Posts Tagged ‘British’

Spencer’s Ordinary W-35

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012


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, (accessed May 2, 2012).

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

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

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Department of Historic Resources

State Shipyard W-31

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012


On this road five miles west was the State Shipyard on Chickahominy River, burned by the British General Phillips on April 21-22, 1781.




Further Research

Major General William Phillips British Royal Artillery (1731-1781)

In 1776, Virginian colonists destroyed the Norfolk shipyards in an attempt to deny the British Navy from utilizing its resources. A new shipyard was then constructed far up the Chickahominy River, with hopes that it would be less vulnerable to a British attack. The destruction of the Portsmouth shipyard in 1780 increased greatly increased the value of this newly constructed shipyard. This shipyard was a small operation, and was only able to produce a minute amount of Colonial warships. Accordingly, the private vessels of Virginians were mostly relied upon to resist the British navy. An officer of the shipyard, James Maxwell wrote to Thomas Jefferson in 1780 that the shipyard was in the process of dismantling and repairing a ship but the militia assigned to sail it had deserted. This was often the case as the state of the Virginia navy was poor throughout the War. In April of 1781 as the British navy began to creep into the waterways of the Peninsular, Thomas Jefferson ordered that the vessels located at the state shipyard be anchored further up the James River to avoid destruction. This tactic was effective, as the British navy under General Phillips destroyed the shipyard on the Chickahominy along with a 20-gun vessel and a warehouse on April 21st. Phillips’ victory was significant as it allowed the British to penetrate further up the James River.

Further Reading

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

Kranish, Michael. Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War. Oxford University Press, 2010.

Selby, John E., and Don Higginbotham. The Revolution in Virginia, 1775-1783. Williamsburg: Colonial Williamsburg, 2007.

Morgan, Timothy E. Williamsburg: A City That History Made. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2004.

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “State Shipyard W-31,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Major General William Phillips British Royal Artillery (1731-1781),” City of Petersburg, Virginia, (accessed May 2, 2012).

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Department of Historic Resources

Hickory Neck Church W-30

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012


Hickory Neck Church was built about 1740. Militia opposing the British camped here on April 21, 1781. A few miles north is the foundation of an ancient stone house, dating possibly from about 1650.



Further Research

Hickory Neck Church

According to the current congregation…

“The Historic Chapel has a glorious history of survival. The northern two-thirds of the present building was built in 1774 as a transept to the original 1734 church. After the Revolutionary War, the church fell into disrepair and the original church was torn down and the southern third of the present building was added around 1825 to provide space for Hickory Neck Academy. The Academy also served various denominations as a place to worship before the Civil War. The war years were hard on Hickory Neck leaving it in near ruinous condition, but again, it was repaired and put back into service as a school. Eventually James City County erected a public school in Toano and our building was reconsecrated as an Episcopal church in 1917. “

Hickory Neck Church - Present Day

Further Reading

Hickory Neck Church. “Historic Chapel Fund.” (accessed March 17, 2012).

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Hickory Neck Church W-30,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Hickory Neck Church,” Library of Congress, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Hickory Neck Church- Present Day,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

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Department of Historic Resources

Trebell’s Landing W-49

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012


 At Trebell’s Landing on the James River, a mile southwest of here, the artillery and stores of the American and French armies were landed in September 1781. They were then conveyed overland some six miles to the siege lines at Yorktown. The troops disembarked at landings near Williamsburg. During the next few weeks, the allied armies under Gen. George Washington and the comte de Rochambeau besieged the British army commanded by Gen. Charles Cornwallis until he surrendered on 19 Oct. 1781, effectively ending the Revolutionary War.

Further Research

The Siege at Yorktown

Trebell’s landing was an important place during the Revolutionary War as it served as the grouping place for all of the artillery and stores of the American and French armies in 1781 (Greene).  The convenient location allowed for General George Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau to overcome General Cornwallis’ army easily during the siege of Yorktown.

George Washington

Early in September, Lafayette moved his forces to Williamsburg in order to block movements and advances of General Cornwallis.  It was not long before General Washington joined Lafayette and thus combined French and American forces (Yorktown National Battlefield).  By late September, there were landing operations, which brought much of the army’s artillery at the shore of Trebell’s Landing.  This movement gave General Washington command of well over 18,000 combined troops (Lengal, 337).  The location allowed for Washington’s artillery to readily and newly be resupplied and thus allowed for heavy fire upon the British.  The combined forces constantly slammed Cornwallis’ troops until October 17th.  On October 17th, Cornwallis officially surrendered (Lengal, 342).

