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RVA Legends — Battle of Bloody Run

A look into the history of Richmond places and people that have disappeared from our landscape.

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O Bloody Run, where art thou?

(Encyclopedia Virginia) — Negotiating Peace with the Indians by Theodor de Bry and Matthew Merian — 1634

Sometimes history becomes a matter of opinion, rather than a matter of fact. This is especially true when the facts are hard to come by, and that goes double for the Battle of Bloody Run.

in 1654, a tribe of Indians, known as the Ricahecrians, settled on the James River near Richmond. Even though Richmond was little more than a village at the time (it would not be incorporated as a town until 1742), it was still too close for local comfort. To the modern reader, this might seem like a head-scratcher. The New World was a pretty big place in the 17th century, with plenty of room for everyone. Where’s the harm with new folks moving into the ‘hood?

(Encyclopedia Virginia) — Powhatan— William Hole, 1608

To understand the attitude, look no further than Anglo-Powhatan Wars, of which there were two, both long and bloody. The first one ran from 1609–1614 (anyone remember John Smith and Pocahontas?), and the second from 1622–1632, which kicked off with Powhatan’s massacre of anyone who looked remotely English. No surprise that these events were still fresh in the colonial memory, even by 1654. (Encyclopedia Virginia)

(Encyclopedia Virginia) — Indian massacre of 1622— Matthäus Merian, 1628

Enter the Virginia General Assembly, and Colonel Edward Hill, the representative from Charles City County. In 1656 Act XV was passed, granting Hill permission to move on the Ricahecrians.

WHEREAS information hath bin given that many western and inland Indians are drawne from the mountaynes, and lately sett downe neer the falls of James river, to the number of six or seaven hundred, whereby upon many severall considerations being had, it is conceived greate danger might ensue to this collony, This Assembly therefore do Think fitt to resolve that these new come Indians be in noe sort suffered to seate themselves there, or any place near us it haveing cost so much blood to expell and extirpate those perfidious and treacherous Indians which were there formerly, It being so apt a place to invade vs and within those lymitts which in a just warr were formerly conquered by us, and by vs reserved at the last conclusion of peace with the Indians, In pursuance whereof therefore and due respect to our own safety, Be it enacted by this present Grand Assembly, That the two upper countyes, under the command of Coll. Edward Hill, do presently send forth a party of 100 men at least and they shall first endeavour to remoove the said new come Indians without makeing warr if it may be, only in a case of their own defence, alsoe strictly requireing the assistance of the all the neighbouring Indians to aid them to that purpose, as being part of the articles of peace concluded with us, and faileing therein to look duely to the safety of all the English of those parts by fixing of their arms and provideing ammunition, and that they have recourse to the Governour and Councill for further direction therein, And the Governour and Gov. to send Councill are desired to send messages to Tottopottomoy and the Cluckahomynies and other Indians and treate with them as they in theire wisdoms and discretions shall think fitt. [TSAL]

(Find A Grave) — composite image of Colonel Edward Hill & Chief Totopotomoi

Unfortunately, Hill was an asshat. Although his orders clearly directed him to fight only if necessary, he got cocky, confident that he and his pal Totopotomoi could brush off the invaders. Better to beg forgiveness than ask permission, right?

On an unknown date in 1656, 100 Colonial Rangers and 100 Pamunkey warriors took on between 250 and 300 Ricahecrians at the Battle of Bloody Run. The Ricahecrians did not go down like Hill expected. Choosing discretion as the better part of valor, he retreated with what remained of his force, hanging his allies out to dry. The Ricahecrians knew what to do with English sympathizers, and slaughtered nearly all of them, including poor Chief Totopotomoi, a sacrificial lamb to English arrogance.

It was a First World embarrassment, and the English had to go sniveling for peace. Later that year, the General Assembly censured Hill unanimously, stripped him of his rank, and made him pay for the treaty. [RSC]

So what’s the problem? The fact we don’t know where the battle took place!

