AfterWARd: The Revolutionary Veterans Who Built America
Special Exhibition June 10 to November 27, 2017
The Revolutionary War victory at Yorktown in 1781 was just the beginning for the ranks of soldiers and citizens who fought for America’s independence. Visitors were able to follow their stories after the war in the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown’s inaugural special exhibition, “AfterWARd: The Revolutionary Veterans Who Built America.”
Open June 10 through November 27, the special exhibition chronicled the post-war lives of veterans of the Siege of Yorktown, including Henry Knox, Alexander Hamilton, James Lafayette, the Marquis de Lafayette, George Washington and Charles Cornwallis, as well as lesser-known veterans. “AfterWARd” explored these historical figures as veterans, allowing visitors to make connections with the lives of soldiers and veterans, past and present.
Using artifacts, illustrations, short films and interactives, the special exhibition examined Charles Cornwallis’ post-Revolution campaigns in India and George Washington’s visions for a new nation. Visitors could discover Henry Knox’s work as a key founder of the Society of the Cincinnati, the nation’s first veteran organization, and learn about Alexander Hamilton’s post-war life as an influential statesman who championed the still ongoing debate about the role of government in everyday life.
Visitors experienced the celebrity of the Marquis de Lafayette, a Frenchman who returned to the United States in 1824-1825 for an American “Farewell Tour” after helping General George Washington’s Continental Army defeat the British during the American Revolution. They discovered the untold story of James Lafayette, an enslaved African American from New Kent County who successfully spied on the British for the American forces, and then spent much of his life after the war seeking his own liberty from slavery.
Artifacts on loan from American and British museums and institutions illustrated the Revolutionary War veterans’ ongoing contribution and influence throughout history. Among the featured items were a carriage used by the Marquis de Lafayette from the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana; a cannon seized in India by Cornwallis from the Royal Armouries in Leeds, England; and a lap desk belonging to Alexander Hamilton from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York.
An interactive “Legacy Wall” multimedia display featured stories and images of veterans from all eras of American history, and encouraged visitors to add their own stories to the wall and find personal connections to the veterans of Yorktown.
‘AfterWARd’ Special Programs Celebrating and Connecting America’s Veterans
A variety of special programs, public lectures and presentations, made possible in part by Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation, were presented in conjunction with the special exhibition:
June 10: “Slave Spy: The Story of James Lafayette,” 7 p.m. – James Lafayette’s success as a spy for American forces was instrumental in setting up the siege at Yorktown. Actor Jamar Jones presented Slave Spy, a one-man show depicting this overlooked story. Slave Spy was written by Abigail Schumann and produced by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.
June 23-24: “Profiles of Honor” Traveling Exhibition, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. – The “Profiles of Honor” traveling exhibition brought to life Virginia’s integral role in World War I and II and highlights stories of people who served in both conflicts. Visitors were invited to bring personal World War I and II-related photographs, letters and documents to be scanned for inclusion in the Virginia Profiles of Honor Project. Sponsored by the Virginia World War I & II Commemoration Commission.
July 25: “Studebaker Goes to War!”, 7 p.m. – The Studebaker National Museum shared the story behind the carriage used by the Marquis de Lafayette during his 1824 visit to America and Studebaker’s long history of supplying vehicles to the military. Presentations by Archivist Andrew Beckman of the Studebaker National Museum and Marc Sammis of the U.S. Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis.
August 17: Veterans Benefits Clinic, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. – The American Legion answered questions about benefits, process claims, and help secure I.D. cards.
August 17: “Rewarding the Soldier: Veterans’ Benefits Then and Now” Panel Discussion, 6 p.m. – The lecture explored the history and evolution of benefits afforded to America’s military, from land warrants and pensions to medical service and the G.I. Bill. Presentations by law professors David Boelzner of the College of William and Mary and James Ridgway of George Washington University.
September 16: “Meet Alexander Hamilton,” 11 a.m. & 3 p.m. – Eben Kuhns of the American Historical Theater portrayed a young Alexander Hamilton recounting the trials and tribulations of the War for Independence.
