Connect with us

Downtown

RVA Legends — Battle of Bloody Run

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

Avatar

Published

on

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.

rocket_werks

RVA Legends is a regular series
appearing on rocket werks – check it out!

Comments

comments

Combining protean forces from the forbidden Zero Serum with the unbridled power of atomic fusion, to better probe the Wisdom of the Ancients and their Forgotten Culture.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Community

James River Park System Update from Bryce Wilk, Superintendent

Through June 30, 2020: 1,076,873 James River Park has had visitors. The same date in 2019: 975,433 visitors. The current staff devoted to James River Park is 5.

Avatar

Published

on

The James River Park is getting heavy use but that’s not all that’s going on in the park. Here’s what Bryce Wilk, Superintendent has to say.

  • The JRPS is seeing visitors at a higher rate than any other year ever! Through June 30, 2020: 1,076,873 visitors. Same date in 2019: 975,433 visitors. This despite all the restrictions in place during the stay at home orders due to Covid 19 this past spring and early summer. Close to a quarter million visitors in the month of June alone.
  • JRPS staff and local paddling groups installed new Dam Hazard Signs and Buoys between Huguenot Flatwater and Z-Dam to better warn people of the dangers of Z-Dam and the river.
  • JRPS hired parking attendants to ticket all illegally parked vehicles at Pony Pasture Rapids Park on weekends and holidays.
  • During the closure of public facilities, JRPS took the opportunity to upgrade the bathroom at Pony Pasture with new flooring and paint.
  • JRPS added parking lines in the parking lot to help guide and organize vehicle parking.
  • Currently we only have 5 full time staff members dedicated solely to the James River Park System, James River Park System relies on volunteers to keep this park beautiful.
  • JRPS is providing volunteer opportunities for river clean ups at Pony Pasture specifically through https://www.handsonrva.org/.
  • If people are interested in volunteering on their own or have any questions, Volunteer Coordinator, Matthew Mason can provide resources and equipment. His email is [email protected]
  • Please visit https://jamesriverpark.org/ and http://www.richmondgov.com/parks/ for the latest updates and safety information about the James River Park System and Richmond’s Parks, Recreation, and Community Facilities.

Comments

comments

Continue Reading

Crime

Mayor Stoney names members of “Task Force to Reimagine Public Safety”

“There is a lot of work ahead of us, but this group’s diversity of expertise and lived experiences is a key asset on our path forward,” said the mayor. “I am thrilled to have this team help our city heal.”

RVAHub Staff

Published

on

Today Mayor Levar Stoney announced the members of the Task Force to Reimagine Public Safety and outlined his primary requests of the diverse group of professionals. The majority of task force members stood with the mayor for the announcement.

“There is a lot of work ahead of us, but this group’s diversity of expertise and lived experiences is a key asset on our path forward,” said the mayor. “I am thrilled to have this team help our city heal.”

The members of the task force bring an array of perspectives from activist, legal, academic, law enforcement, emergency services, artistic, healthcare, and other fields. At the close of a 45-day period, the task force will bring the mayor a set of actionable steps forward to build a safer city for all.

“After additional conversations and review of actions taken in other cities, I do not believe we can wait to begin acting on reform recommendations,” said Mayor Stoney. “I have asked this task force to report back with initial recommendations within 45 days of their first meeting.”

The mayor established three foundational requests of the task force: reviewing the police department’s use of force policies, exploring an approach to public safety that uses a human services lens, and prioritizing community healing and engagement.

“We need a new process for noncriminal and nonviolent calls for service, and that will be a top priority for this task force,” noted the mayor. “We must center compassion instead of consequences.”

Regarding community healing and engagement, the mayor said that the task force will allow the city to explore methods of engagement that will enable meaningful change, using his support for the Virginia Black Legislative Caucus’ legislative package as an example.

“Last month I expressed my support for the VBLC’s package for the summer session,” said Mayor Stoney. “This task force can determine where the city can explore complementary legislation and where we need to focus community advocacy to make statewide change a reality.”

Members of the Task Force

Carol Adams, Richmond Police Department
Ram Bhagat,
 Manager of School Culture and Climate Strategy for RPS

Glenwood Burley, retired RPD officer

Keisha Cummings, community engagement specialist, founder of 2LOVE LLC, member of the Richmond Transparency and Accountability Project and the Richmond Peace Team

Torey Edmonds, Community Outreach Coordinator at VCU Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development

Professor Daryl Fraser, VCU School of Social Work professor and licensed clinical social worker

Triston Harris, Black Lives Matters organizer and organizer of the 5,000 Man March Against Racism

Birdie Hairston Jamison, former district court judge for the 13th Judicial District in Virginia

Councilman Mike Jones

Shanel Lewis, Youth Violence Prevention Specialist at the Richmond City Health District

Brandon Lovee, Richmond artist and advocate, member of the Richmond Peace Team

Colette McEachin, Richmond Commonwealth Attorney

Reverend Dontae McCutchen, Love Cathedral Community Church

Dr. Lisa Moon, Associate Provost at VCU and former Director of the Center for the Study of the Urban Child

Sergeant Brad Nixon, RPD

Tracy Paner, Public Defender for the City of Richmond

Bill Pantele, Richmond attorney and former City Council Member

Professor William Pelfrey, VCU professor with expertise in emergency preparedness and policing

Councilwoman Ellen Robertson

Rodney Robinson, National Teacher of the Year and teacher at the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center

Patrice Shelton, Community Health Worker in Hillside Court and director of the Hillside Court Partnership

Lashawnda Singleton, President of the Richmond Association of Black Social Workers

Sheba Williams, Executive Director of NoLef Turns

Courtney Winston, Richmond trial attorney

The Mayor’s Office is specifically working with the Office of Community Wealth Building’s Community Ambassadors to identify additional community members, including youth, to be part of the task force’s important work and to assist with community engagement.

The task force is committed to a transparent process and will make meeting minutes available to the public.

Comments

comments

Continue Reading

Community

Richmond Then and Now: 114 E. Broad Street

A then and now snapshot of Richmond.

Avatar

Published

on

Original Image from Souvenir views: Negro enterprises & residences, Richmond, Va.
Created / Published[Richmond, D. A. Ferguson, 1907]

Comments

comments

Continue Reading

Richmond Weather