Great Bridge Battlefield & Waterways Park and Visitor Center
1600s: Woodlands, Marshes and the Great Bridge
The rich forests and fields south of the Elizabeth River and in northeastern North Carolina gave the early settlers in the late 1600s bountiful yields of shingles, naval stores, lumber, grain and tobacco. Supplies traveled across a series of causeways (roads) and bridges north to market.
1700s: From Colony to Nation
The Great Road was the route over which much needed supplies traveled from North Carolina to Great Bridge to be shipped to Norfolk. The patriot victory in the Battle of Great Bridge, December 9, 1775, secured the route for the colonists, drove the British out of Norfolk and empowered Virginia to be a major supplier of food and naval stores for the American forces throughout the Revolution.
1800s: Early America
After the Revolutionary War, a quicker water passage was needed for commerce. The hand-dug Dismal Swamp Canal, opened to flat boats in 1805, later proved too shallow for the steam engines of the mid 1800s. Cut through the wilderness of cypress swamps by steam dredges, the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal was completed in 1859. This canal cut the battlefield in two.
1900s: Crops, Commerce, and Industry
With improved transportation, this area became a major supplier of truck farming products. World War I established Norfolk and Portsmouth as major naval ports, bringing expansion to both cities and their surrounding counties. Those changes paled by the further expansion of military bases in World War II.
Today: Commerce and Recreation
The canals continue to provide an inland water route north and south. Commercial vessels and pleasure craft use the canal, and the village of Great Bridge is a modern center of activity that still carries traces of its rise from the tidal marshes of the 1600s.