Most of us only know a handful of the names of our Founding Fathers - those brave men that sacrificed everything to create the United States of America, to form an idea into a reality.
On our trip to Yorktown, we 'met' Thomas Nelson, Jr. Nelson was a wealthy farmer who lived in Yorktown, Virginia, in the home shown in its restored splendor.
In 1774, Nelson heard about the Boston Tea Party and, in response, he boarded the ship Virginia in the harbor and dumped two chests of tea into the York River to protest the British Tea Tax. This was an action that could have cost him prison or death.
Nelson became a delegate to the Continental Congress and served from 1775-1777 and, again in 1779. He was one of the first to press for Independence, and urged his fellow congressmen to seek it, as well. He was plagued with ill health and a series of strokes and asthma, which would require periodic withdrawal from public life, but never seemed to halt his quest for Independence and the creation of this country.
In 1781, Nelson was elected Governor of Virginia, to replace Thomas Jefferson who had left the office. At the same time, he was the Commander of the Virginia Militia. At the siege of Yorktown, Nelson led 3,000 men into battle.
General Cornwallis had taken refugee in Nelson's home in Yorktown. Out of respect to General Nelson, the artillery men avoided aiming at his home. Nelson urged Washington to fire upon his home, a necessary sacrifice in his pursuit of Independence. Legend has it that Nelson offered five shillings to the first artillery man to hit his home or that he manned the artillery and fired at his own home. At the end of the battle with the surrender of Cornwallis and the British, his home was all but destroyed.
Thomas Nelson, Jr. died at the age of 50, in 1789. He did not live long enough to see President Washington inaugurated. The inattention to his personal affairs during the war, the state's failure to repay the large loans he made to the war effort, and the debt incurred, coupled with his ill health made it impossible for him to reestablish the family wealth.
Thomas Nelson, Jr. was a man with a dream: a dream that he gave everything to see become a reality. I am grateful to Thomas Nelson, Jr. for all he did to create our country and to fight for its establishment.