When war came to Smithfield

Published 5:06 pm Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

On the Fourth of July, remembering the War of Independence, Smithfield, 240 years ago, 1781.

The book “No Borrowed Glory,” by Judy Bloodgood Bander, is available through the Blackwater Regional Library.

  • 240 years ago, July 1781, Gen. Cornwallis 7,000-strong Queen’s Rangers.
  • Occupation of Smithfield, Isle of Wight on July 10, 1781, along the path to their surrender at Yorktown Battlefield.
  • July 4th, Gen. Cornwallis occupies Williamsburg.
  • July 5th, Court Day at the 1752 Courthouse Town of Smithfield.
  • July 6th, the majority of Queen’s Rangers cross the James River from old Jamestown to the town of Cobham (now Surry).
  • July 9th, Cornwallis camps at Nelson’s Tavern on the side of Lawnes Creek (border of Surry and Isle of Wight counties).
  • British Hessian Capt. Ewald sent a small party toward Smithfield to collect info on the enemy. They were told that Smithfield was occupied by U.S. Gen. Baker with 2,000 troops. May have been a misinformation campaign.
  • July 10th, the army crosses Wrenn’s Mill, then Mackie’s Mill, occupying Six Oaks (now the area of Scott’s Factory Road and Great Spring Road.) A spyglass recovered from that encampment is owned by the 1752 Courthouse on Main Street.
  • The British Hessian Gen.l Ewald occupied the Pierceville House, which was recently demolished. It was part of “Oak Grove,” a forest of virgin oaks from “The Grove” to past the Pierce home.
  • July 12th, the British Army marched toward Suffolk, Portsmouth and Norfolk, gathering forces reaching over 10,000 troops, moving on to Yorktown.

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Of further note, the court records were taken from the courthouse by Mrs. Elizabeth Bennett Young along with her trusted Black man and buried at a nearby farm until after the war. Buried in a “Hair Trunk” and other containers, some were lost due to worms and insects getting to them. Possibly the earliest St. Luke’s Church Parish documents were lost as well.

Further reading should be given on the British Ethiopian Regiment made of slaves promised freedom by the British in exchange for serving in the military and fighting the colonists.


David W. Cordle