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Virginia Continental Line Reorganization of 1778 and 1779

January 7, 2018

Question:

I am confused by the numbering of Virginia Regiments after the 3 Virginia detachments were wiped out. (The third detachment met its fate at Waxhaws.)

At Guilford Courthouse there were two Virginia Regiments. Some accounts of the battle call them the 4th and 5th VA Regiments and other sources call them the 1st and 2nd VA Regiments.

Can you please help me with the numbering of the VA Regiments in March 1781?

Thanks in advance for your kind assistance.

Perplexed

 

 

Dear Perplexed

You aren’t alone.  This question is difficult even for professional historians. 

 

Bottom Line Up Front:

It's a common misconception that the three "Detachments" were the only Virginia Line units at the time of Charleston.  These so-called "detachments" were actually the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd "Virginia Recruit Detachment Battalions".  They formed the "2nd Virginia Brigade", commanded by Gen Charles Scott, which was just one of the Virginia brigades sent south for the defense of Charleston.  The reason for the confusion was at almost the same time, in September 1778, Virginia’s original 15 numbered regiments were re-arranged.  The old 15 regiments, almost all at less than half their designed manpower strength, were consolidated into each other to form 11 new regiments.  They were still significantly under strength, so when 10 of them were sent south to defend Charleston they were amalgamated into three temporary regimental fighting regiments (1st, 2nd, 3rd) and those three regiments formed the 1st Virginia Brigade, under the command of Gen William Woodford, for the defense of Charleston.  Thus, there were two Virginia brigades, the 1st and 2nd, at Charleston.  One was comprised of the three “Recruit Detachment Battalions” and the other formed of temporarily amalgamated numbered regiments. To add to the confusion, there were two Virginia State Line Regiments, the 1st and 2nd; and after the fall of Charleston Virginia created two new battalions and one regiment.  One of these battalions was called the 1st Virginia battalion.

Continental survivors, or those who missed action at Charleston for various reasons, were generally company-sized formations.  They fought on after Charleston fell.  Often they fought individually, but they also formed ad-hoc “regiments”, “battalions” and “brigades” in order to be more easily identified and commanded during battle. At Guilford Courthouse the various Virginia Continental remnants were combined into two ad-hoc regiments which formed one ad-hoc Virginia Brigade.  They didn’t have a general, so it was commanded by a South Carolinian, Gen Isaac Huger.  After the battle the brigade was dissolved, and perhaps the regiments, too, as we don’t see further mention of them.  All of this is discussed in detail below.

 

Details.

 

Rearrangement of the Virginia Line

In Sep 1778 a reorganization of Virginia's Continental Line regiments was done in the Continental Main Army camp at White Plains, New York.  Virginia's Continental Line regiments were dramatically under strength.  Some regiments existed only on paper. The situation wasn't just the effect of casualties, the hardships of campaigning, and the previous two winter encampment logistical nightmares, it was also the effect of a rarely understood and little-known Virginia enlistment law coming into play. 

 

The 1st and 2nd Virginia regiments were created in 1775 and were subsequently adopted into the Continental Army besieging Boston.  Responding to the 1775 Congressional quota system established to expand and reorganize the Continental Army (to occur 1 Jan 1776), the Virginia legislature passed an enlistment law in December 1775 to meet the quota established by Congress.  This law created the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Virginia regiments and set the terms for the enlistment duration of the men.  Under this law, Virginians enlisting for these six new regiments were to serve under "terms determined by Congress but not to exceed 10 April 1778"; provided that the men gave three months’ notice of their resignation from the Army.  In effect, all the men originally enlisted in these regiments were set to depart the Army not later than 10 July 1778.  Although Congress' initial enlistment term had expired 31 December 1776 (necessitating Washington's crossing of the Delaware before these enlistments ran out), many Virginians had responded to Washington's call and Paine's "Crisis" pamphlet, remaining with the army.  However, the provisions of the Virginia enlistment law still released them 10 April 1778 (or three months later if they waited to give notice), and many men had taken advantage of it.  With the additional attrition resulting from disease plus death, wounding and capture in combat, with the exception of the 7th Virginia, by mid-summer of 1778 the manpower of original nine Virginia regiments had dwindled to the point that the existing 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, regiments were no longer combat effective.  The 9th was a paper-only unit, having been captured at Germantown.  The 13th and 7th were the only numbered Virginia Continental Line regiments near full strength (more on that later).

