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The  Revolutionary War in Chesterfield County, VA

Lord Dunmore

Henricus Militia Re-enactors TrainingIt was 1755 in Colonial Virginia.  Harassment of Williamsburg citizens by the British , the capitol of Virginia, occupied the minds of the colonists. Virginia Governor, Lord Dunmore (His real name was John Murray, the Fourth Earl of Dunmore  garnered the distinction of being the 1st "Villian"), a British Tory, so concerned for his own safety, bolted to a British war vessel in Norfolk, VA. He still considered himself in charge of the Colonists affairs. Safely on board the ship, he continued to bother the Virginia Colonists.  First was the “Gunpowder Incident”, started when he organized the removal of locks from firearms in Williamsburg’s armory and seized stores of gunpowder. Citing a potential slave insurrection, Dunmore ordered the removal of these supplies from the armory and transported the weapons to a British warship. He published a “proclamation” on November 7, 1775 offering freedom to slaves and endentured servants who avowed their loyaty to the British and joining their military. That decree further angered the Colonists. In the summer of 1775, Dunmore’s actions were somewhat reactive and incited by Patrick Henry and others. He gathered a few ships and with a force of British and local Tories began to harrass the colonists along the Chesapeake Bay. He pillaged plantation houses, abused women , children, stole slaves, and burned seaports. By October 1775, he was finally repulsed from Hampton, VA and in December of that year, defeated near Norfolk. On New Year’s Day, 1776, he delivered heavy artillery fire. and burned the city. General Andrew Lewis took command of the Virginia forces and drove Dunmore from his stronghold on Gwynn's Island in the Chesapeake Bay. Dunmore quickly sailed for England, and for three years the British had no foothold on Virginia soil.  Accurate cannon fire from the nearby Virginia mainland persuaded Dunmore to abandon his base.  (Photograph courtesy of John Pagano, Historical Interpretation Supervisor, Henricus Foundation, Henricus Historical Park)

By 1779, Thomas Jefferson, then Governor of Virginiaknew the value of Chesterfield County.  Colonial Virginia did not maintain a standing army. Virginia was not wealthy enough to afford full-time soldiers. Governor Jefferson proposed to General Peter Muhlenberg that Chesterfield “be the place of the rendezvous because he considered the location to be a healthy and convenient location”.  It was already a training post and Baron von Steuben, sent by George Washington,  was in Virginia. and had recommended to Jefferson that the post be converted to a rendezvous for all recruits. Chesterfield County was large and at the time, not a crowded county.  Nearly everyone was engaged in agriculture, and needed spring planting and a harvest in the fall. The militia was the colonial army.  (A more in-depth look at the training depot can be found in the CHSV library in the book” The Continental Training Depot and Rendez-vous at Chesterfield Courthouse, VA 1780-1781” by Bettie Woodson Weaver, 1976.)  A Training site was need and Chesterfield was chosen.

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Chesterfield County Historic Sites

Strachan HousePoint of Rocks is a historic site on the Appomattox River  is designated "Pont of Rocks Park".  Abraham Lincoln walked with Union Generals discussing ways to win a war.   Clara Barton served as the head nurse to many wounded and sick Union soldiers in the largest hospital in the world. The house was used for the surgeons quarters and is still standing and currently, the house is being stabilized. Evidence of Indians who lived on the river is just below the house.  It is one of Chesterfield's most historic sites and not yet open to the public.


Magnolia Grange House MuseumThe "Magnolia Grange House Museum" is an elegant Federal period home built in 1822, named for the circle of magnolia trees that once graced its front lawns.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Magnolia Grange’s distinctive architectural features include elaborate ceiling motifs, a half-turn open carved stairway  and  hand-painted scenic wallpaper produced by Zuber, a French manufacturer.

CastlewoodHistoric 1817 Castlewood was built ca. 1817-1819 by Parke Poindexter. Poindexter was the Clerk of the Court at Chesterfield County from 1812 until 1847, almost 35 years. The original landowner was Henry Winfree, who received the property as a land grant in 1754. County Clerk Mr. Poindexter purchased the 180-acre tract in 1816 and began his efforts to construct a new home. One of the three or four finest Federal period houses in the county, Castlewood features a formal five-part plan differing from any other recorded Virginia dwelling.

Help Save Chesterfield County's Rich History

Summerseat c. 1860"C. 1860 Summerseat"  - According to tradition, this 19th century house was used by a county magistrate as the “seat” of his court during summer months due to the muddy and rutted roads which made travel to the courthouse in the center of the county almost impossible.  The lower brick portion of the house was the “jail” or “detention center, complete with bars that held prisoners or those persons awaiting trial.  It is not a large building at 18 by 16 feet.  The house is part of Virginia State University.


Historic Trinity Church

C. 1879 Trinity Church - The old church sits in a stand of a few trees not quite visible from Krause Road but adjacent to Ironbridge Road where it is plainly noticeable.  It offers an unobstructed view at that corner.  Not so vacant any longer and no longer a huge storage shed for odds and ends, it serves a new purpose in its longevity of survival.  It is alive with activity once again.  Presently, the Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia is utilizing the building as its headquarters and library until historic Castlewood is renovated.  Historic Castlewood, ca. 1817-1819, sits nearby to the church just across Krause Road and was once the parsonage for the Methodist.




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