Zach – Welcome to this week’s Minimum Wage Historian. We have a topic that’s close to my shriveled heart. Virginian History. I currently live in Utah but I consider myself a Virginian. (An adopted one. I was born in Texas.) And as a Virginian I take great pride in its history. As a child for vacation I wouldn’t be driven to King’s Dominion or Busch Gardens, no, I’d go to all the historic sites such as Jamestown, Williamsburg, Carter’s Grove and Monticello. Most kids would probably groan and consider it torture, but not me. Growing up my heroes were Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
Olga – And Iron Man.
Zach – And Iron Man, yes.
Anna – So you got started as a historian from an early age.
Zach – I totally was. (See my post: my history with history.) But before I jump ahead in my mad dash to speak about my beloved state, let’s introduce our panelists. As you’ve seen we have my co-host, Anna Komemne, Byzantine Princess and Historian. Then we have St. Olga of Kiev, vengeful Slavic saint. Then we have Scipio Africanus, Roman General and conqueror of Carthage. And then we have….Oh come on. Why? I told you not to put her with a Roman.
Boudica – I insisted on being here. I will not have history distorted by that Roman dog!
Zach – We have Boudica, British barbarian warrior leader.
Anna – Oh, my. Let us move along, shall we?
Zach – This isn’t going to be a time-line history of Virginia or any kind of chronological narrative. No, we’re going to share some interesting tid bits of history that many have forgotten and we don’t want to see this stuff lost to the river of time.
Olga – Where’s Gaspar?
Zach – He said he’s working on a secret project. Wait…I should be worried: shouldn’t I?
Anna – Almost definitely.
Zach – Each of us is going to share an interesting story or some cool information about Virginia. I hope you’ve all done your homework. General Africanus, why don’t you go first.
Boudica – What? The Roman abuser?
Zach – Um…Boudica, would you like to go first?
Boudica – It would be my pleasure! (clears throat) My topic is the Indian Massacre of 1622.
Africanus – Of course she’d choose savages butchering defenseless people.
Boudica – (Glares at Africanus) In 1622 the Colony of Virginia, named after the Virgin queen, Elizabeth I…a woman leader, was still new. It’s capital was Jamestown and had a few scattered settlements along the James River.
At first the relationship between the Indians and the settlers was very friendly. The settlers got to trade for food and the Natives got cool swag like metal tools. But pretty quickly the settlers earned a bad rep as lousy neighbors. It’s hard to stay friends when they burn down your villages, kill your children and steal your food. So, naturally, the Natives grew tired of this crappy behavior. So they stopped trading with the English and without the food, the English were forced to skip a lot of meals and many died from starvation. It was called the “Starving Time.” The chief of the Powhatans soon realized that the English weren’t going to settle for a fort and a few settlements. They weren’t there to trade, they were there to take over. Here’s what the chief said.
“Your coming is not for trade, but to invade my people and possess my country.”
The English commander, Gates lured Indians into a fight and slaughtered them. Then they took Pocahontas prisoner and made demands. These were not good neighbors. When Chief Powhatan died, his brother, Opechancanough took over. This guy didn’t think there could be peace with the English. So he planned a series of attacks on every English settlement, including Jamestown. However, Jamestown was warned in advanced and prepared themselves. But word didn’t get to the outlying settlements and the Indians fell upon them unawares. The Indians entered the scattered towns as friends, coming to trade, but on a given signal, they all broke out with weapons and began massacering everyone they found. The settlements were Wolstenholme Towne, Henricus, Smiths Hundred and Martin’s Hundred.
Zach – I’ve been to Martin’s Hundred! They used to have a pretty cool little museum until people started to suck and not go there so they closed it down. There was a lot of archeological work done there and they found whole suits of armor.
The armor was found down a well. Apparently the Indians, unable to penetrate the steel armor, simply tossed the soldiers down a well.
Boudica – Well, the attack was very successful and Henricus and Smith’s Hundred were completely abandoned. A full quarter of the colonists died that day in the attacks. The Chief thought that the colonists had learned their lesson and would either go away or behave. The English did neither. Instead they tightened their defenses and went on a continuous offensive until the tribe was broken and scattered.
