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Things to do in Virginia

  • Jamestown Settlement Jamestown Settlement Virginia
    This settlement was the first successful English encampment in the New World, named after the king of England in 1607. It sits next to the actual historical site where the colonists came which is on Jamestown Island, and called Historic Jamestown. The real reason that it was settled was for the gold that would be sent back to England for the investors, and also to get a foothold on the new land for religious freedom. The settlement followed after the successful settlement in St. John's, Newfoundland in 1583, with at least 18 other attempts that failed before this venture. That would include the infamous lost colony of Roanoke Island, that is located in Dare County, North Carolina. The other successful colonies of the Europeans existed in the Spanish conquered lands of Florida, New Mexico and New Spain. The adventure starts in the end of 1606, when entrepreneurs left England with a charter from the Virginia Company of London that instructed them to find and create a colony in the new land. The voyage took at least 5 months, and three ships came to the new world in 1607 under the leadership of Captain Christopher Newport. The three ships, Discovery, Godspeed and Susan Constant landed at what became known as Cape Henry, and a secure location was to be found for the initial settlement. As they explored the region, around Hampton Roads and Chesapeake Bay, they came across the river they named after their king, James I. Captain Edward Maria Wingfield had been elected their leader the day before landing, and he chose Jamestown Island in the James River as the best place to start the encampment. It lay almost 40 miles away from the Atlantic Ocean, and was surrounded by water deep enough to bring in the ships, and also to keep any intruders from coming there by surprise. It would have been the ideal place for the new settlement, but the mosquitoes and lack of drinkable water, as well as the fact that they were too late to start planting crops for harvest, caused them to change their minds. A lot of these first settlers were gentlemen, with servants, who hadn't the foggiest idea about hard work, the kind that was needed and would be needed to build and sustain a large encampment of people. Within a few months, 51 people had died, with some deserting to the Native Americans, although these white men had come here to take the land from its native inhabitants. The period became known as the "starving time of 1609-1610", with only 60 souls living out of the original 500. It was said that it was a blessing in disguise coming to this area, since the Indians that were in the land would not live there because it had such poor soil and was remote for any agricultural endeavors to succeed. There were many Native Americans in the Chesapeake territory, about 14,000, which came to be known as the Powhatan Confederacy, although they themselves were Algonquian, and the settlers came to call their chief, Wahunsenacawh. The chief did welcome the new people and tried making some kind of alliance with them, so they could take over many of the other communities he didn't control and also to get them to bring metal tools and weapons. Somehow, the situation went bad, and the two races began to fight. This small conflict went on until the settlers captured the chief's daughter, Matoaka, who they later called Pocahontas; so the chief signed a treaty of peace.

  • Virginia Historical Society
    The society was started in 1831, Chief Justice John Marshall was elected the first president, and another president or former one, James Madison became the first honorary member. The library and headquarters took five stages to be completed, from 1912 until 1992, with the first stage finished in 1913 and constructed by the Confederate Memorial Association for a shrine to the Confederate dead and a place to store the numerous records of the lost cause. In 1946, it merged with the historical society. The Virginia house was finished some months before the crash of 1929, which was Alexander and Virginia Weddell's house, sitting serenely on a hill looking out over the James River. It was built using materials from a 16th century English manor and has been run by the historical society, in the same pristine condition as when the Weddell's lived in it. Long term exhibits include Virginians at Work that shows how the early settlers lived and worked, and how the jobs have changed over the years and why. Another is the story of Virginia, an American experience which showcases over 16,000 years of the state's history from the prehistoric era up to the current years. Next is the Virginia manufactory of arms collection that shows all the weapons that were made in Richmond from 1802 until 1821. Solving History's Mysteries: the History Discovery Lab is an interactive display that shows visitors the techniques and principles of archaeology, and the last is silver in Virginia that shows the magnificent silver products that have been made here. There are always new exhibits coming to the center, and presently they have; the John Marshall High School Corps of Cadets that explores the history of the military training that was part of the public education program but highlights the John Marshall High School military training curriculum that was begun in September of 1915. The Portent John Brown's Raid in American Memory explains the story of John Brown's early life, his beliefs and how he turned to violence to attain his agenda as an abolitionist in Kansas, and the raid that cost him his life and what happened afterwards. The African American image in Virginia is a poignant story that entails four hundred years of African-American culture and history in the state. Heads and Tails tells the lives of important and not so important people that are in the portrait collection.

