We had a busy day in Colonial Williamsburg. I hope to write about some of the specifics of the trip in future posts (and offer some pictures too!), but for now let me mention a few highlights:
1). We started off the day by attending a Q&A with George Washington. I asked him about his experiences at Manhattan in the days leading up to the Battle of Brooklyn, drawing a lot of my examples from Fithian’s wartime diary.
2). We thoroughly enjoyed the gentleman (a retired music teacher) who led us through the Virginia Capitol. His New York accent gave him away and we swapped stories about life on Long Island.
3). After a presentation on early American religion, I spent some time chatting with the re-enactor who played James Ireland, one of the most persecuted Baptist preachers in colonial America. Ireland was very familiar with Philip Vickers Fithian and after a nice conversation about my book he took me to see the re-enactor who portrays Robert Carter III. The three of us talked for some time about Fithian and Carter and the Fithian diaries. These men confirmed that Fithian only made an appearance at Williamsburg during the Christmas season. (There was great disappointment when we learned this). The Ireland re-enactor invited us to see him deliver (as another character, of course) an Anglican sermon tomorrow at the Wren Chapel at the College of William and Mary.
4). We wandered about outside Robert Carter III’s reconstructed house near the Governor’s Palace. (The house is not open to the public). Fithian never visited this house, but Carter often traveled back and forth between it and Nomini Hall during Fithian’s tenure with the family. We also took a carriage ride in a replica of Carter’s stagecoach. We were pulled by the same horses that pulled Queen Elizabeth during her recent visit.
5). We got a lesson in pew renting at the Bruton Parish Episcopal Church. We got to see the pews that belonged to the likes of George Washington, James Monroe, Henry Lee, and Patrick Henry. We were kicking ourselves for not arriving early enough to worship with this active Anglican community.
6). Finally, it was off to the College of William & Mary. I was pleased to see that the college bookstore (Barnes & Noble) was selling The Way of Improvement Leads Home. We did not have time to visit much today, but we did take a tour of the Wren building. (Perhaps we will return again tomorrow for the aforementioned Anglican sermon. Also, I hope I can at least pop my head into the Omohundro Institute for Early American Studies).
We are off to Jamestown tomorrow. The search for Philip Vickers Fithian came to a disappointing end, but there is still much more to do and see. I am sure one of tomorrow’s highlights will be seeing the newly unearthed Jamestown fort. I have heard chief archaeologist Bill Kelso speak about the story behind finding the fort, but I have yet to see it.