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Colonial Yorktown, Virginia
Thomas Nelson, Jr. – History Rewritten

By Catherine Millard

     A visit to Yorktown, Virginia, is a rare treat for those who love America’s rich founding period history.  The visitor is greeted by a tall, imposing monument entitled the “Victory Monument,” standing sentinel on the edge of a promontory.  Three damsels, each with a star upon her head, stand erect upon a pedestal, the base of which bears these inscribed words: “One Country – One Constitution – One Destiny.”

     This memorial to America’s heroic past represents the bloodshed and sacrifice that preceded the birth of the new nation.  The following lines, inscribed upon the front base of the statue, are descriptive of how the battle was won:

     At York on October 19, 1781, after a siege of 19 days
     by 5500 American and 7,000 French troops of the line
     3,500 Virginia militia, under command of General
     Thomas Nelson and 36 ships of war; Earl Cornwallis,
     Commander of the British forces at York and Gloucester
     surrendered his army – 7,251 officers and men – 840
     seamen – 244 cannon and 24 standards, to His Excel-
     lency George Washington, Commander in Chief of the
     Combined Forces of America and france to His Excel-
     lency the Compte de Rochambeau, commanding the
     auxiliary troops of his most Christian Majesty in
     America and to his Excellency the Compte de Grasse,
     Commander in Chief of the Naval Army of France in

A left-hand side inscription reads:

     The Provisional Articles of Peace concluded November
     30, 1782, and the definitive Treaty of Peace concluded
     September 3, 1783 between the United States of America
     and George III, King of Great Britain and Ireland, declare
     His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States,
     viz. New Hampshire; Massachusetts Bay; Rhode Island
     and Providence Plantations; Connecticut; New York; New
     Jersey; Pennsylvania; Delaware; Maryland; Virginia; North
     Carolina; South Carolina and Georgia, to be free, sovereign
     independent states.

To the right-hand side of the base we read:

     The Treaty concluded February 6, 1778 between the United
     States of America and Louis 16th of France, declares the
     Essential and Direct end of the present defensive alliance is
     to maintain effectually the Liberty and Sovereignty and the
     Independence absolute and unlimited of the said United
     States, as well in matters of Government as of Commerce. 
     Erected in pursuance of a resolution of Congress adopted
     October 29, 1781; and an Act of Congress approved June 7,
     1880.    To commemorate the Victory by which the Independ-
     ence of the United States was achieved.

     Colonial Grace Church of York-Hampton Parish gives forth these historic lines upon a bronze plaque on its front façade:

     A national shrine at the Cradle of the Republic.  Erected 1697;
     Burned 1814; partially rebuilt in 1825; Rebuilt in 1926.  These
     are the original walls, built of marl.  The bell was cast in London
     in 1725, but broken during the fire of 1814.  It was recast in
     Philadelphia in 1882.  The original hammered communion silver
     made in London in 1649, is still in use.  First Confirmation
     service in Virginia was held in this church in 1791.  General
     Thomas Nelson Jr., signer of the Declaration of Independence,
     lies buried in the churchyard. 

    General Thomas Nelson, Jr., whose handsome, Georgian-designed colonial mansion is open to the public, lies buried in the grounds of Grace Church.  His epitaph reads:

     General Thomas Nelson, Jr., Patriot, soldier, Christian gentle-
     man.  Born December 18, 1738.  Died January 2, 1789; mover
     of the Resolution of May 15, 1776 in the Virginia Convention
     instructing her delegates in Congress to move that body to dec-
     lare the colonies free and independent states.  Signer of the
     Declaration of Independence.  War Governor of Virginia.
     Commissioner of Virginia’s forces.  He Gave All for Liberty.  

     The above indicates not only Nelson’s prominence as a great American statesman and patriot, who fought valiantly for America’s freedom, but also his status as a man of Christian caliber and virtue.

     However, upon visiting the Nelson House, one is historically “entertained” with drama, composed by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, and enacted by characters impersonating Nelson’s wife, Lucy and John Robinson Grymes, the brother of Lucy Nelson (who has loyalist sympathies).  General Thomas Nelson, Jr. does not feature in the cast, although his house is worthy of teaching colonial, Revolutionary War history, which this famous personage embodied.  The seven-age script enacted during the 1989 summer season, could be summed up in two words: “rewritten historic trivia.”  It is here excerpted:

     Lucy:    Good afternoon everyone!  Welcome to our home!  I am so glad you were able to accept our dinner invitation following the completion of Court today.  But, I must extend the apologies of Mr. Nelson to you.  He was unexpectedly called away to Williamsburg this fine May morning to attend the Virginia Convention being held in the Capitol building.  Apparently his presence was much needed, for Thomas had anticipated leaving tomorrow.  He begs your forgiveness, but my brother John is here.  He too attended court today and came to visit just moments before you.  He and I will do our best to be your host and hostess for dinner….John, our guests have arrived from court.  Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to my brother, John Robinson Grymes.

     John:    Good afternoon!  I am so please you accepted my gracious sister’s dinner invitation.  I stopped by the check on her well-being.  I worry about her when she is alone.  (John holds Lucy by the hand).

     Lucy:     John, you have always been a dutiful brother.  What would I do without you?  (Lucy affectionately pats John’s hand).  So, John, tell us what you experienced at court today?  Was it as busy as most?

     John:     Yes, indeed, it was an eventful court day.  I always look forward to these court day “festivities.”  Remember that problem the town was have with Mr. Jacob’s swine running rampant through the streets?

     Lucy:     Yes, that inconsiderate man!  His hogs were getting into everything, destroying plants and flowers and leaving their droppings scattered all over town.  What a disgrace! 

     John:     Mr. Jacobs was fully aware of the county ordinance prohibiting swine from going about at large and the court saw fit to fine him seven pounds.  I believe this will convince him to keep his swine penned up.

     Lucy:     I hope you are right.  Do you think he’ll appeal his conviction though?  He’s such a spendthrift you know.

     John:     He might.  Since the court fined him more than five pounds he can appeal to the General Court in Williamsburg.  You know, I think Mr. Jacobs would appeal to Satan himself if he thought the Devil could save him a shilling!

     Lucy:     No doubt!  But tell me of Margaret Jones.  I heard about that terrible fight she had with John Butterfield along the waterfront last week.  I heard she scarred his face.  Tis true?

     John:      Tis true, and the court did not look favorably on her actions.  She is such a harlot anyway.  The court sentenced her to be dragged by a boat’s stern through the river right here along the water in front where she committed her crime.  Oh that I could see that!  It’s been a long time since I’ve witnessed such punishment.  I can’t recall, however, if they drag the poor wretches by their ankles or their wrists.  Can any of you?  (John poses the question to the guests).

     Lucy:     What a sad fare for anyone, but perhaps her behaviour will change for the better.  But tell me about the Charlston orphans, John?  What of their fate?

This dramatic “historic” presentation concludes thus:

     Lucy:     Please forgive me, but my brother’s departure has upset me greatly.  I hope you will understand that dinner must be postponed as I need time to be by myself.  If you would be so kind as to go downstairs now, one of my servants will be able to show you out.  I hope we can soon meet again, under happier circumstances.  Thank you for your kindness and good day.

     The above is yet another poignant example of America’s rich founding period history having been obliterated to nothingness.  It also shows a psychological abuse of the thousands of Americans visiting the mansion, who, after being “invited to dinner” by a founding father, are then discourteously shown out by a servant, and who are being subjected to this hodge-podge of irrelevant data and utter confusion.  (Excerpted from,

The Rewriting of America’s History © copyright 1991 by Catherine Millard).


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