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Benedict Arnold and the Burning of Richmond




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.



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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Arts & Entertainment

Library of Virginia Literary Awards Winners Announced

Cottom, Tilghman, and Kingsley are the 2020 recipients honored by the Library of Virginia.




The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce the winners of the 23rd Annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards, which were held virtually this year. Sponsored by Dominion Energy, the October 17 awards celebration was hosted by best-selling author and award-winning filmmaker Adriana Trigiani. Awards categories were nonfiction, fiction, and poetry; People’s Choice Awards for fiction and nonfiction; and Art in Literature: The Mary Lynn Kotz Award. Winners in each category receive a monetary prize and a handsome engraved crystal book.

Tressie McMIllan Cottom Photo provided by Library of Virginia

The winner of the 2020 Literary Award for Nonfiction is Tressie McMIllan Cottom for her book Thick: And Other Essays.

“The provocative and brilliant chapters hold a mirror to the soul of America in painfully honest and gloriously affirming explorations of contemporary culture,” wrote the award judges. “Streetwise and erudite, Cottom explodes the myth that the ‘personal essay’ is the only genre in mainstream publishing and journalism open for public commentary by female writers of color.”

Cottom, who has just been named a 2020 MacArthur Fellow, is a recipient of the Doris Entwisle Award of the American Sociological Association for her scholarship on inequality, work, higher education, and technology. In addition to Thick, she is the author of Lower Ed and her work has been featured by the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, PBS, NPR, Fresh Air, and The Daily Show, among others. She recently left Richmond, where she had been an associate professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, for a position at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

The other finalists for the nonfiction prize were Erik Nielson and Andrea L. Dennis for Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America and Mary M. Lane for Hitler’s Last Hostages: Looted Art and the Soul of the Third Reich.

Chris Tilghman Photo Credit: Susan Kalergis

Christopher Tilghman won the 2020 Emyl Jenkins Sexton Literary Award for Fiction for his book Thomas and Beal in the Midi. “This lushly written novel follows an interracial American couple in a family saga after they emigrate to escape bigotry in 1892,” wrote the award judges. “Its evocative descriptions of fin de siècle France and skillfully drawn characters add up to a sensitive and satisfying portrait of a marriage.”

Tilghman is the author of two short-story collections, In a Father’s Place and The Way People Run, and three previous novels, Mason’s Retreat, The Right-Hand Shore, and Roads of the Heart. He is a professor of English at the University of Virginia and lives with his wife, the novelist Caroline Preston, in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in Centreville, Maryland.

The other finalists for the fiction award were Angie Kim for Miracle Creek and Tara Laskowski for One Night Gone.

Naka-Hasebe Kingsley Photo provided by Library of Virginia

Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley is the winner of the Poetry Award this year for his book Colonize Me, which explores the experience of living as a Native American in today’s America. “The poems emerge from overlapping histories of violence and struggle not as fractured identity but as integrated multiplicity” wrote the award judges. “Kingsley uses form and language to indict the micro and macro aggressions of colonization with irony, heartbreak, and joy.”

An Affrilachian author and Kundiman alum, Kingsley is a recipient of the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center and Tickner Fellowships. His is also the author of Not Your Mama’s Melting Pot (2018) and Dēmos (coming in 2021). He is an assistant professor of English in Old Dominion University’s MFA program.

The other finalists for the poetry award were Lauren K. Alleyne for Honeyfish and David Huddle for My Surly Heart.

Philip J. Deloria Photo Credit: Jim Harrison

The Art in Literature: The Mary Lynn Kotz Award went to Philip J. Deloria for his book Becoming Mary Sully: Toward an American Indian Abstract. In Becoming Mary Sully, Deloria reclaims the artist’s work from obscurity, exploring her stunning portfolio through the lenses of modernism, industrial design, Dakota women’s aesthetics, mental health, ethnography and anthropology, primitivism, and the American Indian politics of the 1930s. Presented by the Library and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Art in Literature Award recognizes an outstanding book published in the previous year that is written primarily in response to a work (or works) of art while also showing the highest literary quality as a creative or scholarly work. This unique award, established in 2013, is named in honor of Mary Lynn Kotz, author of the award-winning biography Rauschenberg: Art and Life.

The winners of the People’s Choice Awards are The Substitution Order by Martin Clark in the fiction category and Mary Ball Washington: The Untold Story of George Washington’s Mother by Craig Shirley in the nonfiction category. Winners are chosen by online voting.

“The Substitution Order mixes legal expertise and wry humor in a story rich with atmosphere, memorable characters, and surprises right up to the end,” wrote the judges about the novel by Martin Clark, who is a circuit court judge in Patrick County, Virginia.

