Archive for the ‘James City County’ Category

Governor’s Land V-41

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Inscription:

Situated near Jamestown, Governor’s Land originally was a 3,000-acre tract encompassing open fields between the James River and Powhatan Creek. The Virginia Company of London set the parcel aside in 1618 to seat tenants who worked the land, giving half the profits to maintain the office of the governor. Deputy Governor Samuel Argall had already established the private settlement of Argall’s Town in these environs in 1617. Virginia governors also leased the property to others. Colonial leaders including William Drummond, governor of the Carolina proprietary (1665–1667) and an insurgent in Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676 held lease-holds here. Portions of tract provided income to Virginia governors into the 18th century.

Further Research

Samuel Argall

Samuel Argall was active governor of Virginia beginning in 1617 and ending in 1619, when he was replaced by George Yeardley (Grizzard and Smith, 16). Although he was not one of the original colonists to arrive in Virginia, he is quite a notable figure in the history of Virginia and he played an integral role in the English settlement of the colony. Argall arrived in the colony around 1609 and for a few years he was able to explore the Chesapeake region and study its native inhabitants (Grizzard and Smith, 14).  In 1613, he was responsible for the kidnapping of  Pocahontas. Although she was treated fairly well for being a hostage, she was held for a ransom to be exchanged for a variety of English weapons, tools and prisoners that the Powhatan natives had come into possession of; however, she was never returned back to the Powhatan natives (Grizzard and Smith, 14).

Volunteers and Students Dig at the Argall Towne Site

In 1617, Samuel Argall established the small, short-lived area of Argall’s Town,  also known as Argall’s Guift (Hatch, 36). He was most attracted to the land west of Jamestown, and in 1617 he had been allotted 2,400 acres in a charter from England.  After building a settlement in his newly established “Argall’s Town,” in 1619 he was forced to surrender his land back to Governor Yeardley, as this land was the “Governor’s Land” (Hatch, 37).  Yeardley achieved this by making each settler pay a “petty rente” to make sure they acknowledged that this land had been wrongfully settled on (Hatch, 37).

 

Further Reading

Grizzard, Jr. Frank E. and D. Boyd Smith. Jamestown Colony: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2007.

Hatch, Jr. Charles E. The First Seventeen Years in Virginia: 1607- 1624. Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1957.

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Governor’s Land V-41,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Sir Samuel Argall,” Find a Grave, www.findagrave.com (accessed April 30, 2012).

“Volunteers and Students Dig at the Argall Towne Site,” The Virginia Gazette: 1617 Village is Near Jamestown, www.vagazette.com (accessed April 30, 2012).

View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources link not available

Blockhouses Near Jamestown WT-3: not erected

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Inscription:

In the first few years in the English settlement at Jamestown, colonists built small, isolated, fortified structures- called blockhouses- around the perimeter of the main settlement to provide refuges, observation posts, and rallying points in the case of attack.  On 29 Mar. 1610, Paspahegh Indians, who consistently resisted the English incursion into their territory, attacked the blockhouse near here, killing the soldiers stationed there. The attack was in retaliation for the February killing of their leader, Wowinchapuncke.  On 20 May 1611, Sir Thomas Dale directed the raising of another blockhouse “on the north side of our back river to prevent the Indians from killing our cattle.”

Further Research

A Blockhouse

Blockhouses were early American structures that were built in order to ensure protection for the nearby colonial settlements.  Traditionally, they were used as defense posts against possible native Indian attacks.  The blockhouses were constructed of wooden timbers and beams and were fortified using loop-hole style architecture on its sides to accommodate for muskets and weapons (Tyler, 150).  They were guarded by a garrison, which is simply a group of troops designated with the job of protecting a specific entity whether it be a fort or a city.  The garrison was solely responsible for any forms of trade between the colonists and the natives, as they were the only ones authorized to trade with natives (The Southern and Western Literary Messenger, 136).