  • Edgar Cayce's A.R.E. Association for Research and Enlightenment
    ARE, or the Association for Research and Enlightenment was a business started by Edgar Cayce in 1931, for the research and exploration of areas known as ancient mysteries, philosophy and reincarnation, holistic health, personal spirituality, intuition, dreams and dream interpretation. The mission was created to assist people in changing their lives for the better by ideas and information that was found in Edgar's readings. Their headquarters is in Virginia Beach, with a regional office in Houston, Texas and they claim that there are 37 countries with centers and members in over 70 countries. The association runs retreats, conferences and various educational venues; as well as publishing books that pertain to Cayce and his teachings. It also publishes a bimonthly magazine called Venture Inward. They have a working relationship with Atlantic University, that gives continuing classes and a master's degree in transpersonal studies, and runs a health center and day spa at its headquarters.

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  • MonticelloMonticello Charlottesville, Virginia
    Monticello, the magnificent home of our country's main author of the Declaration of Independence, who became the third President of the United States, and who also went on to start the University of Virginia. Thomas Jefferson designed his home basing it on neoclassical architecture that were told about in the books by the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. The name comes from the Italian word meaning "little mountain" and the beautiful mansion sit atop a grassy knoll on the top of an 850 foot peak in the Southwest Mountains, a bit below the Rivanna Gap. This image of the western front was used by Felix Schlag for the reverse side of our nickel, since it started being produced in 1938, except for 2004 and 2005. Its image was also on the back side of the two dollar bill during the period from 1929-1966, when that denomination bill was stopped. The gift shop at Monticello gives the two dollar bill as change. Monticello was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, with the nearby university. It was constructed in 1772, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966, and made a National Historic Landmark in 1960. The mansion was begun in 1768, and Thomas moved into the south pavilion in 1770, which was an outbuilding, and left in 1784 to go to France as the ambassador, although it was called a minister then, of the new country. While he was there, he had the fortune to see many of the types of buildings that he had read of, and to see the newer modern trends that were going on in the present house building process. When he returned here in 1790, he became the first Secretary of State, and was in that position until 1793, and then returned to Monticello where he began remodeling the house with some of the new ideas he brought back from France. That remodeling would continue while he was President of the United States, from 1801 until 1809. He added a center hallway, and another parallel number of rooms that doubled the house's size. He took the second floor full height story and made a mezzanine bedroom floor. The most spectacular change of the new design was the octagonal dome that was put on the west side of the building instead of a second story portico. The room inside the dome wasn't used much, probably because it would be cold in the winter and hot in the summer, and also had a skinny staircase that went up rather steeply. That room has since been restored to its pristine condition when Jefferson was living there and the walls are Mars yellow and the floor is green. Thomas Jefferson passed on in 1826, and his oldest daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph inherited it, but she had money problems and sold the house to a local apothecary or druggist in 1831. James T. Barclay, the druggist sold the house to Uriah P. Levy in 1834, who was the first Jewish American to serve his entire commissioned career in the United States Navy; who admired Jefferson immensely.   Monticello is the only private residence in the United States that has been made a World Heritage Site and it includes the grounds of the University of Virginia. Jefferson designed another home in Lynchburg called Poplar Forest and the state capitol building Richmond. The interior reflects the many ideas and ideals of Thomas such as the main entrance being the portico on the east side, and the ceiling of that incorporates a wind plate that is connected to the weather vane that shows the direction of the wind. In the entrance hall, there are many recreated items that were brought back for the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the floorcloth is painted true grass green. Jefferson's private suites were in the south wing, and the library contains his third collection. The first was burned in a fire, and the second was sold to the U.S. Congress in 1815 that replaced those magnificent volumes that were burned when the English burned the capitol in 1814. That second collection would become the nucleus of the Library of Congress. The famous house seems to be bigger than life, but it is actually only the size of a large home from that era of wealthy people. Thomas felt that furniture would be wasting space, and so the dining room table was put up only when there was a formal dinner and the beds were built into alcoves since the walls were larger due to storage space used. His bed was able to be opened on both sides, one his study room and the other his bedroom or dressing room.

