Military Yorktown

from the beginning, Yorktown has always had a military presence.  Of course the Indians’, Powatan Confederation banded together not only in societal ways, but also militarily to defend their communities against other Indian peoples and also against the influx of settlers from Europe.  The early European settlers continued this military presence as they built palisades, revetments, and forts, later adding cannons and other heavy artillery pieces to guard the Port of Yorke.  As time went on, these emplacements grew, culminating in a major Battle between the English and the Colonial rebels, in October of 1781.  After the Battle of Yorktown, there was a relatively low number of  military personnel remaining in the local area, that is until the American Civil War occurred.  At that point, the military presence in our area expanded to the highest level it had seen to date.  Northern and Southern leaders alike had recognized from the war’s onset the Peninsula’s strategic position. So, the Union (Federal) Army quickly seized much of the lower Peninsula area, including Fort Monroe.  The Rebel (Confederate) Army won many battles initially.  But, as time went on, the Union reinforcements and subsequent battles began to overcome the Rebels.  As they gained more land, the Union forces quickly turned the area of Yorktown into a major munitions and equipment staging area for their impending advance and assault on the Confederate capitol of Richmond.  After this “brother against brother” civil war, the Yorktown area again returned to a greatly reduced military presence, until the early 1900s.  At that point, the DuPont Company established a major weapons manufacturing and storage location.  The US Navy placed an adjacent facility on what is now called the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station (NWS).  in 1917, the Navy also established the Mine Warfare School site which, in 1959, was transferred to the US Coast Guard and is a now major training center.  To this day, the Yorktown area is still home to these two large military sites, as well as to numerous federal, state, county, and private museums and foundations which tell the rich military history of our area.