Establishment, 1775-76

Great Bridge, Hampton, Norfolk, and Gwynn’s Island
“This was a second Bunker's Hill affair, in miniature; with this difference, that we kept our post, and had only one man wounded in the hand.”
– Colonel William Woodford
Virginia Gazette, December 15, 1775

 

The 2d Virginia Regiment was authorized by the Virginia Convention, July 17, 1775, as a force of regular troops for the Commonwealth's defense. It consisted of seven companies, 476 privates and the usual regimental officers. William Woodford, of Caroline County, was named colonel, along with Lieutenant Colonel Charles Scott and Major Alexander Spotswood were the regiment's initial field officers. Virginia had been divided into 16 military districts which took their name from the predominant county in the grouping. For instance, Prince William District included Fairfax and Loudoun Counties as well.

  • 1st Company - Captain George Johns(t)on, September 21, 1775. Raised in Prince William District

  • 2nd Company - Captain George Nicholas, Captain Thomas Bressie Co. B September 28, 1775. Raised in Hanover District

  • 3rd Company - Captain Richard Parker, September 28, 1775. Raised in Westmoreland District

  • 4th Company - Captain William Taliaferro, September 29, 1775. Raised in Caroline District

  • 5th Company - Captain William Fontaine, October 21, 1775. Raised in Amelia District

  • 6th Company - Captain Richard Kidder Meade, October 24, 1775. Raised in Southhampton District

  • 7th Company - Captain Morgan Alexander, November 27, 1775. Raised in Frederick District (Riflemen)

 

On December 1, 1775 three companies of sixty men each were added to the regiment.

  • 8th Company - Captain Buller Claiborne, January 31, 1776. Raised in Prince George District and Petersburg.

  • 9th Company - Captain Samuel Hawes, February 19, 1776. Raised in Caroline District.

  • 10th Company - Captain Wood Jones, March 8, 1776. Raised in Amelia District and Williamsburg

 

While Colonel Patrick Henry of the 1st Virginia Regiment was technically the commander-in-chief of Virginia's forces, correspondence between the President of Virginia's Committee of Safety Edmund Pendleton and Colonel Woodford indicates that this was a political decision in recognition of Henry's efforts prior to the outbreak of hostilities. While Henry was a politician, Woodford had served in the French and Indian War and had real military experience. For this reason, the Pendleton decided to keep Henry in Williamsburg, Virginia while dispatching the 2d Virginia Regiment to meet Governor Dunmore's small "army" comprised of detachments of the 14th Regiment of Foot, Marines, runaway slaves who had been formed into the Ethiopian Regiment.

The 2d Virginia Regiment, along with elements of the Culpeper Minute Battalion, engaged the British at the battle of Great Bridge (modern day Chesapeake Virginia), which was a decisive victory. Colonel William Woodford, reporting on the 2d Virginia Regiment’s Service at the Battle of Great Bridge, wrote in a letter published in Purdie's Virginia Gazette, December 15, 1775: “This was a second Bunker's Hill affair, in miniature; with this difference, that we kept our post, and had only one man wounded in the hand.”

Minor fighting would continue in Hampton and Norfolk, including the burning of Norfolk, which at the time was not only Virginia's largest city, but also a Loyalist stronghold. Originally raised for one year's state service, the 2d Virginia was accepted by Congress for Continental service on February 13, 1776, and reorganized at Suffolk as part of the Continental Army.

Dunmore would remove his force to Gywnn's Island, a small island where the Rappahannock River meets the Chesapeake Bay, where they would stay for several months along with a small flotilla of Royal Navy and loyalist ships. By July 1776, Virginia had expanded its forces to include several more infantry regiments and an artillery regiment under the command of General Andrew Lewis. The Virginia forces, including the 2d Virginia Regiment, would bombard Dunmore's position from a shore battery before launching an amphibious assault on the island. By the time the Virginians made it ashore, Dunmore's force withdrew to its ships and sailed away. They would raid Stafford County in late July 1776 before sailing for New York City.