 

The remaining 6 Virginia regiments, 10th - 15th, were not much better off. But, having been formed under different enlistment terms, with more men signed up for three years or for "the duration" of the war; and having missed the majority of the 1777 campaign season, their manpower stats were slightly better.

 

Thus, the White Plains officer board realigned the Virginia Line.  In reality the board should have consolidated even further, compressing the entire Virginia Line into five substantive regiments.  But the board was loathe to put ten seasoned and well regarded regimental Colonels out to pasture.  The first nine Virginia regiments were consolidated into the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Virginia Regiments and the original 10th through 15th Regiments were renumbered as the 6th through 11th, meaning that the 12th through 15th ceased to exist.  The effect of the September 1778 White Plains consolidation of the Virginia Continental Line was: 

 

1st - The old 1st Regiment absorbed the few remaining men of the 9th Regiment, which was captured at Germantown (the only 9th Regiment officer not captured at Germantown, Lt Custis Kendall, a relative of Martha Washington by marriage, was consolidated into the 1st and was captured at Charleston). 

 

2nd - The original 2nd Regiment absorbed the remnants of the old 6th Regiment, which had been decimated by losses at Brandywine and Germantown the previous year.

 

3rd -The remnants of the original 3rd Virginia and 5th Virginia were combined.  Both regiments had been depleted by disease and combat losses.

 

4th - The original 4th Virginia regiment was originally composed of a large number of riflemen.  Transfers of many to rifle regiments, combat and disease kept the regiment well below strength for its entire existence.  At White Plains, the 8th regiment was consolidated into the 4th.  Even so, the new 4th regiment was well below half strength.  

 

5th - Most of the remaining few men of the old 5th regiment were consolidated into the new 3rd regiment.  However, a lucky few who were on detachment later returned to find themselves part of the new 5th.  The former 7th Virginia Regiment, although decimated at Brandywine and Germantown, had successfully recruited new enlistees due to the prominence of several officers, including Daniel Morgan, Thomas Nelson Jr's brothers William and John, and the Porterfields.  The regiment was at near full strength in Sept 1779, and was re-designated as the 5th Virginia.

 

6th - Remnants of the old sixth were consolidated into the new 2nd.  The old 10th became the new 6th.

 

7th - The old 7th became the new 5th.  The old 11th became the new 7th.  

 

8th - originally under the command of Peter Muhlenberg, the 8th was drawn from German-settled areas near the Virginia-Pennsylvania frontier and northern Shenandoah Valley.  It was commonly known as "The German Regiment".  This regiment was ordered to Charleston in April 1776 to defend it against a pending British invasion.  Despite marching over 500 miles, outside the state, to the defence of a sister colony, Congress refused to accept the 8th into Continental establishment because the 8th Regiment was below strength on paper.  In reality, many of the men caught malaria while operating in South Carolina and Georgia and were absent due to disease.  Congress did not relent until August; retroactively accepting the 8th as of 27 May 1776.  The 8th returned north in 1777 to join the main Continental Army, and suffered unreplaced losses in the campaign of 1777. The remnants of the original 8th were combined into the new 4th Regiment.  The former 12th Regiment became the new 8th. 

 

9th - Originally recruited on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, the 9th was virtually completely captured at Germantown in the fall of 1777.  From then until the White Plains 1778 consolidation the 9th was a regiment on paper only.  The few remnants were consolidated into the new 1st Regiment, which left the 1st at half strength, if that.  The old 13th Regiment, at about 75% strength, became the new 9th and continued the duties of the former 13th - garrison of Ft Pitt and western frontier posts. In 1780-81 nearly half of the regiment was attached to Virginia's George Rogers Clark for his expedition to Illinois.