(Virginia Historical Society) — Map of the City of Richmond— Micah Bates, 1835 — showing path of Bloody Run

You’d think that an engagement worthy of not one (above), but three historical markers would be a place we could spot on a map. Not so, as it turns out. Consider:

We have no records of the fight, except that the Rechahecrians, probably well entrenched on the summit of Richmond Hill, succeeded in defeating the English and their allies with much slaughter, killing Totopotomoi and nearly all his warriors. [HSR]

or this:

The fight took place in 1656 in the vicinity of a small stream that rose at the juncture of what is now Marshall and Thirty-first streets, in the city’s East End, and ran southeasterly around the base of Chimborazo into Gillies Creek. In modern times, it has been enclosed in a culvert. The sanguinary encounter caused the little stream to be named “Bloody Run.” [RSC]

or even this:

Colonel Edward Hill, with 100 militiamen and 100 Pamunkey Indians, (previously members of the Powhatan Confederacy) were sent to dislodge the alien intruders. The Richahecrians resisted, fighting and defeating Hill’s detachment at the battle of Shockoe Creek, probably near the base of today’s Capitol Square. [RIH]

April 2018— showing former location of the mouth of Bloody Run at Marshall & Thirty-first Streets

That last one stings a bit, because Dr. Ward was a professor of history at UR, but his depiction is clearly an outlier. Perhaps he had superior knowledge, but it went unreferenced in his book; kinda makes you think a research assistant let him down.

Nor is this all! Tricia Noel from the Library of Virginia published an article in 2014 where she states:

Over three hundred and fifty years ago, the area now occupied by the 200 and 300 blocks of North 30th Street was the site of a mostly-forgotten colonial battle called the Battle of Bloody Run. (CPHN)

But the icing on the cake comes from Robert Krick, historian at Richmond National Battlefield Park:

I cannot help you with the Bloody Run portion of it, and it seems unlikely at this late date that any decisive information will emerge. I have seen a few modern analyses that suggest the battle that gave its name to Bloody Run actually occurred out in Hanover County, at some vague location. To my knowledge there is no especially trusty source and no superior interpretation that should be preferred to all the others. [RELK]

groan

(Virginia Memory) — Map of Richmond — Ellyson, 1856

So in the absence of a definitive answer, Rocket Werks hereby plants its own opinionated flag. In 1842, Charles Dickens published his book American Notes, where he provides this surprising commentary:

In a low ground among the hills, is a valley known as ‘Bloody Run,’ from a terrible conflict with the Indians which once occurred there. It is a good place for such a struggle, and, like every other spot I saw associated with any legend of that wild people now so rapidly fading from the earth, interested me very much.

That makes TOTAL SENSE!

April 2018 —showing a low ground among the hills

Let’s walk through this.

  • The base of Shockoe Hill would have been right in the heart of the Richmond settlement, and if the battle had occurred there, you’d think we’d know a lot more about it. Besides the creek there was called Shockoe Creek, and this is the Battle of Bloody Run!
  • Hanover is too far north. Edward Hill came from Charles City County, and was likely assigned to lead the force because his neck of the woods was directly affected by the Ricahecrians.
  • Places take names for a reason. Both the Bates and Ellyson maps identify the road that became Williamsburg Road as Bloody Run Road. Bloody Run Road crossed Bloody Run stream. QED.
  • In order to have 500 – 600 combatants face off, you need elbow room, not just so that people can murder each other more easily, but also for any animals (horses?) that also attended the slaughter. Soldiers and animals need food and water, the logistics of which imply additional requirements for space, even in colonial times. Given the topography of Church Hill in 1656, it would have made an engagement at the top of the hill, at the mouth of Bloody Run, a bit challenging.

Granted, Dickens was writing about Bloody Run 186 years after the fact, but aside from the state record, American Notes is among the earliest mentions of the event. The grounds on which the ruins of Fulton Gas Works lie do form a low ground between Libby Hill and Chimborazo, and seem an ideal spot on which to give battle.

