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Benedict Arnold and the Burning of Richmond

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This past Sunday, January 5th, St. John’s Church hosted Benedict Arnold’s Raid on Richmond. In attendance were reenactors that discussed various aspects of the events, uniforms, tactics, and answered any question thrown their way.

Benedict’s Arnold’s raid against Richmond and the surrounding area took place from January 1st through January 19th in 1781. Arnold (the traitorous rat but former military hero) and his troops sailed the James and torched/raided various locations on the way up.

Benedict Arnold wondering where it all went wrong.

Consorting of various groups of soldiers.

Upon arrival at Richmond on the 5th, the Virginia militiamen didn’t feel much like fighting and split. Arnold and his men strolled into Richmond and found a healthy pile of tobacco and arms. Arnold sent a letter to President Jefferson giving the president the option of letting Arnold and his men take the loot and leave the city. Jefferson told Benedict to get bent received on January 6th which sent Arnold and his troops on pillaging and burning extravaganza.

Eventually, the rebels got off their butts, got organized and fought back. Ultimately leading to Arnold’s retreat back to Portsmouth.

Rebel soldiers plot their next move.

Considerably more details snagged from Wikipedia:

On 4 January, the British reached Westover Plantation, where they would ready themselves for the assault against Richmond. In the afternoon, Arnold and his men disembarked on foot towards Richmond.

The following day, Arnold’s force of Loyalist “green-coats” (seen above in our header image), consisting of infantry, dragoons, and artillery, arrived at Richmond, which was defended by about 200 militiamen. Surprisingly enough, most Virginia militiamen had not bothered to defend their capital because they had already served their time in battle, and thought that their duty was up. Upon seeing the group of Virginia militiamen, Colonel John Graves Simcoe, of the Queen’s Rangers, ordered a detachment of soldiers to confront them. The militiamen fired a weak musket volley at the advancing British, and then broke and ran into the woods, with the Loyalist detachment chasing after them. Jefferson, seeing his militiamen dispersed, and no other plausible way to defend Richmond, quickly ordered the mass-evacuation of most military supplies from the city, and promptly fled in his carriage, along with the rest of Virginia’s government officials and his family.

At noon, Arnold’s forces marched triumphantly into the city, described by an eyewitness as “undisturbed by even a single shot.” From his headquarters at Main Street’s City Tavern (he would only stay in Richmond for a day), Arnold wrote a letter to Jefferson, saying that if he could move the city’s tobacco stores and military arms to his ships, he would leave Richmond unharmed. Jefferson’s response was livid, refusing that a turncoat do anything to Richmond’s supplies.[2]

Upon receiving the letter the next day on January 6, Arnold was enraged, and ordered Richmond to be set to the torch. British troops then started a rampage across the city, burning government buildings as well as private homes, ransacking the city of its valuables and supplies. A strong wind spread the flames even more, adding to the destruction. After most of Richmond was burned and its valuables sacked, Arnold led his forces outside of Richmond and to the Westham cannon foundry, which held even more armaments, and preceded to burn it down. After its destruction, the British went down to the port town of Warwick (across the James river, in Chesterfield County), and began another spree of violence, burning down homes and looting buildings.

When the news of Richmond’s destruction reached Jefferson, he was aghast. Arnold’s British force had entered Virginia’s very capital, unopposed, and had singlehandedly defiled it. The Governor called his friend, Sampson Mathews, the Colonel of the Virginia militia, and ordered him to assault Arnold’s forces. Mathews built up a group of around 200 militiamen, and embarked hastily to catch and damage Arnold’s slow-moving army near Richmond.

Eventually, delayed by bad weather, sickness and mutiny, Mathews’ forces caught up with Arnold’s army, and attacked it by surprise. Using nimble tactics popularized by American commander Nathanael Greene, the militiamen managed to inflict significant casualties on Arnold’s army, and over the following days, the British ranks were thinned by multiple skirmishes around Richmond and the James River. Eventually, Arnold considered the skirmishes between his American Legion and the Patriots to be so serious, that he ordered his army to retreat to Portsmouth, in order to set up defensive fortifications there and wait for reinforcements.

Thus, the British army moved quickly down the James River, burning more plantations and homes in their wake, while still being chased by Mathews. One of the plantations that Arnold’s men burned on their retreat was that of Berkeley Plantation, the home of Founding Father Benjamin Harrison V. Harrison was going about his regular duties in his mansion, when he saw the British force advancing towards his plantation. He quickly informed his wife and children, and they then escaped in a carriage. Arnold knew that Berkeley belonged to Harrison, whom he viewed as a traitor, and wanted to punish him for treason against Great Britain. All of the Harrison family’s portraits and artwork were taken outside and 40 of Harrison’s slaves were confiscated. Arnold spared Harrison’s mansion and houses, however, as he believed the war would soon be won by the British, and desired a grand plantation in which to live after the war. The only original portrait of Harrison to survive was the miniature around his wife’s neck, wearing it as she fled from the British forces.

On January 19, the Richmond Campaign ended, when Benedict Arnold’s weary troops reached Portsmouth. They had survived a great ordeal, and Arnold was praised by local Loyalists, as well as his superiors, to be a hero. On the same day, General William Phillips arrived to relieve Arnold with 2,000 fresh troops, and to assume command over Portsmouth’s defenses. Even though days of turmoil had ended, they would live on as some of Benedict Arnold’s finest hours.

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.

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Last Call for Storm Drain Art Submissions

Local artists you can make a difference in our watershed but your deadline for entries is February 2nd

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From RVAH2O

The deadline for submissions is fast approaching, and we’d love to see YOUR ideas for Richmond’s fifth annual Storm Drain Art Project. Local artists ages 18 and older are invited to submit storm drain designs between now and Sunday, February 2, 2020, at 11:59 p.m.

We’re looking for art that paints a picture of how important it is to keep our river – and our drinking water – clean. All four finalists will receive a $400 stipend and publicity for their artwork on drains in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom.

  • Submit your design using the template on the RVAH2O website.
  • Help promote the goals of the City of Richmond’s RVA Clean Water Plan – a five-year roadmap for reducing pollutant discharges into the James River, starting with wastewater, stormwater and the combined sewer system.

ENTER TODAY!

Don’t wait – visit RVAH2O.org or call 804.646.8131 for details and submission rules.

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State of Emergency and Road Closures for this Holiday Weekend

Monday is Federal Holiday but the Capitol grounds are expected to be crowded with protestors and those hoping to discuss issues with their representatives for Lobby Day.

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Monday is Martin Luther King Day and it is also Lobby Day at the Capitol. Lobby Day is traditionally a day where citizens and organizations meet with elected officials and share their viewpoints. This Lobby Day will be a bit different. The Gun Rights lobby is calling on hundreds of activists to descend upon the Capitol grounds to protest any legislation related to gun ownership.

The situation is considered volatile. So volatile that Governor Northam has declared a State of Emergency for Richmond beginning tonight (Friday) through Tuesday evening.

Governor Ralph Northam today declared a state of emergency in advance of expected demonstrations on Capitol Square on Monday, January 20, 2020. Law enforcement intelligence analysts have identified credible threats of violence surrounding the event, along with white nationalist rhetoric and plans by out-of-state militia groups to attend.

The Governor’s declaration prohibits all weapons, including firearms, from Capitol grounds, and will provide joint law enforcement and public safety agencies the resources they need to keep demonstrators, policymakers, and all Virginians safe.

This emergency declaration is temporary, and extends from Friday, January 17 at 5:00 PM until Tuesday, January 21 at 5:00 PM.

These fears of violence were given more credence when the FBI arrested three suspected white-supremacists that were planning on attending Monday’s rally. From the article, the armed men “planned to travel to a pro-gun rally next week in Richmond in anticipation of a possible race war”.

In addition to the weapons ban access to the Capitol grounds will be limited and several roads around the Capitol grounds will be closed (see map above).

 

JJ McNabb is a Fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism and a contributor on anti-government extremism at Forbes. She has this excellent thread on Twitter on what has brought us to this point where a normal lobby day has turned into a State of Emergency and fears of violence.

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Hundreds trek to Capitol to support environmental bills

Hundreds of clean energy supporters trekked to the State Capitol this week demanding Virginia move away from reliance on carbon-based energy, invest in alternative energy supplies and lower rates for customers.

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By Jeffrey Knight

Hundreds of clean energy supporters trekked to the State Capitol this week demanding Virginia move away from reliance on carbon-based energy, invest in alternative energy supplies and lower rates for customers.

At the rally, hosted Tuesday by the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, Chesapeake Climate Action Network Action Fund and other environmental organizations, participants pushed for Virginia to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an effort to cap and reduce carbon emissions from the power sector.

Gov. Ralph Northam supported the initiative in his 2020 budget proposal by including $733 million in new funding for the environment and clean energy.

“In Virginia, we are proving that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand–and having both is what makes our Commonwealth such a great place to live, work and play,” Northam said in a press release.

Organizations lobbied for bills that seek to depart from a reliance on fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. One focus was House Bill 1526 and its counterpart Senate Bill 851 known as the Virginia Clean Economy Act.

These bills would develop mandatory standards, annual timelines and call for specific reductions of carbon emissions with the goal to hit 0% by 2050. The bills also push for offshore wind operations and solar energy generation.

“I’m 100% for environmental issues,” Sen. Lionell Spruill Sr., D-Chesapeake, and co-patron of SB 851, said to supporters of the bill during the rally. “If I have to stand alone for environmental issues, I will do it alone.”

After supporters met with legislators they reconvened at the nearby St. Paul’s Episcopal Church where they heard speakers champion environmental justice and steps to combat climate change.

Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, D-Prince William, took to the podium during the rally to address coal ash, a by-product of burning coal in power plants that contains arsenic, mercury, and other metals.

“Most of our environmental impacts, not only of climate change but also with coal ash and pipelines, are in our most vulnerable communities,” Carroll Foy said to the audience.

Dominion is Virginia’s main energy supplier, with 2.6 million customers in Virginia and Eastern North Carolina, according to its website. The energy giant has been moving away from coal production, but environmental advocates worry that closure of Dominion’s coal ash ponds will affect nearby communities. They want Dominion to haul away the coal ash, versus cap it in place.

Advocates also said that the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline that Dominion and other utility companies want to build as they tap into alternative energy sources will compromise communities and deviate from a zero-carbon future.

“There will be 35 years of non-renewable energy if the pipeline continues,” said

Corrina Beall, legislative and political director of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter.

The Environmental Justice Act (HB 704 and SB 406) patroned by Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax, and Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Richmond, respectively, would require state agencies to review proposed environmental policies with regard to the impact on low-income communities, communities of color and vulnerable populations and calls for “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people.”

Supporters at the rally also pushed for the Fair Energy Bills Act (HB 1132), patroned by Del. Jerrauld “Jay” Jones, D-Norfolk, and Del. Lee Ware, R-Powhatan. The bill calls for lower rates from energy suppliers like Dominion Energy, who reportedly overcharged Virginians $277 million more than they were allowed in 2018.

SB 966 restored the SCC’s ability to conduct earnings reviews to determine whether Dominion Energy had collected more money than required. If so, the extra revenue could be reinvested in electric distribution grid transformation as well as solar and offshore wind projects at no extra cost to the consumer.

“What makes more financial sense is for the money to be reinvested, which allows the customer to get the benefit of the project without any additional rates,” said Rayhan Daudani, manager of media relations for Dominion Energy.

He said that customers get a “great value” with rates 6.8% below the national average, along with increased investment in renewable energy and a transformed energy grid. Dominion said it plans to invest $750 million between offshore wind projects and smart meters that provide better grid service.

“Our mission is to keep those prices low, build the nation’s largest offshore wind project, continue to provide solar energy across the state and keep the lights on for our customers,” Daudani said.

The offshore wind project is set to be the largest in the U.S. with enough energy to power up to 650,000 Virginia homes, according to a recent Dominion Energy press release.

So far none of the bills supported by clean energy advocates have passed committee.

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