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Arnold in Virginia

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II.  Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

January 13.—A correspondent gives the following narrative of the late incursion made by the British under Arnold, to Richmond, in Virginia:—” On the 31st of December last, a letter from a private gentleman to General Nelson, reached Richmond, notifying that on the morning of the preceding day, twenty-seven sail of vessels had entered the capes, and from the tenor of the letter, there was reason to expect, within a few hours, farther intelligence whether they were friends or foes, their force, and other circumstances. General Nelson went immediately into the lower country, with power to call on the militia in that quarter, or to act otherwise as exigencies should require. The call of the militia from the middle and upper counties, was not made till intelligence could be received that the fleet was certainly hostile. No farther intelligence came till the second instant, when the former was confirmed; it was ascertained that they were enemies, and had advanced up James’ River to Warrasqueak Bay. All arrangements were immediately taken for calling in a sufficient body of militia for opposition. In the night of the third, advice was received that they were at anchor opposite Jamestown. Williamsburg was then supposed to be their object; the wind, however, which had hitherto been unfavorable, shifted fair, and the tide being also in their favor, they ascended the river to Kennon’s that evening, and with the next tide came up to Westover, having on their way taken possession of the battery at Hood’s, by which two or three of their vessels had received some damage, but which was of necessity abandoned by the small garrison of fifty men placed there on the enemy’s landing to invest the works. Intelligence of the enemy’s having quitted the station at Jamestown, from which it was supposed they meant to land for Williamsburg, and that they had got in the evening to Kennon’s, reached Richmond at five o’clock in the morning of the fourth. This was the first indication of their meaning to penetrate towards Richmond or Petersburg. As the orders for drawing the militia thither had been given but two days, no opposition was in readiness. Every effort was therefore necessary to withdraw the arms and other military stores, and records, and accordingly every exertion was made to convey them to the foundry and laboratory, till about sunset of that day, when intelligence was received that the enemy had landed at Westover. From this it appeared that Richmond, not Petersburg, was their object; and it became necessary to remove every thing which remained there, across the river, as well as what had been carried to the foundry and laboratory; which operation was continued till the enemy approached very near. They marched from Westover at two o’clock in the afternoon of the fourth, and entered Richmond at one o’clock in the afternoon of the fifth. A regiment of infantry and about fifty horse continued on without halting to the foundry; they burnt that, the boring-mill, the magazine, and two other houses, and proceeded to Westham, but nothing being in their power there, they retired to Richmond. The next morning they burnt some buildings of public, and some of private property, with the stores which remained in them; destroyed a great quantity of private stores, and about twelve o’clock retired towards Westover, where they encamped within the Neck the next day. The loss sustained is not yet accurately known. At Richmond about three hundred muskets, some soldiers’ clothing to a small amount, sulphur, some quartermasters’ stores, of which one hundred and twenty sides of leather was the principal article, part of the artificers’ tools, and three wagons; besides five brass four-pounders, which had been sunk in the river, were discovered to them, raised, and carried off. At the foundry about five tons of powder was thrown into the canal, of which there will be a considerable saving, by re-manufacturing it. Part of the papers belonging to the Auditor’s office, and the books and papers of the Council office, which were ordered to Westham, but in the confusion carried by mistake to the foundry, were also destroyed. The roof of the foundry was burnt, but the stacks of chimneys and furnaces are not at all injured. Within less than forty-eight hours of the time of their landing, and nineteen from our knowing their destination, they had penetrated thirty-three miles, done the whole injury, and retired. Our militia dispersed over a large tract of country, can be called in but slowly. On the day the enemy advanced to Richmond, two hundred only were embodied; they were of that town and neighborhood, and were too few to do any thing effectual. The enemy’s forces are commanded by the parricide Arnold.”1


1 New Jersey Gazette, January 31.