Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Virginia plantation chock-full of history

Our stop at Berkeley Plantation, Charles City, Va., on May 19 was yet another spur-of-the-moment decision. But boy, after leaving it, we couldn't understand why this place isn't better known ... and on more people's tourist destination itinerary.

Berkeley is loaded with history:

*** It's the birthplace of President William Henry Harrison, the ninth president, and the birthplace of his father, Benjamin Harrison V, signer of the Declaration of Independence and three-time governor of Virginia.

*** The nation's first 10 presidents spent time at home for various social gatherings, and at least two other presidents (Abraham Lincoln and George W. Bush) also visited for non social gatherings. Lincoln's visit in 1862 during the Civil War was not for pleasantries; irked that Gen. McClellan had camped at Berkeley after retreating from Richmond, Lincoln went to Berkeley to vent his frustration and get an explanation firsthand. Bush was at Berkeley in 2007 to speak to a gathering commemorating the site as the first Thanksgiving.

*** The grounds were the site of the nation's first Thanksgiving, Dec. 4, 1619.

*** Berkeley Plantation is where the bugle call "Taps" was composed and first performed, in July 1862, while the Union Army under Gen. George McClellan was camped there. "Taps," arranged by Brigadier Gen. Daniel Butterfield, was composed to replace a previous call to signal "lights out" and was first sounded by Butterfield's bugler, Oliver Willcox Norton. A station on the grounds commemorates the event.

Berkeley Plantation might not have been preserved nor be the tourist destination it is today without the involvement and contributions of John, Malcolm and Grace Jamieson. John Jamieson was a drummer boy for the Union Army under McClelland and was with the general when he camped at Berkeley for two months in the summer of 1862.

Berkeley fell out of the Harrison's hands and into disrepair after the Civil War, and in 1907, John Jamieson -- then living in New York -- found a notice advertising that the property was for sale. Remembering his time at the plantation in the Civil War, he bought it, and after he died in 1927, the property was taken over by his son, Malcolm.

Malcolm and his wife, Grace, devoted the rest of their lives to restoring the grounds and structure and opening it into a tourist attraction in the 1940s. Both are buried in the plantation's cemetery, not far from Benjamin Harrison V and his wife, Anne. The plantation is now managed by their son, also named Malcolm.

As usual, click on any image to bring up a larger, sharper version. This is particularly useful if you access the blog using a mobile device. Click on the link in this sentence to view a full gallery of the images I made from my visit to Berkeley Plantation.

Photo geek stuff: I shot all of my photos with my Canon 6D and Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di PZD VC lens equipped with a B+W polarizing filter. I bracketed all compositions for three exposures to allow for melding in high-dynamic range (HDR) software in post-processing. Many of the images in this post were treated that way. 

The circular access to the manor (above), the gated entry to the manor door (first below) and the full front of the manor (second below). 

When he built the current manor in 1726, Benjamin Harrison IV had this oval dedication (above) imbedded in the side of the exterior (below) as a symbol of his everlasting love for his wife, Anne Carter. She died in 1743, and Harrison and his two youngest daughters were killed two years later when they were struck by lightning while Harrison tried to close a window in an upstairs room during a storm. After his death, 19-year-old Benjamin Harrison V, who later signed the Declaration of Independence, took over the plantation. 

Above: On the fringe of the garden is a replica of Benjamin Harrison's Chippendale Gazebo.

Markers and a historical summary plaque (above and below) commemorating the first Thanksgiving, on Dec. 4, 1619. A shrine to the event (second below) houses the summary plaque. 

Within eye-shot of the James River is this station (above) commemorating the composition of the bugle call "Taps" at Berkeley Station. A closeup of the plaque (below) tells the "Taps" story.

Above: A scene from the grounds between the manor and James River.

Above and below: Two scenes of the plantation's brush with the James River, including a section of the shoreline (above) and another not far from the cemetery (below). 

Above and next three below: Shots from the plantation gardens. 

On the grounds near the James River is a modest cemetery that includes the graves of Malcolm and Grace Jamieson (above) and Benjamin Harrison V and his wife, Elizabeth (below). 

Above and below: Shots from inside the modest gift/merchandise shop. 

Next up: The Capitol Building in Richmond, Va.

Previous posts in this East Coast swing series:

James Madison's Montpelier

George Washington's Mount Vernon

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