Sir Thomas Dale

In the Spring of 1609, the first blockhouse at Jamestown was erected.  This first blockhouse was located at the neck where the Island connects to the mainland.  In May of 1610, Sir Thomas Gates arrived to the Jamestown colony and acknowledged the growing native indian threat to the colony, stating of the natives “fast killing without the fort as the famine and pestilence within.”(Tyler, 150).  Because of this, in May of 1611 when Sir Thomas Dale arrived in Jamestown, the decision was made to construct a second blockhouse “on the north side of our Back River, to prevent the Indians from killing our cattle”(Tyler, 150).  The blockhouses made it easier for the colonists to keep an eye on their native neighbors.

Blockhouse located at Martin's Hundred

The blockhouses that were built were crucial to the protection and survival of the colony.  They provided not only a structure as to which the colonists could use as an observation post but as a means to ward off attacks as well by providing areas for weapons.

 

Further Reading

“The History of Virginia,” Southern and Western Literary Messenger and Review. Vol. 13, No. 1. Richmond: MacFarlane & Ferguson, Printers, Law-Builders, 1847.

Tyler, Lyon G. The Cradle and the Republic: Jamestown and James River Virginia. Richmond: Hermitage Press, 1906.

Photo Credits

Tyler, Lyon Gardiner. The Cradle of the Republic. Richmond: Hermitage Press, 1906, (151).

“Sir Thomas Dale,” Henrico County Historical Society, www.henricohistoricalsociety.org (accessed April 30, 2012).

“Blockhouse Located at Martin’s Hundred,” Martin’s Hundred, http://jpwhit.people.wm.edu (accessed April 30, 2012).

View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources link not available

Wowinchapuncke V-52

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Inscription:

Wowinchapuncke was the chief of the Paspahegh Indians when the English established Jamestown in the tribe’s territory in 1607. He consistently resisted the English intrusion, earning both respect and hostility from Jamestown leaders. Captured and imprisoned at Jamestown, he escaped, and the English retaliated by killing several Paspahegh men. After the English destroyed a Paspahegh town in August 1610 and executed Wowinchapuncke’s wife and children, he continued to harass the English until he was killed in a skirmish near Jamestown in February 1611. In 1991, the archaeological remains of a large Paspahegh community near here were excavated.

Further Research

Paspahegh Native with a Colonist

Since the English colonists first landed in Jamestown in 1607, Chief Wowinchapuncke and his tribe of Paspahegh natives were not on friendly or cordial terms with the new arrivals.  The Paspahegh natives attacked the English within the first few days of arriving and these acts of unfriendliness and violence continued until the fall of their Chief, Wowinchapuncke in 1611. Chief Wowinchapuncke never intended to have diplomatic relations with the newly arriving colonists.

Further Reading 

Bridenbaugh, Carl. Jamestown: 1544-1699. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Feest, Christian F. Indians of North America: The Powhatan Tribes. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1990.

Grizzard, Jr. Frank E. and D. Boyd Smith. Jamestown Colony: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2007.

Rubertone, Patricia E. Archaeologies of Placemaking: Monuments, Memories and Engagement in Native North America. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press, 2008.

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Wowinchapuncke V-52,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Paspahegh Native with a Colonist,” Charles City County: State Historical Markers, www.charlescity.org (accessed April 29, 2012).

View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources link not available

Jamestown Road W-38

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Inscription:

The ancient road that linked Jamestown, the original colonial capital, with Middle Plantation (later Williamsburg) followed a meandering course. It departed from Jamestown Island and then turned northeast, crossing Powhatan and Mill Creeks. As it approached Middle Plantation, it traversed a branch of College Creek that by the mid-17th century was dammed to form Rick Neck plantation’s millpond, today’s Lake Matoaka. Improvements to Jamestown Road, completed in time for the Jamestown Ter-Centennial Exposition, constituted the first project completed with the assistance of the State Highway Commission, formed in 1906.

