Work Journal 3/29

3.23.10: Attended the Williamsburg Civil War Roundtable.  The Roundtable was hosting Gerald H. Johnson, a professor of Geology at William and Mary, who was discussing how the landscape of the Williamsburg area impacted the fighting.  His talk was very interesting and provided an interesting angle from which to look at the fighting.  While there, I talked with one of the people in charge and got some names to contact, Teri Toepke, an employee of the College who works with a number of historical groups focused on the Civil War era, and Drew Gruber, a graduate student at VCU and resident of Williamsburg who has been active in efforts to preserve the battlefield, I have emailed both.  In looking for information on these two, I also found some articles on the Daily Press’ website, one of which written by the VCU student, which provide additional insight into the fight to preserve the battlefield.

3.24.10: Continued contact with Mrs. Toepke and Mr. Gruber.  Scheduled an interview with Mrs. Toepke for 4.2.10 and found out that she is involved in Civil War reenactments around the state as part of the 44th Virginia Volunteer Infantry reenactment group and has developed a first person character which she uses for civic groups and schools.  Mrs. Toepke will provide a very interesting and informative interview.

3.27.10: In addition to assisting Lindsey with her interview of Mrs. Hutcheson, I visited Redoubt Park and Fort Magruder Inn, now a Crowne Royal Hotel.  I was somewhat surprised at my visit to Redoubt Park, the redoubt was preserved very well and a number of plaques gave an excellent description of not only what happened there, but how it fit into the overall battle.  I was disappointed, however, that it was so sparsely visited.  I have no frame of reference to say if this was normal, but I was the only person there despite the wonderful weather, evidenced by the large number of people walking around CW as well as the golfers at Quarterpath Park across the street.  It’s not difficult to figure out why Redoubt Park doesn’t attract many people, it’s not well publicized, it’s not staffed at all, it’s out of the way, and it’s very small, I felt I had an extremely thorough visit and I only stayed for about half an hour.  The lack of staff probably contributes to the lack of publicity, but for a town whose economy is based on historical tourism, it would seem like there would be more attention paid to this park.  My visit to Fort Magruder Inn was extremely encouraging.  While it is most prominently labeled as a Crowne Plaza, the hotel does have a large sign in front reading “Fort Magruder Hotel & Conference Center,” proudly displaying the history this hotel is built around.  In the lobby, the hotel has a display consisting of an artistic map detailing the battle, a uniform, and other artifacts from the Civil War, presumably recovered from the area, but they aren’t labeled as such.  The hotel is built around the remains of Fort Magruder, the central redoubt in the Williamsburg line, but, unfortunately, there was a wedding in the courtyard so I couldn’t really wander around, which means I will need to go back at some point next week in order to complete this experience.

6 Responses to “Work Journal 3/29”


  1. 1 Seth March 29, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Stumbled on this site while searching for local music, and am intrigued by your research on the Civil War in Williamsburg. Your location for Fort Magruder is off, however – the earthworks of the fort are partially preserved off of Penniman Road, as noted on Wikipedia. To get there, take Penniman road past the Wawa and keep going about .25 mile. The remains are on your right, across from a defunct gas station. Here’s a Google Map link:

    http://maps.google.com/maps/place?ftid=0x89b088f56762c445:0xc6a1e548c7c1cbf0&q=penniman+road+%26+queen%27s+creek+road,+williamsburg,+va&gl=us

    You simply must read “A Pitiless Rain: The Battle of Williamsburg, 1862” by Earl C. Hastings Jr.

    http://www.amazon.com/Pitiless-Rain-Battle-Williamsburg-1862/dp/157249042X

    Also, you should talk to J. Michael Moore, Civil War historian and curator of Lee Hall Mansion in Newport News. I went on a walking tour of the redoubts in New Quarter Park that was fascinating. Those redoubts are similar to the one you saw off Quarter Path road, but they are in a much larger part so they are fairly hidden. He is relatively young but very knowledgeable.

    Good luck to you!

  2. 2 Brian March 29, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Thanks for the information, as I said I was unable to walk around the courtyard at the Crowne Plaza due to the wedding going on, but I will be interested to see how they have it labeled. I was able to look outside and it looks like the hotel is built around one of the redoubts, even if it isn’t the main Fort. I will also add this site to my list of places to visit. I have been looking for “A Pitiless Rain” but the copy in the school library is currently out. Also, if you have contact information for Mr Moore or could assist me in contacting him please let me know, you can email me directly at bacarr@wm.edu

    Thanks for your comment, I appreciate the interest I’m getting in this project.

  3. 3 Sallie Hutcheson March 29, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Brian,

    I enjoyed meeting you and Lindsey on Saturday. In reading of your research into the Battle of Williamsburg, I wanted to mention another article by Mr. Hastings. Entitled “Encounter in the Rain…”, it appeared in Virginia Cavalcade magazine in 1973 (more or less).

    Sallie

  4. 4 Brian March 29, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Sallie,

    I enjoyed meeting you as well, and it was very interesting to hear about the American Eagle Girls Fife and Drum Corps. Thanks for the tip, I just looked that up and it looks like the library has a copy of that magazine, so I will definitely give that a look.

  5. 5 sgglos March 31, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Great work, Brian. I look forward to hearing your reflections on what you’re discovering about these sites.

  6. 6 iaknig March 31, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    “A Pitiless Rain”–they could likely secure you a copy in pretty short order.

    One thing occurs to me that should have occurred to me long before this: Do we know how the Civil War centennial was handled (and promoted and commemorated, etc.) in Williamsburg?

    There are obvious reasons, I suppose, why the Civil War history of Williamsburg is a modest presence in our commemorative/memorial landscape–namely the town’s investment (not a simple or monolithic thing, by any means, but still) in its colonial era past.

    But I wonder, too, if that focus (maybe especially in 1961-1965, at the height of the Civil Rights era) also helped Williamsburg avoid confrontation with controversial and painful aspects of our past? (There’s at least one book on the centennial–Robert Cook, “Troubled Commemoration” (LSU Press 2007)–might be worth a look.)

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The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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