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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Mechanicsville in Hanover County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Rural Plains

“Give me liberty or give me death!”

 

—Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775 —

 
Rural Plains Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, August 28, 2010
1. Rural Plains Marker
Inscription. Rural Plains, home of the Shelton family for nearly three centuries, stands on the northern bank of Totopotomoy Creek. Eighteen-year-old Patrick Henry married Sarah Shelton in 1754. Family tradition places the wedding ceremony in the first floor parlor located in the northwest corner of the house. The young couple soon moved a short distance away to Pine Slash, a small farm on a 300-acre tract of land.

The Shelton House received national attention in the spring of 1864 when Civil War armies clashed at Totopotomoy Creek as part of the Overland Campaign. For four days (May 29-June 1), parts of Union General Winfield Hancock’s Second Corps occupied the plantation. Entrenchments criss-crossed the fields and incoming artillery shells riddled the historic house while the Shelton family huddled in the basement.

Few Civil War soldiers knew that the battle started on Henry’s 128th birthday, and many mistook his nearby birthplace for his grave. Nevertheless, soldiers drew inspiration from the knowledge that they were fighting on ground where Patrick Henry had walked. “Halted for the night,” a Pennsylvania soldier wrote in his diary, “near the tomb of the illustrious Patrick Henry.” Another wrote more accurately that “we had a battle near the homestead of our old patriot and orator, Patrick Henry.”
A Timeline of Patrick Henry’s Life image. Click for full size.
August 28, 2010
2. A Timeline of Patrick Henry’s Life
1736 Henry was born at Studley Plantation
1748 Henry worshiped at Polegreen Church during Great Awakening period and was influenced by the oratory of the Rev. Samuel Davies until 1759
1754 Henry and Sarah Shelton were married at Rural Plains and moved into Pine Slash
1760 Henry passed bar examination in Williamsburg; opened law office at Hanover Tavern
1763 Henry argued Parsons’ Cause at Hanover Courthouse
1765 Henry elected to House of Burgesses and proposed Virginia’s bold Stamp Act Resolutions
1771 Henry made his home at Scotchtown
1774 Henry elected to First Continental Congress
1775 Henry delivered his “Liberty or Death” speech at St. Johns Church
1775 Henry elected to Second Continental Congress
1775 Henry, along with James Madison, elected as a founding trustee of Hampden-Sydney College
1776 Henry attended Fifth Revolutionary Convention and helped draft Virginia Constitution and Declaration of Rights
1776 Henry elected first governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, served three one-year terms
1784 Henry re-elected governor, served two one-year terms
1787 Henry declined election to Philadelphia Constitutional Convention
1788 Virginia ratified U.S. Constitution by 89 to 79 vote, Henry’s opposition fueled movement for a Bill of Rights, which was ratified three years later
1794 Henry made his home at Red Hill, Charlotte County
1794 through 1796 Henry declined sixth term as governor of Virginia and appointments as U.S. senator, chief justice, secretary of state, and ambassador to Spain and France
1799 Henry elected to House of Burgesses but died at Red Hill before taking office
The National Park Service acquired the Shelton House and 124 surrounding acres in 2006.

(sidebar)
Patrick Henry (May 29, 1736 – June 6, 1799) was the leading Virginia statesman in defending the rights of Colonial America.

Following Henrys death, John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson singing his praises: “In the Congress of 1774 there was not one member, except Patrick Henry, who appeared to me sensible of the Precipice or rather the Pinnacle on which he stood, and had the candour and courage enough to acknowledge it.”

Henry was the first elected governor of Virginia, a devoted father of 17 children, and the most famous orator of his day. Born in Hanover County, Henry made a name for himself as a young lawyer in the Parsons’ Cause at Hanover Courthouse in 1763. His 1765 resolutions against the Stamp Act articulated the basic principles of the American Revolution. Henry is perhaps best known for his immortal words “Give me liberty or give me death,” which he delivered during the Second Virginia Convention in a speech to fellow delegates George Washington and Thomas Jefferson at St. John’s Church in 1775. His impassioned words helped move colonists toward American independence and they continue to inspire the cause of freedom around the world.

