Established in 1634 as one of the original 8 shires of the Virginia Colony, Isle of Wight County, with its quaint towns of Windsor & Smithfield played a key role in the Civil War.
Begin at the Visitor Center - also home to the Arts Center @ 319 - for information on local attractions in the county. The Isle of Wight County Museum offers an overview of the county’s history & the world's oldest ham, as well as a Civil War display & information on the 7 Roberts Brothers of Windsor, who fought in the Civil War.
The Battle of Smithfield took place January, 1864 when the USS Smith-Briggs landed where Smithfield Station is today. After a skirmish, the Confederates trapped 150 Union troops, who then surrendered. The gold eagle from the ship is on display at the Old Courthouse of 1750.
Historic Fort Huger, “Gateway to the Confederate Capital,” situated on the bluffs of the James River, was built by slaves & freed slaves. It features a walking tour to view cannon & the ghost fleet on the James River. The names of those who worked at the fort are displayed. Further south along the James, in a natural setting, Fort Boykin Historic Park was begun in 1623 to protect the early colonists.
Both forts were engaged in a critical battle in May, 1862. When overwhelmed by Union warships on the James, the forts fell, thus opening the river route to Richmond.
While the battle over the forts raged, the county’s Clerk of the Court charged his slave Randall Boothe to take the court records into hiding. He took them by cart to Greenville & Brunswick Counties just before the Union cavalry arrived in July. After the war Boothe returned the records, was freed & served as Courthouse Caretaker. Isle of Wight County’s rich history has been preserved because Boothe’s efforts prevented its records from being destroyed. Visit the Courthouse of 1800 & peruse the records yourself.
Also visit St. Luke's Church (c1632), Boykin’s Tavern, and Ivy Hill Cemetery. Reenactments held year-round.
Last Updated: 10/21/2010 1:25 PM