(Bloody Run is part of the Atlas RVA Project)


Sources

  • [AMN] American Notes. Dickens, Charles, 1842.
  • [HSR] History of Richmond. Little, John P. 1851-1852.
  • [RELK] Email. Robert E. L. Krick, Historian, Richmond Natl. Battlefield Park. 10 April 2018.
  • [RIH] Richmond, an Illustrated History. Ward, Harry M. 1985.
  • [RSC] Richmond, Story of a City. Dabney, Virginius. 1976.
  • [TSAL] The Statutes at Large Being a Collection of the Laws of Virginia From the First Session of the Legislature in the Year 1619. Henning, William Waller. 1823.

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City of Richmond announces Small Business Disaster Loan Program

The Richmond Economic Development Authority on Thursday created the Richmond Small Business Disaster Loan Program (COVID-19), which will offer interest-free emergency loans of up to $20,000 to small businesses within city limits.

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The Richmond Economic Development Authority on Thursday created the Richmond Small Business Disaster Loan Program (COVID-19), which will offer interest-free emergency loans of up to $20,000 to small businesses within city limits.

The program is intended to provide relief to small businesses that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Monies will go toward paying employee wages, empowering local, small businesses to continue operating and keep employees on their payroll.

“Small businesses have made Richmond the thriving cultural capital we love,” said Mayor Stoney. “They’ve been understanding, patient and selfless in adapting to the recent social distancing guidance, no matter the economic consequences for them. This loan program is one way we can help provide some relief and support in this tough time.”

The maximum loan amount for the program is six months of current employee wages or $20,000, whichever is less. Loan payments will be disbursed over six months.

Repayment of the loans will be deferred for six months, followed by 48 months of no-interest payments.

Small businesses interested in applying should fill out the application and provide the required documentation via email. The application will be available starting Monday, April 6.

Funding is limited. Applications will be considered in the order they are submitted.

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Schools, nonprofits hustle to feed over a half million Virginia students: ‘It’s incredible’

Richmond school bus driver Tyrone McBride is still driving a big, yellow bus through Richmond neighborhoods, but these days, he’s transporting boxes of food for kids in need. More than a week has passed since Gov. Ralph Northam announced students will not return to school this academic year, and volunteers are still fighting to feed the 590,000 children in Virginia with free or reduced lunches who were ordered to remain home during the coronavirus pandemic.

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By Hannah Eason

Richmond school bus driver Tyrone McBride is still driving a big, yellow bus through Richmond neighborhoods, but these days, he’s transporting boxes of food for kids in need.

“It gets me out of the house,” said McBride, who has been a school bus driver for 18 years, “and you know, you’re doing a great deed and helping people out.”

More than a week has passed since Gov. Ralph Northam announced students will not return to school this academic year, and volunteers are still working to feed the 590,000 children in Virginia eligible for free or reduced lunches who were ordered to remain home during the coronavirus pandemic. Schools have been closed since March 16, though students were originally slated to return by March 27.

Whitcomb Court resident Simone Sanders said her children are now eating at home during the day, but she didn’t receive an increase in food stamps. One child is disabled, which prevents Sanders from being able to work.

“It’s affecting us bad, especially in the projects, and there’s nothing for the kids to do all day,” Sanders said. “And then you have to worry about your child just being outside getting shot.”

Sanders said she’s grateful for the food from Richmond Public Schools, and says she occasionally gives food to neighborhood kids who say they’re hungry.

The Richmond Public Schools meal distribution program, like others around the state, continues to evolve during the coronavirus pandemic that caused a surge of Virginians to file for unemployment. Almost 46,300 Virginians filed for unemployment between March 15 and March 21. The previous week 2,706 people filed an unemployment claim, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.

The program started with 10 school sites, and has since grown into at least 43 sites throughout the community and 10 school sites.