Zach – Well done, Boudica. Henricus is an interesting place, often overlooked by tourists in favor of James Town and Williamsburg, but they have a living history museum there where reenactors will teach you what it was like to live back then. Here’s some info about Henricus if you’re interested…which you should be.
Anna – Who’s next? Africanus?
Africanus – Yes, I will go. My topic is Colonel Tarleton Banastre. He was an English cavalry officer during the American Revolution and was known as “Bloddy Ban” or “The Butcher.” (though not at the time he was living.)
He grew up in a merchant family but wealthy enough for some political positions. His father was mayor of Liverpool. When his father died he inherited a large sum of money which he promptly wasted on wine, women and fun. Not a very noble beginning if I say so myself. But we Romans understand some light hearted debauchery. With what little money he had left, he bought a commission into the Royal cavalry and to everyone’s surprise, it turned out he was rather good at it! So when war broke out in the Americas, he got on the first ship with Lord Cornwallis and sailed over to drink some wine and kick butt and he was all out of wine. Though he was from somewhat low birth, he rose through the ranks from his force of will and force. He was not a man to be trifled with. He was also no idiot. He had studies law at Oxford and was an educated man with ambition. They went to Charleston to recapture it from the rebels but failed, so he went up to New York and tracked down Rebel General Charles Lee. He caught him by such surprise that Charles was still in his dressing gown. Banastre had threatened to burn the cabin down if he did not come out.
But then at the Battle of Waxhaw Creek, Tarleton fought with a unit of Rebels under the command of a guy named Buford. After seeing that he had lost, Buford raised the white flag and expected the civilized treatment under the rules of war. But as the flag was going up, (Supposedly) one of Buford’s men fired and hit Tarleton’s horse and he fell off. Angry at the insult, Tarleton’s men open fired and massacred Buford’s men. Tarlton did not order this and his men, thinking he was dead, went on a vindictive rampage. This became a focus for American propaganda and called it “Tarleton’s Quarter” meaning, no quarter would be given. After this, Tarleton was a pincushion for propaganda and was said he willfully abandoned all rules of warfare.
His arch nemesis was Francis Marion, a guerilla fighter in the swamps of South Carolina. Francis became a legend of as he ambushed supply trains and attacked with lightning hit and run tactics. Tarleton gained a reputation as a brutal man against the civilian population, but other accounts, including one by Thomas Jefferson himself, described him as an honorable man. He fought all over the colonies and when England lost he went home and became successful in politics and became a powerful man.
Olga – Ha! We will here more of this Tarleton person!
Zach – Olga, would you like to go next?
Olga – A Russian never backs down! I will go! I will tell tale of daring ride that makes your so-called Paul Revere look like baby with messy diaper! Yes, this Tarleton and his men were running through Virginia country on way to arrest Thomas Jefferson and other Virginian nobles. But they did not know of Jack Jouett! Jack Jouett was big man, 6,4. Noble family. Jack heard of this Tarleton man and his men and Jack-ovich rode ahead to go warn Jefferson. Jefferson and most of Virginia legis…legal..
Zach – Legislature.
Olga – Dah! Jefferson and Virginia legis….whatever…were hiding in Monticello, Jeff’s home. Jack rode hard all night to warn Jeff. He got many scars on face from branches. He find plantation named “Castle Hill.” He tell head of plantation that Tarleton man coming. So Castle Hill Man say “Okay, no worries. I delay him.” So when Tarleton arrived and ask for food, man tell kitchen staff to go very, very, very slow making of food. They waste so much time that Tarleton get angry! He delayed Tarleton long time. Meanwhile, Jack rides to Monticello and warns Jeffy Boy about British. Now this was early in war and if America lose so many big men so early, not good news for Revolution. Jack-ovitch might have saved entire Revolution! But Paul Revere get cool poem so he more famous.
Zach – Thank you Olga, that was actually pretty cool and bloodless.
Olga – Dah! Shame, no one got killed.
Zach – Anna, I think it’s your turn.
