Battle of Great Bridge

Historical Significance

On December 9, 1775 the Continental Army won a victory at the Battle of Great Bridge, located south of Norfolk. The battle was an important turning point in the Revolutionary War, ending British rule in Virginia. Months of tensions between Whigs and Tories led to skirmishes between the two sides. Eventually, in late October, a small British ship ran aground and was captured by Whigs during a skirmish near Hampton. Several British soldiers were killed in the resulting gunfire. Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia, issued a proclamation on November 7th declaring martial law and offering to emancipate any Virginian slave who would serve in the British army. These recruits formed the basis for his Ethiopian Regiment and a company of Tories he called the Queen's Own Loyal Virginia Regiment. These local forces supplemented the two companies of the 14th Foot that were the sole British military presence in the colony.

During the Battle of Great Bridge, Dunmore called for a diversionary attack by the Ethiopian companies of the garrison at a spot downriver from the bridge to draw the Whigs' attention, while the garrison, reinforced by additional troops from Norfolk, would attack across the bridge in the early morning light. But upon his arrival he learned that the Ethiopian detachment intended for the diversion was not in the fort. They had been dispatched on a routine deployment to another nearby crossing, and Dunmore had failed to send orders ensuring their availability for the operation. Thus, the attack proceeded without the participation of the Ethiopian Regiment.

Physical Description

Site includes an identifying marker.

Geographical and Contact Information

Marker off I - 64 on Battlefield Parkway; Great Bridge, 116 Callison Drive
Chesapeake, Virginia
23322

Cite this Page:

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, “Battle of Great Bridge,” African American Historic Sites Database, accessed November 18, 2017, http://www.aahistoricsitesva.org/items/show/419.

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