A Universal Appearance of War: The Revolutionary War in Virginia, 1775-1781


“The troops in town are in high spirits, and wish for [another] attack in this quarter; they are all excellent marksmen, and fine, bold fellows… Lord Dunmore may now see he has not cowards to deal with!” Pinkney’s Virginia Gazette 26 October, 1775

This bold statement, written in response to the outbreak of warfare in Virginia in late October 1775, conveyed both a sense of confidence, and a sense of relief, that Virginians had finally stood firm against the forces of the Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore. Six months after the bloodshed of Lexington and Concord (and the inauguration of the Revolutionary War), Virginians had fired their first shots in anger and repulsed a small squadron of British ships bent on burning the town of Hampton. The fighting that occurred in Hampton spread to the James River and Virginia’s Southside, where engagements at Kemp’s Landing and Great Bridge led to the eventual destruction of Norfolk, Virginia’s largest town. Combat continued sporadically into the summer of 1776, but ended in July when Lord Dunmore was driven off Gwynn’s Island and abruptly sailed for New York. Dunmore’s departure ushered in four years of relative peace in Virginia (except for the settlers on the frontier). Thousands of Virginians continued to fight, but they did so on distant battlefields to the north, south, and west of Virginia. Except for an occasional British raid or frequent engagement on the frontier, Virginia was relatively unscathed by warfare. This changed in 1781 with the arrival of General Benedict Arnold, the notorious traitor and turncoat, and 1,600 British troops. Ten months of nearly continuous warfare commenced with Arnold’s arrival, during which British troop levels in the state eventually surpassed 7,000. It was time for Virginia to suffer through her fair share of the war.

This book chronicles the war in Virginia from start to finish (1775–81), shedding light, and recognition, on many overlooked Virginia engagements. Readers will discover that although the war started off modestly in Virginia, it concluded with a dramatic flourish that required bold action and some good fortune for the allies to succeed.


 Michael Cecere


2014, 5½x8½, paper, index, 436 pp.

ISBN: 9780788455940