BROOKNEAL, Va. — Most Americans know Patrick Henry for one speech: "Give me liberty or give me death," delivered March 23, 1775, at St. John's Episcopal Church in Richmond, Va., during the Second Virginia Convention.
One place you can learn more about Henry is Red Hill, his restored tobacco plantation and his last home. It is in Charlotte County overlooking the Staunton River in Virginia's Southside region.
The old plantation is the main attraction at what's officially called the Red Hill Patrick Henry National Memorial. It includes Henry's original law office and grave, plus a rebuilt house, a museum, a gift shop and interpretive trails on the landscaped grounds.
The American patriot and orator purchased Red Hill in 1794 and retired there to practice law. He called his 700-acre Red Hill Plantation "one of the garden spots of the world."
Henry, along with Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine, was one of the most influential exponents of American independence and a founding father. He led the opposition to the British Stamp Act of 1765, and represented Virginia at the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1774.
In his most famous speech, he argued that the British had already started the war and issued a call to arms. "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!"
After the Revolution, Henry was a leader of the anti-federalists in Virginia. He opposed the Constitution, fearing it would endanger the rights of the states as well as the freedom of individuals. He pushed for the Bill of Rights.
Henry (1738-1799) was the first and sixth governor of Virginia, serving from 1776 to 1779 and again from 1784 to 1786. He repeatedly turned down federal posts offered by George Washington and later by John Adams.
Some say that Henry was the most popular and powerful political figure of his time in Virginia, surpassing Washington and Thomas Jefferson. He made the Revolution a more widely popular movement than it might otherwise have been, some historians say.
Red Hill was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It is owned and operated by the nonprofit Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation.
In 1935, Congress authorized a Patrick Henry National Monument pending federal purchase of Red Hill. That never occurred, as the legislation was repealed in 1944. In 1986, Congress again authorized the national memorial. Today Red Hill is an affiliated area with the National Park Service.
Visitors begin their tour with a 15-minute video of Henry's life, shown at the small visitor center.
The Red Hill Museum includes Henry artifacts, such as his flute, violin, cuff links, an ivory letter opener, wine glasses, house keys, salt dishes, a law office desk, a telescope and several letters penned by Henry.
The collection is the largest of Henry memorabilia anywhere. It includes a painting of Henry's 1765 anti-Tax Act speech by Peter Frederick Rothermel.
The main house at Red Hill burned in 1919 and was rebuilt in 1957. It is among the historic structures that are open to visitors on walk-it-yourself tours.
It is a simple house, not a fancy mansion. The first floor contains a bedroom, a parlor and a spare bedroom. Children slept upstairs. It typically housed nine to 11 family members; Henry had 17 children and 60 grandchildren with his two wives.
The house was reconstructed on the site of the original house from the 1770s. The furnishings include genuine 18th-century items.
The white frame building is surrounded by outbuildings, including a blacksmith shop, a carriage house, a kitchen and a slave cabin.
The law office is the only original Henry structure still standing. He used the building largely to instruct his sons, nephews and a grandson on the law. He saw a few clients, but was in semi-retirement and failing health.
Henry and his second wife, Dorothea Dandridge Henry, are buried in a small cemetery on the grounds, along with other family members. He died on June 6, 1799, at the age of 63. His grave reads "His fame his best epitaph."
According to old records, Henry raised tobacco, corn and wheat at Red Hill. He had 66 slaves. His animals included 167 cattle, 155 hogs, 21 horses and 60 sheep, the records say.
The grounds look much as they did in Henry's day, and are dominated by a large Osage orange tree, the largest of its kind in the world. It is 60 feet high and has a spread of 85 feet. It is a Virginia and national champion big tree.
Interpretive trails are being developed by the foundation, which acquired the property in 1944 and built the museum in 1976.
Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday from April 1 through Oct. 31. Winter hours (Nov. 1 through March 31) are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Monday by appointment only. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and $2 for children.
Red Hill is 102 miles west of Richmond, 85 miles east of Roanoke. For information, contact Red Hill Patrick Henry National Memorial, 800-514-7463, http://www.redhill.org.
Red Hill is a stop on the Road to Revolution Heritage Trail. It features eight Virginia sites linked to Henry, including St. John's Episcopal Church in Richmond, the Hanover Tavern, the Hanover Courthouse, Hampden-Sydney College in Hampden-Sydney, Scotchtown (Henry's house in 1771-78), the Polegreen Church in Mechanicsville and Rural Plains in Hanover.
For information, contact the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, 888-RICHMOND or 800-370-9004, http://www.roadtorevolution.com.
Red Hill is also 26 miles south of Appomattox, Va., home of the 1,695-acre Appomattox Court House National Historical Park.
It's where 63,000 Union troops surrounded 33,000 Confederate troops in battles April 8-9, 1865, and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union commander Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on April 9.
The park's visitor center is in the courthouse at the center of the village, which housed about 120 residents in 1860 and even fewer in 1865. The old building burned in 1892 and was rebuilt in 1964.
Appomattox Court House is a largely a self-guided park filled with ghosts of Union and Confederate soldiers. There are few monuments and cannons. Vehicles are banned and you must explore on foot. The key building for most visitors is the red brick house of Wilmer McLean, where the surrender was arranged.
Thirteen of the village's original buildings are standing and nine others have been re-created.
Hours of the historic park are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. It is closed for winter holidays. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, admission is $5 per person or $10 per vehicle. Those 15 and under are admitted free. During the rest of the year, admission is $3 per person or $5 per vehicle.
For park information, call 434-352-8987, ext. 26 or see http://www.nps.gov/apco.
For tourist information, contact the Visitor Information Center, Appomattox County Chamber of Commerce, 434-352-2621, http://www.appomattoxchamber.org.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun