The Hampton Roads Naval Museum in downtown Norfolk, Virginia, is one of nine museums presently operated by the Navy History and Heritage Command. While small, it’s packed to the gills with more than 238 years of local U.S. naval history, which visitors can experience on a self-guided tour. A large map of Hampton Roads greets them at the entrance, and a team of docents stands by to answer questions and share stories.
The journey begins off Virginia’s Cape Henry and Cape Charles—the 5 September 1781 battle there, to be exact. After 3,000 French troops supplemented General George Washington’s Continental Army, the French navy defeated the British navy at the Battle of the Capes. Isolated and soon besieged at nearby Yorktown, Virginia, Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis surrendered his army to Washington on 19 October. Maps, art, and a detailed model of the French flagship Ville de Paris give additional information.