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Chesapeake History

Chesapeake played a major role in the birth of the United States of America, making it a vital historic destination. Here, you can relive pivotal moments in American history and learn more about Chesapeake’s past at a wide range of happenings.

Battle of Great Bridge

Every December, actors recreate the crucial victory won at the Battle of Great Bridge, which resulted in the removal of all vestiges of the British Government from the Colony of Virginia. Historians and others will find this Revolutionary War enactment fascinating and enjoy the chance to learn about this landmark battle. At this annual two-day event, visitors can view war encampments and character portrayals, and take advantage of activities designed specifically for children. You can learn more about this historic moment and more at the Great Bridge Battlefield and Waterways Museum. Situated on the banks of the Intracoastal Waterway, you can pack a picnic and enjoy the grounds of Battlefield Park. At the Park, you will find interpretive signage and a trail system that has scenic overlooks. 

George Washington's Handiwork

A few years after the Battle of Great Bridge, Chesapeake came to prominence as a commerce center with the construction of the Dismal Swamp Canal in the 1790s. The canal has been in service for over 230 years and is the oldest continuously used man-made canal in the United States. The quality of construction should not be a surprise, though—the building of the canal was overseen by George Washington's land company.

The canal also served an important role in the Civil War as it was a vital waterway route for Confederate supplies until it was captured by Union forces in 1862. In addition to being a place of historical significance, you can also enjoy a day of boating since the canal is part of the Intracoastal Waterway. Take out a kayak or pleasure boat and explore a series of bridges and locks. You may even catch sight of deer, river otters, or black bears who inhabit this outdoor refuge.

Civil War Sites

If you’re looking for more historic sites in Chesapeake, you’re in luck. The region is rich with historical significance and sites to visit. Don’t miss checking out the stops along the Virginia Civil War Trails. By visiting these sites, you will have a chance to walk the paths of the first modern war and learn about the new technologies that were employed and the vital roles that civilians played.

African American History

The Chesapeake African American Heritage Trail walks you through the stories of people and places that helped shape our nation. The trail includes a self-guided tour of places such as Cornland School - one of the earliest efforts in Virginia to formally educate African American children, and Cuffeytown - a historic community with origins back to the 1700s formed by black people who were free.

Further your connection to Chesapeake's African American history with the companion podcast. Each episode will engage your senses with powerful stories from citizens, artists, and local historians.

No matter where you turn in Chesapeake, you’ll find history waiting. Take the time to explore, discover, and learn how the past of this storied region has influenced a nation.



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