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Welcome to our blog, offering historical insights to the 17th- and 18th-century history shared at Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.

An American Revolution Museum With a National Perspective

George Washington statue in American Revolution Museum at YorktownThe American Revolution was a continent-wide phenomenon that had impacts from Canada, to Florida, to the banks of the Mississippi. Huge numbers of people who never joined the tax protests in Boston, or suffered with the Continental soldiers at Valley Forge, or participated in the great triumph at Yorktown, nevertheless spent years of their lives fighting for independence. These other stories are not forgotten, but they tend to be relegated to the status of state or local history. We are taught about the Boston Tea Party in school, but how many people know about the Edenton Tea Party in North Carolina, an event in which the women of the town took their own independent stand against the tea tax?

A Truly National Revolution

The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown galleries opening to the public for the first time on October 15 consciously introduce places, people and events into the narrative that visitors may not have encountered before, and convey a sense of the sheer scale of the conflict and break down some of the artificial geographical barriers that hinder understanding of what was a truly national war. The geography of the war is expanded with more attention focused on events in the South and events on the Western frontier. The same conflicts with authority that put Massachusetts on a collision course with the British Crown are paralleled in colonies like Virginia and North and South Carolina. Battles like Great Bridge in Virginia and the Patriot triumph at Moore’s Creek Bridge in North Carolina helped secure the South’s independence from British control in the early years of the war.

The issue of who would dominate the Western frontier is a vital one that caused armed conflict from Canada to Florida. Even in 1776 many Americans believed that westward expansion was essential to the new nation’s future. While thousands of American and British troops fought large-scale conventional battles along the east coast of America, hundreds of small conflicts between frontier Patriots and British soldiers, Loyalists and their Indian allies decided who would shape the future of the American West.

A Diverse Population

The story also pays attention to groups of people whose roles in the Revolution are not always in the forefront of the standard narrative. Popular histories of the Revolution acknowledge the involvement of American Indians in the conflict but treat them as subordinate allies of either the British or the Patriots. In fact the Iroquois Confederacy and other major tribal groups like the Cherokee and Creek were powerful political entities in their own right. Tribal leaders pursued their own agendas, using skillful diplomacy to secure their people’s future during the turmoil of the war.

No group of people was more impacted by the Revolution that the enslaved Africans and African Americans who made up between a fifth and a quarter of all inhabitants of the 13 original colonies. One of the most dramatic consequences of the Revolution was a widespread transformation of attitudes about slavery that led to the disappearance of slavery in every American state north of Maryland. The new exhibits talk about the lives of Africans and African Americans, both enslaved and free, and consider what the American Revolution meant to them.

The galleries also delve into the question of how America was changing economically, socially and culturally during and after the Revolution. Independence didn’t just mean that one set of political institutions replaced another. New loyalties and new conflicts emerged from the shared experience of the war. The latter part of the galleries takes this theme forward into the postwar period, and looks at how Americans continued to build their nation in the face of challenges they had not anticipated before the war. Finally, the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown considers the enduring legacies of the Revolution both here and abroad.

The great ideas and inspirational leaders of the Revolution are at the core of the museum’s storyline, but visitors also will be given an opportunity to explore the wider world of the Revolution. The new American Revolution Museum at Yorktown galleries show enough of the richness and complexity of our nation’s revolutionary heritage so that all who visit come to a better understanding of the Revolution as the gateway to modern America.

Thomas Nelson, Jr., and the Role of Yorktown in the American Revolution

Thomas Nelson, Jr. David Silvette, 1976, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation Collection Established in 1691, Yorktown had grown to be one of Virginia’s busiest seaports by the middle of the 18th century. The prosperity of the town depended on commerce and the tobacco trade with Great Britain. Consequently, the dominant figures in the town were the wealthy merchants who owned the stores, warehouses

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The Battle of Kings Mountain and the Overmountain Men

Colonel Isaac Shelby, Patriot militia leader The Battle of Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780, was a decisive Patriot victory and a turning point of the war in the South during the American Revolution. A distinguishing characteristic of this battle is that it was fought entirely by irregular, Loyalist and Patriot militia forces; the only regular soldier involved was the British commander Major Patr

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Online Personality Quiz Engages Players In Revolutionary Approach To History

Title screen image: “The Capture of the Hessians at Trenton, December 26, 1776,” by John Trumbull. Courtesy of Yale University Art Gallery. On the eve of Independence Day, a new online personality quiz invites participants to discover what they have in common with people of the American Revolution.  “How Revolutionary Are You?,” launched July 1 on the Facebook page and website – jyfmuseums.org – o

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Rare British Brown Bess Will Be on Exhibit in American Revolution Museum at Yorktown Galleries

A very rare first model “Brown Bess” British infantry musket dated 1741 is one of many artifacts that have been acquired, with private gifts to the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, Inc., for exhibit in the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown galleries opening in October 2016. The musket, also known as a “Long Land Pattern Brown Bess,” was the standard British infantry musket during the French and

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Stamps For America

This New York Vice Admiralty Court seal, circa 1770, will be exhibited in the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown galleries, opening in mid-October 2016. Stamp Act violators were to be tried in admiralty courts instead of before local judges. When news arrived in America in the spring of 1765 that the British Parliament had enacted a comprehensive new array of taxes and duties on the colonists,

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Political Women in the Revolutionary War

“A Society of Patriotic Ladies at Edenton in North Carolina,” a 1775 satirical depiction by a London caricaturist of an American women’s boycott meeting. The new American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, opening Fall 2016, will include a computer interactive exhibit that tells the stories of men and women, Patriots and Loyalists, who played a role in the American Revolution.  Although many women sup

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Symbols of Liberty

What do the Seal of the United States Senate, Cuban Coat of Arms and the flags of New Jersey and Haiti have in common?  All incorporate a red cap to symbolize liberty.  But why does this little red cap represent liberty to such diverse people? The Phrygian cap is a soft, red, conical cap, with the top pulled forward, that dates back to classical antiquity.  It was worn by the Phrygian people in ce

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18th-Century York County Family Supports Storyline For American Revolution Museum at Yorktown Farm

Artist’s depiction of the farm house and kitchen on the Revolution-era farm at the new American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. It is often difficult for today’s museum visitors to understand the lives of those who lived more than two centuries ago, especially if those lives are presented in the abstract. Stories of real people who are facing real dilemmas help visitors recognize that many of

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