Revolutionary War History
Revolutionary War Chesterfield County Important Figures
British Brigadier General Benedict Arnold
When the interior of Virginia became a genuine target of the British forces in January 1781, Arnold raided Richmond with ease. Chesterfield was stirred up like a hornet’s nest during the raid but was spared, though the militia at Britton’s ferry above Richmond assisted the removal of stores from the Westham foundry and the other Continentals and militia from the barracks and county were out into the field.
Influential writer, orator, and speaker of the Virginia Senate. Owns Cary’s Iron Furnace at Falling Creek and Cary’s Flour Mill. Key supplier for the war effort and also Army recruitment.
A free-born African American from Virginia who served as a soldier on the Patriot side in the American Revolutionary War. Born in Portsmouth, before the war he owned a prosperous livery stable. According to Continental Army, muster and payrolls, in November 1776 he served, under "Captain William Grymes’s company of the 15th Virginia Regiment", which participated in the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown and the Battle of Monmouth. Flora avoided being captured by the British in the 1780 Siege of Charleston when the majority of the regiment was captured. As his unit kept became smaller, it was consolidated, into the 11th Virginia Regiment and finally, into the 5th Virginia Regiment. Flora fought in the Battle of Yorktown in 1781.
Captain Frank Goode
The county was actively involved since the beginning of the conflict, raising Captain Frank Goode’s Minute Company that responded to the Governor Dunmore crisis and after, 1775-1776.
Col. Robert Goode
The county would raise 10-12 various companies of militia often under the command under the command of Colonel Robert Goode. They served in various capacities from guarding local depots and the iron mines to being on campaign. Members of the county militia fought in the battles of Camden, Guilford Courthouse, Petersburg, and Yorktown. Goode’s property, Whitby was just north of Cary’s property, Ampthill along the James River. In May, 1781, one militiamen wrote, “Cln Rob’t Good got leave of the Marquis to take the militia of Chesterfield County to watch and prevent the deprivations of the Enemy in that County. Coln Good quartered his men, the second or third night Tarlton and his troop got intelligence and attacked us in the morning…”
Jefferson was in the saddle and directing the defense against Arnold’s Raid in January 1781. He would be present at Britton’s Ferry (Pony Pasture) when attempting to save the Westham Foundry and government records from Richmond.
Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette
French aristocrat and military officer who commanded American troops in several battles, including the Siege of Yorktown. Inspired by stories of the colonists’ struggles against British oppression, Lafayette sailed to the America in 1777 to join the uprising. He was initially rebuffed by colonial leaders, but he impressed them with his passion and willingness to serve for free, and was named a major-general in the Continental Army. In May 1781, Lafayette moves his army around Richmond and eastern Henrico, mostly at Wilton, keeping the James River between his army and Cornwallis, who arrived in Petersburg.
Major General Peter Muhlenberg
He was assigned to begin rebuilding the Virginia Continental Line at Chesterfield the summer 1780. “I hope nothing else will retard the Collection of the new Levies—The whole of the Old Soldiers at Chesterfield (except the State Regiments and some Convalescents) are at present formed into five Companies of Sixty Men each, They would have gone on before this time, but there is a total want of everything necessary to fit them for the Field—there are neither Teams—Tents, or Blanketts, and it is but a few days since we have been able to procure Arms fit for Service.”
British Commander General William Phillips
Takes over command from Arnold in March at Portsmouth. A professional British artillery officer, Phillips was part of the British Army defeated by Arnold’s attacks at Saratoga in 1777 (while Arnold was still on the American side). In April, Phillips, assisted by Arnold, tore up Chesterfield County’s property, war materials and more.
Colonel John Graves Simcoe
British Queen’s Rangers made up of exiled Virginians and loyalist New Yorkers and other refugees. Included 200 infantry and 50 “hussars” (cavalry). They were the best light troops in the British Army in America and known as “destroyers of everything.”
Baron Friedrich von Steuben
Prussian who was Gen. George Washington’s chief-of-staff and served as a major general in the Revolutionary Army. In 1780, he trained the Chesterfield Militia at the Chesterfield Courthouse and is known as the great drillmaster of Valley Forge. He was assigned to serve with General Nathaniel Greene in the Southern Army. Greene left him to organize the “new levies” and defense of Virginia in the place of Muhlenberg. He transformed the Chesterfield Depot into a southern Valley Forge, December 1780-April 1781 but as a field commander, he was outmatched by every British commander – Arnold, Philips, Cornwallis. “You say to your soldier, ’Do this’ and he does it. But I am obliged to say to the American, ’This is why you ought to do this’ and then he does it.”
Colonel General Banastre Tarlton
Known as Bloody Ban or the butcher to the colonials due to his brutal tactics and actions taken at the Battle of Waxhaws in South Carolina. He leads the British Legion dragoons called Tarlton’s Raiders who raid Chesterfield Courthouse in May 1781. They capture militia troops during a rainstorm, and six are killed and 40 become prisoners. This action marks the last Revolutionary War combat in the county.
