As I stepped off the bus at Colonial Williamsburg, I was immediately transported back in time. My first encounter was with Patrick Henry, the once three time governor of Virginia, dressed in a green suit with knee high stockings and wearing his powered wig. I witnessed him in the gardens behind the Governor’s Palace giving that famous speech, "Give me Liberty or Give me Death," that I read about in school. I was seeing history come alive. After his speech, I entered the Governor’s Palace where I was offered a tour by one of the servants. At the time of my visit, Governor Dummore and his family occupied the residence but was soon to abandoned it and flee when the American Revolution broke out. The palace was immaculate with all of the antique furnishings and the many rifles and swords that adorn the walls to be used in defense of the governor. The servant ended my tour in the ballroom where hanging on the wall were two massive portraits of King George III and the Duchess Sophia Charlotte. The citizens of Williamsburg would give anything to take those portraits and use them for firewood.
I exited the Governor’s Mansion in the rear and made sure not to be spotted by the locals who probably would think I was a loyal subject to the British Crown. I made my way down pass the parade field to Duke of Gloucester Street, the main street in Williamsburg. On the corner was the Bruton Parish Church built in 1674. I was hoping to meet George Washington or perhaps Thomas Jefferson, but was informed by the pastor that they had gone back home and would not return to Williamsburg for another week.
I realized that if I was going to fit in as a citizen in Williamsburg, I needed a wig. I stopped off at the best wig maker in town. He dressed me up in a horsehair wig with a long braided ponytail. He informed that I would be ready to attend the annual town ball and the cost to me for that impressive wig was on fifty schillings.
I walked further down the street interacting with the many different citizens of Williamsburg and was told that pretty soon something was about to happen at the Capitol building at the end of the road. As I got closer to the Capitol, I noticed that a huge mob of people were gathered around the building awaiting something that yet I did not know. The date was May 15, 1776 and there was talk of independence from Great Britain, the first colony to speak out against the crown and I was in the midst of it.
After the crowd dispersed and the Revolution now seemed imminent, I took a walk through the Capitol to see how the leaders of Virginia ran the colony and witnessed a trial of a thief in the Court of Oyer. All trials were held in the Capitol and while they waited, they were housed at the Public Gaol, or in my time what I call a jail. Peter Pelham, the last keeper at the Gaol, showed us the two holding cells and the exercise yard. He told us that this place housed a lot of famous criminals, but he said his favorite was the fifteen henchmen of the pirate Blackbeard that was rounded up and held here until their trial.
The crowds once again starting migrating to the center of town, except this time it was at the Courthouse. I noticed an older gentlemen standing on the front steps of the courthouse. A citizen informed that he was Benjamin Waller, the presiding judge in Williamsburg. I was astonished to hear him reading the Declaration of Independence to the crowd. The crowd applauded in excitement and joy at the sounds of freedom from the tyranny of Great Britain.
After a full day in Colonial Williamsburg, it was now time to board the bus back to my own time. My visit allowed me to live and experience the beginnings of American independence and democracy. It is a journey that I cannot wait to relive again.