The Battle of Great Bridge on December 9, 1775, played a critical role in the Revolutionary War and the subsequent creation of our great nation. It was this Patriot victory that forced Lord Dunmore, British Royal Governor of Virginia, and his soldiers to evacuate and ultimately leave Virginia. As a direct result of this victory, four days after this crucial battle, the Virginia Convention adopted the first public declaration expressing a spirit of independence. How different our country might be had it not been for the Battle of Great Bridge and the significant contributions of our waterways.
Patriots and British soldiers faced each other for eleven days and skirmished amid constant cannon fire before the climactic Battle of Great Bridge that lasted but a half-hour. In that short time, patriot volunteers showed that they could stand up to cannon fire and route a unit of the best professional soldiers in the world. Patriot soldiers poured heavy fire into the British Redcoats who marched relentlessly forward, wavered, and then came on again. Reinforcements joined Patriots in the breastwork and were ordered to withhold their fire until the British were within 50 yards.
It is historically significant to note that last among the Patriots to retreat was Billy Flora, a free black man. Before retreating into the Patriot breastwork, he ran back to take up a plank of the bridge amid a shower of musket balls to slow the British advance.
This was the first Patriot victory of the Revolutionary War. In winning the battle of Great Bridge on December 9, 1775, the Patriots effectively denied to the British Norfolk, the finest sea port between New York and Charleston.
Article written by Lillie Gilbert describing the history of the Albemarle & Chesapeake Canal system for the 150th anniversary