  •  Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park
    This national park is part of the National Park Service in Fredericksburg, Virginia and other parts of Spotsylvania County that commemorates the four big battles that were fought here during the Civil War. Those four battlefields include; Battle of Fredericksburg, Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, Battle of the Wilderness and the Battle of Chancellorville. There are four other buildings that have been included; the house that Stonewall Jackson died in, Ellwood, Salem Church and the Chatham Manor. The Chancellor family mansion is included, but it is in ruins. It was made a national military park in 1927, and put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. The park contains 8374 acres with 7369 acres being owned by the government, and over a half million people come here every year. The Fredericksburg National Cemetery sits next to the park and is on 12 acres of land, with internments from the war being laid here in 1867. There are three verses of Theodore O'Hara's poem "Bivouac of the Dead" is found on the grounds and reads, "the muffled drum's sad roll has beat, the soldier's last tattoo; no more on life's parade shall meet, that brave and fallen few. No vision of the morrow's strife, the warrior's dream alarms; no braying horn, nor screaming fife, at dawn shall call to arms. Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead, dear as the blood ye gave, no impious footstep here shall tread, the herbage of your grave."

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Local Restaurants in Virginia
  • Augustine's at Fredericksburg Square
    This fine dining establishment is a triple A Four Diamond restaurant in the historic part of Fredericksburg in a former 1837 mansion that was transformed from a private residence into one of the most magnificent Elks lodges in the nation. Spoil yourself for once in your lifetime with white gloved waiters that are waiting for your every need. Immerse yourself in the eloquent surroundings with Victorian fringed shades over every table, padded cloth and leather chairs, fireplaces and aquariums, with every meal made to order using the finest fresh ingredients in the entire state. The menu starts off with the first course or appetizers; fricassee of housemade gnocchi, lobster, crisp sweetbreads, lobster mushrooms, sauce crustace, and truffles; grilled Tandori squab, chick pea souffle, pomegranate, raita, samosa; pan-fried jumbo lump crab cake, apple tidewater slaw, moutarda di frutta; ragout of petite gris escargots, puffed vol-au-vent, mini salad of frisee, herbs; symphony of foie gras & fall flowers, seared mignon, cold torchon, quince, pumkin, almond; cold terrine of wild fall mushrooms, baby lettuces, roasted beets; sirloin of Kobe beef carpaccio, gougere sticks, soy-sherry vinaigrette, fleur de sel.  Second course or soup & salad; composed salad of crisp endive & pear, Hook's blue cheese, walnuts, chives; salad of petite greens & herbs, autumn veggies and sherry-lemon vinaigrette; wilted salad of chicories, warm lentil-bacon vinaigrette, soft boiled egg; oven roasted heirloom beet salad, gala apples, pistachios, goat cheese soft serve. Third course or entrees; filet of John Dory "en papillote" lobster mushroom duxelle, crab citron risotto, sauce crustace; duet of organic lamb, roasted boneless saddle, grape leave coussin, Iraeli cous cous, artichokes, roasted peppers; sauteed Arctic char, gratin of fennel, tomato, Yukon golds, country ham-wrapped leeks, beurre bercy; tasting of farm raised rabbit, roasted pumpkin, Israeli cous cous, tarragon, broccolini; butter braised Maine lobster, artichokes, lobster risotto, baby lettuce, saffron emulsion; oven roasted breast of pheasant, melange of fall veggies, quince, cranberry, sauce foie gras; grilled couble cut shop of venison, roasted chestnuts, wild mushrooms, siopolini onions huckleberry cabernet reduction; slow-braised beef short ribs, salsify, baby carrots, half smashed potatoes; pan-seared certified Angus tenderloin, creamer potatoes, wild mushrooms, arugula, cabernet sauvignon reduction.  The fourth course is cheeses, and the fifth is fruits and decadent desserts.

