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Virginia was the first part of the Americas to be settled by England and would eventually become one of the original thirteen states to revolt against British rule in the American Revolution.
Virginia is known as both the “Mother of Presidents” and the “Mother of States.” Eight U.S. presidents have called Virginia home, more than any other state. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Woodrow Wilson are some of the more notable presidents to have hailed from Virginia. Virginia is sometimes referred to as the “Mother of States” because portions of its original land mass have over the years “broken” off to form West Virginia and Kentucky as well as sections of Ohio and Indiana.
Virginia’s population in 2008 was estimated at 7,769,089 people. The largest city in the state is Virginia Beach, also a major vacation destination for the East Coast, with a population nearing 450,000. Richmond, the capitol of Virginia, is the fourth largest city in the state 202,002 people.
As the northern-most “Southern” state, more battles were fought on Virginia soil than any other state during the Civil War. Today,
the reminders of these battles can be found nearly everywhere. Numerous national parks and monuments are scattered throughout Virginia, marking the site of important battles or events from the Civil War.
Fort A. P. Hill
Named after Lt. Gen. Ambrose Power Hill, a Virginia native and distinguished commander during the Civil War, Fort A. P. Hill was established on June 11, 1941. In its first year, the installation was used as a maneuver area for the II Army Corps and for three activated National Guard divisions from Mid-Atlantic states. In autumn 1942, Fort A. P. Hill was the staging area for the headquarters and corps troops of Major General Patton’s Task Force A, which invaded French Morocco in North Africa. During the early years of World War II, the post continued to be a training site for corps and division-sized units. Commencing in 1944, field training for Officer Candidate School and enlisted replacements from nearby Forts Lee, Eustis and Belvoir were conducted.
Today, Fort A. P. Hill is a training and maneuver center, providing realistic joint and combined arms training. All branches of the Armed Forces train on Fort A. P. Hill and the installation even hosts training from foreign allies. Whether it’s providing support for a mobilization or helping units train for deployment, Fort A. P. Hill’s state-of-the-art training facilities, ranges and professional support staff continue to ensure America’s Armed Forces have the edge needed to win in the 21st Century operational environment.
The installation has also hosted the Boy Scouts of America National Jamboree in 1981, 1985, 1989, 1993, 1997, 2001 and 2005. Approximately 42,000 Boy Scouts and Scout leaders are expected for the upcoming jamboree in 2010.
The U.S. Army began utilizing the Belvoir peninsula as an engineer training facility in 1915. America’s entry into World War I in April 1917 led to the first wave of military construction at the Virginia training site. Construction of the temporary cantonment, named Camp A. A. Humphreys in honor of Civil War Commander and former Chief of Engineers, Andrew A. Humphreys, began in January 1918. By the end of the war, over 50,000 enlisted men and 4,900 officer candidates had been trained at Camp A. A. Humphreys.
The outbreak of World War II in Europe in 1939 and Japanese expansion in Asia and the Pacific motivated the United States government to begin preparing for possible involvement in the expanding world conflict. To accommodate the influx of draftees after 1940, an additional 3,000 acres north of U.S. Route I were acquired to make room for the new Engineer Replacement Training Center (ERTC). One of the most innovative troop training strategies developed during World War II was the obstacle course. A Fort Belvoir invention, the course was designed to teach recruits how to handle themselves and their equipment in simulated field conditions. Belvoir’s obstacle course incorporated walls to climb over, hurdles to jump over, barbed wire to crawl under, ditches to swing over and pipes to crawl through. The course was put into operation at the ERTC during the spring of 1941, and was replaced in November 1941, with a more rigorous course designed by Major Lewis Prentiss. Proven to be a highly effective training exercise, the obstacle course was adopted at Army installations throughout the country.
Today, Fort Belvoir employs more than 22,000 Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, and Department of Defense civilians, all dedicated to maintaining the fort as America’s premier administrative support center in the National Capital Region. As such, nearly 100 tenant organizations presently call Fort Belvoir home. No other Army base in the world can compare to the level of support Fort Belvoir is able to provide to such a diverse mix of tenant and satellite organizations.
Fort Belvoir is also home to one Army major command headquarters and elements of 10 others. Other organizations with agencies at Fort Belvoir include the U.S. Army Reserve, the Army National Guard, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Air Force and the Marine Corps.
Conservation also plays a key role at Fort Belvoir. More than one-third of the installation’s acreage has been preserved as a designated wildlife sanctuary. The Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge was established in 1980 and includes over 1,300 acres of marsh and hardwood forest in the southwestern corner of the post, in an area formerly used for target ranges.
The Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge, dedicated in October 1989, incorporates 150 acres of non-tidal wetland and forest near the Woodlawn Village Housing area along Dogue Creek. Both refuge areas are open to the public and provide miles of trails including a one mile handicapped-accessible trail. In 1991, as a result of its efforts to preserve the natural environment, Fort Belvoir received a Natural Resources Conservation Award from the Department of Defense.
