Posts Tagged ‘Lafayette’

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.

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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).

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Department of Historic Resources

New Kent Road W-26

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Inscription:

By the 1720s, several taverns stood on New Kent Road (also called the Old Stage Road) between Williamsburg and New Kent Court House. During two wars, the road served opposing armies as well as travelers. In June 1781, near the end of the Revolution, British commander Gen. Charles Cornwallis marched his army from Richmond to Williamsburg on the road, with the Marquis de Lafayette and his army in cautious pursuit. During the Civil War, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate army withdrew west on the road toward Richmond after the Battle of Williamsburg on 5 May 1862; Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac slowly followed.

Further Research

Old Stage Coach

New Kent Road has been an important pathway in both the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars. It had previously been known as the “Old Stage Coach Road.”

Around the later portion of the American Revolutionary War, General Cornwallis of the British army had used this road to move his troops between Williamsburg and Richmond in June of 1781. The Marquis de Lafayette had cautiously followed. Upon watching, Lafayette had a tactic of keeping a solid defense in the case of Cornwallis turning around and launching an attack against his pursuers. This was a focus on maneuvering and complete abstinence of any general engagement (Johnston, 54).

Bottom's Bridge

The exact date in which Cornwallis had passed along this road was on June 24, 1781, and a day later he passed by the American reconnaissance group at Bottom’s Bridge. Lafayette, who arrived two weeks prior and lied in wait for the British troops to pass by, had beaten him there. The primary reason for this surveillance tactic was to enable the General Washington to know if a surprise attack would be launched against the American troops (Harris, 19).

“My Dear Sir,
By the time you receive this you must have accounts from the enemy. Should they be near us, this would be the good time for the night attack; but I am afraid we shall not have the opportunity. Whatever road the enemy take, you will please to proceed in that route, and, if opportunity offers; to attack them. You will do for the best.
Yours,
Lafayette”
(Johnston, 54)

Along the way, General Cornwallis had destroyed American goods. Some of the goods included tobacco, food, uniforms, flour, and muskets (Russell, 261)

Further Reading

Harris, Malcolm Hart. Old New Kent CountyVol. 1. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2006.

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

McClellan, George B. Letter of the Secretary of War Transmitting Report on the Organization of the Army of the Potomac and of Its Campaigns in Virginia and Maryland Under the Command of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan from July 26, 1861 to November 7, 1862. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1864.

Rafuse, Ethan Sapp. McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.

Russell, David Lee. The American Revolution in the Southern Colonies. New York: AS Barnes, 1877.

Symonds, Craig L. Joseph E. Johnston: A Civil War Biography. New York: WW Norton and Company, 1992.

Photo Credits

“Bottom’s Bridge,” The National Archives, http://arcweb.archives.gov (accessed May 2, 2012).

Earle, Alice Morse, “Old Stage Coach,” The Project Gutenberg. Stage Coach and Tavern Days. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1900 www.gutenberg.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

Historical Marker “New Kent Road W-26,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

Department of Historic Resources

Chickahominy Church W-32

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Inscription:

 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. http://www.historicgreenspring.org/plantation_history.php (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. http://www.jccegov.com/pdf/news/jcc-historical-map_web.pdf (Accessed April 12, 2012).

Photo Credits

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

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

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

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Department of Historic Resources

Trebell’s Landing W-49

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Inscription:

 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). http://www.jstor.org/stable/25080352 (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. http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/hh/14/index.htm (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, www.britishbattles.com (accessed May 2, 2012).

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

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

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Department of Historical Resources