Posts Tagged ‘Battle of Green Spring’

Burnt Ordinary W-33

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012


First called John Lewis’ Ordinary and then Fox’s. Burnt Ordinary received its name in Jan. 1780 when, according to the Virginia Gazette, Fox’s Ordinary burned to the ground. Later, in Oct. 1781, when the French army’s wagon train passed by, Alexander Berthier wrote that “two old chimneys” stood here in the fork of the road. Also in 1781, Samuel Dewitt, George Washington’s cartographer, noted the site of the “Burnt Brick Ordinary”, on one of his maps. Elements of Lafayette’s army camped two miles south of here at Chickahominy Church after the Battle of Green Spring on 6 July 1781.

Further Research

Marquis de Lafayette

On January 19th of 1863, about a mile from Burnt Ordinary, the Third battalion of the 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry began a mission to scout the roadways in between Richmond and Williamsburg. Captain Cameron commanded two companies of the battalion, and ordered Lieutenant Vezin to advance with eighteen men. Of these men, Vezin ordered Sergeant Anderson to advance another two hundred yards with six of the original eighteen men. During their advance, seventy rebel cavalrymen appeared who formed a line to block the intentions of Anderson. As the small party of men turned to rejoin Lieutenant Vezin, another group of twenty rebel cavalrymen rode out to form a line in their rear. In an effort to escape their entrapment, Anderson charged the twenty rebels to reach the safety of Vezin’s larger group. Only Anderson broke through the twenty rebels, as they captured his other six men. In response, Vezin ordered a charge on these twenty rebels, and was successful as he recaptured all but one of his men. In addition the Union cavalrymen also captured four rebel soldiers and five of their horses.

Further Reading

Bracekett, Albert, and Gallatin Bracekett Albert Gallatin Bracekett. History of the United States Cavalry. Applewood Books, 2009.

The Tribune Almanac. New York Tribune, 1868.

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Burnt Ordinary W-33,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Marquis de Lafayette,” New World Encyclopedia, (accessed May 2, 2012).

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Department of Historic Resources

Green Spring Road V-42

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012


The 17th century road to Green Spring, home of Governor Sir William Berkeley, was the eastern part of the Great Road, the earliest-developed English thoroughfare in Virginia. The Great Road ran from Jamestown Island toward the falls of the James River. The road was an important thoroughfare used to transport goods and forward communications between settlements. Originally, the Green Spring Road followed close to the James River, linking Jamestown to Green Spring. On 6 July 1781, the Revolutionary War Battle of Green Spring was fought in the fields flanking this road. By this time, the lower portion of the road (a part of present day Rte. 614) had shifted eastward.

Further Research
Green Spring was known for numerous events in American history, such as a point in Nathaniel Bacon’s Rebellion as well as for the Battle of Green Spring during the Revolutionary War. The Battle of Green Spring was fought between the forces of the Marquis de Lafayette and General Charles Cornwallis on July 6, 1781. It ended in a rout of the Revolutionary troops, but was not a total defeat as General Cornwallis did not pursue the fleeing Americans (Clary, 311).

On that day, there were a number of Americans who recorded what they had seen firsthand. With the many viewpoints, the personal accounts range from strictly military to more personal views with biases. The first comes from Captain John Davis of the 1st Pennsylvania regiment, where he describes the events of July 6, 1781 with a strategic approach. He lists the numbers of units and casualties of that battle.

“At sun rise we took up the line of march for Jamestown; which place the enemy lay  at.   The Ist  Batt” was detached with some riflemen, which brought on a scattering fire that continued many  hours, when the  2nd  &  3rd  Batt’ with one  of  Infantry arrived in sight;  we formed & brought on  a  Gen’ Action.  Our advances regular at a  charge, till we got  within 8o  yds.  of their main body, under a heavy fire of  Grape shot,  at  which   distance we opened our musquettry at their line;  3 of  our artillery horses being wounded;  & then their right flanking our  left, rendered a retreat necessary, with the loss of  2  pieces of Artillery.” (Davis, 2).

William McDowell of the same regiment included more of a look on the aftermath of the battle, including the lists of those wounded and some of the events post-retreat (Rees, 6).

The most interesting accounts comes from the leading officer of the Advance Guard, Major William Galvan. His retelling is the only known detailed narrative of the battle by an American. He writes not only about the general statistics of Green Spring, but also about the battle from his own point of view. It is a good portrayal of the struggle from a commanding officer of a group of units when forced to retreat or forced into any tight position (Rees, 7-8).

Of the troops available to General George Washington before and after this battle, 542 of 830 soldiers remained as fit for duty (Rees, 9).


Further Reading

Clary, David A. Adopted Son: Washington, Lafayette, and the Friendship that Saved the Revolution. New York: Bantam Books, 2007.

Davis, John. “Diary of Captain John Davis, of the Pennsylvania Line.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 1, No. 1. July, 1893.

Rees, John U. “A Smart firing commenc’d from both parties…” (Accessed March 12, 2012).

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Green Spring Road V-42,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources link not available

Chickahominy Church W-32

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012


 Two miles south is the site of the colonial Chickahominy Church, now destroyed. Lafayette’s forces camped there, July 6-8, 1781. The church was used as a hospital after the battle of Green Spring, July 6, 1781.



Further Research

General Cornwallis

James City County saw several Revolutionary War battles during the year of 1781.  The Battle of Green Spring took place near Green Spring Plantation.  In June, General Cornwallis pursued Lafayette who was attempting to parallel the British Army’s movements (Wickwire).  On July 6, one of Lafayette’s generals, “Mad” Anthony Wayne, was ambushed with his forces by General Cornwallis near Green Spring, as he lead a troop of 500 men (Johnston).

Portrait of "Mad" Anthony Wayne

General Lafayette had joined Wayne at Green Spring and noticed British guards and decided to attack which lead to minor skirmishes.  Lafayette soon realized that something was wrong and began to hold back some of his battalion and camped at Green Spring Chickahominy Church – able to observe the maneuvers of the battle.  Both the Marquis de Lafayette and Anthony Wayne used the estate as a marshaling area before engaging the British forces (Cotton). Meanwhile, Wayne continued to administer significant casualties to the British.  However, Cornwallis had tricked hem and had lured Wayne into a trap.  Fortunately, Wayne was able to charge on the British and halter their advance until Lafayette returned with his forces in order to aid in American retreat.  The American forces retreated the Green Spring where the Chickahominy church was used as a hospital to administer to the wounded forces but was eventually burned down during the Civil War (Mason, 528).

Further Reading

Cotton, Lee Pelham. Green Spring Plantation: An Historical Summary. (accessed March 7, 2012).

Clary, David A. Adopted Son Washington, Lafayette, and the Friendship that Save the Revolution. New York: Bantam Books, 2007.

Johnston, Henry Phelps. The Yorktown Campaign and the Surrender of Cornwallis, 1781. New York: Harpers and Brothers, 1881.

Mason, Geoge. “The Colonial Churches of James City County, Virginia.” William and Mary Quarterly, Second Series 19, no. 4 (October, 1939), 510-30.

Nelson, Paul David. Anthony Wayne, Soldier of the Early Republic. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.

Wickwire, Franklin and Mary. Cornwallis: The American Adventure. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970. (Accessed April 12, 2012).

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Chickahominy Church W-32,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“General Cornwallis,” The Colonial Willamsburg Foundation, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Portrait of ‘Mad’ Anthony Wayne,” Archiving Early America, (accessed May 2, 2012).

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Department of Historic Resources