 

10th - Remnants of the old 10th consolidated into the new 6th.  The old 14th became the new 10th.

 

11th - The old 11th Regiment was renumbered as the new 7th.  The old 15th Regiment was renumbered as the 11th.

 

12th - the old 12th was renumbered as the new 8th.  The 12th ceased to exist.

 

13th - the old 13th was renumbered as the new 9th.  The 13th ceased to exist.

 

14th - the old 14th was renumbered as the new 10th.  The 14th ceased to exist.

 

15th - the old 15th was renumbered as the new 11th.  The 15th ceased to exist.

 

At the same time, the September 1778 White Plains board assigned the bulk of the Virginia line to the Southern Department and ordered them to march to the Carolinas.  The belief at this time was that these regiments would effectively recruit more Virginians as they passed through their home state.  It didn’t come to pass.  Delayed by the actions in the "Forage Wars", mutually opposing maneuvers of both armies along the Hudson, and battle for Stony Point, in late 1779 the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th, 11th Virginia regiments, along with Lee’s, William Washington’s, and Armand’s legions, Harrison's Artillery, Gist's Additional Regiment and several other Virginia Continental Line units, marched towards the Carolina's, only for the vast majority to be captured at the fall of Charleston, South Carolina, in May 1780.  

 

There were two more rearrangements of the Virginia line in 1779; in May at Middlebrook, New York and the second in September, at Ramapo, New Jersey.  Their primary purpose was to rearrange officers in the newly arranged regiments to satisfy rank precedence and to release supernumerary officers. However, important to our purpose, the Middlebrook board also took the additional step of creating three "recruit detachment battalions".  Originally recruit formations intended as replacement men for the numbered Virginia Line numbered regiments, they included recruits and 18-month and 9-month men levied from the Virginia militia.  The British shift to the Southern Campaign strategy obviated this purpose.  Rather than march the men to the vicinity of New York to join various regiments, it was simpler to name them as combat units and march them directly to South Carolina.  Command for these three "battalions" was chosen by ballot at Millbrook from the pool of ranking unassigned officers -- former commanders who had been put out of work when their regiments were consolidated by the White Plains re-arrangement of the Virginia Line; or who were put out of work by the May 1779 board’s rearrangement of commanders according to rank precedence.  These three “Recruit Detachment Battalions" were formed into a brigade under the command of General Charles Scott, also out of a job.  1st Battalion was commanded by Col Richard Parker, formerly of the 1st Virginia Regiment.   2nd Battalion was commanded by Colonel William Heth, formerly of the 3rd Va Regiment.  3rd Battalion, not yet fully formed, was commanded by the former 11th Regiment Commander, Colonel Abraham Buford.   


The Defence of Charleston:

For the defence of Charleston, the understrength Virginia Line was consolidated into 2 temporary Brigade fighting formations.  The First Brigade was under the command of gen William Woodford and contained three regiments.  These three regiments were large temporary fighting units formed by amalgamating the new Virginia Line regiments. The 2nd Virginia Brigade, commanded by Gen Charles Scott, included the three recruit detachments which the Millbrook board had transformed into the three “Virginia Recruit Detachment Battalions”.  The intent may have been that after winning Charleston, the Virginia Line would un-amalgamate and the recruits would be absorbed into the numbered line regiments. 

 

1st Virginia Brigade (William Woodford commanding):  Comprised of the following temporarily consolidated regiments:

 

1st Virginia Continental Regiment: Colonel William Russell

1st, 5th, 7th, 10th, and 11th Virginia consolidated; most captured in Charleston 12 May 1780.  Five officers of the 5th Regiment, formerly the 7th, escaped capture by various means.   Evidently a company-sized contingent of the 1st Virginia escaped capture.  These men subsequently became part od Posey’s battalion (see below).