Revolutionary War Timeline in Chesterfield County
Time of the Revolutionary War in Chesterfield County Leading to Yorktown
A tavern and inn called the Half Way House is built on a grant of land from George II of England, by a patent dated 1743. As stop for the Petersburg Coach, all travelers going south of Richmond stop here until the late 19th century. Among its guests are George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson.
The first county courthouse is built, which plays a key role as a recruitment and training center for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.
Coal from Mid-Lothian Mines is used to make American cannons at Westham, located eight miles downstream from Richmond.
- Richmond become the Capital of Virginia.
- Convention prisoners arrive from the Battle of Saratoga. Barracks and prisons at Chesterfield Courthouse.
- Convention prisoners are sent to New York.
- Gen. Peter Mulenburg sets up a recruiting post at Chesterfield Courthouse. He sends 3,000 men to South Carolina in August, 500 on Sept. 3 and 3,000 on Sept. 25.
- Dec. 2 – British General Benedict Arnold arrives in the Chesapeake Bay with 27 ships, 300 British Infantry and Simcoe’s Rangers, the 78th Highland Regiment.
- Dec. 4 – Baron Von Steuben assumes command of the 600 men in the courthouse camp. The courthouse was the home of the Chesterfield Training Depot or “Continental Barracks” where huts for 2,000 men were erected in late 1780. The site was chosen over Petersburg for its cleaner environment and superb drill grounds. Almost all the Continental or state soldiers trained here were sent to the Southern Army under General Gates, but then General Greene. The Chesterfield Depot was a training center, supply center, and hospital
- Jan. 2 – Governor Jefferson call out the Militia, half go to Petersburg and half to Westham. Continentals are sent to Manchester.
- Jan. 4 – Arnold lands at Westover, marches 33 miles unopposed before camping.
- Jan. 5 – Gen. Arnold enters Richmond and the Militia flee and Jefferson escapes to Manchester. Arnold burns the tobacco warehouses and the gun foundry at Westham is destroyed.
- Jan. 6 – The British return to Westover, damage Berkley Plantation and free slaves.
- Jan. 10 – The British leave Westover and sail down the James, looting as they go.
- Jan. 10 – Hoods Landing – British fight with militia commanded by George Rogers Clark Cobham. They seize 60 hogsheads of tobacco and plunder Smithfield.
- Jan. 19 – Gen. Arnold proceeds to Portsmouth for winter quarters.
- Feb. 25 – 400 Continental soldiers are sent to South Carolina. By March, there are 2,000 in camp at Chesterfield Courthouse.
- March 14 – The Marquis de Lafayette arrives at Yorktown, troops left in Annapolis, Md.
- March 20 – British Major General William Phillips arrives at Portsmouth with 32 ships and 2,000 men.
- April 1 – The British assault Alexandria.
- April 18 – British General Simcoe’s Rangers assault Williamsburg.
- April 24 – General Phillips assaults Petersburg.
- April 25 – Battle occurs at Blandford Church with 2,300 British Infantry versus 1,000 American Militia. Americans are forced to withdraw after two hours, burning Pocahontas Island Bridge as they pull back to Chesterfield. The British burn 4,000 hogsheads of tobacco and several ships. “We marched up to Petersburg arriving late in the night. The next day, a detached party was ordered to the General’s Quarters at Blandford. The British had landed at Hood’s Fort. General Muhlenberg and his aids mounted their horses and off they went –saw them no more that day. They (the Militia) then marched to a certain hill and formed a line for battle when the British came in sight. We took off our hats, gave three or four “huzzas” and then were ordered to fire on them. We fired four rounds and were ordered to retreat in action and then marched from Petersburg to Chesterfield Courthouse.” (Private William Goode April 1781)
- April 25 - The Battle of Blandford (Petersburg) was a good showing by the Virginia Militia under General Muhlenberg. General von Steuben commands all the forces to march deeper into Chesterfield county leaving everything to Gen. Phillips and Gen. Arnold. Steuben’s Militia and Continentals reform at the Midlothian coal mines
- April 26 – Gen. Arnold burns Port Walthall.
- April 26 (27?) – Gen. Phillips takes half of the British forces and attacks Chesterfield Courthouse, destroys Branders Bridge, Goodes Bridge and Bevils Bridge. He burns the barracks, courthouse, jail, 300 barrels of flour and destroys several homes.
- April 27 - Arnold takes the other half of the forces, finds and engages the entire Virginia State Navy at Osborne’s Landing. He defeats the Navy.
- April 29 – Lafayette arrives in Richmond with his Corps of Light Infantry from the Main Army just in time to stop Phillips and Arnold.
