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Transactions in Virginia.... Action at the Great Bridge...,
Norfolk evacuated.... And burnt..., Transactions of North Carolina....Action at Moore's creek bridge.... Invasion of South Carolina.... British fleet repulsed at fort Moultrie.... Transactions in New York....Measures leading to Independence.... Independente declared.
WHILST the war was carried on thus vigorously in the north, the southern colonies were not entirely unemployed. The convention 1775. which met at Richmond in Virginia proceeded to put the colony in a posture of defence. It Transactions was determined to raise two regiments of regular troops for one year, and to inlist a part of the militia as minute men, who should encamp by regiments for a certain number of days in the spring and fall, for the purpose of training; and should at all times be ready to march, at a minute's warning, to any part of the colony for its defence.
Lord Dunmore, who was joined by such of his friends as had become too obnoxious to the people in general to be permitted to reside in safety among them, and by a number of slaves. whom he encouraged to run away from their, masters, and whom he furnished with arms, was collecting, under cover of the ships of war on that station, a considerable naval force, which threatened to be extremely troublesome
CHAP. VI. in a country so intersected with large navi. 1775. gable rivers, as the colony of Virginia. With Octobr. this force he carried on a small predatory warg
and at length attempted to burn the town of Hampton. The inhabitants having received some intimation of this design, gave notice of it to the commanding officer at Williamsburg, where some regulars ånd minute men were stationed, two companies of whom were detached to their assistance. Having marched all night, they reached the town in the morning, just as the ships had begun to cannonade it. This re-enforcement throwing themselves into the houses near the water, and firing from thence, with their small arms, into the vessels, soon obliged them to retreat precipitately from their stations, with the loss of a few men and a tender which was captured.
In consequence of this repulse, his lordship proclaimed martial law, and summoned all persons capable of bearing arms to repair to the royal standard," or be considered as traitors; and offered freedom to all indented servants and slaves who would join him.
This proclamation made some impression about Norfolk, and the governor collected such a force of the disaffected and negroes, as gave him an entire ascendency in that part of the colony. A body of militia assembled to oppose him, were easily dispersed, and he flattered himself that he should soon bring the lower country to submit to the royal authority.
Intelligence of these transactions being re. CHAP. VI. ceived at Williamsburg, a regiment of regulars, 1775. and about two hundred minute men, were ordered down under the command of colonel Woodford, for the defence of the inhabitants. Hearing of their approach, lord Dunmore took a very judicious position on the north side of Elizabeth river at the Great Bridge, where it was necessary for the provincials to cross in order to reach Norfolk, at which place he had established himself in some force. Here he erected a small fort on a piece of firm ground surrounded by a marsh, which was only accessible on either side by a long causeway. The American troops took post within cannon shot of the enemy, in a small village at the south end of the causeway, across which, just at its termination, they constructed a breastwork ; but, being without artillery, were unable to make any attempt on the fort.
In this position both parties continued for a few days, when lord Dunmore, participating probably in that contempt for the Americans which had been so freely expressed in the December. house of commons, ordered captain Fordyce, the commanding officer at the Great Bridge, though inferior in numbers, to storm the works of the provincials. Between . daybreak and sunrise, this officer, at the head of about sixty grenadiers of the 14th regiment, who led the column of the enemy, advanced on the cause.
Action at the Great Bridge
CHAP. VI. way with fixed bayonets, against the breastwork.
1775. The alarm was immediately given; and, as is December 9, the practice with raw troops, the bravest of the
he Americans rushed to the works, where, unmindful of order, they kept up a tremendous fire on the front of the British column. Captain Fordyce, though received so warmly in front, and taken in flank by a small body of men who were collected by colonel Stevens of the minute battalion, and posted on an eminence something more than one hundred yards to the left, marched up under this terrible fire with great intrepidity, until he fell dead within a few steps of the breastwork. The column immediately broke, but the British troops being covered in their retreat by the artillery of the fort, were not pursued.
In this ill judged attack, every grenadier is said to have been killed or wounded; while the Americans did not lose a single man.
The next night, the fort was evacuated. The provincial troops proceeded to Norfolk, and lord Dunmore found it necessary to take refuge on board his vessels. He was followed by the most offensive of the disaffected with their families.
After taking possession of the town, the American soldiers frequently amused themselves by firing into the vessels in the harbour from the buildings near the water. Irritated by this, or some other cause, it was deter..
mined to destroy the houses immediately on CHAP. VI. the shore ; and on the night of the first of 1776. January, a heavy cannonade was commenced, January. under cover of which a body of the enemy landed, and set fire to a number of houses near And burnt. the river.
A strong prejudice had been entertained among the provincial troops against this station. It was believed to be a very dangerous one, from which, if the enemy should be re-enforced, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to escape; and they saw with great composure, the flames spread from house to house, without making any attempt to extinguish them. It is not certain that they did not themselves contribute to extend them. After the fire had continued for several weeks, in which time it progressed slowly as the wind set against it, and had consumed about four fifths of the town, colonel Howe, who commanded a regiment of North Carolina regulars, which had come to the assistance of Virginia, and who had waited on the convention to press on them the necessity of destroying the place, returned with orders to burn the remaining houses. These orders were carried into im- Feb mediate execution, after which, the troops marched from Norfolk to the different stations which were assigned them.'
* Virginia Gazette.