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The Shaw Monument: Will it be Lost in History?
By Kamryn Comer

Shaw image1In 1895, John W. Shaw, who was the superintendent of the National Cemetery at Yorktown, decided that he wanted to build a memorial obelisk in order to preserve the British surrender site of the Battle of Yorktown, which won us our independence in 1781. An obelisk is a stone pillar that typically has a square or rectangular cross section and a pyramidal top that serves as a memorial. Shaw was determined to find the actual surrender location of Gen. Cornwallis, and after his own research, he planted the memorial where he supposed the surrender site to be. He constructed the obelisk with his own hands and funding, making sure that only historical materials were utilized. The base was constructed with rock that was close to Cornwallis’ Cave; English bricks from the foundation of the Old Colonial Shaw image2Courthouse were used for the shaft, and he even had cannons balls around the base. All of these building components represented archival moments from the battle. In 1934, the National Park Service granted permission for the monument to be moved since the site was not authenticated and was perceived as inaccurate. The memorial has not been properly maintained since it was seen as an incorrect piece of history The 21-1/2 foot obelisk had lain fairly unnoticeable on its side for 79 years off Redoubt Road, north of Goosley Road, until the summer of 2013. It was then relocated to a maintenance area off Route 17. The Shaw Monument is now in the works of either being destroyed or being yet again placed in a different area. The Virginia Department of Historic Resources concluded that the monument did not meet criteria for the National Register of Historic Places and could not be included in the park because Shaw’s work for the military and his position at the Yorktown National Cemetery was relatively unremarkable. There are a few local groups that would wish to take in this piece of history. The York County Historical Museum, the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution, the Williamsburg Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and local Yorktown historian and inn owner Thomas Nelson Jr. are all in hopes of snatching up the obelisk. It would be truly sad to see such a powerful monument be destroyed. Dan Smith is the superintendent of the Colonial National Historical Park. He will make the final decision on the fate Photo of Shaw Monument courtesy of of the monument.


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In brief 27aug15