Virginia and the American Revolution

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Virginia presents an interesting paradox in the years leading up to the War for Independence. The colony produced some of the most effective revolutionary writers and orators, such as Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, but the general populace was not radical in the manner of Massachusetts.

Tension between opposing sides in Virginia was clearly evident in the response the assembly made to the Boston port closure in 1774. The burgesses declared a day of fasting and prayer, an action that offended the governor, Lord Dunmore. He reacted by dissolving the assembly, but the legislators defied his order by holding sessions in other locations. This illegal Virginia and the American RevolutionVirginia Convention later elected delegates to the First Continental Congress. After receiving word of the fighting at Lexington and Concord, Dunmore took the precaution of moving the colony’s stockpile of gunpowder to a British warship. Public outrage over the governor’s action forced him to seek protection aboard the same vessel. Dunmore continued to exercise his executive function from offshore, recruiting loyalist military forces and initiating action against patriot positions. A loyalist army was defeat at Great Bridge in December 1775 and Norfolk was bombarded the following January.

Virginia played a prominent role in the War, both by supplying leadership and as the arena of important military events.


See chronologies of the American Revolution and the War of Independence.

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