  • Bistro LaFayette
    The bistro is old town Alexandria's authentic French bistro that recently won the AOL City Guide Best French Restaurant. Classical entrees include; grilled lamb steak is grilled lamb steak with sauce provencale served with ratatouille and coucous; la Cesar salad au poulet is Caesar salad with chicken; le demi-poulet roti aux herbes is half roasted chicken with herbs and french fries; la quiche du jour is housemade quiche of the day with salad; la Cesar salad au saumon is Caesar salad with Norwegian salmon. Appetizers include; la soupe du jour is housemade soup of the day; les calamars frits is fried calamari with provencale sauce; flash fried escargots with garlic pesto sauce; les calamars sautes aux olives et a l' ail is fresh young calamari with roasted red bell peppers, garlic comfit, black olives in extra virgin olive oil; le pate de campagne maison et ses cronichons is housemade country pate with French pickles; le foie gras frais aux poires pochees, miel et citron, 5 epices is fresh Hudson Valley foie gras with lemon-honey & 5 spices; la soupe a l oignon gratinee is French onion soup with gruyere; baby spinach au fromage de chevre is baby spinach salad with goat cheese; la salade Cesar is hearts of romaine with Caesar dressing and shaved parmesan; le thon tartare is fresh raw ahi tuna with seaweed salad, avocado & roasted sesame & nori. Dinner entrees; sea scallops wrapped with bacon and sake wine sauce; fresh grilled salmon filet with crabmeat and mushroom cream sauce; le thon grille au poivre vert is grilled & blackened Yellowfin tuna with green peppercorn sauce; le filet mignon au poivre is prime cut filet mignon with black pepper & brandy cream sauce; les moules marinieres et ses frites is fresh rope-mussels sauteed with white wine & fresh herbs; le steak tartare et ses frites is traditional steak tartar with French fries. Daily dinner specials; rabbit roulade, confit shallots, mustard, white wine sauce; veal tenderloin, bourbon sauce, lima beans, roasted walnuts; fresh filet of halibut, baby artichoke ragout; calf liver, caramelized onion, cabernet sauce; galatine of grey sole with salmon mousse, cream of sauvignon blanc, dill sauce.

Farm Raised Rabbit Augustine's Fredericksburg, Virginia


Organic Lamb Duet Augustine's Fredericksburg, Virginia


Over Roasted Pheasant Augustine's Fredericksburg, Virginia


Braised Maine Lobster Augustine's Fredericksburg, Virginia



 Grilled Lamb Steak Bistro LaFayette Alexandria, Virginia

Hafl Roasted Chicken Bistro LaFayette Alexandria, Virginia


Bacon Wrapped Sea Scallops Bistro LaFayette Alexandria, Virginia 

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  • Arlington National Cemetery Arlington National Cemetery Arlington, Virginia
    Arlington National Cemetery was started during the Civil War to intern the dead Union soldiers and has been doing so ever since then. It is located in Arlington County, Virginia, and the grounds were the former estate of Mary Anna Curtis Lee, granddaughter of Martha Washington, and Robert E. Lee. Lieing across the Potomac River from Washington D. C., it is close by the Pentagon, and over 300,000 of our nation's heroes lie on 624 acres of beautiful grassy lands with interspersed trees. The brave souls that have passed on since the Irag and Afghanistan conflicts are there and will continue to be buried there, as long as needed. This cemetery and the United States Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery are taken care of by the Department of the Army, and the other National Cemeteries are handled by the Department of Veteran's Affairs or the National Park Service. The Arlington House property, formerly belonging to Robert and Mary Anna, is now taken care of by the National Park Service in honor of Robert E. Lee. It was the stepson of George Washington, George Washington Parke Curtis, that bought the land in 1802, and started building the beautiful mansion. It became Lee's by marriage after her father was gone, since Lee was a graduate of West Point and in the U.S. Army. When Fort Sumter surrendered, Lincoln offered the Federal army's command, but he declined waiting to see how the state would decide. When it seceded, he resigned his commission and was given the command of the Confederate Army. Since he did this, Lee was considered unloyal and his estate was confiscated and made into a graveyard for the Union dead. These cemeteries grew out of the concern of the army's commanders for their dead and as the bodies began to overflow the hospitals and cemeteries in and near the capitol, Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs asked if 200 acres of the Lee land could be used for burials in 1864. The government bought the land for $26,000 and started burying their dead heroes in that year. However, in 1877, Custis Lee, heir to the estate, sued the government saying the land belonged to his family and the Supreme Court agreed. He was given the land but then sold it back to the government for $150,000. Before burial at the Arlington, military interns were sent to the US Soldier's National Cemetery in the capitol, although the grounds were filling quickly. The land surrounding the mansion of Arlington House was soon put to good use, although they had been burying the deceased before Meigs mentioned anything about burying the dead there. On the south part of the property, the land was used for an encampment of freed slaves, and over 1100 freedmen were given land at the Freedman's Village. They farmed the land during and after the Civil War, but were moved in 1890 when the estate was again bought by the government and devoted to becoming a national military installation. In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson oversaw the first national Memorial Day ceremony in Arlington. The cemetery is divided into 70 different sections, and the southeast area is reserved presently for future use. Section 60, in that area is now the area where the heroes killed in Irag and Afghanistan. The Arlington received 12 more acres in 2005, from the National Park Service, as well as 17 acres from the Department of Defense, that had been part of Fort Myer, and another 44 acres that held the annex of the Navy. The nurses section, 21, is where most of the nurses that gave their lives to the defense of our country, and the Nurses Memorial is here. There is a Confederate section that holds the Confederate Memorial and the graves of the Confederate dead. Section 27, holds the graves of over 3800 slaves, that were called "contrabands" during the Civil War and their headstones have either civilian or citizen written on them. On the top of a hill looking out over Washington D.C., the Tomb of the Unknowns rests, which is also called the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Undoubtedly one of the most popular sites in the cemetery, the tomb is constructed of Yule marble that was quarried in Colorado, and is made up of seven pieces, weighing 79 short tons, finished and opened on April 9, 1932. It was first named the "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier", however, later there were more military heroes interned there, and it started being known as the "Tomb of the Unknowns". It was never officially changed, but it does hold the remains of an unknown soldier from World War I, that was interned in 1921, by President Warren G. Harding; one from World War II, in 1958 and President Dwight D Eisenhower presided; another from the Korean War, on the same day; and the unknown from the Viet Nam War interred in 1984, with President Ronald Reagan presiding, but it was later raised and identified as the remains of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael J. Blassie, whose family brought him home to St. Louis, Missouri. The empty crypt at the Tomb would remain that way. This Tomb is always guaded by a member of the army's 3rd Infantry Regiment, called "the Old Guard", and has been since 1948.