Now joint base with Fort McNair and Henderson Hall.
Beginning life as a military post during the Civil War, Fort Myer has performed many functions since then. The acres encompassing Fort Myer and Arlington National Cemetery were called Arlington Heights when they were owned in the 1800s by Mary Anna Randolph, granddaughter of George Washington Parke Custis. Custis was Martha Washington’s grandson. Mary Anna Randolph married Robert E. Lee when he was a young Army lieutenant. Lee helped rescue the estate from financial disaster in 1858, then left the area in April of 1861 to lead the Confederate Army. The land was confiscated by the government for military purposes when the Lees were unable to pay their property taxes in person. Part of the estate became Arlington National Cemetery and the remainder Fort Whipple, named in honor of Major General Amiel Weeks Whipple, a division commander at Fort Cass which was established where the stables are today in August 1861.
The first military test flight of an aircraft was made from the Fort Myer parade ground on Sept. 9, 1908, when Orville Wright kept one of his planes in the air for one minute and 11 seconds. The second test flight ended in tragedy when, after four minutes of flight, the aircraft crashed. Wright was severely cut and bruised and his passenger, Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge, became the first powered aviation fatality.
Since 1946, Fort Myer has served as the Army’s “showcase” in the National Capital Region, as was ordered by Army Chief of Staff General J. Lawton Collins. While this notion of pageantry prevails at Fort Myer, the fort also provides administrative, housing and recreation support to active duty, reserve component, retired military and DoD civilian personnel in the region.
Marine Corps Base Quantico
Since its inception in 1917, Marine Corps Base, Quantico has been the basis of Marine Corps innovation and training. Quantico is where Marine concepts, doctrine, training and equipment for the future originate. The techniques of amphibious warfare, a long-standing hallmark of the Corps, was conceived and perfected at Quantico along with the tactics of close-air support and vertical envelopment using helicopters.
Quantico is also home to the Marine Corps University, the Staff Non-Commissioned Officers Academy, the Marine Corps War College, School of Advanced Warfighting and Amphibious Warfighting School. All of these institutions are used in the training of officers of the U.S. Armed Forces and officers from foreign allies in the art of war.
Arlington County, Va.
Arlington County, the smallest county in the United States, was originally a part of Washington D.C. In 1846, after a voter referendum, Congress voted to retrocede this part of Virginia back to the state as Alexandria County. In 1870, the City of Alexandria seceded from the county and the resulting confusion between Alexandria County and the city of the same name prompted the renaming of the county to Arlington County in 1920. The new name was taken from the Arlington House, home of the American Civil War general Robert E. Lee, which now sits on the grounds of the Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington County’s most popular tourist attractions are the Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon, which is technically located within the county but is generally considered to be in Washington D.C.
Arlington Historical Museum
—The Arling-ton Historical Museum is owned and operated by the Historical Society and situated nearby the Pentagon. This two-story brick schoolhouse was built in 1891 and is the oldest standing school in Arlington County. The building is a Virginia State Historical Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Sites. An on-site museum is open to the public.
Arlington National Cemetery
—With more the 260,000 of our nation’s heroes buried here, Arlington National Cemetery is the second largest national cemetery in the United States, and probably the best known. The cemetery lies directly across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. and next to the Pentagon. Veterans from every United States war are buried here—including those from the American Revolution, who had to be re-interred here after 1900, and those from current military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Within the cemetery, visitors can view the Tomb of the Unknowns, the USMC War Memorial—commonly known as the “Iwo Jima Memorial”—the Netherlands Carillon, the grave of President William Howard Taft and the grave of President John F. Kennedy—which is marked by the “Eternal Flame.”
Fairfax County, Va.
In 1742, Fairfax County was formed from the northern part of Prince William County and named after Thomas Fairfax, the proprietor of the Northern Neck. In 1789, a portion of the county was ceded to the federal government to be a part of the District of Columbia.
Many important Civil War battles occurred within Fairfax County including the Battle of Chantilly and the Battle of Bull Run. Its proximity to Washington D.C. made the county a strategic location for both sides. Following World War II, the growth of the Federal Government led to rapid growth within Fairfax County. Soon, the once rural county became a largely suburban county with the aid of a heavily government-driven economy. Today, that same economy has made Fairfax County one of the wealthiest in the nation.
Colvin Run Mill Historic Site
—This historical area, circa the early 19th century, offers visitors a look back at America’s technological roots. The site includes an operating grist mill, a miller’s house including exhibits, an activity barn and a general store.
Fairfax Station Museum and Caboose
—The current building here is a reconstruction of the original 1858 building. During the Civil War, the station served the Union as a supply base, field hospital, and transport center. After the war, the station became an important stop on the Southern Railway System and remained in use until 1973.