 

2nd Virginia Continental Regiment: Colonel John Neville

2nd, 3rd and 4th Virginia regiments consolidated.  Mostly captured in Charleston.  Among those who escaped, a company sized group of men under Captain Alexander Parker returned to Virginia to participate in the 1781 Virginia Campaign and siege of Yorktown.  A substantial detachment of the 2nd Virginia regiment under Col Christian Febiger was performing detached duty in Philadelphia and not sent south.  This detachment returned to Virginia and was included as the core of the Thomas Posey's Virginia Battalion raised in late 1780.

 

3rd Regiment: Colonel Nathaniel Gist

Included the new 6th and 8th.  Also incorporated into this unit was Nathaniel Gist's Additional Continental Regiment, also known as Gist's Rangers (pronounced as "Guest").  Gist's regiment had been formed as one of the 16 "Additional" regiments authorized by Congress on 27 December 1776.  Four of these units were comprised of Virginians.  Gist's was the most successful and by 1779 two of the others (Grayson's and Thruston's Additional Regiments) had been merged into Gist's.  Most of these men were captured at Charleston.  A significant number of men of the old 8th “German Regiment” survived Charleston and fought under Nathanael Greene through the end of the war as part of reconstituted Virginia forces.  Also, at least one company under Captain Robert Gamble escaped.  Gamble was one of those who stood firm at Camden and was captured there.  The remnants of his company went on to fight at Guilford Courthouse as part of Green’s Virginia Regiment.

 

The 2nd Virginia Brigade:

Commanded by Gen Charles Scott.  Comprised of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd Recruit Detachment Battalions.  In late 1779 the 1st and 2nd Virginia Recruit Detachment Battalions were ordered to Charleston.  After drawing weapons and equipment, they marched to Charleston and were captured by Cornwallis when the city surrendered in May, 1780. 

 

The “3rd Recruit Detachment", under command of the former 11th Regiment Commander, Colonel Abraham Buford, took even longer to recruit its minimum complement of men and was belatedly sent to reinforce Charleston. Due to the delay, the 3rd was still on the march when the city fell.  Upon receiving word of the fall of Charleston, Buford dithered, unaware that a British force under Tarleton had been sent to intercept him.  The “3rd Virginia Recruit Detachment" was destroyed at the so-called "Waxhaws Massacre“ in late May.  Buford and the few hundred-plus 5th (formerly the 7th Virginia) and 3rd Virginians who escaped made their way back to Virginia.  It was Buford's former status as the 11th Virginia Regiment commander that convinced Tarleton to report to Cornwallis that he had just attacked the 11th Virginia regiment and "cut 170 officers and men to pieces".  As described above, only a few 3rd Recruit Battalion men who escaped with the companies of 5th and 3rd Virginians at Waxhaws returned to Virginia.  One company that did escape, almost intact, was the Continental recruit company of Captain Andrew Wallace.  Wallace’s would later prove essential at Cowpens, where his company of Continentals formed the extreme right flank of the American 3rd line.  With the reserve infantry attacking his front and Tarleton’s cavalry attempting to get behind him, Wallace maneuvered his company to a new position to “Refuse The Flank”, buying enough time for William Washington’s cavalry to drive off Tarleton, and preserving a stellar victory for Gen Daniel Morgan.  Wallace’s Continentals were again influential at Guilford Courthouse, where his company was part of the ad-hoc 2nd Virginia Regiment under Colonel Hawes.  Wallace fought bravely once again, and his men held their ground on Gen Greene’s left flank, anchoring the second line.  Wallace’s company was drawn away from the main line by the fighting that diverged to the south and east.  Wallace’s continentals fought alongside infantry of Lee’s Legion, enfilading the Hessian and 1st Guards Regiments.  Wallace fell during the fight, the third son of his family to perish as Continentals. 

 

1st and 3rd Continental Dragoons: Lt Col William Washington's cavalry; all but a few escaped Charleston and went on to contribute through the end of the war.

 

Lee's Legion: escaped Charleston with the loss of just one man.  Major Henry Peyton, cousin of Peyton Randolph, was mortally wounded.

 

Armand's legion escaped Charleston with the loss of 6 men captured, four of them officers. 