Anna – Very well. My subject today is the great families of Virginia. I’ll start with King Carter. Robert “king” Carter was a very rich and powerful Virginian in the seventeenth century. He was called “King” because when he died he owned over 300,000 acres of land and was the wealthiest man in North America. He started a political and economic dynasty that would last centuries. Why, one cannot go about Virginia and throw a stick without hitting something with the name “Carver” on it. Remember Boudica’s town of Martin’s Hundred? Well, it became the plantation called “Carter’s Grove,” owned by the Carter clan. There were a few very powerful families in Virginia, the two most powerful being the Carter’s and the Lee’s. It was not a Dune-ish House Atreides and Harkkonen sort of relationship, it was fairly friendly and in fact, both houses intermarried and produced one of the greatest Virginians in history, General Robert E. Lee. The Lee’s had on their side, Richard Henry Lee who proposed Independence from Great Britain to Congress.
King Carter even served as acting Governor for a year. One can go through a list of great plantation houses in Virginia and will be staggered by how many were built by his family.
Another great family were the Talioferro’s. Legend says their family came from Gaul. One of their ancestors helped Caesar and for that he was rewarded with the grant that allowed him (a non Roman) to carry weapons. It’s legend, but at that time “Gaul” wasn’t just France, it was also norther Italy, including the area around Venice. It started with Bartholomew Talioferro who was a Venetian of some wealth. Due to the rather ridiculous marriage laws in Venice, he came to London to find a wife. He married a woman named Joan Lane and settled down. They had nine children. His grandson, Francis “the Immigrant” Talioferro immigrated to Virginia in 1647 and had at least 7 children.
Zach – Talioferros are my direct ancestors. In my family we always referred to Francis as “Francis “the Ranger” Talioferro, which I thinks sounds way more awesome.
Anna – Very well, I shall refer to him as such. The Talioferro’s grew prosperous and spread all over. Like the Carters and Lee’s you’ll find many old houses that had been built by the Talioferros. Their descendents include many actresses, musicians, football players, generals, actress Glen Close and John Talioferro Thompson, the inventor of the Thompson submachinegun.
Zach – Excellent work, Anna. Way to talk about famous rich people: your specialty.
Anna – Thank you.
Zach – Now its my turn. I’ll end with quotes by famous Virginians. We Virginians were pretty cool.
I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them. – Thomas Jefferson.
It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world. – Thomas Jefferson.
I have been up to see the Congress and they do not seem to be able to do anything except to eat peanuts and chew tobacco, while my army is starving. – Robert E. Lee
I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself. – Robert E. Lee
And here’s a list of famous people from Virginia…just to brag.
Richard Arlen actor, Charlottesville
Arthur Ashe tennis player, Richmond
Pearl Bailey singer, Newport News
Russell Baker columnist, Loudoun Cty
Warren Beatty actor, Richmond
George Bingham painter, Augusta Cty
Richard E. Byrd polar explorer, Winchester
Willa Cather author, Winchester
Roy Clark country music artist, Meaherrin
William Clark explorer, Caroline Cty
Henry Clay statesman, Hanover Cty
Joseph Cotten actor, Petersburg
Ella Fitzgerald jazz singer, Newport News
William H. Harrison U.S. president, Charles City County
Patrick Henry statesman, Hanover Cty
Sam Houston political leader, Rockbridge Cty
Thomas Jefferson U.S. president, Shadwell
Robert E. Lee Confederate general, Stratford
Meriwether Lewis explorer, Ambemarle Cty
Shirley MacLaine actress, Richmond
James Madison U.S. president, Port Conway
John Marshall jurist, Germantown
Cyrus Hall McCormick inventor, Rockbridge Cty
James Monroe U.S. president, Westmoreland
Opechancanough Powhatan leader
John Payne actor, Roanoke
Walter Reed army surgeon, Gloucester Cty
Matthew Ridgway Army Chief of Staff, Fort Monroe
Bill Bojangles Robinson dancer, Richmond
George C. Scott actor, Wise
Sam Snead golfer, Hot Springs
James Jeb Stuart Confederate army officer, Patrick Cty
Thomas Sumter General, Hanover Cty
Zachary Taylor U.S. president, Orange Cty
Nat Turner leader of slave uprising, Southhampton Cty
John Tyler U.S. president, Charles City
Booker T. Washington educator, Franklin Cty
George Washington first U.S. president, Westmoreland
James E. West inventor, Prince Edward Cty
Woodrow Wilson U.S. president, Staunton
Tom Wolfe journalist, Richmond