Saturday, June 16, 2012

McClellan's Crossing

McClellan's Crossing marker W-14 in New Kent County, VAMarker No. W-14
New Kent County, VA

Marker Text: Here a part of McClellan's army crossed the Chickahominy on May 23, 1862, advancing on Richmond. It was attacked by the Confederates at Seven Pines.

Location: On U.S. Route 60 at Bottoms Bridge at the county line between New Kent and Henrico Counties. Grouped with markers E-12 (Capt. John Smith Captured), W-15 (Bottom's Bridge), W-17 (New Kent Road), Z-163 (New Kent/Henrico County) and a county marker about New Kent County. Erected by the Conservation & Development Commission in 1927.

McClellan's Crossing marker W-14 along U.S. Route 60 in New Kent County, VA

Photo taken looking east on U.S. Route 60.  Click any photo to enlarge.

  Today's marker is a very simple marker telling the traveler that part of General George McClellan's Army crossed the Chickahominy River here on May 23, 1862. The marker does not give us a great deal of information, but this marker was one of the earliest state historical markers erected by Virginia in 1927. Most of the early markers had very limited and brief information. Other examples of these early markers I have previously posted are “Stuart” outside of Fredericksburg, VA or “Capture of Front Royal” in the town of Front Royal, VA or “Bull Run Battlefields” near Manassas, VA.

  These early markers were not attempting to give details about history, but to alert the traveler to some significant historical event which occurred at this location. In 1927, early highways suitable for automobile travel for those families and individuals wanting to explore the U.S. were only beginning to develop and major highways, like U.S. Route 60 where this marker is located were one of the first major new highways which allowed convenient travel across a state.

  Since Virginia had a rich history related to the Colonial Era, American Revolution, U.S. Civil War and the birthplace of early settlers who later moved westward, the state wanted to use this history to promote tourism.

Group of markers along with McClellan's Crossing on U.S. Route 60

Photo taken looking west toward Richmond on U.S. Route 60.  McClellan’s Crossing marker is third marker from left.

  Today, newer historical markers have expanded text and tell more of the story of the history occurring at a given location. The markers are still about promoting tourism, but they have evolved into also sharing more history. Some early markers had some historically inaccurate information and many have been replaced over the years. Today, more care is taken to review and approve the text and insure it correctly relates to the known information about a marker's subject.

  I remember in the 1960's while my parents took us on vacation. We had traveled across Virginia from West Virginia on U.S. Route 60. We were going to visit Colonial Williamsburg and I remember this group of markers along the road. The road was only a two lane then and there was a pull-off in order to read the markers better. Over the years the markers have changed and the pull-off was lost with the widening of the road to four lanes, but many of these same markers have endured the years, each greeting the traveler. For me, reading these markers and standing in the same place where some historical event occurred, particularly events, I had studied in school made me feel I was more connected to our nation's history and I was interested in learning more during the next school year.

Group of state historic markers on U.S. Route 60 east of Richmond, VA

View of the markers from across Route 60.  Note the large pull-off in foreground on the opposite side of the road.

  This marker tells us that part of McClellan's army crossed about a week before the Battle of Seven Pines or also called the Battle of Fair Oaks or Fair Oaks Station on May 31 and June 1, 1862. This location shows the informed traveler that the general area was essentially the ending point of McClellan's Peninsular Campaign. Though this marker lacks details about the actions here, later in 1994 an additional marker at this same location called “Bottom's Bridge” was erected provides additional historical information about McClellan's actions here.

  The Battle of Seven Pines was a large military engagement between the two armies and resulted in the wounding of Confederate Commander General Joseph E. Johnston. With Johnston out of commission, Confederate President Jefferson Davis appointed General Robert E. Lee to command of the Army of Northern Virginia. Prior to the Battle of Seven Pines, McClellan established defensive lines in the area as he decided on his next actions to take Richmond. Following the Battle of Seven Pines, McClellan had lost the strategic advantage and believed incorrectly that he was out numbered and needed additional reinforcements.

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