What a date, My Dear Heart, and what a country from which to write in the month of January! It is in a camp in the middle of woods; it is fifteen hundred leagues from you that I find myself buried in midwinter. Not too long ago, we were separated from the enemy by a small river; now we are seven leagues away from them and it is here that the American army will spend the winter in small barracks hardly more cheerful than a jail. I do not know if the general … will decide to visit our new abode; should he, we would show him around. The bearer of this letter will describe to you the pleasant place which I seem to prefer to being with you, with all my friends and amidst all possible pleasures.
James Hunter (1721-1784) was the son of James Hunter, merchant of Duns, Scotland. His uncle, William Hunter, settled in Virginia in the 1730s and was one of the first Scottish merchants to settle in the Fredericksburg area. James was brought up in the mercantile business and soon began making business trips to Virginia during which time he also bought property here.
Ferry Farm is best known as the childhood home of George Washington, though it has a history that predates the Washington occupancy.
The Age of Pirates has been so thoroughly romanticized in the popular imagination that many people do not know about the real lives of pirates. Films ranging from Captain Blood to the Pirates of the Caribbean series create the idea of piracy as freedom from the boring drudgery and stress of life on land. But how much did pirates’ real lives resemble those of the fantastic swashbucklers of the silver screen? Terrance Zepke’s book, Pirates of the Carolinas, is a series of short biographies of some of the best-known pirates who operated out of North Carolina. Although not as in-depth as some other accounts, such as Daniel Defoe’s A General History of the Pirates, the book provides concise, factually accurate information on some of the most notorious figures in American history.
The Founding Foodies, by Dave DeWitt, is an easy-going chat on matters historic and gastronomic in the Old Dominion and beyond. DeWitt dismisses some food writers’ contentions that colonial food was poor stuff. Having attended Mr. Jefferson’s university and being thus familiar with the third president’s many accomplishments, he knew that this common opinion was surely an overgeneralization. Jefferson, as well as Washington and Franklin, were trend-setters—learned men who easily absorbed and promulgated cultured styles of fashion, philosophy, architecture, and, yes, food, derived European trends, especially their French allies.
Besides these Founding Fathers’ culinary preferences, DeWitt also looks at curious historical periods of Virginia history where food, or lack of same, played a noteworthy role. At Jamestown, the horrors of spoiled ships’ rations and the colonists’ inexperience with hunting and fishing made them very dependent on the native tribes’ shared knowledge. They did learn to hunt and fish which was well since the supply ship was delayed, nearly resulting in John Smith being hanged. Desperate to turn a profit in the days before tobacco, the settlers took up fishing on a grand scale—thousands of pounds of salted cod to England and dried fish to Spain.
“But tho’ an old man, I am but a young gardener.”
—Letter from retired President Thomas Jefferson to famed portrait painter Charles Willson Peale
Author Peter Hatch has been the Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello since 1977. When Annie Leibovitz came to historic site, she chose to photograph his hands, which have spent decades re-envisioning and recreating Jefferson’s beloved garden. “A Rich Spot of Earth” is a stunning visual and verbal tribute to both the historic gardens and their careful recovery. Follow these links to learn more about Monticello’s historic gardens and its Center for Historic Plants.
FREDERICKSBURG IN REVOLUTIONARY DAYS
We come now to the record of one of the most important of Virginia's institutions for the prosecution of the war: the manufactory of small arms established by ordinance of the Convention of July, 1775. The facts here presented are those discovered in files of correspondence at present in the Department of Archives of the Virginia State Library, Richmond. There are large gaps in the record of this manufactory: the books and papers of the director seem to have wholly disappeared, and we are forced to rely on the ordinance of Convention establishing this institution, a few subsequent laws and single documents for its history prior to September, 1780; but, from that time forward there remains the correspondence of Charles Dick, on whose shoulders rested the burden of keeping up this institution.
In November, 1775, Harrower tells us of a muster of the minute men of the district, composed of the counties of Spotsylvania, Caroline, King George, and Stafford, which was held at "Belvideira," below the town. In the list of members of the Spotsylvania committee of safety chosen by direction of ordinance of convention on November 17th, of this year, by an assembly of freeholders of the county, meeting in Fredericksburg we find the town represented by Fielding Lewis, Charles Washington, George Thornton and Hugh Mercer. Throughout the Revolutionary War Fredericksburg was a center of distinction. "There is not one spot in the State so generally useful in our military operations," wrote James Mercer in April, 1781. The spring of 1781 witnessed in Virginia that remarkable campaign of the gallant young Marquis de LaFayette; the wonderfully conducted retreat from Richmond leading Cornwallis away from that important center and attempting a juncture with Wayne, who was on his way from Pennsylvania with reinforcements.
William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine (William and Mary Quarterly)
Volume XXVII, No. 2. October 1918. pp. 73-95. Parts II and III may also be read online.
FREDERICKSBURG IN REVOLUTIONARY DAYS
In a charming diary kept by him while under indentures to Colonel William Daingerfield, of Belvideira (a plantation on the river about seven miles below Fredericksburg) John Harrower a clever Scotchman, and schoolmaster to the youth of the Daingerfield and other neighboring households, was wont from time to time to copy letters which he had addressed to his "kith and kin" across the seas. In a letter to his wife in Lerwick in Scotland, sent under date of December 6, 1774, Harrower, after alluding to the "hote war" on the frontier which had terminated in the sanguinary battle of Point Pleasant: the conflict known to history as Dunmore's War, refers to the trouble then brewing between the Mother Country and her American colonies.
History, particularly popular history, need not be dull, something that Cormac O’Brien demonstrates readily in his book, The Forgotten History of America. Written in a conversational tone and broken into vignettes, old history is made new when written this way. Even so, it’s not the standard stuff taught in schools. It’s about wars and both sides in those wars, reaching back to the country’s colonial beginnings in the 16th century. With personalities writ large on both sides and a good understanding of the differences in modern and historical society, O’Brien leads his readers on journeys back in time:
It begins with the first permanent European settlement in North America:
Pedro Menedez de Aviles anxiously paced the deck of his flagship, San Pelayo. Two days earlier, off the coast of Florida, he had gone ashore and met with Indians who offered valuable information about the prey he was desperately seeking. Now, confident of success, he led his five vessels northward along the coastline, scanning the beaches for any sign of European settlement. The day was September 4, 1565, and Menendez was hunting heretics.