A Weekend in the Past: Cornwallis’ Advance on Yorktown at Smith’s Fort Plantation

A group of re-enactors firing their muskets during Cornwallis' Advance on Yorktown event.I had the distinct pleasure of shooting a weekend event June 23-24, 2012 with a group of highly dedicated re-enactors. They were portraying a band of rag-tag Virginia loyalists set to defend against the oncoming advance of the British forces led by Cornwallis.

The event took place at Smith’s Fort Plantatation in Surry Virginia, the then home of the Falcouns, who were of wealth and provided some sustenance and sanctuary to the loyalists. The site is named ‘Smith’s Fort’ as John Smith himself had a fort constructed on the site in the 17th century.

The individuals that participated in the event did it not as an occupation but as a hobby. They are passionate about history and invest their own time, money, and energy into showing others what life was like in other periods.

The Falcouns of Smith's Fort Plantation survey their property from a rear window of their home.

The attention to detail in all aspects of the event was extraordinary. Everything down to drinking cups and dining utensils were of the period. It quickly became obvious to me that the participants were not only proud of their history but also some of the most knowledgeable about it.

The weekend consisted of needlework demonstrations, cooking cured ham and local fish over an open fire, daily skirmishes and military drills along with no shortage of opportunities to learn and ask questions.

Having grown up in Yorktown, Virginia — the place where Cornwallis formally surrendered to Washington — I have immense pride in not only our local history but in our national history. This event was a great opportunity to be creative while still embracing a section of very meaningful history.

On Independence Day it is important for all Americans to remember the sacrifices that those before us have made to provide a better future for us and to ensure the survival of the greatest experiment of all.

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