Visiting Yorktown was a bit of a dream come true for our Hamilton-loving children. To help stoke their excitement we started listening to Hamilton in the car. Andrew timed it, hoping we'd be listening to Yorktown as we arrived in Yorktown but happenstance one-upped him and as we thudded over a bridge offering us a beautiful view of the water Hamilton and Lafayette chanted, "Chesapeake Bay!"
At the time we thought that's what we were looking at, but now that I'm consulting the map I'm pretty sure it was only part of the York River. Still, the timing was phenomenal.
Thanks to our newly-minted fourth grader, our family can visit national parks for free this year. We used Rachel's pass to get into the Yorktown Battlefield park. The kids all got junior ranger packets and everyone got a sticker to wear...except for Zoë who didn't need a sticker because she's young enough to get into the park for free. Unfortunately, Zoë loves stickers and she's young enough that this mean that out of everyone she needed a sticker.
I tried to help her forget about her lack of sticker—because at some point she's got to learn that she can't just scream until she gets her own way—but eventually I caved and went to the desk to ask if she could also have a sticker just to make peace. She was attacking her siblings (biting, clawing, tackling) to try to rip their stickers off their shirts and she wouldn't leave my sticker alone and she was screaming and throwing herself around on the ground. It was ridiculous. And no one could just give her their sticker because our stickers were our passport to visit all the sites around the battlefield (which was huge; we had to drive from site to site).
Fortunately the ranger took pity on us and gave Zoë a sticker, which she proudly wore on her shirt the whole day.
Everything Benjamin knows about this period in history he knows from misheard lyrics from Hamilton. One line he loves to sing, but sings incorrectly is "the British cannons go...BOOM!"
All day long (all week long) every time he'd see a cannon he'd ask, "Is this the British cannon named Boom?"
We saw so many cannons that eventually we stopped informing him about the true history of whatever cannon we were looking at and instead would say, "Yes. Yes. This is the British cannon named Boom."
Their favourite part (and by "their" I mean Benjamin and Zoë since I was chasing them around while Andrew was helping Miriam and Rachel work on their junior ranger packets) by far was the model of the ship that we walked through over and over and over again (it's a loop).
Miriam really appreciated the use of mirrors to make everything seem twice as grand—making a full table, for example, when there was really only half a table in the room.
Here's Benjamin waving out of the ship's window:
Here's Zoë "not" climbing on a cannon. That rule was a very difficult rule for my kids (including their father) to follow. I get that we want to preserve history, but also I think they need at least one "climb on me" cannon at every historical site. That tactic seems to work for the dinosaur walk at the Museum of Life and Science. The kids know they can climb on one dinosaur only, but it fills their need to climb on a dinosaur and they are happy to simply imagine how it would be if they were allowed to climb the apatosaurus, for example. Having one cannon for kids to go nuts on would help them reign in their desire elsewhere in the park (possibly) and would help parents to not constantly feel like a broken record (possibly).
Besides, I'm not sure how much damage any amount of children can do to a cannon. Sure, the wood parts could break, but I'm pretty sure that's all been restored (probably multiple times) anyway.
Here we are at The Grand French Battery (I think), doing our best to stick to the paths...
And not climb on the cannons...
|"Is this the British cannon named Boom?"|
After a week of fighting, a young man in a red coat stands on a parapet
We lower our guns as he frantically waves a white handkerchief
When we left Benjamin remarked, "Well, that was a pretty nice parapet."
Here are the kids all cheering, "Huzzah!"
I'm trying to remember where these next forts were. I want to say they were redoubts 9 and 10 (but I'm not sure (haha—get it?)). Probably so, because here's Miriam pointing out Lafayette and Hamilton's names:
One of the questions on Miriam's junior ranger packet had her discuss the effects of erosion on soil and age on wood. Then it asked her to observe how the park had tried to lessen these effects on the fort.
"Well, how do you keep anything from going bad?" she asked rhetorically. "Like, if you have mustard or jam, you can keep them around for a long time because of preservatives. It's no different with a fort."
Sure. It's exactly the same. You just mix in some preservatives and *presto!*
"Do you mean preservation work?" I asked. "Like, they work to keep it in as close to original condition as possible."
"Exactly," she said proudly. "Preservation work."
Turns out they replaced the old rotting logs with logs cast in cement. I suppose that's a kind of preservation work. You can see some of the cement logs behind Zoë and me:
Here are the kids up on the fort walls again (I promise there's a path up there; they were really pretty good at staying on the path (Miriam's pretty obvious standing up there but Benjamin is fairly well camouflaged (I promise he's there, too))):
Rachel and Miriam decided to try to breach the fort's walls (the path led right through those timbers):
In the end, everyone else went the long way around:
Miriam was the only one to make it up:
Poor Benjamin, who was most prone to wandering off the path, ran into some burrs. One minute he was skipping happily along and the next minute he was waddling along saying, "Oh, man! Oh, man! Oh, man! Something's getting me!"