Further Research

The English colonists originally referred to what now constitutes Jamestown Road, as the “Greate Road”. The original road was a natural path that was abundantly rich in natural resources and the natives had previously used it as a hunting trail that led from the mainland to the Jamestown Forte (Grizzard and Smith, 82). Unfortunately for the colonists, this path was heavily used by the natives and since the natives were so familiar with the area, this road was a site for many sneak attacks led by the natives on the colonists.

Remnants of this ancient road still exist today and they can mostly be seen from Glasshouse Point (www.nps.org).  Originally, the Greate Road was a route that began at James Fort and continued to travel west across the isthmus and onto the mainland near Glasshouse Point.

Since 1939, excavations have taken place on the various sections of the original Greate Road. It was discovered that the settlers would pack down the dirt and soil through the use of horses and oxen. As more traffic would begin to use the road, the colonists would expand the road another 30-35 feet and the road would be built up with sand (www.nps.org).

Further Reading

Grizzard, Jr. Frank E. and D. Boyd Smith. Jamestown Colony: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2007.

“The Greate Road: An Early Highway Pre 1607-1700’s. National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/jame/historyculture/new-towne-the-greate-road-an-early-highway-pre-1607-1700s.htm (accessed March 17, 2012).

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Jamestown Road W-38,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“The Great Road,” Williamsburg, Virginia, www.ancestry.com (accessed May 2, 2012).

View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources

Littletown W-48

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Inscription:

In the second quarter of the 17th-century, merchant George Menefie developed a 1,200-acre plantation just east of here he called Littletown. In March 1633, Dutch trader David DeVies observed that his two-acre garden was “full of Provence roses, apple, pear and cherry trees,… with different kinds of sweet-smelling herbs, such as rosemary, sage, marjoram, thyme.” Richard Kemp later acquired the tract and called it Rich Neck. Rich Neck was home to three generations of the Ludwell family and Ludwell’s Mill (at modern Lake Matoaka) was an important 18th-century landmark.

Further Research

Location of Rich Neck Plantation in present-day Williamsburg

The Middle Plantation is considered to be the area between the York and James Rivers. Rich Neck was a plantation started by George Menefie on July 2, 1635 (Agbe-Davies), and contained a total of 1,200 acres under it. He recieved the land by paying 24 immigrants to come into America, and he then gained another 3,000 acres by paying for the passages of 60 individuals. Menefie, however, did not live on that land. It was then sold within a year to another wealthy colonist, Richard Kemp (McFaden et al, 5-6).

This would start a pattern of this land being owned by the wealthy. The main crop that was grown was of course tobacco, and the landowners used enslaved Africans as labor. Also, all subsequent owners would live on the property (Agbe-Davies). Richard Kemp had owned the land until 1650, when he died and his estate was left to his wife. She then remarried, making the next owner Sir Thomas Lunsford. He then died three years later (McFaden, 7).

This pattern of wealthy owners would continue on, as it was then passed down in the Ludwell family until 1814. The land was then divided into seperate tracts for sale, and the 600 acre portion known as Little Neck was a private family-owned farm (McFaden et al, 5).

Further Reading

Agbe-Davies, Anna. “A Brief History of the Rich Neck Plantation.” http://www.daacs.org/resources/plantations/background/6/ (Accessed March 11, 2012).

McFaden, Leslie, Philip Levy, David Muraca, and Jennifer Jones. Interim Report: The Archaeology of Rich Neck Plantation. Williamsburg: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation: 1999.

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Littletown W-48,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Location of Rich Neck Plantation in present-day Williamsburg,” Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery, www.daacs.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources

Martin’s Hundred Church W-52

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Inscription:

The first Martin’s Hundred Parish church was probably built at Wolstenholme Town, an early 17th-century settlement that was located a mile southeast of here. None of the structures excavated there have been identified as a church; it may have been in a portion of the town that has been lost to erosion. A second parish church was built about 1630. Martin’s Hundred Parish was incorporated into Yorkhampton Parish in York County in 1712, and the Martin’s Hundred Church may have been abanodned then. The cemetery there probably continued in use for some time afterward.