- April 30 – British troops under Benedict Arnold burn Warwick, an important 18th-centur James River port and manufacturing center. During the Revolutionary War, its craftsmen made clothing and shoes, and its mills ground flour and meal for the Continental troops. Arnold also destroys ships, warehouses, mills, tannery storehouses and ropewalks, much of which is owned by Col. Archibald Cary, of the Chesterfield Battalion. Arnold then surprises the Virginia Navy at Osborne’s Landing in the old river channel by Farrar’s Island. The American fleet, consisting of 20 ships, is no match for the cannon fire from the river banks and Commander James Maxwell orders the Americans to retreat.
- April 30 – The combined British forces attack Manchester, burning warehouses and 1,200 hogsheads of tobacco. Lafayette arrives with Continental troops and occupies Richmond. The British withdraw to Osborne’s Landing.
- May 2 – The British withdraw down river, plundering as they go.
- May 7 – The British reoccupy Petersburg to wait for General Cornwallis to arrive. The Americans re-destroy the bridge and bombard the British with cannon from Colonial Heights.
- May 15 – Gen. Phillips dies of a fever and is buried at Blandford Cemetery.
- May 20 – Gen. Cornwallis arrives and assumes command of the British forces. 1,500 British soldiers arrive from New York. There are 7,000 Continentals in Virginia. The Virginia government withdraws to Charlottesville.
- May 20 – Lafayette moves his army around Richmond and eastern Henrico, mostly at Wilton, keeping the James River between his army and Cornwallis, who arrived in Petersburg. Colonel Robert Goode moves his local militia across the James River and allows his Chesterfield companies, and others, to safeguard (or ambush) Cornwallis’ foragers.
- May 23 – Battle of Sudbury’s Farm was Chesterfield’s Bloodiest Day of the War with 60 casualties. Lafayette wrote, “…profiting by the heavy rain which rendered the Centinnels Arms unfit to fire, and having intercepted the Videtts, surprised a party of militia in Chesterfield about 2 Miles SW of Colonel Cary’s Mill.” One militiaman wrote, “…we were kept between the enemy and our Army (a forlorn hope indeed) until Colonel Tarlton came…” Militiaman John Johnston wrote, “with one hundred sixty men went to the Brittish lines, was attacked by Colonel Tarleton Troop of Horse, a severe battle was fought in which we lost sixty men taken prisoners and killed altogether, I myself escaped by charging baonets together with my fellow soldiers breaking through the British Horse and running for our lives…”
- May 23 – General Banastre Tarlton’s British Legion dragoons raid Chesterfield Courthouse and captures militia troops during a rain storm. Six are killed and 40 become prisoners. This action marks the last Revolutionary War combat in the county.
- May 24 – Gen. Cornwallis launches his campaign to attack and destroy Lafayette. Americans evacuate Richmond and withdraw north. The British pursue them to the North Anna River and then Fredericksburg.
- May 30 – Gen. Simcoe leads an assault against Point of Fork and defeats Stueben. Tarleton assaults Charlottesville and almost catches Jefferson at Monticello.
- June 7 – The British Army advances to Elk Hill and Lafayette retreats to South Anna River.
- June 10 – The Americans are re-enforced by the arrival of General Anthony Wayne with 800 Pennsylvania Continental Line troops.
- June 10 – The British forces withdraw from Elk Hill, at a leisurely pace.
- June 16 – British forces enter Richmond.
- June 25 – British forces enter Williamsburg.
- June 26 – The Battle of Spencer’s Ordinary – American Dragoons fight Simcoe’s Rangers.
- July 6 – Battle of Green Spring Plantation – The Americans, under Gen. Wayne, are defeated and the British withdraw across the James River. They attempt to fortify Old Point Comfort but the ground is too unstable for gun positions.
- Summer – General George Washington and his French ally, the Comte de Rochambeau, move their force of almost 8,000 men south to Virginia, planning to join and lead about 12,000 other militia, French troops and Continental troops.
- Sept. 5 – While the Allied army was still en route, the French fleet commanded by Admiral de Grasse guarded the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. In the Battle of the Capes this fleet engaged and drove off a British fleet that attempted to relieve the British army at Yorktown.
- Sept. 28 – Gen. George Washington, commanding a force of 17,000 French and Continental troops, begins the siege known as the Battle of Yorktown. His forces completely encircle British General Lord Charles Cornwallis and a contingent of 9,000 British troops in the most important battle of the Revolutionary War.
- Oct. 17 – Following three weeks of non-stop bombardment, both day and night, from cannon and artillery, Cornwallis surrenders to Washington. Pleading illness, he did not attend the formal surrender ceremony, instead, his second in command, General Charles O’Hara, carried Cornwallis’ sword to the American and French commanders. Although the war persisted on the high seas and in other theaters, the Patriot victory at Yorktown ended fighting in the American colonies.
Peace negotiations began in 1782, and on Sept. 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed, formally recognizing the United States as a free and independent nation after eight years of war.