The Battle of Great Bridge

The Battle of Great Bridge took place on December 9, 1775 just seven months before the Declaration of Independence. The defeat of the British at this battle resulted in the capture of Norfolk three weeks later on January 1, 1776. This was to be the end of British rule in the colonies. 1


Lord Dunmore and his regiment had defeated the Americans at Kemp's landing ten miles south of the Great Bridge. Theirs was an easy victory in which the regiment captured two commanding colonels. The Ethiopian Regiment's first and only major military conflict was the battle of the Great Bridge. 2

Dunmore had been informed by a patriot double spy that the Americans were inadequately armed and few in number. Overconfident, Dunmore ordered the 300 member Ethiopian Regiment and 300 British troops to attack on Great Bridge.3 On the morning of December 10, Dunmore's men marched over the bridge toward battle. Expecting little opposition, the soldiers were quickly overcome

Re-creation of the Battle of Great Bridge 1775 at Carter's Grove

  by the heavily armed Americans. The losses were devastating. Over 100 of Dunmore's men were killed or wounded; only one American was wounded.4

Dunmore and his men abandoned Norfolk and retreated to the British fleet. Crowded into the ship with hungry and wounded soldiers, many succumbed to smallpox. After the ship became harassed by American and French privateers, Dunmore evacuated the ship to New York. In the end, only 300 of the original 800 regiment members survived.5

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1 Battle of Great Bridge:

2 Benjamin Quarles, The Negro in the American Revolution (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, 1961), 28.

3 Ibid.

4 Battle of Great Bridge:

5 Quarles, The Negro in the American Revolution, 30.


Image Source: Colonial Williamsburg Website:

Link of Interest: The Great Bridge Battlefield and Waterways History Foundation


  Sam Houston State University | History Department