This Day (Coopy of North Nibley Edition)

As days go, September 7 has been fairly busy—at least where Virginia is concerned. For instance, on this day in 1533, the state’s namesake, Elizabeth Tudor, of The Tudors Tudors and the future Queen Elizabeth I, was born at Greenwich Palace.

Moving on … on this day in 1608, John Smith and friends returned to Jamestown after the second of their two major Chesapeake Bay explorations. This was the one where Smith famously survived being stabbed by a stingray, giving us present-day Stingray Point.

Eleven years later, as the colony was really ramping up (e.g., e.g.), Robert Coopy of North Nibley, Gloucester, England, age unknown, signed a three-year indenture to work as a servant for the proprietors of the Berkeley Hundred plantation in Virginia. In this case, signing on the dotted line represented a far greater risk than, say, buying Best Buy’s three-year protection plan. I wish I knew what happened to Coopy of North Nibley—did he go on to make millions in tobacco, did he even survive?—but I don’t.
I do know, however, that three years to the day later, one of the colony’s first governors, Sir Thomas Gates … well, he didn’t die. We actually don’t know his exact expiration date, just that on this day Sir Dudley Carleton wrote a letter informing some English official that Gates was, in fact, dead. Which, for historians, is as close as we can get. Carleton, by the way, described Sir Thomas as “an ancient honest gentleman of this nation.” Who could possibly disagree?
Fast forward a bit, and on this day in 1715, Governor Alexander Spotswood—who was never popular among Virginia’s elite, but who also gave as good as he got—dissolved the House of Burgesses, calling its members “a Set of Representatives, whom Heaven has not generally endowed with the Ordinary Qualifications requisite to Legislators.” That, as our entry suggests, might best be described as “unbridled contempt,” but since when have legislators ever been endowed by Heaven?

I mean, really.
Anyway, continuing on our little survey of Virginia history … on this day in 1805, Samuel Chilton was born in Fauquier County. You’ll recall that he and a fellow lawyer with the perfectly mid-nineteenth-century name of Hiram Griswold represented John Brown for the final two days of the treason trial that followed Brown’s 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry. They lost, of course, but history needs to stand Chilton up there with John Adams, who defended the Redcoats after the Boston Massacre, or those lawyers down in Guantánamo. Everybody deserves a fair trial, right?

I’ve skipped a few things—a big day in Bacon’s Rebellion, a governor is born, a VIP dies—but let’s end on this day 150 years ago, when the Army of Northern Virginia, having recently crossed the Potomac River into Maryland, managed to concentrate approximately 65,000 of its men in the town of Frederick. What would Robert E. Lee do next? What, pray tell, would be the fate of the republic? One imagines Abe Lincoln in the position of this woman at Roanoke:


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