A Historical Background of the Hampton Roads

A Historical Background of the Hampton RoadsThe English Captain Christopher Newport landed at Cape Henry (present-day Virginia Beach City) in 1607. The landing of this first colonist was referred to as the ôFirst Landingö. These colonists, however, moved from the area toward the upriver region to look for another place that is more defensible as the Spanish had also established the Ajacan Mission, a failed settlement effort on the Virginia Peninsula. The colonists settled on Jamestown Island on May 14, 1607 when they were done exploring the James River. However, as the site was marshy and low, it was unhealthy. Most of the constituents of the colonists died before Lord De La Warr, the new Governor, arrived. The new Governor came with John Rolfe, the person who would be responsible for the founding of the Virginia tobacco industry. The Hampton Roads soon became a popular location for commerce and shipbuilding. When the Old Point Comfort was fortified in 1610s and the Gosport Navy Yard was established in 1767, the Hampton Roads also became a prime site for military installations. Hampton Roads was also the site where the first naval action of the War of 1812 took place; a Royal Naval was captured by the American Privateer Dash. New fortifications, namely with Fort Wool and Fort Monroe, guarded the entrance from Chesapeake Bay, supervised by Robert E. Lee.

When the American Civil War occurred, the port was the setting for the historic Battle of Hampton Roads between the CSS Virginia and the USS Monitor in 1862. While the battle ended in an inconclusive outcome, the lower James River, Norfolk, and Hampton Roads were taken over by the Union forces. Strong battery from the Confederation forced the Union forces to move upstream. Fort Monroe at the Chesapeake Bay was the site of the launching of Union General George McClellan’s army up the Virginia Peninsula.

In 1907, the Jamestown Exposition was held at Sewell’s Point in Norfolk County. This event was held to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown in 1607. President Theodore Roosevelt arrived in the Hampton Roads harbor as well as other famous people including Henry Rogers and Mark Twain. Sewell’s Point was a rural area until 1917 when it was made into the worldÆs largest Naval Base during the WWI. This location is known today as the Naval Station Norfolk. A large portion of the land in the port was converted into US Naval Weapons Station Yorktown.