Amid the fireworks and celebrations of Independence Day, might we remember (or come to know) a leader from our past who would be 200 years old this July 4th?
John Jasper was born into slavery in Fluvanna County on July 4, 1812 as the youngest of 24 children. On July 4, 1839 at the age of 25, Jasper underwent a religious transformation on the steps of Richmond’s Capitol Square. It was a day that changed his life, as he would spend the next 25 years preaching sermons at slave funerals.
At the age of 50 Jasper was emancipated. He was a brick cleaner, repairing the Civil War-burned city of Richmond, and still serving at a high demand as a slave funeral pastor.
On September 3, 1867, John Jasper and ten friends held services in an abandoned stable on Brown’s Island in Richmond, founding the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, a strong community of faith that is still present today. It was at the age of 66 (1878) that John Jasper reached a peak in his career, delivering “De Sun Do Move” to the Virginia General Assembly. The sermon was so well received, Jasper was requested to deliver it more than 250 times.
In addition, Reverend John Jasper was one of only a few black ministers in Richmond who were authorized by the United States Freedmen’s Bureau to legalize ex-slave marriages, which were not legally recognized prior to early 1866* in Virginia.
John Jasper died on March 30, 1901. His death was the noted headline of the day, overshadowing the burning of the famed Jefferson Hotel.
You know it when you hear it, even if you don’t know its name. It’s a somber bugle cry of a mere 24 notes customary at military funerals and remembrance ceremonies. The somber song is called “Taps” and it was composed in 1862 at Berkeley Plantation in Charles City, Virginia.
Taps by Sidney King. Original on display at Berkeley.
General George McClellan’s Union troops occupied Berkeley Plantation during the Civil War, and it was in July 1862 that General Daniel Butterfield composed “Taps” as a “lights out” call to the soldiers. The first bugler of “Taps” was Oliver Willcox Norton.
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the composition, Berkeley Plantation is hosting a weekend-long event beginning this Friday, June 22 and concluding Sunday, June 24.
This weekend, visitors to Berkeley can expect to walk into a living history environment, including a re-creation of the aftermath of the Seven Days’ Battles, President Abraham Lincoln reviewing the troops, a re-creation of the birth of “Taps”, and a rededication of the “Taps” monument.
The “Taps” commemoration event is free, but visitors who wish to tour the 1726 mansion will pay $11/adult, $6/child aged 6-12, and $7.50/student aged 13-16. Also be sure to visit and tour the Civil War 150 HistoryMobile which will be on site for the duration of the event.
Berkeley Plantation is Virginia’s most historic plantation. Its legacy includes being the site of the first official Thanksgiving in 1619. Berkeley is also the birthplace of Benjamin Harrison V, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and fifth Governor of Virginia, and William Henry Harrison, the ninth President of the United States whose grandson, Benjamin, became the 23rd President of the United States.
Coxswain Amin Isbir, a member of the 6th Naval Beach Battalion, was reported killed in action on June 8, 1944. His great nephew, Eric Montgomery questioned his date of death believing that he had been killed in action on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Isbir’s commanding officer, Ensign Joe Vaghi, confirmed Montgomery’s suspicions.
Onboard Coast Guard operated LCI-L 88, Amin and his Company C8 shipmates were being transported along with members of the 5th Engineers Special Brigade and 1st Infantry Division soldiers to the Easy Red One sector of Omaha Beach. During the landing, the ship came under heavy fire, losing one of its two ramps along with a number of the soldiers from the Big Red One. Once the surviving solders were unloaded, Beachmaster Vaghi and Isbir hit the sand. As they were helping a wounded soldier onto a stretcher, a German railway gun from 5 miles away landed a shell onto the beach hurling a jeep high into the air. The jeep landed on Isbir killing him instantly. Ensign Vaghi was knocked unconscious from the blast. Due to continued hostilities, Isbir’s body was not recovered until two days later and the Navy listed his date of death as June 8, 1944. Isbir was posthumously awarded the French Croix de Guerre for bravery and the Purple Heart.
Isbir’s tombstone in the Normandy American Cemetery listed his date of death as June 8. Since the Navy recorded his date of death as June 8, the National D-Day Memorial Foundation did not include him on the Memorial Wall after its initial research (as the Foundation only researched and recorded June 6 fatalities). In 2009, 65 years after Isbir’s death, Montgomery was successful in getting the Normandy American Cemetery to replace the June 8 tombstone with a corrected one. The plaque containing the addition of Isbir’s name will be officially dedicated to the Memorial Wall at the National D-Day Memorial during the D-Day commemoration ceremony. The National D-Day Memorial has confirmed 4,413 Allied fatalities on June 6. Of that number, 2,499 were Americans. The National D-Day Memorial Foundation is the only institution in the world to research the name of every soldier, sailor, airman, and coast guardsman killed on June 6, 1944.
During the ceremony, the Memorial will also recognize members of the 101st Airborne Division who are commemorating their 70th anniversary this year. The 101st will participate with an Honor Guard and with a wreath laying at the event. Members of the 29th Infantry Division will also participate. Special music will be provided by the Enduring Freedom Honor Team from Fredericksburg, Virginia. Tours will be provided throughout the day. Admission is free until noon. Regular admission fees apply after noon. Guests are encouraged to bring a chair to the event. Special seating and shade will be provided to World War II veterans.
A three-day getaway is a rejuvenating way for your family to reconnect, and you can do just that while visiting the historic sites that honor America’s fallen heroes this Memorial Day weekend in Virginia.
The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial (also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial) is dedicated to all Marines who've given their lives in defense of the United States since 1775. It is the largest cast-bronze statue in the world. Photo by Bill Crabtree, Jr.
Near the Arlington National Cemetery is the United States Marine Corps War Memorial. On summer Tuesday afternoons you’ll find the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps performing “The Commandant’s Own” and performing precision drills. This Sunset Parade is open to the public and free of charge.
Specialist Joseph L. Hull of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, also known as the Old Guard, maintains a faithful vigil at the Tomb of the Unknown in Arlington National Cemetery. Photo by CameronDavidson@CameronDavidson.com.
Every conflict in which the United States has ever fought is represented by more than 200,000 veterans and their dependents who are laid to rest at the 612-acre Arlington National Cemetery.
Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery. A shrine to the thousands who have died in foreign wars and domestic to keep our country free. Established as a national cemetery in 1864 by Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs, it was the ancestral home of Robert E. Lee. Photo by CameronDavidson@CameronDavidson.com.
The fife and drums corp of Colonial Williamsburg, led by Lance Pedigo. Photo by CameronDavidson@CameronDavidson.com.
Colonial Williamsburg is America’s largest living history museum, consisting of 301 acres and 88 original 18th-century buildings. Dine in one of the four taverns, browse The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, and of course, participate in the period activities.
Virginia War Memorial. Photo by Scott K. Brown.
The Virginia War Memorial in Richmond includes the Shrine of Memory – a place to read more than 11,600 names of Virginia veterans who perished in war. The Memorial honors all veterans, but particularly those killed in World War II, Korean, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf Wars. Also see the Torch of Liberty eternal flame, a reflecting pool, rose garden, and more.
The National D-Day Memorial. Photo by Tony Hall.
Why is Bedford, Virginia the location of the National D-Day Memorial? The town that suffered the highest per capita D-Day losses became the home of the Memorial, and that was Bedford. The Memorial pays tribute to the Allied Forces who participated in the largest land, sea, and air military operation in history – the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
The Appomattox Court House National Historical Park commemorates the heroic acts which took place in April of 1865. General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House to end the Civil War. Photo by CameronDavidson@CameronDavidson.com.
Take the walking tour of the grounds at Appomattox Court House. The buildings are original and have been restored to their original condition. The McLean House is the location where Generals Lee and Grant created and signed the terms of surrender for the Civil War.
Richmond National Cemetery. Photo by Bill Crabtree, Jr.
There are 15 national cemeteries in Virginia. Visit one and speak a simple thanks to those who paid the price for the freedom you enjoy.
Virginia is home to more Civil War sites than any other state, nearly 800 in total. History lovers come to Virginia to explore Civil War sites that stretch from the first major battles to the war’s end at Appomattox, and to explore the stories of ordinary people who did extraordinary things during the war.
Battle of New Market
To get as-near a Civil War experience as possible, attend a battle reenactment. It just so happens that several major reenactments are this weekend.
In Spotsylvania this weekend, your family can tour 1860s home life interpretive areas, listen to period music performed by the 2nd South Carolina String Band, gain knowledge of the battle and Virginia’s role from historians, buy Civil War souvenirs, and witness a reenactment of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, the second major battle of General Ulysses S. Grant’s 1864 Overland Campaign. It’s Saturday and Sunday, May 19 and 20 at Spotsylvania Courthouse Village. $10/Adult; ages 15 and under are free.
Battle of Fort Pocahontas
One major battle that is reenacted annually is the Battle of New Market in the Shenandoah Valley. Also held this Saturday and Sunday, this event places an emphasis on the importance of the corps of cadets from Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. The 300-acre battlefield comes to life again as nearly 2,000 reenactors play out the scenes on this 148th anniversary. In addition to the impressive battle scenarios, living history encampments educate attendees. Be sure to visit the Virginia Museum of the Civil War and see the Emmy award-winning “Field of Lost Shoes.” $10 for ages 10 and up; ages 9 and under are free.
For a unique point of view of the Civil War, attend the reenactment of the Battle at Fort Pocahontas in Charles City this weekend. The United States Colored Troops built the earth fort as protection from Major Fitzhugh Lee’s approaching forces. The USCT were victorious in their May 24, 1864 stand. See this battle reenacted both Saturday and Sunday, May 19 and 20.