Further Research

York-Hampton Parish

Martin’s Hundred Parish was the local church for the collection of people who were known as the Society of Martin’s Hundred. It was a small church which was established after the reallocation of land from plantations into counties in 1634 (Archaeology at the Atkinson Site). The parish would remain until 1713, when it was taken in by the York-Hampton Parish (Historic Jamestowne). One of the gravestones were stumbled upon by George Meade and Richard Randolph. It was the tomb of Samuel Pond, who died in 1694 (Meade, 242).

Further Reading


“Martin’s Hundred.” Archaeology at the Atkinson Site. http://research.history.org/Archaeological_Research/MHPage/MH.htm (Accessed March 12, 2012).

“Martin’s Hundred Sites.” Historic Jamestowne. http://apva.org/rediscovery/page.php?page_id=404 (Accessed March 12, 2012).

Meade, William. Ministers and Families of Virginia. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippencott and Company, 1861.

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Martin’s Hundred Church W-52,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“York-Hampton Parish,” Library of Congress, www.loc.gov (accessed May 2, 2012).

View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources

Martin’s Hundred W-51

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Inscription:

This plantation was allocated to the London-based Society of Martin’s Hundred by 1618 and was later assigned 21,500 acres. It was initially settled in 1620 around Wolstenholme Town, its administrative center, located near the James River. Archaeologists discovered the town site in 1977. They also located the graves of several people who died during the 22 March 1622 Indian attacks on English settlements coordinated by Chief Opechancanough, when 78 colonists here – half the plantation’s population – were reported killed. These attacks were in response to English expansion into Indian lands. The area was soon resettled but the Society of Matrin’s Hundred’s town was never rebuilt.


Further Research

Fort at Wolstenholme Towne

In 1622, a massacre of 78 colonists occurred at the plantation of Martin’s Hundred by the Powhatan Indians (Klingelhofer and Henry, 98). This was known as the Powhatan Uprising of March 22, 1622. In total, the Powhatan tribe had killed 347 colonists all throughout Virginia, along the James River. In addition to this, twenty women were taken as captives from the Martin’s Hundred plantation and held by the Powhatan Indians (Fausz).

Artist's rendering of Wolstenholme Towne Site in 1620

 

The colonists had launched attacks of their own in retaliation throughout the summer and the fall of that year. The attacks were so strong that the Powhatan Indians requested negotiations, while using the captured women as their bargaining tool. To show that this was serious, the wife of the late Thomas Boyse, who represented Martin’s Hundred at Virginia’s first legislature, was sent back to the hands of the colonists (Fausz).

"The Archaeology of Martin's Hundred" book

 

Evidence of the location of Martin’s Hundred came in 1977, when archaeologists tested the ground around a 17th century tombstone in James City County. The tombstone was made for Samuel Pond, buried in 1694 at the age of 48 ( Klingelhofer and Henry, 98-100). Other archaeological finds that confirm the location of Martin’s Hundred Parish come from trace amounts of window glass in the topsoil, corroded nail fragments, and bottles with the dimensions of “Squat bottles” ( Klingelhofer and Henry, 103).

Replica of Wolstenholme Town Fort

After the Powhatan’s effort towards good will, the colonists continued to focus on the destruction of the Indians. They were still considered to be hostile. In May of 1623, the leaders of both the Powhatans and the colonists met to discuss a truce. Upon the closing remarks after speeches from both parties, the colonists attempted to poison the leaders and the 200 other Indians who accompanied the leaders to the meeting. Many Indians fell sick, while 50 others were just shot by the colonists. Opechancanough, their leader, had managed to escape however. The women were then held for a bit longer, ranging from being returned in 1624 as seven of the women had been returned, or 1630, where one of the women had been returned. Those who did not arrive were considered to have been killed in 1622 during either the raids or other causes (Fausz).

