Saturday, May 21, 2022

Colonial history has dominated the Historic Triangle, but a new era is gaining traction

In 2017, more than 800 people participated in "pop-up" tours of local Civil War sites conducted by the Williamsburg Battlefield Association. (WYDaily file photo)
In 2017, more than 800 people participated in “pop-up” tours of local Civil War sites conducted by the Williamsburg Battlefield Association. (WYDaily file photo)

The Historic Triangle might be known for tricorn hats and colonial battles, but one local group is trying to bring out a new side of history.

“The Williamsburg region as a whole has a lot of Civil War history that just doesn’t get talked about,” said Drew Gruber, executive direction of the Williamsburg Battlefield Association. “As [battlefields] are preserved and amenities developed, it has the ability to bring in a whole new set of visitors to our region.”

Gruber is just one of many in the area who have taken an interest about not only preserving Civil War history in the Historic Triangle, but making people aware of it. One of the ways this is done is through the preservation of battlefields through the Williamsburg Battlefield Association.

Before becoming a nonproft 2015, there were only three acres of historic battlefield land for preservation. Since then they’ve grown to 65 acres.

And they’re not stopping there.

“The main thing when people hear about this history is they want to learn more,” Gruber said. “And when they ask for more resources, sadly we have to tell them they’re far and few between.”

Gruber and others hope that won’t be the case in years to come.

The organization is continuously working on the growing preservation of historic Civil War sites in the area and most recently, in conjunction with the American Battlefield Trust, they are promoting a parcel of land at the intersection of Oak, Government and Penniman roads during their Park Day Event.

In conjunction with the American Battlefield Trust, the Williamsburg Battlefield Association is promoting more historic Civil War lands to preserve in the Historic Triangle. (WYDaily/Courtesy American Battlefield Trust)
In conjunction with the American Battlefield Trust, the Williamsburg Battlefield Association is promoting more historic Civil War lands to preserve in the Historic Triangle. (WYDaily/Courtesy American Battlefield Trust)

Another way the organization is bringing attention to that history is through annual events such as Park Day and pop-up tours in May.

Related story: Pop-up’ tours, other events to mark 156th anniversary of Battle of Williamsburg this weekend

On April 6, visitors and locals can participate in a hands-on volunteer experience to help clean up a section of the Williamsburg battlefield. Following the clean-up, participants will get to hear from a guest historian on the significance of the location. To learn more, visit WBA online.

In addition, this year, the pop-up tours on May 4 will feature two new sites, one at New Quarter Park and another called “The Bloody Ravine.”

The location of The Bloody Ravine, named by the soldiers who fought there, is difficult to describe, Gruber said, but the organization is excited to show it to guests because it’s an area they might drive past everyday and not know it was the site of a major Civil War battle.

But that may be the case for a lot of area in Williamsburg as the focus on colonial history snuffs out significant Civil War events such as the Battle of Williamsburg.

Related story: Williamsburg’s little-known Civil War battlefield has connections to local history

That’s something a lot of locals might now know about, said Paul Carson, chief of interpretation and education for the Colonial National Historical Park.

“We want the population to realize this is the site of a very significant location for Civil War action,” Carson said.

“I don’t think you can understand the revolution and its fullness without looking at the Civil War,” added Robbie Smith, Yorktown Civil War interpreter. “The Civil War is in a way a continuation of some of those issues.”

Related story: Homegrown historian finds his past connections while connecting others

The National Park Service and the Williamsburg Battlefield Association have worked together in the past to provide insight and resources on Civil War research.

And, in addition to the event with WBA, residents can get even more Civil War experience during the NPS Civil War Weekend on April 13-14 where there will be interpreters and special events around Yorktown teaching guests about Civil War history.

To learn more, visit Yorktown online.

But even with the attention and events, Gruber said that the effort still hasn’t received as much attention as the organization would like and that’s preventing an entire market of tourists from visiting the area.

“There are thousands of people who drive past here every year looking for more well-known Civil War locations,” Gruber said. “But they want to learn more and we could give that to them.”

Alexa Doironhttp://wydaily.com
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at alexa@localvoicemedia.com.

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