Who was Captain of the Andrew Harder? A Mystery Solved

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Log of the Andrew Harder
The rather unassuming cover of the diary kept in 1864 by the captain of Andrew Harder (from Logbook 192)

Last fall, we in the Archives received a request, as we often do, from the History Department of Christopher Newport University, to provide an internship opportunity for a young man who was to graduate the following spring. Usually this is not difficult for us. This year, however, we could think of nothing to do for young Thomas Fosdick (the CNU student in question) and nearly gave up. The pandemic made it impossible for him to come on site and work on archival material. However, both Bill Barker (fellow archivist) and I knew that log book transcriptions could work. So I found a small logbook dating from the Civil War kept by the captain of the steamer Andrew Harder. But my choice of Log 192 involved an inherent mystery we had hoped Thomas might be able to solve for us. Who was this diarist?

The transport Andrew Harder

Before really tackling the problem of the diarist’s identity, we had to know basic facts about the service of this steamer. The Andrew Harder was a practically new vessel, a screw steamboat built in 1863 for service on the Hudson River between Stuyvesant, NY and New York City.   Read more

Siege of Yorktown: The Navies

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The Siege of Yorktown, April 1862. Ch. Worret, contributor. Courtesy Library of Congress.
CSS Virginia Enables the 1862 Defense of Yorktown 

In spring 1862, Union general George Brinton McClellan had assembled a very powerful army around Washington, D.C. The Union had already recently achieved several major victories along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, as well as they had captured the North Carolina Sounds. McClellan’s army was poised and ready to strike at the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia. General McClellan, often called ‘Young Napoleon’ or ‘Little Mac,’ wanted nothing to do with a march overland toward Richmond. 

This path was blocked by General Joseph E. ‘Joe’ Johnston’s 45,000-strong army defending Manassas. In an effort to flank and isolate Johnston’s army away from Richmond, McClellan conceived the Urbanna Plan to move his army to the Rappahannock River at Urbanna, Virginia, and then strike directly at Richmond. Before the Union general could implement his campaign, Joe Johnston abandoned his Manassas defenses beginning March 6, 1862, and fell back to Fredericksburg. McClellan quickly offered a secondary amphibious operation to strike at Richmond by way of the Virginia Peninsula.   Read more

Fun Fact Friday – Museum Building

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original location of museum

After our charter was put into place in June of 1930, a lot of exciting plans were made for our property.  As cultivation began on the park, lake, and dam (Lion’s Bridge), plans were also being drawn up for the proposed museum building.

The above image (dated February 27, 1931) shows the spot where the founders had originally intended for the main museum building to placed.  It was a spot on Lake Maury overlooking Lion’s Bridge and the James River.  Several plans and sketches were drawn up showing an impressive, rectangular building.   Read more

Enjoying the Beautiful Outdoors

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Lion's Bridge
Lion’s Bridge

With the arrival of Spring and sunny, warm weather, I am reminded of all the fun things the museum has to offer outside of the building (especially as my office is rather chilly). It seems as though a lot of people don’t already know this, but the museum owns 550 acres of property, including the Noland Trail and Lake Maury. Part of the vision of our founder, Archer Huntington, was to create an outside space for the public to be able to enjoy along with the museum. Lake Maury was created by constructing a dam (the Lion’s Bridge) near the James River.

Many people in our community are very familiar with Lion’s Bridge as it is a frequently visited area. I mean, what’s not to love? There are a few places to sit down and enjoy beautiful weather while also getting great views of the James River and Lake Maury while the majestic lions stand guard. Every November festive wreaths are placed around the necks of the lions to help bring in the Holidays, which has become a popular event in the community. As for the history of the lions, they were sculpted by the museum’s founder’s wife, Anna Hyatt Huntington (click HERE to learn more about her), ca 1932.   Read more