The big draw at Berkeley Plantation, one of dozens of formerly magesterial estates that dot Virginia's James River, is presidential history: Wiliam Henry Harrison, the Tippecanoe hero who served 31 days before succumbing to pneumonia, was born there.
But visitors soon discover the Harrison-doting docents who guide tours there are primed to buff the home's historical veneer to an even shinier finish. According to their stories, Thanksgiving was invented at Berkeley. So was bourbon.
One of the tales that seems relatively credible concerns the creation of "Taps", which was first played along the riverbank in 1862. Daniel Butterfield, a brigadier general commanding the Union's Army of the Potomac, was stationed there with his troops when the company's bugler sounded "Tatoo," the traditional lights-out tune. The notes suggested another melody to Butterfield, who ordered the first-ever playing of "Taps."
Today, the tune is played at more than 2500 ceremonies every year -- and for every plantation visitor who presses the small button affixed to the museum's stone monument.
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12602 Harrison Landing Road
Charles City VA 23030