“Craig Shirley’s sprightly biography suggests that George Washington’s first fight for independence was from his controlling, singular mother—a resilient widow who singlehandedly raised six children on a large farm,” wrote the judges about Mary Ball Washington. Shirley is an author and public affairs consultant who splits his time between homes on the Rappahannock River in Lancaster County and a 300-year-old Georgian manor house in Tappahannock, Virginia.

The evening’s featured speaker was Douglas Brinkley, who was honored for his outstanding contributions to American history and literature as an award-winning, best-selling author and U.S. presidential historian. In addition to our presenting sponsor, Dominion Energy, the Literary Awards were made possible by Liz and Preston Bryant Jr., Christian & Barton LLP, MercerTrigiani, Anna Moser and Peter Schwartz, Kathy and Steve Rogers, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Carole and Marcus Weinstein, Weinstein Properties, and the Library of Virginia Foundation.

Next year’s Library of Virginia Literary Awards Celebration will be held on October 16, 2021.



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Virginia lawmakers pass legislation to make Juneteenth a state holiday

Juneteenth has officially become a state holiday after lawmakers unanimously approved legislation during the Virginia General Assembly special session.

Capital News Service



By Sam Fowler

Juneteenth has officially become a state holiday after lawmakers unanimously approved legislation during the Virginia General Assembly special session.

Juneteenth marks the day news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas, which was the last state to abolish slavery. The companion bills were introduced by Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, and Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Richmond. Gov. Ralph Northam signed the legislation on Oct. 13.

“Juneteenth is the oldest celebration of the end of slavery in the United States,” Northam said during a press conference held that day. “It’s time we elevate this, not just a celebration by and for some Virginia, but one acknowledged and celebrated by all of us.”

Del. Joshua Cole, D-Fredericksburg, introduced a bill in the legislative session earlier this year to recognize Juneteenth, but the proposal didn’t advance.

Northam proposed making Juneteenth a state holiday in June during a press conference that included musician and Virginia-native Pharrell Williams. Northam signed an executive order that gave executive branch employees and state colleges the day off. Some Virginia localities, such as Richmond and several places in Hampton Roads, also observed the holiday this year.

“I think it is overdue that the Commonwealth formally honor and celebrate the emancipation and end of slavery,” Del. Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg, a co-patron of the bill, said in an email. “It was a step towards fulfilling the promise of equality contained in our founding documents.”

The Elegba Folklore Society, a Richmond-based organization focused on promoting African culture, history and arts, is one of the groups that has been celebrating the holiday for decades. The celebration usually is a three-day weekend event that looks at the history of Juneteenth. A torch-lit walk down the Trail of Enslaved Africans in Richmond is also held, said Janine Bell, the society’s president and artistic director.

“We take time to just say thank you to our ancestors, their contributions, their forfeitures, their trials and tribulations,” Bell said. “We invite people to Richmond’s African burial ground so that we can go there and pay homage from a perspective of African spirituality.”

Juneteenth should not be used as another holiday to look for bargains in stores, Bell said. It should be a time for reflection about liberty, as well as for celebration and family strengthening.

“It’s a time for optimism and joy,” Bell said.

The Elegba Folklore Society broadcasted its Juneteenth event online this year due to the coronavirus. Although there were still around 7,000 views, Bell said that it is usually much larger and has international influence.

Cries for police reform and social justice continue to increase, Bell said. More attention is being drawn to the racial disparities across America. With this, people have been changing their priorities concerning issues such as discrimination.

“This was a step towards equity,” Bell said about the bill. “A symbolic step, but a step nonetheless.”

State workers will be off during Juneteenth. If the job requires individuals to come in to work, then they will be compensated with overtime or extra pay, said Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, a patron for the bill.

The General Assembly wrapped up the agenda last week for the special session that began Aug. 18. Northam called the session to update the state budget and to address criminal and social justice reform and issues related to COVID-19.



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Suspect Sought in Theft from Broad Street Building

It’s not stated by RPD but based on Tweets earlier this week we believe this is Mayor Stoney’s re-election headquarters.




From RPD:

Richmond Police detectives are asking for the public’s help to identify the individual in the attached photos who is suspected of stealing from a building on West Broad Street on Monday.

During the early morning hours on Monday, October 12, the suspect entered the building in the 2600 block of W. Broad Street and stole a large television from the common area. The suspect was last seen heading west on Broad Street with the TV.

Anyone with information about the identity of this suspect is asked to call Fourth Precinct Detective K.L.  Robinson at (804) 646-6820 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or at  The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used.  All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.



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