  • Arlington House - The Robert E. Lee MemorialArlington House/Robert E. Lee Memorial Arlington, Virginia
    Near the town of Ludlow, Virginia, the Buttermilk Falls The Arlington House is also the Robert E. Lee Memorial, and has been called the Curtis-Lee Mansion; and is a beautiful Greek Revival mansion that was built in 1804, on the banks of the Potomac River just across from the National Mall in Washington D. C. It was here during the Civil War, that the decision was made to create a national cemetery, wanting to make sure that Lee would never be able to return, but years later, made a national monument to that great military leader. Robert E. Lee was an extraordinary military leader, because he had been asked to lead the Union Army and then later became the leader of the Confederate Army, winning many great battles for his state. The mansion was built on 1100 acres by George Washington Curtis, the step-grandson of George Washington and one of the wealthiest men in the county. His father, John Parke Curtis bought the property in 1778, and George Curtis decided to build his house on the land in 1802, after his grandmother, Martha Washington died. He had intended on naming the property "Mount Washington", but his family talked him into naming it after their family homestead in eastern Virginia. The English architect, George Hadfield, that had designed the US Capitol, also worked on the design of the Arlington House. The two wings on the north and south were completed in the years 1802-1804, and the main section, with portico which were 140 long, were completed in 1817. There are two kitchens, one for summer and the other for winter, and columns that measured 5 feet in circumference. The home was the center of activity during that era since Curtis was the most prominent person in Alexandria County and many famous personages visited there including marquis de La Fayette and Gilbert du Motier. His only child making it to adulthood was Mary Anna Randolph Curtis, and at one time she was dating Sam Houston, but Robert E. Lee, a distant cousin, was often in Arlington visiting, and after he graduated from West Point, he married Ms. Curtis in 1831. They lived in the mansion for over 30 years, having seven children there and raising them. Although Robert did travel to many military posts, they were at the home in between and whenever possible.  When the Civil War broke out, Lee had been in the U.S. Army for 35 years, and though he did disapprove of the state's secession, he knew that he couldn't disregard his fellow Virginians in the ensuing war. He was offered the command of the army, but resigned instead and went to Richmond to enlist and became the Virginia Provisional Army. It wasn't long before he was inducted into the Confederate States Army and promoted to general. He talked his wife into leaving the home, taking with her some valuables and neither was to ever go back to their beloved homestead. The Federal Army soon took over the property making it a headquarters for officers that were involved in the construction of forts that would defend the capitol, and many of the Lee's possessions were moved to the Patent Office for preservation. A few of these magnificent items were stolen and taken elsewhere, as were some of the heirlooms of Mount Vernon.