Erin Stanley, director of family engagement at Richmond Public Schools, said volunteers, bus drivers and the district’s nutrition staff have made the efforts possible. Volunteers were using personal vehicles to drop off food, but RPS decided that school buses would better suit the cause.

“We did that for a couple of reasons,” Stanley said. “One, so we can get more food out, and two, because school buses are a bit more well known and probably more trusted than individual volunteers going in with their personal vehicles.”

Plastic bags filled with milk cartons, sandwiches, apples and snacks are handed out in neighborhoods found on the Richmond Public Schools’ website. School distribution sites are open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and neighborhood times vary by location. Any student in the school district can use the program, Stanley said.

Volunteer Natalie Newfield said many families she gave meals to lost jobs in the restaurant industry.

 “They’re changing the way they do deliveries, which is amazing,” Newfield said. “Every day you give them a count. If they need more food, the next day, all of a sudden your bus has more food. It’s incredible.”

Statewide efforts to feed children in Virginia

When schools closed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture activated the Summer Meals Program, which funds public schools and local organizations to serve breakfast and lunch during the summer.

Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, pressed the USDA to change its policy which required parents to have their child with them when picking up food.

Roem said it was difficult for a Prince William County mother to access food for her two children. Her daughter has an immune system deficiency caused by recent cancer treatments, making her susceptible to the COVID-19 virus.

“When you’re talking about a 7-year-old with cancer, we have to really evaluate what is it that our policy is trying to prevent that is more important than feeding a child with cancer,” Roem said.

Roem said she was able to bring groceries to the family, who live in the representative’s district. As they carried bags of food inside, Roem said the mother told her children, “We’re eating tonight.”

“I fought with the USDA for a full week and won a major, major victory for kids throughout Virginia and across the country, and especially immunocompromised kids, to make sure that they stay safe, that they stay home,” Roem said.

The USDA waived the restriction last week, and states can now choose to waive the in-person policy for students to receive food.

No Kid Hungry, a national campaign launched by nonprofit Share Our Strength, is offering emergency grants to local school divisions and organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grants can help people who are trying to make meal distribution possible, but may lack the equipment necessary to feed children outside of a school setting.

Sarah Steely, senior program manager at No Kid Hungry Virginia, said the grants can fund necessities like vehicles, gas, coolers and equipment to keep food safe during distribution.

“Those might not be resources that folks already have, because those aren’t service models that were expected of them before,” Steely said, “so we’re here to support community organizations and school divisions as they figure out what it is they need to distribute to kids.”

The organization works with YMCAs, childcare centers, libraries and all 133 of Virginia’s public school divisions.

The organization recently activated their texting hotline for those unsure of where their next meal is coming from: text “FOOD” to 877-877. The hotline is generally used during the summer months, but was reactivated to combat food insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic.

Steely called the hotline “a tool in a bigger toolbox of resources” and encouraged families to contact their local school board for updated information about their locality.

“They count on that as a primary source of nutrition, so with schools closed, we want to make sure that the students who are accessing meals at school are now accessing those meals at home,” Steely said.

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Use Exact Change or E-Zpass on Powhite Parkway Starting Today

There will be no manned booths taking money on Powhite for the foreseeable future.

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The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has temporarily suspended cash exchange tolls on Powhite Parkway extension and the George P. Coleman Memorial Bridge. This means there won’t be someone to take your money so either have exact change, pay too much, or use an E-Zpass. No mention of any changes to Nickel aka Boulevard Bridge.

As of April 1, if you make an unpaid trip on a Virginia toll facility, you may be able to pay that toll through the “missed-a-toll” process before receiving a notice/invoice. The “missed-a-toll” payment process must take place within six days of the unpaid toll trip.

The standard administration fee associated with “missed-a-toll” has been suspended temporarily.

Exact change can still be dropped into the coin basket at the Powhite Parkway Extension.

E-ZPass is now the most convenient and safest way to pay tolls.

For more information or to order your own E-ZPass, click here.

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