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Currituck County Men at the Battle of Great Bridge, Va.

    The complete defeat of the British in the Virginia Colony at the Battle of Great Bridge on December 9, 1775, seven months before the Declaration of Independence, was at the time called the Second Battle of Bunker Hill. It resulted in the capture of Norfolk by the Patriots and the bombardment and complete destruction of Norfolk three weeks later on January 1, 1776. It ended the rule of the British Crown in Virginia.
    John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, colonial governor of Virginia, had retreated from Williamsburg, but Norfolk was considered a "nest of Tories", and Dunmore thought he was making headway against the rebellion by pillaging the plantations of patriots, winning slaves over to his side and seizing printing presses. With just one more regiment and a few more battalions, he wrote on the November 30, 1775, "I really believe we should reduce this colony to a proper sense of their duty."
    On the other side General George Washington, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, urged that Dunmore "should be instantly crushed" lest his forces grow. He wrote the president of the Continental Congress from New England: "I do not mean to dictate, I am sure they will pardon me from freely giving them my opinion, which is, that the fate of America a good deal depends on his being obligated to evacuate Norfolk this winter or not."
    According to contemporary accounts in the Virginia Gazette, Lord Dunmore, after defeating the opposition at Kemp's Landing (now Kempsville) moved ten miles (16 km) south to Great Bridge on the South Branch of the Elizabeth River. Great Bridge was the shipping point to nearby Norfolk for shingles, tar potash and turpentine from the Carolinas. Finding resistance increasing, he built a stockade on the north (Norfolk) side, removed the bridge planking, destroyed five or six houses on the opposite shore and fortified the narrow causeway bridge approaches with two twelve pound cannons.
    Colonel William Woodford, in charge of the 2nd Virginia Regiment, was gathering forces at Great Bridge of minutemen from Fauquier, Augusta and Culpepper Counties, in the western part of the Colony as well as volunteers from Princess Anne and Norfolk Counties. Woodford reported two hundred fifty Carolina men arriving under Colonel Vail "composed of regulars, minute men, militia and volunteers..." The Virginia Gazette reported "150 gentlemen volunteers had marched to Virginia from North Carolina on hearing of Lord Dunmore's insolences and outrages."
    Dunmore, misinformed of the strength of the opposition, sent sailors from the Otter at Norfolk, "plus some sixty townsmen" on a surprise attack on Great Bridge. In the early morning hours the column came within fifteen steps of the American forces before falling mortally wounded. Lieutenant Travis, in command of the American advanced breastworks, had ordered his handful of twenty five men to reserve their fire until the enemy came within fifty yards. The staggered British were rallied under Lieutenant Samuel Leslie, who was later captured. Woodard's main group, moving through Great Bridge, received a heavy cannon barrage. It was all over, however, in half an hour's time.
    The introduction to William Doub Bennett's (1922-2006) Currituck County North Carolina Eighteenth Century Tax & Militia Records published in 1993 gives the names of a list of men from Currituck County who were involved in the Battle of Great Bridge.

John Adams John McCay
Thos. Allin William Melson
Thos. Barrot Jeremiah Mercer
Joshua Baxter Thos. Mercer
Thos. Beadingfield Joseph Murphey
Mathias Brickel Thomas Nuby [Newby]
Hodges Brinsham John Overton
John Cockton Peter Padrick, Jur.
Josiah Cooper Charles Perkins
Thos. Coper [sic] Wm. Perkins
Arthur Cotton Saml. Phillips
Benja. Crabb George Powers
Peter Dauge Nathan Poyner
Joseph Dickinson Robert Poyner
Jonathon Duke Thos. Relf
Timothy Etheridge Jeremiah Sexton
Wm. Focker Isaac Simmons
James Gamwell Mr. Slacks
James Garrett John Slaughter
Peter Gordon Permenas Smith
Dempsey Gregory Solomon Smith
John Hall Evan Stanley
Nathan Hall John Stanley
Saml. Halstead John Stuart
Robt. Heath James Sumner
David Hill Saml. Walker
Wm. Holloway Thos. Walker
John Hutchins John Watkins
Samuel Jarvis James White
Thomas Jarvis Jas. Williams
Elizabeth Jones Lewis Williams
Jos. Jones Wm. Wooten
Taylor Jones William Wooton
Gideon Lamb John Williams
[see Rev. War Pension]
David Lindsey Willoughby West
[see Rev. War Pension]
Saml. Linton William Ferebee, Sr.
William Ferebee, Jr.
Joseph Ferebee
[contact Sam Ferebee Leary, Jr. for more information]

North Carolina residents may make a request by e-mail for Rev. War pay vouchers and/or accounts by going to the North Carolina State Archives and filling out a request form.  For non-residents of NC you can print out the request form and send it via the US Postal Service.  There are three standard sources checked by the Archives when searching for the service record of a Revolutionary War, War of 1812, or Confederate soldier.  The North Carolina State Archives requires the payment of a Search and Handling Fee before replying to inquiries received from researchers living in states other than North Carolina. The limits of the fee are established by statute; at present the fee is $20.00 for each inquiry about one record or one person's record. The search and handling fee is to accompany any out-of-state request for information. There may be an additional charge for copying a record that exceeds four pages in length. Mailed payments should be made by check or money order rather than cash. Please make your check payable to North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. The report of the search will include a statement of copying costs.  Since pensions are federal records, researchers should write to the National Archives, Washington, DC, 20408, for pension information.



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2007 Kay Midgett Sheppard