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Posted In: Uncategorized

Take 5! to Remember Virginia’s Hidden History

Nicole Anderson Ellis

August 27, 2017 1:54pm

While the nation debates the future of Richmond’s 60 foot monuments to Confederate soldiers,
a small historic marker east of town recalls the African American soldiers of the Army of the
James.

This regiment of the United States Colored Troops fought the Battle of New Market
Heights on the farmlands east of Richmond, during the final days of the Civil War. Few people
know of the 14 Medals of Honor awarded to African American soldiers for bravery in that single
battle. But they will.

African American soldiers who fought in the Army of the James.

This week saw the birth of a new website designed to help visitors find and explore a part of
Virginia that has, until now, been a best-kept secret: the Route 5 Corridor.

Running parallel to the James River from downtown Richmond to Colonial Williamsburg, this
scenic Virginia Byway bisects rolling farmland and hardwood forests that witnessed America’s
first footprints.

— Pocahontas was born in this corridor, back when the road was a foot path linking the Falls to the Chesapeake Bay.

— John Smith first rowed ashore in this corridor.

— John Rolfe planted the first American tobacco here.

— George Washington and Thomas Jefferson commuted down Route 5, then called New Market Road.

— Benedict Arnold fought in a Revolutionary War naval battle on this stretch of the James.

— Plantation culture thrived in the corridor, and these manor homes are open to guests today, including Berkeley Plantation, Sherwood Plantation, Westover Plantation, and more.

— These estates were, of course, built and worked by slave labor. Boats from Africa unloaded their victims at the Fall of the James, and human trafficking thrived in the corridor, until the Civil War shut the auction houses down.

Remarkably, this uniquely historic corridor has never been marketed as a destination region…
until now. Thanks to the Route 5 Corridor Coalition and a matching grant from the Virginia
Tourism Corporation, the Take 5! Tourism Destination Website offers an inventory of the
region’s unique assets.

In addition to unparalleled American history, the website guides visitors to Route 5’s
recreational opportunities. Want to rent a bike along the Virginia Capital Trail? You’ll find it on
the website. Want to paddle the James? Watch bald eagles nesting? Enjoy dinner at a
vineyard after a history-filled day? Route 5 offers guests of the Richmond region and the world
an opportunity to play, rest and remember.

And in these bizarrely tumultuous times, taking a quiet ride in the country has never sounded
so good.

Author’s Note: Help us tell Henrico County to keep Route 5 rural. Please click on this link to the Henrico Route 5 Survey and tell them what sort of growth you want to see down this scenic Virginia Byway. For some suggested talking points, visit the Route 5 Corridor Coalition’s Facebook page.


About Nicole Anderson Ellis

Nicole Anderson Ellis teaches critical thinking, critical writing and argumentation at VCU. She’s also co-chairwoman of the Route 5 Corridor Coalition, a director on the Henricopolis Soil and Water Conservation District Board and a resident of Henrico’s Varina District.


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