"We found Lafayette and Hamilton," Andrew said as he picked the burrs off Benjamin's pants. "It's about time we found Burr."
When Benjamin was once again Burr-free, we loaded up into the van again to head for Surrender Field. The road leading to it was an active road during the Revolutionary War, so that was pretty cool to think about as we were driving along.
By this point in the day Zoë wanted nothing to do with anyone but me. Andrew ended up carrying her, however, and she spent the whole time looking forlorn and doing her best not to touch him. She kept her hands up in the air the whole time, leaning away from him as much as possible. Goofy girl.
Here we are by the "Trophies of War" display that the girls needed to visit to complete their packets. They had to count how many there were and then multiply them by...four...and then add two...or something like that...to find out how many cannons were used in the battle.
Here's Rachel pretending to be George Washington happily informing Congress of their success:
And here are the children pretending to be the mortified Lord Cornwallis:
The kids were really "lichen" the trees...
I missed this part because I was letting Zoë walk slowly, slowly to the car by herself, which meant we needed a good head start, but I think this where Cornwallis and his men made their march of defeat while, according to legend (though not in fact), the British Army played The World Turned Upside Down.
And here is the Ben turned upside down at that same spot:
As if that wasn't enough Yorktown for the day, we also visited the Yorktown Victory Center, a living history site. It was a little pricey, but after the strictly hands-off experience we'd had at the national park, it was good to let the kids roam around and touch whatever they pleased.
They had a colonial-style kitchen and garden, which was fun to see because we recently started reading Little House in the Big Woods with Benjamin. I realize that book is set in the 1870s, which is not the same as being Colonial, but a lot of the preservation methods seemed to be the same (if the methods we saw being used at this center were correct). We saw ham legs hanging from the rafters and beans drying on strings and so forth, which was fun considering we just finished the harvest chapters.
Here are the kids taking part in some army drills:
They made poor soldiers, however, and were sent to be punished by the wooden horse (which guests were not permitted to sit on (it is a form of torture, after all)). We hung signs declaring their crimes and left them standing there for some good ol' fashioned public shaming.
Benjamin was cracking us up with his face. You should see him when he's actually in trouble!
The campus didn't seem to be finished. There were a few tents, similar to what soldiers would have used back in the Revolutionary War. And they were disgusting, all mouldy and gross. It's no wonder all the soldiers were sick and dying!
Other than that, though, there was a bunch of construction. The inside of the building also left much to be desired. They had a timeline along one wall, but not a whole lot else otherwise. It made me glad our tickets included entrance to the Jamestown center as well (though we wouldn't do that until the following week).
When we were heading back inside, Andrew was just approaching the door when Benjamin ran past him at full speed, slamming into the wall. "Crazy kid," Andrew muttered under his breath.
He was quite shocked, however, when he reached out to grab the door and it started opening all on its own. "What?!" he exclaimed, before realizing that Benjamin hadn't simply slammed into the wall...he'd slammed into the button for the automatic door! It was a pretty funny exchange.
Here are the kids enjoying the dress ups at the little stage inside. They had a lot of fun playing around here (except for Rachel who, apparently, has put such childish things behind her (at least in the public eye); she's always enjoyed dressing other people up more than dressing herself up anyway).
Outside we found a statue of George Washington which most of the kids wanted their picture with.
Zoë, on the other hand, did not want her picture with George Washington's statue:
She screamed and screamed and screamed until she noticed his nose. Even then she kept screaming but while she did so she stuck her little finger right up his nostril (which is probably what she would have done if she had been sitting on the actual George Washington's lap; she has an acute fascination with noses lately).
Here's Benjamin taking over where Zoë left off:
We went down to Water Street and saw a Watermen's Museum, which we didn't go into (though it might have been cool because I was reading Jacob Have I Loved at the time), but we did stop to take a picture of Benjamin by this boat outside. I think at this exact moment he was pretending to have walked the plank and was dramatically drowning...
We enjoyed looking out over the York River. Benjamin found a piece of driftwood and followed it out into the water, getting soaked just about up to his waist.
Zoë also tried running right in. This girl loves any opportunity to get wet.
After this we hit the road for DC.
Benjamin was a chatterbox the whole drive. He talked about everything he saw, everything he heard, everything he thought, and when he was thinking nothing he would start spouting nonsense just to fill the void.
"Look at that truck. Look at that tree. Look at the sky. Doo-ba-da-doo. Doo-ba-da-doo. Can I have some goldfish? Doo-ba-da-doo. Do fish have mouthses? I want a blue car when I grow up. Doo-ba-da-doo."
Nonstop talking for hours on end.
At one point he saw a smokestack and shouted, "I see pollution coming out of that lighthouse!"
At another point we saw a tractor dealership and he started kicking his legs and flapping his arms with excitement while squealing, "Oh, my goodness!" over and over again.
"What?" I asked.
"Look at all the tractors!" he said.