 

Harrison's Artillery: 5 officers and four guns captured.

 

Post Charleston:

After Charleston and Waxhaws the three "Recruiting Detachments" ceased to exist.  The majority of the rearranged 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th 6th, 7th, 8th regiments were prisoners.  They were continued on paper and officers were appointed for administrative purposes, but they were neve manned.  The renumbered 9th Virginia regiment continued manning frontier posts and Ft Pitt. 

 

The ad-hoc “Virginia Brigade at Guilford Courthouse:

Contingents of the numbered Virginia regiments who escaped capture at Charleston, or who weren’t there for various reasons, fought in the Southern Campaign, often as independent companies.  Eventually most were amalgamated into ad-hoc Continental regiments.  At Guilford Courthouse two of these two regiments were combined into a brigade under the command of Gen Isaac Huger, a South Carolinian.  

The two Virginia Continental Regiments were commanded by Colonel John Green (1st Virginia Continental Regiment) and Lt Col Samuel Hawes (2nd Virginia Continental Regiment).  Hawes’ regiment included Capt Andrew Wallace’s company who had survived the 3rd Recruit Detachment Battalion’s massacre at Waxhaws.  Undoubtedly there were additional recruits added to form these two units, as their combined strength at Guilford Courthouse is stated as 778.  Green had been commander of the first company of Culpeper Minutemen, rose to command the 10th Virginia, was a defender at Ft Mifflin, then was transferred by the White Plains board in 1778 to the 6th Virginia.  He commanded the 6th commander when it was surrendered in Charleston, and Samuel Hawes had been his deputy.  Both were quickly exchanged for British Officers of the “Convention Army” in Charlottesville, and returned to active duty.  After Guilford the ad-hoc regiments were dissolved and the various companies joined other formations, including Gaskins and Posey’s regiments. 

 

State Line Regiments:

Also in existence, ostensibly within the confines of the State, were the 1st and 2nd Virginia State Line regiments.  These units were raised as Virginia's internal force, predominantly positioned to counter raiding parties in Tidewater or man frontier outposts in southwest Virginia (including defense of lead and salt mines there), but were forced to join the Continental Line after Virginia's Continental Line became prisoners at Charleston.  

 

1st and 2nd Virginia Brigades (Militia):

Also joining the Continentals were two brigades comprised of several hundred militiamen each.  The 1st Virginia Brigade under General Edward Stevens, and the 2nd Virginia Brigade under General Robert Lawson.  Lawson’s militia broke and ran at Camden, resulting in the death of Porterfield.   Both made amends at Guilford Courthouse, the two militia brigades formed the second line. 

Later, Lawson was attached to Von Stueben at the Point of Fork Depot, June 5, 1781, where the Americans outnumbered Simcoe 900 to 400.  Incorrectly believing Simcoe to have the stronger force, the Americans abandoned the position and critical stores, including 2,000 brand new Charleville muskets that were badly needed to equip Virginia’s defenders against Cornwallis.  Lawsons brigade also fought at Yorktown. 

Edward Stevens’ military career had begun in 1775 at Hampton and then Great Bridge where he distinguished himself in command of the Culpeper Minutemen.  He became commander of the 10th Virginia Regiment and earned praise for his conduct at Brandywine and Germantown. His Virginia Militia brigade saw its first action at Camden, where Stevens advised Gen Gates that it was too late to surrender, the die was cast and they had to fight.  Stevens held the left of the second line at Guilford courthouse where he positioned men behind his line with orders to shoot anyone who ran.  It wasn’t needed as his men stood their ground and inflicted tremendous casualties until left with no choice but to withdraw.  Wounded in the fight, Stevens was recuperating in Charlottesville when Tarleton arrived in June 1781, and once again escaped.  By Yorktown his Brigade had grown to 750 men.