Lord Cornwallis

After a long and arduous battle, the siege of Yorktown officially ended October 19, 1781 after two days of negotiation.  Furthermore, this battle is considered a decisive victory of a combined effort of American and French forces.  It is also considered to be the last major land battle of the Revolutionary War in that this battle and Cornwallis’ ultimate surrender eventually yielded to the end of the war because it initiated the negotiations between the United States and Great Britain.

Further Reading

Forbes, Allan. “Marches and Camp Sites of the French Army: Beyond New England during the Revolutionary War.” Proceedings of the Massachusetts’s Historical Society, Third Series 67 (October., 1941 – May, 1944). (accessed March 4, 2012).

Greene, Jerome. The Guns of Independence: The Siege of Yorktown, 1781. New York: Savas Beatie LLC, 2005.

Hatch, Charles. Yorktown and the Siege of 1781. Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 1954. (accessed March 4, 2012).

Lengal, Edward. General George Washington. New York: Random House Paperbacks, 2005.

Russell, David Lee. The American Revolution in Southern Colonies. Jefferson: McFarland & Co., 2000.

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Trebell’s Landing W-49,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“The Siege at Yorktown,” The American Revolution: The Battle of Yorktown, 1781, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“George Washington,” Library of Congress, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Lord Cornwallis,” Library of Congress, (accessed May 2, 2012).

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Department of Historical Resources

Indian School at the College of William and Mary W-229

Thursday, March 15th, 2012


Using funds from the estate of British scientist Robert Boyle, the College of William & Mary established a school to educate young Indian men in 1697, just four years after the college’s founding. To encourage enrollment, in 1711 Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood began remitting tributes for area tribes who sent students. Students from tribes outside Virginia also enrolled. The Brafferton was constructed in 1723 to house the school, which provided education in reading and writing English, arithmetic and religion. The American Revolution caused British financial support to cease in 1776, and soon the school closed.

Further Research

Brafferton Building, College of William and Mary Campus

Upon Sir Robert Boyle’s death in 1691, funds from his estate were used to purchase Brafferton Manor in Yorkshire, which was then used to donate money from its revenue to support the newly formed College of William and Mary. There were two other buildings put up on the college grounds in addition to their center ground. The Brafferton Manor was then converted into a building to educate the local Native American populace in 1723 (Dickon and Nichol, 11-13). It would remain an active until the Revolutionary War, where funds had been cut and the school was closed down (Lancaster, 15).

Alexander Spotswood

The school had been made up of a mix of both Indian boys and white children from Williamsburg and the outlying tribes around the town. They would be taught reading, writing, and arithmetic (W&M Quarterly, Vol. IV, 73). The Native Americans would also be taught to spread the word of God and to aid in converting the other Native Americans around Williamsburg (History of the College of William and Mary, Vol. 258, 29). In the Civil War, both Confederate and Union forces used the Brafferton. Those who were at the college at the time had primarily joined the Confederate forces, and the Brafferton became a makeshift hospital and barracks. It was then taken over by Union troops in 1862 and would be held as a Union fort up to 1865 (Dickon and Nichol, 22).

In 1915, the Brafferton was used as college dormitories (Lancaster, 15) but it is currently being used as the offices of the president and the provost of the College of William and Mary (The College of William and Mary).

Further Reading

The College of William and Mary. “The Brafferton”. William and Mary. (Accessed April 12, 2012).

Dickon, Chris. The College of William and Mary. New York: Arcadia Publishing, 2007.

Lancaster, Robert A. Jr. Historic Virginia Homes and Churches. Philadelphia: JB Lippencott Company, 1915.

Randolph, JW, and English. The History of the College of William and Mary. Richmond: Main Street, 1874.

Tyler, Lyon G, edit. The William and Mary Quarterly, Volume XIV. Richmond: Whittet and Shepperson, Publishers, 1906.

Photo Credits

“Alexander Spotswood,” Encyclopedia Virginia, accessed May 2, 2012).

“Brafferton House,” The College of William and Mary, (accessed May 2, 2012).

Historical Marker “Indian School at the College of William and Mary W-229,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

 View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources link not available