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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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Gird Your Loins it’s Time to Shiver in the River

The event isn’t limited to jumping in the James, there’s a clean-up, a 5K, music, beer, music and more.

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The 6th Annual Shiver in the River 5k is hitting the James River this weekend, Saturday, February 29th at Tredegar. You can clean up, walk/run, or jump in the James River — or do all three. There is a lot going on and you can pick and choose what you’d like to do. All these events are to benefit Keep Virginia Beautiful.

It kicks off, picks off?, at 10:00 a.m. with a Community Cleanup along the banks of the James River.

A couple of hours later at noon the 5k walk/run runs a loop that starts and ends at Historic Tredegar, taking in the beauty of the James River.

The main event dips in at 1:30, The James River Leap. This fundraising Leap will take place along the chilly banks of the James near Historic Tredegar.  A minimum of $75 must be raised to participate in the Leap and to receive a commemorative long-sleeve T-shirt.  Must be 13 years or older to participate in the Leap.

Image: Dave Parrish

Don’t feel like getting wet? Well, join your fellow sane folks at the Winter Festival from 11 AM to 4 PM for a free event that offers music, beverages, food, heated tents, and, more.

Register Here

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Bill allows renters to make certain repairs if landlord doesn’t respond

A bill that gives tenants the power to make repairs on their property and deduct the costs from their rent, with conditions, recently passed the Virginia state Senate and is expected to advance in the House.

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By Will Gonzalez

A bill that gives tenants the power to make repairs on their property and deduct the costs from their rent, with conditions, recently passed the Virginia Senate and is expected to advance in the House.

Senators voted unanimously in committee and on the floor to pass Senate Bill 905, introduced by Sen. William Stanley, R-Franklin, which gives a tenant the right to seek repairs that constitute a fire hazard or serious threat to the life, health or safety of occupants. Such conditions include the infestation of rodents and lack of heat, hot or cold running water, light, electricity, or adequate sewage disposal facilities.

Tenants would have the right to secure a contractor to fix the issues and deduct the cost from their rent.

First, the tenant would submit a written complaint to their landlord and allow them 14 days to fix the issue before the tenant secures a licensed contractor to complete the repairs. The tenant must provide documentation and itemized receipts of the repair to the landlord. The tenant would be allowed to deduct the costs of the repairs, not exceeding one month’s rent, from subsequent rent payments.

Sen. John Bell, D-Loudoun, proposed an amendment that was rejected during the Senate committee hearing, requiring the tenant to obtain two repair estimates.

Currently, state law allows the landlord more time to fix issues that compromise the health and safety of the tenant. The tenant can file a detailed, written complaint and give notice that the rental agreement will terminate on or after 30 days, if the landlord hasn’t fixed the issue within 21 days. If the problem is fixed, the tenant can’t break the lease.

A tenant, though legally empowered under current law to terminate the rental agreement would still, in most cases, need to have a deposit plus first month’s rent to secure a new place, which can present a roadblock for renters.

The Virginia Poverty Law Center noted its support of the bill and stated that in addition to speeding up the repair process, the proposed bill would reduce the number of cases in Virginia’s courts because tenants are given the opportunity to handle issues themselves instead of having to take landlords to court. Christine Marra, the group’s director of housing advocacy, said that the bill benefits tenants by allowing them to deduct the cost of donated repairs.

“There are a number of nonprofits across the commonwealth that do home repair for homeowners, but will not do them for renters because they don’t want to unjustly or unduly enrich the landlord,” Marra said. “I hope this will encourage them to start doing repairs for tenants.”

According to Elizabeth Godwin-Jones, a Richmond attorney who represents landlords, the original bill was too vague about what would constitute an emergency condition and how the tenant was allowed to go about getting the work done.

Now that the tenant is required to hire a licensed contractor and provide the necessary documentation, she said there’s little a negligent landlord could do to challenge their tenant in court and force them to pay their rent in full.

 “To me, the landlord already has a bit of a black eye, if it was something really serious and they didn’t do what they were supposed to do,” Godwin-Jones said.

Stanley patroned another renter’s rights bill, one which didn’t advance. The bill would have given tenants the right to use their landlord’s failure to maintain the property as a defense if they were taken to court for failure to pay rent.