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  • Grottoes and Grand CavernsGrand Cavern Grottoes, Virginia
    One of the most unique homes in the state is the castle in Proctor, Virginia that was built in 1867 using a number of architectural styles, including; Romanesque Revival, Scottish baronial, Dutch neo-renaissance and Queen Anne.  It is now a museum that is opened May until October.  The structure was built by John Johnson, a physician born in Virginia and his wife from England.  John met his wife while going to school in England to study medicine, and used two English architects to help design the unusual monstrosity.  Taking eight years to plan and build the home, it ended up costing 1.3 million dollars.  There are also 18 outbuildings and was lived in only for a short time.  It was taken over by the banks, when Mrs. Johnson died and the good doctor couldn't afford the taxes or maintenance costs.  The antiques and other valuables were sold off to pay creditors and the castle soon earned the name Johnson's folly.  From the late 1880s until 1939, the property changed hands 4 times and then Herbert Wilson, one of the pioneer's in the AM radio industry bought it and set up the station WEWE in one of the stables, where it still operates today.  Herbert joined the Army Signal Corps during the second World War and came home, retiring a colonel in the 50s.  In 1981, he died and left the estate to his daughter, who still lives there in the servant's quarters.  Since 1962, it has been available for tours and is owned by the Wilson Foundation, Inc. a non-profit organization.  There is 115 acres of land, 32 rooms, 3 stories with 19 proscenium arches, English brick and French marble, 84 stained glass windows, 2 turrets, a parapet and a balcony.  There are 13 fireplaces inside with imported tiles and bronze finishings.  Asian and European antique furnishings, a statuary, oriental rugs and Chinese scrolls.  There is a huge glass house and aviary also on the property. 

  • Stonewall Jackson House
    Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson was one of the most famous and well loved commanders of the Confederate Army's leaders, next to Robert E. Lee. He was involved in the Valley Campaign of 1862 and was a corps commander under Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia; who was unfortunately shot by his own army, and died from complications of the pneumonia that he contracted eight days after his was shot and lost an arm. It adversely affected the war, the people of the south and the morale of the Confederate Army. Today's historians surmise that Jackson was one of the most gifted tactician in American history, and his Valley Campaign and right wing at Chancellorsville are even studied today as prime examples of great leadership and innovations. In the First Battle of Bull Run, he was to get his unusual nickname, and the second battle, then Antietam, and finally Fredericksburg, Jackson was outstanding as a leader. He wasn't perfect, as can be seen by the confusion that overtook him at Richmond and the Seven Days Battles of 1862, but he was a born leader. His ancestors were indentured servants that came here from Great Britain in 1749, and although they hadn't known each other before being shipped out together, by the time they arrived in this country had fallen in love, and after serving their indentures, were married in 1755. John and Elizabeth Jackson had 8 children together, his second son being Edward, whose third son was Johnathon, and Stonewall's father. John Jackson had migrated to the Virginias during the 18th century, and was involved in the Revolution War, becoming a captain and later lieutenant in the militia after 1787. Stonewall's father, Johnathon was a lawyer and his mother Julia Beckwith were both born in Virginia, and lived in what is now West Virginia when he was born. He went through a difficult childhood, first with his father passing on and then later his mother, and eventually he ended up living with his uncle, Cummin Jackson. He worked the farm, and studied whenever he could, finally being accepted into the academy at West Point in 1842. Since most of his learning was self taught, he had some hard times with the entrance exam, and started at the bottom of his class. Yet he was determined and worked harder than most of the students, and when he graduated, he was 17th out of 59 in the class of 1846. Many surmised that if he had stayed another year, he could have finished first in his class. He started his career as a brevet second lieutenant in the 1st US Artillery Regiment, being sent to the Mexican-American War from 1846 until 1848, serving at the Siege of Veracruz and the battles of Mexico City, Chapultepec and Contreras. During this time he received two more brevet promotions and was promoted to first lieutenant in the regulars. While he was here, he met his future commander, Robert E. Lee.  Although Jackson was employed as a professor at the new Virginia Military Institute, he didn't ever own a house of his own until he purchased the house in Lexington in 1859, which had been built in 1801. He would live there for two years and then called up to serve in the Confederate Army, never to return to his home again. Although Jackson didn't care for slavery, he did teach many African-Americans in Sunday school, and had six of his own. When he left, his wife sent them to other families in the area because of the war.