 

The Chesterfield Board:

On 10-12 February 1781, with Arnold back in Portsmouth after ravaging up the James River as far as Westhampton, another board of field officers met at Chesterfield Courthouse to once again re-arrange the Virginia Continental Line. At that time about 1300 Virginians captured at Charleston were still being held prisoner there or aboard prison ships (William Woodford had died 13 November, 1780, aboard a British Prison Ship in New York harbor).  Another estimated 2,300 Virginians were in prisoner status having been captured earlier in the war.  The purpose of the board was to handle the paperwork of the imprisoned Virginia regiments, to rearrange officers according to seniority, and to arrange remaining Virginian fighting forces.  The board created the 1st Virginia Battalion and re-designated the troops at 9th Regiment (formerly the 13th) one more time as the new 7th Regiment.  Virginia had previously authorized Thomas Gaskins to raise a regiment, which Gaskins was doing at Point of Fork with new levies upon the state militia.  

 

Virginia units in Continental service after May 1780.  In addition to those named above, these included:


- 1st Virginia Battalion - newly tasked, not yet raised.


- Gaskins Regiment - a newly raised, 400-man battalion consisting of 18-month recruits and veterans who had escaped Charleston/Waxhaws.  Served under Anthony Wayne's brigade through Yorktown.  After Yorktown was consolidated into Posey's Virginia Battalion for service under Nathanael Greene's command in Georgia.

 

- Baron de Arendt's German Battalion: included at least 3 companies raised in Virginia.

 

- Armand's Legion (about 66% Virginian)

 

- Lee's Legion: originally the three mounted troops were Virginian, with a company of infantry from Delaware under Capt Alan McLane.  Nov 1, 1780 the Legion was expanded to include two additional infantry companies.

  

- Washington's Life Guard - predominantly Virginians

 

- Thomas Posey's Virginia Battalion (also known at times as Febigers Battalion, and until 12 Feb 1781 as the 1st Virginia Battalion): in late 1779 Col Christian Febiger was assigned to be the Continental recruiter in Virginia.  He conceived this regiment and began its formation in 1780.  But, when Baron Von Steuben was sent to Virginia Febiger assumed his duties in Philadelphia.  Febiger named Posey to replace him as battalion commander, as Posey had been one of his officers at the light infantry assault on Stony Point.  Posey raised the battalion as light infantry with nine complete companies (two of these companies had at their nucleus men of the 1st Virginia regiment who had avoided capture at Charleston).  Congress then used Posey's Battalion as the basis for an expedition under Arthur St. Clair sent to assist Greene in South Carolina and Georgia.  Additionally, the expedition included Gaskins Regiment, the detachment of 2nd Virginia regiment from Philadelphia, and Anthony Wayne's First Legionary Corps (made up of drafts from the 1st and 3d regiments of Continental Light Dragoons, (also Virginians) and all available Continental light infantry troops.  Served through October 1782 in Georgia and South Carolina.

 

- 1st Regiment of Continental artillery (Harrisons Train)

 

- 1st Regiment of Continental Light Dragoons (Bland's Horse, 1st Legionary Corps)

 

- 3d regiment of Continental Light Dragoons (Baylor's Regiment, Lady Washington's Dragoons, 3d Legionary Corps, Washington's Dragoons)

 

- 4th Regiment of Continental Light Dragoons 9Moylan's, 4th Legionary Corps)

 

- 1st Regiment Virginia State Line:  Major Thomas Meriwether

Virginia's State Line regiments were repeatedly into service to fill voids in the Virginia Continental line after combat disasters; particularly after Germantown (9th Virginia regm't captured).  Once again placed on Continental establishment following Charleston. 

 

- 2nd Regiment Virginia State Line: major John Lee

Same as 1st.

 

- Nelson's Horse (Virginia State Line Light Cavalry)

 

- The Convention Army Guard Regiment - 600-man regiment augmented with additional rotating militia units for the purpose of guarding the British and Hessian troops captured at Saratoga (The Convention army) and encamped at Charlottesville.  Eventually additional Continentals were required for POW camps in Winchester and Frederick, Maryland.

 

- Virginia Illinois Regiment (George Rogers Clark); well-known frontier force whose composition fluctuated between 200 to 3200 men. 