—Gum Springs, which was formally established in 1833, is the oldest African American community in Fairfax County. The community was established near Mount Vernon as a safe haven for freed men and runaway slaves. The Gum Springs Historical Society hosts numerous activities, exhibits and lectures celebrating the community’s history.
—Mount Vernon was home to America’s first President, George Washington. Today, Mount Vernon presents visitors with an intimate glimpse into the life of this great man. The mansion’s grounds house a greenhouse, slave quarters, a museum dedicated to George Washington, an Archaeology and Restoration Museum, a Slave Memorial and Washington’s tomb—all of which are open to the public.
Loudoun County, Va.
Loudon County was officially established in 1757 when Fairfax County was divided. The first settlers in the area started arriving in the 1720s and a number of them started large tobacco plantations throughout the county. These early settlers included Quakers, Germans, Irish and English.
Loudoun County served as a temporary refuge for the President during the War of 1812. President James Madison found refuge here, along with a number of important state papers, as the British burned much of Washington D.C. The Constitution and other state papers were safely kept in Rokeby while President Madison set up his headquarters in Belmont. During the Civil War, Loudoun County was the site of a number of battles, including the Battle of Ball’s Bluff.
For much of the county’s first two centuries, the dominant industry and way of life in Loudoun County was based around agriculture. In the early 1960s, Dulles International Airport opened in the southeastern part of the county, starting a major shift in the county’s economic base. The opening of the airport attracted new businesses, workers and families to the county. This newly inspired economy, along with major road improvements, made commuting to and from Washington D.C. easier—spurring the county’s population to explode from about 20,000 in the 1960s to almost 200,000 people today.
Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park
—This regional park’s mission is to preserve the site of the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, an 1861 Civil War battle. The battle was the largest Civil War battle to take place in Loudoun County and took place along the banks of the Potomac River. The park features a small national cemetery, one of the smallest in the nation in fact, and a mile-long hiking trail with interpretive signs.
—Just outside of Leesburg, Morven Park features a Greek Revival mansion, which was home to two former state governors, on 1,200 acres of pristine countryside. Tours of the mansion are available and include a tour of the Museum of Hounds and Hunting, the only museum dedicated to foxhunting in the world. Also included is a look at the Winmill Carriage Collection which features 70 horse-drawn vehicles from the turn-of-the-century.
Historic Aldie Mill
—The Aldie Mill is a five-story brick mill built in 1807. The building was donated to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation in 1981 and is now available for tours Sunday, April through October. These tours include looks at early grain grinding machinery and other artifacts relevant to that task.
The Loudoun Museum
—Loudoun County’s past and present is celebrated in the Loudoun Museum, located in Leesburg, the County Seat. Exhibits spanning three centuries focus on the local history. A restored 1767 log cabin houses the museum’s gift shop. The museum offers guided tours, by appointment, of the Leesburg Historic District.
Leesburg Historic District
—The Leesburg region has been an important commercial center for centuries and even pre-dates European settlement. Long before any settlers arrived, the lush area between the Potomac River and the Blue Ridge Mountains was used by Native Americans for trading. By the early 1700s, the European settlement of Georgetown was a booming trade center and, in 1758, was chartered as Leesburg. Today, the Historic District is still a commerce magnate with more than 65 restaurants and 250 retail stores.
Prince William County, Va.
Created in 1730, Prince William County is home to Virginia’s oldest town—Dumfries. Dumfries was chartered in 1749 and began as a shipping port which rivaled Boston and New York. Three towns within the county were established before the Civil War. They are Dumfries, Haymarket, and Occoquan. Each of these towns offer visitors a unique look into the past.
The major contributor to Prince William County’s early success in Colonial times was the Potomac Path, also known as the King’s Highway. This major transportation route passed through the county and was a major link between northern and southern counties. U.S. Route 1 follows this early route fairly closely and gives travelers a chance to experience history first hand.
Prince William County was the site of the First and Second Battles of Manassas—two of the most important battles of the Civil War. Today, the Manassas National Battlefield Park marks the site of these battles.
Manassas National Battlefield Park
—The park was established in May of 1940 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in October of 1966 to commemorate the First and Second Battles of Manassas, also know as the First and Second Battles of Bull Run. These battles occurred during 1861 and 1862 respectively and were major conflicts of the Civil War. The park has two visitor centers, the Henry Hill Visitor Center and the Stuart’s Hill Visitor Center, each focusing on one of the battles. There is a one-mile, self-guided walking tour for the First Battle of Manassas and a thirteen-mile, self-guided driving tour for the Second Battle of Manassas available at the park.
U.S. Marine Corps Air-Ground Museum
—This museum focuses on the Marine Corps’ approach to combat operations which emphasizes the use of both air and ground tactics and equipment. Exhibits range from aircraft to tanks, artillery to specialized equipment, and span the history of the Corps from the Spanish-American War through Operation Desert Storm.