Further Reading

Brown, Alexander. The Genesis of the United States: A Narrative of the Movement in England, 1605-1616. Cambridge: Houghton Mifflin, 1890.

Fausz, J. Frederick. “Powhatan Uprising of 1622.” American History. http://www.historynet.com/powhatan-uprising-of-1622.htm (Accessed March 14, 2012).

Klingelhofer, Eric and Henry, William. “Excavations at Martin’s Hundred Church, James City County, Virginia: Techniques for Testing a 17th Century Church Site.” Historical Archaeology 19 no. 1 (1985): 98-103.

Photo Credits

“The Archaeology of Martin’s Hundred,” Amazon, www.amazon.com (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Artist’s rendering of Wolstenholme Towne Site in 1620,” National Geographic Image Collection, www.nationalgeographicstock.com (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Fort at Wolstenholme Towne,” The Williamsburg Foundation, www.history.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

Historical Marker “Martin’s Hundred W-51,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Replica of Wolstenholme Towne Forte,” Martin’s Hundred, www.jpwhit.people.wm.edu (accessed May 2, 2012).

 

View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources

First Africans in English America WT-1

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Inscription:

The first documented Africans in English America arrived at Jamestown in August 1619. A dutch man-of-war captured them from the Spanish, who had enslaved them, and sold them to the Virginia colonists. The “twenty and odd” Africans, some of whom had been given Spanish names, may have been treated like indentured servants and later freed after their periods of servitude expired. From this beginning the institution of slavery evolved during the 17th century as the Virginia colonists extended the lenght of service for Africans from a fixed term to life. The United States abolished slavery in 1865.


 Further Research

The first Africans came to Jamestown in 1619 from aboard a Dutch ship, in addition to other cargo that had come with it. These were the first laborers of the colonies but it is unclear now as to whether these Africans were originally brought over as slaves or as indentured servants (The Terrible Transformations). A total of 20 Africans were traded in 1619 in exchange for food. The number then increased to 23 during the survey of 1625. According to records past 1623 and 1624, there were a significant amount of “free blacks,” or blacks who were allowed to be property owners. By 1640, there was at least one recorded slave within the Jamestown colony.

The first “slaves” that were recognized by the state of Virginia were in 1660, when slavery was put into Virginia law. This came about due to the increase in demand of tobacco. The number of Africans in Virginia increased from roughly 1,000 to 6,000 over the course of forty years, and would then rise to 23,000 around 1715 (McGinnis, 136). Past this time, Virginia still relied on English labor for its tobacco, while many Africans were moved to the West Indies to work on the Sugar Plantations (Smedley, 93).

The first Africans in Jamestown had Spanish names, such as Isabelle and Anthony. Anthony was in fact the first free African, earning enough funds to import five servants and gain 250 acres of land in 1651. Not only was he the first freed African, but he was also the first African landowner in Virginia (McGinnis, 135-136). This was not overly common past 1660, however, as more and more Africans were being brought into Virginia as lifetime slaves. The numbers grew exponentially, with over 290,000 slaves in 1790, followed by over 517,000 slaves between 1830 and 1840 (McGinnis, 136).

Africans Aboard a Ship

Further Reading

“Arrival of first Africans to Virginia Colony.” The Terrible Transformation: Africans in Americahttp://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1p263.html (Accessed March 20, 2012).

McGinnis, Carol. Virginia Genealogy: Sources and Resources. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1993.

Smedley, Audrey. Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview. Boulder: Westview Press, 1999.

