Sailing into History
A young man from Prescott AZ (originally Baltimore) brought his wife to Williamsburg for an annual trip they’ve done for years. They wanted the History Cruise, so I dived deeply in the 1781 Battle of the Capes and the Siege of Yorktown that effectively ended the Revolutionary War.
They had some history of their own. Matt and Melinda White have been pursuing the genealogy of the White family going back to the Revolutionary Era. “I’ve done 10,000 to 12,000 hours of research over the years, and I’m stuck around 1800,” he said as he took the wheel. “When we tour Colonial Williamsburg, we hear about Washington and Bland, and I know my family went back to them. The problem is that some of the ancestors were the only son of an only son who was the son of an only son, and the last is an alcoholic who fell off the timeline. There are daughters mixed in as well, but they married and changed their names.”
Matt handled stiff and gusty winds with aplomb, partly because he’s used to powerboats. He continued, “We’ve met with historians over the years here, yesterday with Colonial Williamsburg and today at William & Mary. They’re all very helpful. We’ve exhausted the resources of Mathews County, where my family originated. Next, we have an appointment in Gloucester County. I get back to 1800 and get stuck again. Over the years I have encountered other families, and by now I feel like I know them.”
We finished up Yorktown and headed back to Sarah Creek, where I showed them Little England and explained how Lord Cornwallis stayed there one night during the Siege. Matt said, “One of my relatives was Ken White, who fought for the French over on this side in Gloucester and killed a British soldier.” Next they were off the new American Revolutionary War Museum in Yorktown.
Appropos nothing, Matt had some insight on the Fourth of July fireworks at Yorktown. “We happened to be here that weekend and I knew the family that did the fireworks, so I helped them set up. The barge actually is loaded at Naval Weapons Station and floated down the river under the Coleman Bridge.” That made sense, since you’d want Navy Security to be in on anything explosive. “The truck with the fireworks is escorted through the base out to the pier where it drives right up to the barge. It takes all day to load them up, very very carefully.”