 

- Lt Col Charles Porterfield's State Detachment: a special detachment raised for service with the Continental Army in the Southern Department.  About 350 strong, Lt Col Charles Porterfield avoided capture at Charleston by evacuating during the final British bombardment.  At Camden Gates assigned the detachment, with the Virginia State Garrison, to the left flank, where they held fast after militia and Armand's legion panicked and ran.  The detachment bought time for the fleeing army, but was overrun and decimated, costing Porterfield his life.

 

- The Virginia State Garrison Regiment: Maj Charles Magill;  (1 April 1781) Maj Alexander Dick

Originally intended to be a dispersed guard at various Tidewater ports.  In 1780 the guards were reduced or eliminated and the regiment augmented by an additional 132 men to march with Porterfield’s State Detachment to the assistance of Gen Horatio Gates.  The unit was decimated at Camden on 16 Aug 1780, with only 140 troops surviving. The absence of this unit as a port and harbor guard is a primary reason why reports of Arnold's arrival Dec 30, 1780 were not effectively relayed to Virginia's military and governmental leaders.  In 1782 was combined into Dabney’s State Legion.

 

- Virginia State Artillery Regiment (a.k.a. Marshall's Artillery, Edmund's Corps) 10 Companies.  Again, an asset intended to be used within the state, the VSTAR fortified and manned vulnerable positions around the state.  Notably, they prepared fortified positions at Yorktown to repel a British amphibious or land attack on the seaport.  Assigned to the Southern Department in 1780, they lost 134 men and 8 brass field pieces at Charleston.  The remaining men and guns joined Charles Porterfield's Detachment in 1780, escaped Camden, fought at Guilford Courthouse, and returned home, where a portion of the regiment was captured at Yorktown by Gen Arnold in April 1781.  In 1782 the remnants of the regiment consolidated into Dabney's legion, a Virginia State Line unit.

 

- Crocket's Western Battalion.  Similar to the force of George Roger's Clark, Crockett's served as Continental guards at Charlottesville, fought with Nathanael Greene at Guilford, and fought alongside Clark after May 1781

 

- Dabney's Virginia State Legion: Created 18 January 1782 by consolidating the 1st State Regiment of infantry, Nelson's Corps of Cavalry, Roger's company of dismounted Dragoons, and Roan's artillery.  Dabney chosen by a board of officers to command.  Primarily used to garrison the Tidewater region, Dabney proposed to Governor Harrison a plan to employ his legion to capture Bermuda.  Harrison demurred, and the plan went unrealized (fortunately).

 

- William Campbell’s Militia Regiment of 1780: Colonel William Campbell

Although this unit was ostensibly raised for the sole purpose of prosecuting Ferguson at King’s Mountain, it largely remained intact and surprisingly active through the remainder of the war.  Although varying in size, Campbells Riflemen fought heroically at Cowpens, Guilford, and then joined Wayne’s Brigade in Virginia under Lafayette and were noted at Spencer’s Ordinary, Green Spring, and Yorktown.

 

- Virginia Militia.  Thousands of Virginia militiamen served with the Continental Army after the fall of Charleston; joining or forming ad-hoc regiments for various battles; infamously at Camden and heroically at King's Mountain, Cowpens, Guilford, the Virginia Campaign of 1781, Yorktown, and Eutaw Springs, Virginia militiamen became critical to late-war success in the Southern Campaign. By this time many Virginia militiamen were battle-hardened veterans of the Continental army and were reliable under fire.

 

Credits: While the information presented above is drawn from a number of sources, the definitive guide to Virginia’s Revolutionary War military formations is presented by the Virginia State Library, whose efforts to clarify Virginia’s Revolutionary contributions go back to efforts clarifying Francis Heitman’s erroneous assertion of Virginia’s Continental force contributions published in 1903.  Please see:

 

A Guide To Virginia Military Organizations in the American Revolution, 1774-1787, compiled by E.M. Sanchez-Saavedra, Virginia State Library, Richmond, 1978; ISBN 0-88490-003-7

 

Jim Gallagher

 

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