Captain John Smith's Adventures on the James
— www.johnsmithtrail.org —
Just east of the shallow bay where the Appomattox River empties into the James, City Point juts into the water. Upon first spying the easily defensible peninsula, Capt. Christopher Newport determined to deposit his boatload of colonists there. However, the shallow harbor and, according to Percy, "many stout and able Savages" forced the English back downriver, where they founded Jamestown.
In choosing the low-lying island of Jamestown, they defied the advice of the London Company: "You shall judge of good air by the people; for some part of that coast where the lands are low, have their people blear eyed, and with swollen bellies and legs; but if the naturals be strong and clean made, it is a true sign of wholesome soil."
Capt. John Smith's TrailJohn Smith knew the James River by its Algonquian name: Powhatan, the same as the region's paramount chief. Smith traveled the river many times between 1607 and 1609, trading with Virginia Indians to ensure survival at Jamestown. What he saw of Virginia's verdant woodlands and pristine waters inspired him to explore the greater Chesapeake Bay, chronicling its natural wonders.
(sidebar)Yalta Conference on the James
During one week in February 1945, three of the most powerful men in the world convened for the Yalta Conference in Crimea. United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, United Kingdom Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Premier Joseph Stalin of Russia gathered to lay out a strategy to bring an end to World War II. A similar event, aimed at bringing an end to one of the biggest tragedies in American history, occurred right here at City Point on March 28, 1865.
On board the vessel River Queen
, anchored in the river before you, President Abraham Lincoln, Gens. Ulysses S, Grant and William T. Sherman, and Adm. David Porter met to discuss how the end of America's Civil War would be handled.
"Let them surrender and go home... Let them [the Confederate soldiers] all go, officers and all, let them have their horses to plow with, and, if you like, their guns to shoot crows with. Treat them liberally. We want these people to return to their allegiance and submit to the laws. Therefore, I say, give them the most liberal and honorable terms."
Abraham Lincoln, March 28, 1865.
On the waters in front of you, the groundwork for reconstruction began. However, without its visionary, who perished fewer than three weeks later, what seemed like such a promising strategy never reached its potential.