by Glenn N. Holliman
Virginia was not immune from the disturbances in England. After the English Civil War, and Charles I losing his crown and head, Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth ruled from 1649 to 1660. Robert Berkeley, a long serving royal appointee, was dismissed as governor of Virginia in 1652 when a Commonwealth ship sailed up the James River and demanded Berkeley’s surrender of the colony and his post.
With the restoration of Charles II to the British throne in 1660, Berkeley left his plantation and exile at Green Spring (near present day Williamsburg) and returned to lead from Jamestown, still the capitol.
Violence never was far away from the Hollimans and their farms in what is now Smithfield, Virginia on the Cypress River (a short river which emptied into the Pagan and then into the James) and later the Blackwater Swamp, still in Isle of Wight County. In 1667, a Dutch fleet sailed up the James and burned twenty colonial ships carrying tobacco. Six years later, the persistent Dutch in a continuing trade war with Britain, returned and burned or captured another ten ships.
Did the Holliman’s suffer financial losses as a result of this international war? Did they hear the guns and see the smoke? Undoubtedly the Virginia militia was turned out. Was this long-forgotten naval engagement (and war) the first occasion for Holliman’s to muster in defense of their new country?