William Henry Harrison. During July and August, 1862, it was the headquarters of General McClellan. The bugle call “Taps” was composed here then by General Butterfield.
CHARLES CITY COURTHOUSE:
In 1702 Charles City County, which then included both sides of James River, was divided; the courthouse here was built bout 1730. Here Simcoe's British cavalry surprised a party of militia, January 8, 1781. Here Grant's army passed on its way to the river, June, 1864.
Originally part of William Byrd's Westover, Evelynton has been occupied by the Ruffin family since 1847, when it was purchased by Edmund Ruffin, Jr. Fierce skirmishes took place on the property during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign. Confederate troops were led by generals J. E. B. Stuart and James Longstreet. The breastworks are still visible near the house. The dwelling and dependencies of the plantation were much damaged during the fighting. The Georgian-Revival house, built on the foundation of an earlier structure, was designed by noted architect, Duncan Lee, in 1935.
FIRST ENGLISH THANKSGIVING IN VIRGINIA:
On 4 Dec. 1619, Capt. John Woodlief, a member of the Virginia Company, arrived aboard the ship Margaret with 35 men to take charge of Berkeley Hundred. An experienced former Jamestown settler, he became Berkeley’s first governor. He bore instructions that the day of his ship’s arrival “be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to almighty God.” Beginning in 1958, the Virginia First Thanksgiving Festival commemorated this directive as the first English Thanksgiving in North America with an annual reenactment at nearby Berkeley Plantation.
South of here, on a bluff overlooking the James River, stands the half-mile-long Fort Pocahontas, built in the spring of 1864 by Union soldiers during the Civil War. The fort protected Union vessels on the river and guarded the landing at Wilson's Wharf. Commanded by Brig. Gen. Edward A. Wild and manned by the 1st and 10th Regiments of U.S. Colored Troops and two guns of Battery M, 3d N. Y .Light Artillery, the 1,500-man garrison beat back assaults by 2,500 cavalrymen under Confederate Maj. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee on 24 May 1864. It was the only Civil War battle in Virginia in which nearly all the Union troops were black.
In mid-June 1864, Grant abandoned his works at Cold Harbor and marched to Petersburg, a vital rail center. A mile south of here, at Willcox Wharf (now Lawrence Lewis, Jr., Park), steamboats ferried the troops and wagons of two corps across the James River on 14-15 June. Three miles downstream, at Weyanoke Point, Union engineers built a 700-yard-long pontoon bridge in seven hours on 14 June. For three days parts of two corps, as well as supply, ammunition, and ambulance wagons, crossed the bridge in a column 50 miles long. Engineers then dismantled the bridge. Grant's attack on the Confederate lines at Petersburg failed, and the armies settled into a ten-month siege.