As the mist rises off the Severn River, smoke from hundreds of campfires around Warner Hall, the home of George Washington’s great-great grandfather, waft through the air. The encampments of young soldiers strategically placed around the estate bustle with activity until…BOOM!
Enter the pounding roar of muskets and cannons, thundering horses and swords clashing.
That’s the sound of the British coming back. And the Americans and French, too.
On October 19 and 20, the Allies will engage the British Legion and other Crown forces in a reenactment of the 1781 Battle of the Hook at the Inn at Warner Hall in Gloucester, Va.
The historic battle took place in 1781 in Gloucester and choked off the British supply line to the British troops in Yorktown, helping pave the way for American Independence.
The reenactment, one of the largest recreations of a Revolutionary War battle, will bring together more than 1,000 infantry, cavalry, artillery and maritime landing reenactors from across the country at the home of President George Washington’s ancestors.
Labeled a national event, the reenactment is sponsored by the Continental Line, British Brigade, and Brigade of
the American Revolution, as well as regional and statewide businesses and Gloucester County.
“This Revolutionary War reenactment celebrates General Washington’s victory over the British Army,” said Warren Deal, the Battle of the Hook planning committee’s chairman, who also helped plan the first reenactment at the same location in 2008.
“Historic battles will be brought to life by living historians. Recreated military units from across the country will encamp near the actual battlefields where the American Revolution was won after six long years of fighting.”
The Battle of the Hook in American History
The events leading up to the Revolutionary War’s Yorktown Campaign and the subsequent victory of the Allies that insured the independence of the United States are well known. Less well known is the Battle of the Hook – the battle that took place across the York River from Yorktown 16 days before the British capitulation. Although rather brief, it included the largest cavalry engagement of the war, with more than 500 horsemen involved.
When British Gen. Charles Cornwallis occupied Yorktown in August 1781, he dispatched a portion of his troops to occupy and fortify Gloucester Town (now Gloucester Point), across the river from Yorktown. These forces would, he hoped, be able to secure the British Army’s flank, protect a possible escape route, and forage for food, livestock and supplies in the fertile farmland of Gloucester County.
Then American Gen. Washington and his French allies recognized the importance of this area to the siege at Yorktown and sent a force to join the Virginia militia to block the British in Gloucester.
On October 19, 1781, the last surrender of British forces in America occurred — not at Yorktown, as is widely believed, but an hour later, outside the works at Gloucester, where some 1,100 Englishmen, Scotsmen, Welshmen, Germans and American loyalists, and 300 horses, were surrendered to 100 French and 200 American militiamen.
American independence was assured, thanks largely to the victory in Gloucester.
The “Hook” battlefield is now an empty field, hallowed ground with little to note its significance day to day except a small roadside marker and a deteriorating concrete monument.
It significance, however, will be celebrated with the reenactment at the Inn at Warner Hall in October.
The Inn at Warner Hall is located roughly a 15-minute drive from those hallowes Battle of the Hook grounds.
It’s location and history makes it both a unique and fitting location to host the reenactment.
“There is no other spot in the world that can tie George Washington, the father of our country, Queen Elizabeth II, the current Queen of England, Robert E. Lee, of Civil War fame, and Meriwether Lewis, of Lewis and Clark,” said Troy Stavens, who worked to restore Warner Hall and transform it into a country bed and breakfast with wife, Theresa.
“They all are direct descendants of the Warner and Lewis clans of Warner Hall.”
“We know George Washington visited as a young boy, allegedly learning to waltz in the ball room, which we now call the parlor. He came here as General of the Revolutionary Army and during his first term as President.
He spent New Year’s here. He brought his Secretary of State with him – they called him TJ, for Thomas Jefferson.”
Throughout the Battle of the Hook reenactment weekend, in addition to the battle and military scenes, daylong activities for visitors include a live field archeology dig and demonstration display of actual artifacts from the Battle of the Hook, period music by civilian and military performers, 18th century farm setting with live animals, colonial tavern demonstration, camp life by the British, American and French forces, and period merchants and craftsmen demonstrating their skills and selling their wares. Food will also be available for purchase on site.
“If you are a red-blooded American,” Deal said, “I guarantee you will get a feeling when you see the ragtag Continental Army form up and march down Warner Hall lane behind the fifes and drums to the battlefield.”