Quietly in 2020 during a pandemic a museum in my hometown in Chesapeake, VA opened. Not much fanfare was made and I am not even sure I would have known if I didn’t drive by it constantly. I had been watching the work on it for over a year and was excited that someone seemed to finally acknowledge the very important battle that took place in Great Bridge. It had a huge impact on the Revolutionary War. Considering the committee to build the museum began raising money and making plans in 1999 this museum has been a long time coming.
The Battle of Great Bridge took place on December 9, 1775. It was a short battle but very important because the Great Bridge area controlled much of the water travel around the area- including moving troops and supplies needed for war. Due to it’s proximity to Williamsburg, VA I recognized the name of same of the soldiers from my visits there. And the British loss at Great Bridge sent into motion a series of events that greatly affected the war and our freedom!
Visiting The Battle of Great Bridge Museum
Tickets are not available online so you grab them when you get to the museum. At the time of this publication the prices are very reasonable- general admission is $8, military and seniors are $7, students 6 and up are $5 and everyone else is free. They also have some membership options.
If you want to visit another local museum check out Visiting The MacArthur Memorial (did I mention it’s FREE?).
Inside the Museum
I was unprepared for how beautiful the building would be when I walked in. Lovely colored floors and bright lights illuminate a wide open lobby that would be a great place for a reception. Masked docents played beautiful music from the corner (I understand most Saturdays they are there).
Cream walls made the room look huge and to my right the desk to buy tickets and the gift shop could be viewed. I did go into the gift shop after my time in the museum and will be going back when I am not as hungry to look around. They had a bunch of cool colonial games and some masks hand sewn by the cello player you see above that I want to grab (it had music notes on the material.) There were some local products as well I want to check out.
The bricks on this fireplace are from the one room schoolhouse that was demolished in 2014 that was the original Great Bridge High School built in 1906. If the docent is at the museum, ask him/her to flip the picture for you.
The museum is divided in 8 different rooms. The first six deal with life in Great Bridge during 1775, why the area was considered so valuable to both sides, the battle and other important information about the Revolution. The last two are about the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal system which is fascinating in itself.
That’s my town you guys.
The first exhibit is almost surreal because it shows maps of why the British wanted the area and why the colonials wanted to protect it- and it hasn’t changed much. This long dirt road on the map which shows businesses and homes is still the long road that runs through Great Bridge. And it is still the heartbeat of commerce in that area.
Inside the mock tavern they have some pottery with a great story. When excavations were being done to build the updated bridge in 2003 the workers found broken pottery in the dirt. They gave the locals who cared three days to go through the dirt and pull out what they could get and then continued construction. From those bits (on display in the museum) they were able to find pottery that would have been used in the area during the time period.
There are some video presentations, weapons, uniforms and other very cool things inside the museum. I wouldn’t say it’s for young kids but I would say any student who has gone through American History would probably find it interesting. Additionally the docent mentioned to me he has done many field trips for 5th graders so they might have some anecdotes that kids would like!
Outside the Museum
The museum is located by the A & C Canal and even as I was there some beautiful boats went by. They have a great picnic area and you could bring your lunch with you and watch the boats.
There is fishing and often I see people putting kayaks and canoes in the water. There are beautiful walking paths and views of the water along the trails. And the very back of the trails goes under the bypass which is neat to see.
Also in front of the museum is a path with plaques walking you through pivotal parts of the battle as well as a bridge built as the original Great Bridge bridge was.
I would recommend making a day of it! Take a lunch, wear your comfortable shoes and visit the museum! It was a really amazing, relaxing, frugal experience!