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  • Berkeley PlantationBerkeley Plantation Laramie, Wyoming
    The Berkeley Plantation is found on the banks of the James River, in Charles City, Virginia; was one of the first prominent plantations in the nation. It was on 1000 acres of land and at first called the Berkeley Hundred, being name after one of the founders who received a land grant in 1618. The grant was from the Virginia Company of London, and given to Sir George Yeardley, George Thorpe, Sir William Throckmorton, John Smyth and Richard Berkeley. John was the group's historian, and collected over 60 documents that pertain to the settling of Virginia from 1613 until 1634; and are still available to view. Leaving England in 1619, 38 settlers were coming under the leadership of Captain John Woodleefe and the owners told the settlers that when they arrived, they should celebrate their safe passage with a day of thanksgiving that should be held each year and forever as that kind of day; in other words, our first Thanksgiving, however, it was held on the 4th of December, 1619; a year and 17 days before the Pilgrims arrived on Plymouth beginning another day of thanksgiving in 1620. Another first completed by the Berkeley Plantation settlers was the first distillation of bourbon, by George Thorpe, who was an Episcopla minister. In 1862, taps was played on an army bugle, by Oliver W. Norton, written at Harrison's Landing by General Daniel Butterfield.  The estate at the time of their arrival was around 8000 acres, and about 20 miles upstream from the Jamestown settlement. After some time passed, the plantation became the home of the Harrison family, considered one of the first families of Virginia and in 1634, became part of the eight shires of Virginia, known as Charles City County and one of the oldest in the nation. Benjamin Harrison, IV, constructed the mansion on the land in 1726, and then married Anne Carter, daughter of the state's most powerful planter, Robert "king" Carter of Lancaster County, Virginia. His son, Benjamin Harrison, V, was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and also governor of Virginia; had been born at the plantation, as was his son, William Henry Harrison, hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe, governor of Indiana territory, and the ninth President of the United States. In the Civil War, Berkeley was occupied by the Union, and President Lincoln came here twice to confer with General George B. McCellan. It was never returned to the Harrisons, and after being sold to various people, eventually fell into a state of disrepair. The Berkeley Plantation was purchased in 1907, by John Jamison, a Scot who had been a bugle boy in the Civil War, and his son Malcom and Malcolm's wife Grace, inherited it in 1927, and spent much time in rejuvenating the house. It brings visitors from around the world and across the nation, being one of the oldest mansions in the country. The architecture hasn't changed, although the furnishings and most of the exquisite antiques were brought here, but dating to the period of the house. The surrounding grounds have been refurbished and the cuttings that are clipped from the boxwood gardens are given as souvenirs to visitors. The house sits on 10 acres now, with gardens and parterres around it, with the boxwood hedges forming allees; and at the front gate are big pillars supporting the big hinged gates. The house is built with red bricks and small mortar joints, with a main entry way in the front center and matching symmetrical windows on both sides of the entrance.

  • Natural Bridge of VirginiaNatural Bridge of Virginia
    Casually called the Natty B., the natural bridge in Rockbridge County, Virginia is a beautiful rock creation that was formed out of the limestone mountain by the Cedar Creek, which is a small tributary of the James River. This high arch like formation is 215 feet above the gorge, and 90 feet wide, made of limestone strata and either is the top of a cave, or the top of a tunnel that was carved out of the mountain over thousands of years. A highway runs across, US 11, with fence works on both sides, so that you can't look over the side, because the state is fearful of accidents, but it is a historical landmark, and a national historical landmark. You can walk the pathway beneath and view the unique spectacle from beneath it. This was a sacred sight for the Monacan Indians, believing it to be where a big victory over the pursuing Powhatans was achieved, hundreds of years before the white man came to Virginia. Many people believe that George Washington was here surveying in 1750, when he was working for Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord of Fairfax of Cameron; and initials G.W. can be seen in the rock wall some 23 feet from the path. There is also a legend that he threw a rock from the creek over the bridge, and a big stone with the same initials and surveryors cross was found in the creek. It was Thomas Jefferson that bought the land around here including the bridge and 157 acres of land from King George III of England for 20 sillings in 1774. Thomas called it the "most sublime of nature's works", and constructed a two room log cabin, one for visitors and the other for his retreat. In 1802, while he was President of the United States, he surveyed the property himself, and while at the bridge, was able to throw a stone from the ground to the top. Some of the most famous visitors to Jefferson's cabin included Henry Clay, Sam Houston, Martin Van Buren, James Monroe and John Marshall.