September 17: “Alexander Hamilton: Legacy of a Founding Father” Lecture, 7 p.m. – Rand Scholet, president of the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society, and Michael Newton, Hamilton biographer, discussed the ongoing impact that Alexander Hamilton has had on America as the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury.
September 29-30: “The American Soldier, 1774-2015,” 8 p.m. – Based on real stories and accounts from soldiers’ letters written from the American Revolution through Afghanistan, Broadway producer and actor Douglas Taurel revealed the struggles American soldiers face at war and their internal struggles to come back home. The one-man show shed light on how and why it is so difficult for men and women in the armed services to re-enter everyday life when they come home. The acclaimed production honors and exposes their flaws, their scars, their families and spirits with both humor and darkness.
October 5: “Brothers at Arms” Lecture, 7 p.m. – Larrie D. Ferreiro, an author and Pulitzer Prize finalist, discussed his book “Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It.” The book explores how the American Revolution’s success depended on substantial military assistance provided by France and Spain. The paperback version of the book was launched at the event and available for purchase.
October 12: “The Revolutionary War Lives and Letters of Lucy and Henry Knox” Lecture, 7 p.m. – Phil Hamilton, history professor at Christopher Newport University, launches a new biography that delves into the personal life and marriage of Washington’s chief of artillery.
October 17: “La Fayette” Ballet Selections, 4 p.m. – The story of the Marquis de Lafayette, an iconic symbol of freedom, tolerance and human dignity, and his 1824 return to America was recounted through dance. Visitors enjoyed excerpts from the “La Fayette” ballet, choreographed by Christine Jeannin and performed by The ArtisT troupe of 10 classical and hip-hop dancers. Included with museum admission.
October 18: “Lafayette’s Grand Tour of 1824” Lecture, 1:30 p.m. – Alan Hoffman, President of the American Friends of Lafayette, recounted Lafayette’s momentous return to America 43 years after the end of the Revolution.
October 18: “The Lafayette Trail” Lecture, 2:15 p.m. – French historian and geographer Julien Icher discussed his efforts this past year to retrace Lafayette’s 1824 New England tour and share aspects of a new “Lafayette Trail” mobile application with the Consulate General of France in Boston to re-create Lafayette’s historic journey. Included with museum admission.
October 18: “Lafayette and Human Rights” Lecture, 4 p.m. – This program explored how the Marquis de Lafayette’s influence in the world went beyond America’s Revolution. Diane Shaw, director of special collections at Lafayette College, traced his work with human rights. Included with museum admission.
November 11: “Stand Up Comedy Night: Veterans Take the Mic,” 8 p.m. – “Stand Up Comedy Night” featured the talent of graduates of Comedy Bootcamp, a seven-week workshop offered by the Armed Services Arts Partnership.
November 15: “The Legacy of Henry Knox” Lecture, 7 p.m. – Knox Museum Curator Matthew Hansbury discussed the many contributions made by Washington’s chief of artillery in his post-war years as the nation’s first Secretary of War. A special artillery demonstration preceded the talk.
Free Mobile App Expands on Special Exhibition
A free mobile app, available for Android and iPhone, features videos and interviews with scholars on a variety of topics and expands stories revealed in the “AfterWARd” special exhibition. Visitors can download the app from home or at the museum on Google Play or the Apple App Store.
About the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown
The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, which replaces the Yorktown Victory Center, tells anew the story of the nation’s founding, from the twilight of the colonial period to the dawn of the Constitution and beyond. Comprehensive indoor exhibits and outdoor living history capture the transformational nature and epic scale of the Revolution and its relevance today. A Grand Opening Celebration was held March 23-April 4, 2017.
Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown is located at 200 Water Street, in Yorktown, Virginia. Parking is free.
2017 admission is $12.00 for adults, $7.00 for ages 6 through 12, and free for children under 6. Admission for residents of York County, James City County and the City of Williamsburg.
Members of the military can purchase in advance discounted admission tickets to the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown at most military bases’ MWR/recreation offices.