Known as the “Voice of the Revolution,”
The Road to Revolution Heritage Trail image. Click for full size.
August 28, 2010
3. The Road to Revolution Heritage Trail
The Road to Revolution Heritage Trail links the historic sites and institutions in Virginia that interpret the life and legacy of Patrick Henry. Locations on the statewide trail are shown on the map.
1. Studley (Studley)
2. Historic Polegreen Church (Mechanicsville)
3. Rural Plains (Mechanicsville)
4. Pine Slash (Mechanicsville)
5. Hanover Tavern (Hanover)
6. Hanover County Courthouse (Hanover)
7. Scotchtown (Beaverdam)
8. St. John’s Church (Richmond)
9. Hampden-Sydney College (Hampden-Sydney)
10. Red Hill Plantation (Brookneal)
Henry’s political career included 26 years of service in the Virginia legislature and five terms as governor. He helped draft the Virginia Constitution of 1776 and its Declaration of Rights. A leading critic of the U.S. Constitution, Henry also strongly influenced the creation of the Bill of Rights. Following his death, Henry was buried at Red Hill Plantation, now the site of the Patrick Henry National Memorial.
 
Erected 2010 by The Road to Revolution Heritage Trail. (Marker Number 3.)
 
Location. 37° 39.669′ N, 77° 20.779′ W. Marker is near Mechanicsville, Virginia, in Hanover County. Marker can be reached from Studley Road (Virginia Route 606) 0.1 miles west of Shelton Pointe Drive, on the left when traveling west. Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 7273 Studley Road, Mechanicsville VA 23116, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Totopotomoy Creek (a few steps from this marker); Shelton House Under Fire (within shouting distance of this marker); Totopotomoi (within shouting distance of this marker); Totopotomoy Line (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); Fighting at the Totopotomoy
Rural Plains Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, August 28, 2010
4. Rural Plains Marker
(approx. half a mile away); a different marker also named Totopotomoy Line (approx. half a mile away); Attacking the High Ground (approx. 0.6 miles away); Pine Slash (approx. 0.7 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Mechanicsville.
 
More about this marker. On the left is a photo with the caption, "Sarah Shelton wed Patrick Henry in 1754, purportedly while standing in front of the parlor fireplace. Patrick’s uncle, the Rev. Patrick Henry, performed the ceremony."

On the right is a war time sketch with the caption, "Famed Civil War artist Alfred Waud sketched the exterior of “Rural Plains” during the May 1864 battle. The image closely depicts the 18th-century appearance of the home, as the Sheltons made only a few exterior alterations to the structure."
 
Also see . . .
1. The Road to Revolution Heritage Trail. (Submitted on August 28, 2010, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.)
2. Totopotomoy Creek Battlefield at Rural Plains. Richmond National Battlefield Park (Submitted on August 28, 2010, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.) 

3. The Battle of Totopotomoy Creek, May 29-31, 1864
Rural Plains Parlor image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, July 8, 2009
5. Rural Plains Parlor
. Richmond National Battlefield Park (Submitted on August 28, 2010, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.) 

4. Rural Plains (pdf file). National Register of Historic Places (Submitted on August 28, 2010, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.) 

5. Totopotomoy Creek. CWSAC Battle Summary (Submitted on August 28, 2010, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.) 
 
Categories. Colonial EraPatriots & PatriotismWar, US CivilWar, US Revolutionary
 
Sarah Shelton and Patrick Henry image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, July 8, 2009
6. Sarah Shelton and Patrick Henry
Rural Plains image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, October 8, 2006
7. Rural Plains
The Sheltons made very few exterior alterations to the house.
Rural Plains, Mechanicsville Rural Point vic., Hanover County, Virginia image. Click for full size.
By Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1935
8. Rural Plains, Mechanicsville Rural Point vic., Hanover County, Virginia
Library of Congress [LC-J7-VA- 1885]
At Totopotomay Creek, Va. image. Click for full size.
By Alfred Rudolph Waud, circa May 26, 1864
9. At Totopotomay Creek, Va.
Library of Congress [LC-DIG-ppmsca-21486]
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 3,152 times since then and 79 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on , by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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