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  • Great Falls ParkGreat Falls Park Virginia
    This park is really a small 800 acres preserve in Virginia, that sits along the banks of the Potomac River, and although disconnected, still a part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The Great Falls are at the northern boundary of the park, as well as the ruins of the Patowmack Canal, which was the first canal system in the nation, used to raise and lower boats. Petroglyphs were found on the cliffs that look over Difficult Run, causing much excitement when found. Also the Patowmack Canal, that George Washington started so that boats in 1785 could go around the falls and deliver manufactured items upstream and raw materials and other supplies downstream. The one mile bypass was unfinished, but at the park visitor center, the bottom parts of the two wooden canal lock gates were excavated in the 1980s. These gates had survived since the 1830s, and were found when restoration had started on the stoneworks that were built for the locks. It is exciting that the stone mason marks found on the stones were unique to each mason, and many were found here that were also found on the foundation stones at the White House and the US capitol building. Also of equal importance was the discovery that gunpowder was used as a blasting powder to go through many of the huge solid rocks along the river. It is actually one of the first recorded examples that shows the earliest blasting powders used was really just gunpowder; and the first time used for engineering reasons anywhere in the world. It was never a money maker, and was soon abandoned after the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was built on the other side of the river, and the up and coming railroads, in 1830. It has since been made a Civil Engineering Landmark and Virginia Historic Landmark. On the trails of this magnificent park, the small ruins of Matildaville can be seen.  Today the park has a few viewing platforms that can give you a marvelous view of the falls, and a visitor center is located by the falls. There are 15 miles of glorious hiking trails that go around the park, and parallel a little stream called Difficult Run. Another more interesting and scenic trail goes along the river upstream and climbs to the top of Mather Gorge, which is a favorite place for rock climbers, and goes by the falls, then a dam and reservoir before it stops in Riverbend Park. Many climbers believe this is the best climbing area anywhere near the city or its metropolitan area.  There is a big picnic area and plenty of parking for 600 vehicles, with it filling up quickly in the mornings on the weekends. Camping is not allowed. The falls cover 76 feet that rush over numerous large cascades, and are rated at class 5 or 6 whitewater by the International Scale of River Difficulty. The first kayaker was Tom McEwan in 1975 and it began to become very popular with expert whitewater enthusiasts in the 1990s. After the falls, in the Mather Gorge area, it has been popular since the 1960s since it is only a 2 or 3 class.

  • Virginia Sports
    The state doesn't have any major professional teams, but does have quite a few excellent ball teams that play in various professional minor leagues. In the Carolina Baseball League, A division, the Lynchburg Hillcats just won the 2009 championships, with the Potomac Nationals and Salem Avalanche teams playing in the same league. The Potomac Nationals were the league champions in 2008, Norfolk has the Tides in baseball play, in the International League and was doing really well in the beginning of the season, then the Baltimore Orioles called up some of their best players and it was the end of any championship hopes for them. The Hillcats have just been selected to be the minor league club for the Cincinnati Reds team and they are excited. The Richmond Kickers belong to the USL or United Soccer League.  The University of Virginia sports teams are involved in baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, swim & dive, tennis, field & track and wrestling. Those are all the men's sports, and women's include the same except for football, wrestling and baseball, but do have field hockey, rowing, softball and volleyball that the men don't have. They are called the Cavaliers, and are proudly represented by their student bodies. The football team is in a great division, playing some of the best schools in the country, losing some tough ones, and winning three, against North Carolina, Indiana, and Maryland. Their last game is Thanksgiving weekend against Virginia Tech, another tough play, and the next is against Clemson. All the games have been shown, and usually are on one of the ESPN channels.

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May 12, 2011