A Winter’s Day Walk

A bunch of fine historians at Dam No. 1

One cold January morning fellow ECW/ERW authors Bert Dunkerly, Mark Wilcox, and I experienced a real treat when J. Michael Moore gave us a personal tour. Michael is employed by Newport News as the Historian and Curator of Lee Hall Mansion and the Endview Plantation, and is the author (along with the legendary John Quarstein) of Yorktown’s Civil War Siege: Drums Along the Warwick. His knowledge of the Civil War in the area is unparalleled.

We began the tour in Lee Hall, a beautiful, stately 19th Century building that served as the headquarters for Generals John B. Magruder and Joseph E. Johnston during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign. A highlight and a recommended place to visit!

Lee Hall

The real excitement began when Michael took us Lee’s Mill and then to Newport News Park, the site of Wynn’s Mill and Dam No. 1. There are fortifications on both sides of the Lee Hall Reservoir, part of the Warwick River. In 1862 the Confederates had built a series of dams to widen and deepen the river, and had constructed a line of earthworks and fortifications from Yorktown southward. The Confederate works are spectacular, and are among, if not the best in Virginia. They clearly rival those at North Anna!

Earthworks at Lee’s Mill

Troops from Vermont made an attempt to cross the river and break the Peninsula stalemate at Dam No. 1, but were rebuffed. McClellan then resorted to his siege of Yorktown.

If earthworks are of interest to you (how could they not be?), a visit here is a must. Be warned however…. this is definitely a winter trip. In the summer, insects and slithering creatures abound. When the leaves are off the trees, the views of the works are spectacular. Michael can be contacted for tours, and his is one not to miss!  As a bonus, if you are a Rev. War fan, Washington’s Yorktown headquarters is just up the dirt back road!

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