On December 4th, 1619, Captain John Woodliffe and 38 English settlers from the ship “Margaret” landed on the present day site of the Berkeley Hundred Plantation. On the day of their landing the first “Virginia Thanksgiving Festival” was held off of the shore of the James River.
During the American Revolution, Benjamin Harrison V, one of the signers of the “Declaration of Independence” resided at the Berkeley One Hundred Plantation. In response British troops occupied the plantation and threw all of the colonial era furniture outside to be burned.
The first of the 10 United States Presidents danced on the floors of the main hall for the residential building of the Berkeley Hundred Plantation, which is in between both the kitchen and the carriage buildings. While Thomas Jefferson visited the plantation, he added decorative wood to multiple rooms on the ground level of the residential building.
During the Civil War, over 100,000 Union troops were stationed along Harrison Landing and at Fort Harrison. President Abraham Lincoln came to visit the Union encampment and ended up firing scores of soldiers, including General George Brinton McClellan, in the hall of the Berkeley Plantation were ten presidents had previously danced in.
Both the Union and the Confederacy established their own balloon corps during the war. The first instance of a balloon being utilized, by the Union army for battlefield surveillance, was when a balloon was launched from the Berkeley Plantation to observe the Confederate forces outside of Richmond.
After the “Seven Days Battles”, that occurred during the Peninsular Campaign, General Daniel Adams Butterfield wrote the song “Taps”. In July 1862, “Taps” was performed for the first time at Harrison Landing and the song was soon replicated by many other Union encampments. Near the present day “Thanksgiving Memorial” is another memorial dedicated to the first performance of “Taps” at the grounds of the Berkeley Hundred Plantation.