A little-known turning point in the American Revolutionary War took place just six miles north of the current Oak Grove Plantation, when the American army retreated across the Dan River ahead of the British army, leaving no ferryboats for a British pursuit. Called “the Crossing of the Dan,” this landmark historical event was re-enacted on Feb. 22 with cannons firing, flag-bearers marching and dozens of troops bearing colorful uniforms of the era.
For the first time, a ferry boat built for the occasion traversed the Dan at South Boston, just as American troops rowed through the strong currents while retreating northward 231 years ago. Because all of the boats were gone when they arrived, the British under Lord Cornwallis were unable to catch up with the revolutionaries. With their supplies and numbers reinforced, the Americans crossed back south across the Dan again a few weeks later and decisively defeated Cornwallis at Guilford Courthouse, near Greensboro, N.C. Cornwallis’s army then headed northeast, where it was trapped at Yorktown, effectively ending the war.
A packed house at the Prizery’s Chastain Theater in South Boston saw an honor guard in full Revolutionary War uniforms bear various flags from the time. Dignitaries described the events from the American Revolution and descendants of some of the principals were honored. Among them was Patrick Henry Jolly, who gave a speech in the role of the former Virginia governor and Revolutionary War patriot. Noting that he had 17 children, he asked, “So why is George Washington considered the father of our country?”
If they missed the reenactment, visitors can still see exhibits about the historic event at the Prizery, the former tobacco warehouse turned into an arts center.