Photo Credits

“Africans Aboard a Ship,” Sisters of Providence: The Beginnings, www.spsmw.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

“First Africans in America,” Africans in America: Arrival of First Africans in Virginia Colony, www.pbs.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

Historical Marker “First Africans in English America WT-1,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources

Battle of Green Spring V-39

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Inscription:

Nearby, late in the afternoon of 6 July 1781, Gen. Charles Cornwallis and cavalry commander Col. Banastre Tarleton with 5,000 British and Hessian troops clashed with 800 American troops commanded by Brig. Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne and the Marquis de Lafayette, believing  that the main British force was across the James River, and that  he was attacking Cornwallis’s rear, Wayne soon realized that he was facing far superior numbers. He startled the advancing British forces by charging them, exchanging volleys, and then withdrawing his troops from encirclement and certain defeat. Dusk prevented Cornwallis from pursuing the Americans.

Further Research

General Cornwallis

In the summer of 1781, General Lord Cornwallis and his 6,000 British regulars began to move from Richmond east towards Williamsburg. Tasked with the effort of quelling Virginia’s revolutionary resistance, Cornwallis put chase to the Continental Army of about 3,000 soldiers and militiamen under the Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette was able to evade Cornwallis’ forces for about a month, until General Anthony Wayne reinforced his Continental Army. These reinforcements bolstered Lafayette’s Army to 4,000 men, and gave him the confidence to strike out against Cornwallis’ frequent raids against colonial assets.

Battle of Green Spring

The first major action that Summer occurred at Spencer’s Ordinary near Williamsburg, where two minor detachments of the British and Colonials fought to a stalemate before retreating back to their main armies. Upon his arrival in Portsmouth, Cornwallis received orders from General Sir Henry Clinton to prepare his army to depart to New York. The British intended to move Cornwallis’ army by ship, at the small town of Portsmouth on the Virginia peninsular. In order to make this maneuver, it was necessary for the British to cross the James River by ferry on the Green Spring Plantation.

Unwilling to leave Virginia without bloodying the Colonial army once more, Cornwallis planned to trap Lafayette’s forces at the James River ferry crossing. On July 6th, British General sent only John Graves Simcoe’s Queen’s Rangers across the river, and cleverly hid his main force at the bottom of a marshy slope. To complete his trap, Cornwallis sent a feint group of deserters to Lafayette, with information that the main body of their army had crossed the river. Lafayette jumped at the opportunity, and ordered General “Mad Anthony Wayne to advance with 500 soldiers against what he assumed was the rear-guard of the British Army. After a slow but successful two-hour advance upon the British position, Lafayette ordered 300 Pennsylvania reserves to bolster Wayne’s main attack group. The Colonials finally reached an abandoned British artillery piece that evening, which was the signal for the main British force to surprise the unsuspecting Americans. Cornwallis’ artillery opened up with hellacious canister fire, and then 5,000 of his infantrymen charged Wayne’s outnumbered Americans.

This shocked and thwarted the Colonial advance, but Wayne was able to reassemble his men back into formation. As Lafayette directed reinforcements to prevent his main force from utter decimation, Wayne orchestrated an infantry charge of his own. His 800 infantrymen counter charged the 5,000 British troops with fixed bayonets, which allowed Lafayette’s reserves to provide a sufficient amount of cover for the entrapped Colonials. Outraged, Cornwallis personally led an infantry a second British infantry charge, which effectively resulted in an American retreat. Lafayette’s Colonial Army retreated back to the Green Spring Plantation, and Cornwallis’ Army eventually crossed the river.

Shortly after this battle, Cornwallis received orders from Clinton to stay in Virginia and establish a naval stronghold in the peninsular. This culminated in the Siege of Yorktown in October of that year.

Further Reading

Johnston, Henry Phelps. The Yorktown Campaign and the Surrender of Cornwallis, 1781. Harper & Brothers, 1881.

Ramsay, David. The History of the American Revolution. Printed and sold by James J. Wilson, 1811.

Ward, Harry M. For Virginia and for Independence: Twenty-Eight Revolutionary War Soldiers from the Old Dominion. McFarland, 2011.

Eisenhower, John, and W. J. WOOD. Battles of the Revolutionary War. Da Capo Press, 2003.

