This area, locally known as Dandy, was part of the land granted to John Chew July 6, 1636, and was sold by his heirs to James Goodwin, a member of the House of Burgesses from Jamestown, August 27, 1668. The area was strategically important both to British General Charles Cornwallis and to Confederate General John B. Magruder, who erected earth redoubts at the heads of several creeks on Goodwin Neck.
A strategically important area, Goodwin Neck was instrumental to the British army of Cornwallis in the Revolutionary War, and to the Confederate General John B. Magruder during the Civil War. The “Neck” aspect of it’s name signifies the various creek basins, that come to a head on this part of Virginia’s peninsula.
On July 6th, of 1781, the Battle of Green Spring was fought around this location. General Cornwallis fought the heavily outnumbered Colonial Army of General Lafayette, and there was no clear outcome. Though fought to a stalemate, the Colonial Army was able to maintain its composure thanks to a fearsome bayonet charge led by “Mad” Anthony Wayne.
During the Civil War, the defensive lines of General John B. Magruder ran through Goodwin Neck. There were a total of three defensive lines, which were meant to deceive Union General George McClellan. These fortifications were successful, as they delayed the massive Union army’s progress, until Confederate General Joe Johnson was able to gather a force large enough to defeat them. Unfortunately, General Magruder’s drunkenness was his true downfall, as Robert E. Lee assigned him elsewhere soon after this campaign.
Cadorph, Paul D. Prince John Magruder: His Life and Campaigns. New York: John Wiley & sons, 1996.
Cutrer, Thomas W. “Magruder, John Bankhead.” http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fma15 (accessed March 10, 2012).
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.
Historical Marker “Goodwin Neck NP-12,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.
“Lord Cornwallis,” Library of Congress, www.loc.gov (accessed May 2, 2012).
“John Magruder,” Library of Congress, www.loc.gov (accessed May 2, 2012).