In September 2016, the Civil War Trust purchased a 3.5-acre, undeveloped parcel of core Williamsburg Battlefield land at the historic Y-intersection of present day Penniman Road and Oak Drive in York County, VA. The WBA proudly participated in the purchase by contributing funds it secured through a land-acquisition grant with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
The roads forming the Y-intersection at the northwest end of the Smith Lot were 200 years old by the Civil War. They appear in property records and on maps in the 1600s when tobacco was king and plantations were rising along the James River. Gen. George Wash-ington lead his army south from Will-iamsburg in 1781 and veered left at this intersection on the road to Yorktown and defeat of the British Army. By 1861, the intersecting roads were known as the Yorktown and Hampton Roads, and all west-bound traffic on the Peninsula converged here before enter-ing Williamsburg and proceeding towards Richmond, the new Con-federate capital.
May 5, 1862
Confederates used impressed slaves to build a defensive line southeast of Williamsburg. Anchoring the center of the line was Ft. Magruder, just 200 yards north of the intersection. On May 5, Union troops slogged up Hampton Road in the rain and were stopped at the southwest corner of the Smith Lot by the fort’s artillery. They deployed their own cannons, but in-fantry were forced off the road towards the west. A Confederate attack pushed the Union soldiers back across the road and Smith Lot, resulting in the capture of the Union artillery. Fresh Union troops soon arrived. Pressed from both roads, the Confederates withdrew and relinquished the prized cannons.
after the battle
After the Union army occupied Will-iamsburg on May 6, Ft. Magruder and the Smith Lot became a large camp for soldiers and runaway slaves. By March 1864, the 6th USCT infantry and perhaps a company of USCT cavalry occupied the area. Newly freed slaves settled around the Smith Lot and fort after the war. The present day neigh-borhood of York Terrace still has some residents who can trace their roots to these freed slaves.
A conservation easement managed by the Va Dept. of Historic Resources has been placed on the Smith Lot, and the Civil War Trust anticipates transferring ownership of the parcel to the WBA in 2017. This lot represents the first real opportunity to interpret core Williams-burg Battlefield land. Our short-term plans include cleaning up the property, improving public access to the site and adding interpretive signage and land-scaping.