Established in 1634 as one of the 8 original 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 the 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 and information on the 7 Roberts Brothers of Windsor, who fought in the war.
The Battle of Smithfield took place in January of 1864 when the USS Smith-Briggs landed where Smithfield Station is today. After a skirmish, the Confederates of Camp Ruffin at Historic St. Luke's Church, 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 & free blacks, the names of which are on display. It features a walking tour to view cannon & the James River ghost fleet. 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 of 1862. When overwhelmed by Union warships on the James, the forts fell, thus opening the river route to Richmond.
Much of Isle of Wight's history remains due in part to Randall Boothe, a slave of the county's Clerk of Court. While the battle over the forts raged, the Clerk charged Boothe to take the court records into hiding. He carried 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 the Courthouse Caretaker. Visit the Courthouse of 1800 & peruse these records yourself.
Also visit...Boykin's Tavern & Ivy Hill Cemetery. Reenactments are held during the year.