Virginia’s eviction rates are among the highest in the country. Princeton University’s 2016 Eviction Lab study showed that five of the 10 cities with the highest eviction rates in the U.S. are in Virginia, and Godwin-Jones believes the problem is rooted in poverty more than it is in landlord-tenant legislation.

“To me, the biggest thing to help the eviction problem would be to raise the minimum wage and have more affordable housing options, but that’s terribly underfunded, and the funding hasn’t kept up with the increase in the rent,” Godwin-Jones said.

After making it to the House of Delegates, the bill was assigned to a General Laws subcommittee, which recommended advancing it. A committee on Thursday postponed hearing the bill because Stanley was still in the Senate and could not speak to the bill.

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Bills advance to expand in-state tuition regardless of citizenship status

The state Senate and the House have advanced bills to make students living in the U.S. without documentation eligible for in-state tuition.

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The state Senate and the House have advanced bills to make students living in the U.S. without documentation eligible for in-state tuition.

SB 935, introduced by Democratic Sens. Jennifer Boysko and Ghazala Hashmi, would require a student to provide proof of filed taxes to be eligible for in-state tuition. A student also must have attended high school in Virginia for at least two years, been homeschooled in the state or have passed a high school equivalency exam prior to enrolling in a college. The bill reported out of the House appropriations committee Wednesday and heads to the floor for a vote.

Submitting income tax returns would be a challenge for students straight out of high school who have not worked or filed taxes before, according to Jorge Figueredo, executive director of Edu-Futuro, a nonprofit that seeks to empower immigrant youth and their families.

HB 1547, introduced by Del. Alfonso Lopez, applies the same provisions as SB 935, except the requirement to file proof of filed taxes. The bill is currently in the Senate Health and Education committee.

Immigrant rights advocates have openly supported these two bills. Figueredo said he is “thrilled” to see the bill advance.

“This is something that makes a lot of sense. It’s something where we don’t want to have a group of people to get to a point that they cannot reach their highest potential,” Figueredo said.

Attorney General Mark Herring announced in 2014 that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students would be eligible for in-state tuition. He said Maryland saw an increase in graduation rates after allowing students without documentation to access in-state tuition rates. Maryland officials believe this led less students to drop out of high school because they saw realistic options for continuing education, according to Herring.

There is uncertainty about the future of the DACA program. A study by the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis stated that uncertainty creates a risk for students enrolled in Virginia colleges and universities, who fear they could lose DACA status and access to in-state tuition rates. The institute, which studies issues affecting low-to-moderate income residents, recommended that lawmakers could mitigate the potential impact of that loss by expanding in-state tuition access to Virginia residents regardless of immigration status. The institute said that by doing so the state would also provide more affordable access to colleges for residents whose immigration status does not otherwise fall into the categories currently required for in-state tuition.

Figueredo said that allowing these students to apply for in-state tuition would create more opportunities for undocumented students to become professionals, something that would benefit all of Virginia.

High school graduates in Virginia earn about $35,000 on average compared to people with a bachelor’s degree who earn about $65,000 a year, according to The Commonwealth Institute.

“A person that has a higher level of education in comparison to a person that has only a high school diploma, there are hundreds of thousands of dollars that are not captured in the form of taxes, so that’s a direct benefit right there,” Figueredo said.

Katherine Amaya is a freshman at Northern Virginia Community College. Her family emigrated from El Salvador when she was 8 years old. Amaya said she pays out-of-state tuition rates as an undocumented student, about $6,000 per semester, compared to classmates who pay about $2,000 for in-state tuition per semester.

Amaya said she was on the honor roll throughout high school and her first semester in college. She said she was able to apply for scholarships for undocumented students but it was a competitive process. She was awarded a few scholarships and said she was able to use that money for her first semester of college but is afraid she won’t get as much help in the future.

Amaya said she had many friends in high school that were also having a hard time paying for college or university because they were also undocumented and did not qualify for in-state tuition.

“A lot of them, they couldn’t even afford going to community college, so they just dropped out and started working,” Amaya said. “It’s sad, you know, that they don’t have the money or the help to keep going to school.”

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