Quantico National Cemetery
—Quantico National Cemetery is composed of 725 wooded acres with space for more than 350,000 national heroes to be laid to rest and was officially dedicated in 1983. To date, only about 21,000 individuals have found their final resting place here, but is still a popular draw for those wishing to pay their respects, especially on national holidays when the Memorial Pathway is lined with hundreds of flags.
—The Weems-Botts Museum is a small but professionally directed museum that focuses on the history of Dumfries, Virginia’s oldest chartered town. The museum also focuses on Mason Locke Weems and Benjamin Botts—two of Dumfries most notable historic figures. Weems was George Washington’s biographer and creator of the “cherry tree myth.” Botts, an attorney, is best known for successfully defending Aaron Burr during his treason and conspiracy trial.
Spotsylvania County, Va.
Created in 1721, Spotsylvania County was named after Alexander Spotswood, who served as lieutenant governor of the Virginia Colony from 1710 to 1720. A number of historic places dot the landscape of Spotsylvania County. These sites include the first commercially successful ironworks in North America, an attempted slave revolt in the 1810s and one of the most productive gold mines in the nation from the pre-1850s era.
Despite this rich history, the county is probably best-known for being the location of some of the most brutal battles of the Civil War. Spotsylvania County’s strategic location between the Confederate and Union armies made its land actively contested throughout the war. Combined, the Confederate and Union armies lost more than 100,000 troops to battles within Spotsylvania County lines.
Civil War Life Museum
—This museum shows the life of soldiers on both sides through an impressive collection of relics encompassing the full term of the soldier’s time in the army. The exhibits and life-size dioramas provide a look at the soldier’s life from enlistment to training camp and onto combat.
—The Battle of Chancellorsville involved more men and in turn more casualties than any other battle ever fought in the state of Virginia. It is considered Gen. Robert E. Lee’s greatest victory due to the daunting odds his army faced and the tactics he employed to overcome them. Today the battlefield is located within the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park and includes a visitor’s center, five walking trails, a self-guided driving tour and historian guided walking tours to the spot where Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson was injured.
Old Salem Church
—An important and often overlooked building from the Battle of Chancellorsville, the Old Salem Church is located nearby the battlefield in the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. It served both sides as a hospital during the battle. Also, during the Battle of Fredericksburg, the church was a civilian refugee center.
Spotsylvania Courthouse Battlefield
—Also located within the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, this battlefield marks the site of a bitter battle between North and South in May 1864. The fight lasted two weeks and featured brutal hand-to-hand combat. Two self-guided walking tours are available here and, while there is no visitor’s center, there are typically historians present to answer questions on most weekends in the spring and early fall and daily during the summer.
Stafford County, Va.
Stafford County, named after Staffordshire, England, was established in 1664 by the British colonial government of Virginia. Stafford County is home to the Historic Port of Falmouth, an important 18th century port that enabled easy trading for the county’s residents. Today, approximately 24 original 18th century historic buildings still stand, though many are private residences and not open for the public.
Marlboro Point is perhaps the most fabled area within Stafford County.
It was from here that the Native American Princess Pocahontas was kidnapped and taken to Jamestown. Her story has been portrayed countless times, most notably in Disney’s movie, Pocahontas.
In 1738, Augustine Washington moved his family to the county and settled at Ferry Farm. His young son George, only 6 years old at the time, would go on to become the first President of the United States. Today, Stafford County remains mostly rural. However a recent period of growth has been marked by population gains and increased industry within the county.
White Oak Civil War Museum
—The White Oak Civil War Museum contains an extensive collection of Civil War artifacts from both the Union and Confederate armies. Many of the items were discarded or dropped by troops while camping or fighting in Stafford County. Both military and personal items are shown in the museum, representing every rank from private to general.
George Washington’s Ferry Farm
—Just 38 miles south of Mount Vernon, Ferry Farm was George Washington’s boyhood home. Our nation’s first president spent his formative years here, from the ages of 6 to 20. Today, Ferry Farm is an active archaeological site and, although there are no buildings left from Washington’s times, guides are available to inform the public of the latest findings. Also, on-site archaeologists are available to answer questions and discuss the latest findings.
Historic Port of Falmouth
—Founded in 1728, the town of Falmouth quickly became a booming port town serving Stafford County as well as a number of surrounding counties. Falmouth’s largest export was tobacco, which was sent to all points north and west. Today, a number of historic 18th century buildings still stand in Falmouth, offering visitors a chance to step back in time to colonial days.
Gari Melchers Home and Studio
—This 18th century estate, overlooking the Historic Port of Falmouth, was home to American figure painter Gari Melchers and his wife Corinne. Melchers was one of the most celebrated artists of his day and many of his works are present at his former estate.