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Battle of Green Spring V-39,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“General Cornwallis,” The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, www.history.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Battle of Green Spring,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources

Spencer’s Ordinary W-35

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Inscription:

On this road, four miles south, the action of Spencer’s Ordinary was fought, June 24, 1781, between detachments from Lafayette and Cornwallis’s armies.

 

 

 

Further Research

General Lord Cornwallis

In the summer of 1781, General Lord Cornwallis and his 6,000 British regulars began to move from Richmond east towards Williamsburg. Tasked with the effort of quelling Virginia’s revolutionary resistance, Cornwallis put chase to the Continental Army of about 3,000 soldiers and militiamen under the Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette was able to evade Cornwallis’ forces for about a month, until General Anthony Wayne reinforced his Continental Army. These reinforcements bolstered Lafayette’s Army to 4,000 men, and gave him the confidence to strike out against Cornwallis’ frequent raids against colonial assets.

Queen's Rangers Seal

On June 25th, Lafayette received word that Cornwallis had sent a detachment of Queen’s Rangers under Lieutenant Colonel John Graves Simcoe to forage for food and destroy colonial vessels along the Chickahominy River. Intending to intercept Simcoe’s forces, Lafayette and Wayne ordered American Colonel Richard Butler to confront Simcoe with a mixed group of Pennsylvania cavalry and infantrymen under Captain William McPherson, and two companies of Virginia riflemen led by Majors Richard Call and John Willis. The next day on the 26th, around 100 colonial infantry and cavalrymen encountered Simcoe’s vanguard near Spencer’s Ordinary. The first action occurred when Captain McPherson and his cavalry were charged by Simcoe’s own mounted troops. In this initial action McPherson fell from his horse, and several of his men were taken prisoner. After this small melee, Colonel Butler’s main force began to arrive just as Simcoe’s infantry was advancing to support his cavalry. Simcoe learned from the prisoners that Lafayette’s main force was near by, and he ordered that this information be relayed to Cornwallis in Williamsburg. Simcoe also had his men construct tree barricades near Spencer’s Ordinary to provide a defensive position against any attack.  The British Lieutenant Colonel then formed his men into a manipulative formation meant to cause Butler to assume he possessed a large amount of soldiers. This ploy initially was successful, and Simcoe ordered an infantry charge against Butler’s lines to again give off the impression that his force was much larger than it actually was. Butler’s men were able to withstand this charge, and Simcoe then ordered a cavalry charge and discharged a cannon against the Colonial forces. After this skirmish and stalemate both detachments retreated, for fear of engaging the main body of either opposing force.

John Graves Simcoe

The aftermath of this foray resulted in 9 killed, 14 wounded, and 32 captured Colonials, and 11 killed and 25 wounded British soldiers. Simcoe was forced to leave his wounded men under a flag of truce in Spencer’s Ordinary. Both army detachments retreated to their respective camps, and would meet again at the Battle of Green Spring on July 6th later that summer.

 

Further Reading

Fryer, Mary Beacock, and Christopher Dracott. John Graves Simcoe, 1752-1806: a Biography. Dundurn Press Ltd., 1998.

Johnston, Henry Phelps. The Yorktown Campaign and the Surrender of Cornwallis, 1781. Harper & Brothers, 1881.

Lossing, Benson John. The Pictorial Field-book of the Revolution: Or, Illustrations, by Pen and Pencil, of the History, Biography, Scenery, Relics, and Traditions of the War for Independence. Harper & brothers, 1860.

Lytle, Richard M. The Soldiers of America’s First Army, 1791. Scarecrow Press, 2004.

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Spencer’s Ordinary W-35,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“General Cornwallis,” The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, www.history.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Queen’s Rangers Seal,” Historical Narratives of Early Canada, www.uppercanadahistory.ca (accessed May 2, 2012).

“John Graves Simcoe,” Historical Narratives of Early Canada, www.uppercanadahistory.ca (accessed May 2, 2012).

View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources