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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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Buildings Damaged Tuesday Night, Arrests Made

No other reports of damage or injuries at this time.

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The John Marshall Courthouse, Wells Fargo building, Omni hotel, and a Starbucks were damaged last night.

Brent Solomon of NBC12 Tweeted photos of the damage.

The police released the following statement on arrests.

On Tuesday night a group of individuals broke windows and damaged and defaced property in several neighborhoods in the city of Richmond.

At approximately 11:50 p.m., officers detained several individuals. The Department consulted with the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney on possible charges and charged four.

Julius Dela Cruz, Lakshmi Menon, Kyra Nguyen and Brian Quach were charged with rioting.

Several items, including a metal crowbar and a hammer were seized from the individuals.

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Arts & Entertainment

Institute for Contemporary Art and VPM launch community media center

Chioke I’Anson, an assistant professor of African American Studies at VCU, will serve as the center’s inaugural director of community media.

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The Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University and VPM, Virginia’s home for public media, are creating a media center inside the ICA for the production of audio content by VCU students, local community members and VPM professionals.

The VPM+ICA Community Media Center will create new opportunities for storytelling, train and educate the next generation of audio producers, and amplify voices often missing from traditional media.

Under the leadership of Chioke I’Anson, Ph.D., inaugural director of community media, the center will launch this fall with community and student podcasting workshops, training sessions and a special performance — all of which are expected to begin virtually due to COVID-19. The VPM+ICA Community Media Center is slated to open in spring 2021.

l’Anson will serve as director of community media at the new VPM+ICA Community Media Center. (Photo by Amaya Zaslow)
l’Anson will serve as director of community media at the new VPM+ICA Community Media Center. (Photo by Amaya Zaslow)

“Over the past several years, we’ve witnessed the rise of podcasting as a new genre of narrative and documentary arts,” said Dominic Willsdon, executive director of the ICA. “With that in mind, the ICA — as an institution responsive to new currents in public culture — sought to partner with VPM and launch an initiative that supports audio storytelling by, for and about our communities, especially those that have suffered historical inequity. We plan to grow this over time to include audio, video and community media-making more broadly. Beginning in 2021, our new community media center will provide the space, tools and support for this.”

Through this innovative partnership, the ICA and VPM also will launch a multiyear educational and media-making program comprising VCU academic seminars, youth media programs and public seminars, workshops and symposia.

“The VPM+ICA Community Media Center is a unique opportunity for public media to play a role in engaging a new generation of diverse content makers,” said Jayme Swain, CEO of the Virginia Foundation for Public Media and president of VPM. “We are honored to partner with the ICA and Dr. I’Anson to provide a creative space for students and the community to learn how to harness the power of media to tell their stories.”

The ICA’s second-floor Murry DePillars Learning Lab will house the media center, complete with two recording booths and workspace for conceptualizing, editing and producing podcasts and other audio programs.

The project reflects the ICA’s continued engagement with VCU students and faculty to develop new ways of thinking about and utilizing its space, a precedent that’s been in place since the ICA’s conception and has actively shaped its building design and programming.

“Everyone in Richmond has a story that only they can tell, or a perspective only they can share,” said I’Anson, an assistant professor of African American Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences at VCU and underwriting announcer at NPR. “The VPM+ICA Community Media Center is the lab where anyone with something to say or a desire to create can get the technical skills to share their vision. The media center will be an arts and storytelling focal point, serving the city of Richmond and helping deliver its stories to the rest of the world.”

I’Anson will teach a podcasting seminar each semester for students in the Department of African American Studies and will work with a managing team comprising VCU students to plan and create a series of community events and youth programs.

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2nd Street Festival: A Virtual Celebration!

The 2nd Street Festival commemorates its 32nd anniversary October 3-4 with a virtual event celebrating downtown’s Jackson Ward community.

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The 2nd Street Festival commemorates its 32nd anniversary October 3-4 with a virtual event celebrating downtown’s Jackson Ward community. Venture Richmond Events will present new musical performances, favorite artists from past festivals, cooking demonstrations, virtual tours, neighborhood testimonials, fun family activities, and so much more!

VIRTUAL EVENT DETAILS

Date: October 3-4, 2020

Ways to watch: Visit this webpage or the 2nd Street Festival Facebook page to livestream the event on Oct. 3-4

Time: Saturday, Oct. 3 from 6:00-7:15pm, and Sunday, Oct. 4 from 5:00-6:15pm

Featured Festival Artists & more!

This year’s virtual festival is a great opportunity for families to plan gatherings and watch parties at home in a safe, fun and responsible way! Here are a few of our featured artists.

Legacy Band: Saturday, October 3

Don’t miss this 2nd Street Festival performance by one of Richmond’s favorite bands playing top hits with a mix of soul, R&B, funk, gogo and jazz. The band was originally formed by guitarist Jose Pomier and vocalist Kaila Valdez.

Desirée Roots: Sunday, October 4

Known for showcasing her triple-threat talents of singing, acting and dancing, Desiree performs some of her favorite jazz selections for the 2nd Street Festival. A beloved Richmond performer who grew up in a musical family, Desiree is comfortable singing everything from opera to R&B, but her true favorites are classical, gospel and jazz.

Remembrance of Debo Dabney: Sunday, October 4

Listen in as local musicians and friends Plunky Branch, Glennroy Bailey, Desiree Roots and others share their reflections of Herbert A. Dabney, III, a dynamic and animated pianist who passed away earlier this year. Affectionately known as “Debo,” he was a beloved friend of the festival and an all-around fan favorite. His repertoire ranged from jazz, gospel, R&B, swing, blues and children’s classics. Debo performed for 31 of the festival’s 32 years.

Culinary Demos

Viewers should prepare their kitchens for culinary demonstrations by popular Jackson Ward restaurants Croaker’s Spot and Soul Taco, live-streamed directly into homes to capture the same delicious food that we’ve all come to expect from the 2nd Street Festival.

Kid’s Activity Corner

Families will enjoy Candice Smith with NBC12 News reading a book especially for children, a balloon twisting demonstration by festival favorite Eddie Cook with Balloons By Extreme, and a special activity by the Children’s Museum of Richmond.

A Spotlight on Jackson Ward

Gary Flowers of the Historic Jackson Ward Society will highlight community sites in the neighborhood for all to enjoy, and viewers will hear testimonials from longtime residents and business owners of the Jackson Ward neighborhood during the live stream event.

The 2020 Poster

This year’s official 2nd Street Festival poster was commissioned to Richmond native, Unicia Buster. Ms. Buster was a fine arts major in photography at Cornell University and she will design a quilt for the festival and use her graphic design skills to transform it into the official festival poster.

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