VIRGINIAS TRIFECTA IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR: IDENTIFYING THREE MAJOR TURNING POINTS IN VIRGINIA
How did the Battle of Great Bridge, Jack Jouett's ride, and the Battle of Yorktown aid in turning the tables on the British during the War for Independence?
Henry, John, (1704 or 1705–1773). A New and Accurate Map of Virginia Wherein Most of the Counties Are Laid Down from Actual Surveys: With a Concise Account of the Number of Inhabitants, the Trade, Soil, and Produce of that Province 1770. G3880 1770 .H4 Voorhees Collection. Library of Virginia. (High Res)
Fry, Joshua (ca. 1700–1754) and PeterJefferson (1708–1757). A Map of the Most Inhabited Part of Virginia Containing the Whole Province of Maryland: With Part of Pensilvania, New Jersey and North Carolina, 1755. G3880 1755 .F72. Archives Research Services, Map Collection, Library of Virginia. (High Res)
This Lesson Plan was created by Penny Anderson, a teacher at Riverbend High School in Fredericksburg and one of the Library of Virginia's 2010 Brown Research Teacher Fellows.
In the eighteenth century, Virginia's relative location on the mid-Atlantic seaboard was a key point along colonial trade routes, communication corridors, and (during war) military supply lines. As goods, services, and information traveled north and south along the coast, it became clear that Virginia must remain accessible to maintain an open transportation system in the colonies. Virginia also boasted natural harbors and successful ports in the areas of Hampton Roads and the Chesapeake Bay. By examining the physical geography of Virginia and comparing relative location, students will see the importance of economic and military control of the region. This lesson will analyze the Fry-Jefferson and the John Henry maps, allowing students to identify three important events during the Revolutionary War: The Battle of Great Bridge, Captain John “Jack” Jouett's Warning Ride, and the Battle of Yorktown.
Event 1: The Battle of Great Bridge
In 1773, the revolutionary movement in the American colonies was greatly focused in the north. Philadelphia, New York, and Boston were important cities for colonial control, and by 1774, the First Continental Congress formed in Philadelphia. In 1775, skirmishes at Lexington and Concord, Ticonderoga, and Bunker Hill united many Americans behind the colonial militia. At that time, the southern colonies remained suppliers of food and products throughout the colonies, with Virginia as the major destination for ships at the ports at Hampton Roads. The Royal Governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, did not support the rebellion against the Crown and issued governor's orders for Virginians to support Great Britain. Most colonists continued to supply the colonial militia and tried to avoid supplying the British.
In order to control the flow of food and supplies along key transportation routes, with Governor Dunmore's help, British troops landed late in 1775 to take command of the region, especially the main north-south supply route around Hampton Roads. The City of Norfolk and the mouths of the James and Elizabeth rivers were pivotal military and economic control points to increase or limit the amount of food, goods, and military supplies in and out of the region. On December 9, 1775, tensions came to a head when several hundred colonial troops and British soldiers clashed at the Village of Great Bridge on the Elizabeth River, some ten miles south of Norfolk. This was the southern choke point along the trade road into the southern colonies. Both sides knew that to control that choke point would control the supply line of the south. It was imperative that the colonists prevail. As the British troops marched at Great Bridge, the colonists fired over and over into the British ranks. The British troops, marching in parade formation, were cut down by Virginia Patriots, and the remaining British troops retreated back toward Norfolk. With the victory at Great Bridge, Virginia's first land battle of the war, the supply route had been secured for the colonies in the South, and most remaining support for the Crown waned. The battle also forced Governor Dunmore out of the region, and the road to Norfolk remained open.
Event 2: Jack Jouett's Warning Ride
Early military conflicts of the Revolutionary War occurred in the northern colonies, but that did not detract from Virginia's support of the war. Its assistance with finances, supplies, and open support of the Continental Congress, set the Virginia General Assembly and Governor Thomas Jefferson in the angry sights of the British. On June 3, 1781, with orders from General Charles Cornwallis, Colonel Banastre Tarleton and his British cavalry were sent west from Tidewater Virginia with the intent to capture Governor Jefferson at his home at Monticello and other leaders of the Virginia government staying in Charlottesville. The British troops took a road through Virginia's central Piedmont, including the lands of Louisa and Albemarle counties. Captain John “Jack” Jouett of the Virginia militia, who was in Louisa at the time, realized the intent of the march on Charlottesville and the importance of warning Governor Jefferson. That evening, Jouett took his horse over roughly forty miles of backwoods and trails to warn Jefferson that the British were coming to arrest him and members of the General Assembly. Captain Jouett reached Monticello in the morning and told Jefferson of the march on Charlottesville. Thanks to him, Jefferson was able to escape capture by the British. Jouett then rode to Charlottesville to warn the other politicians of the British offensive. With his quick thinking and stamina, Captain Jouett prevented the capture of Governor Jefferson and other key members of the Virginia General Assembly and kept Virginia's government intact.
Event 3: Victory at Yorktown
After 1778, fighting shifted from the northern to the southern colonies. By September 1781, French and American troops were successful in controlling most of the mid-Atlantic coast, especially the Chesapeake Bay. Ports and supply routes remained open for the Continental Armies, and the British tried to gain a foothold along the coast. In October, the last major battle between the British and the Patriots was fought at Yorktown, Virginia. French and American forces, led by Rochambeau and George Washington, surrounded a large portion of the British army under General Cornwallis's command. Artillery bombardments lasted several days and the Continental Armies remained in control of the lines. General Cornwallis's troops were surrounded and cut off from the remaining British troops in the North. The remnant of the British Navy was pushed out of the Chesapeake Bay and Cornwallis surrendered on October 19, 1781. The British surrender and American victory at Yorktown led to the end of the American Revolution.
• absolute location—the actual location of a point on the earth's surface, usually in terms of latitude and longitude coordinates or a physical address of a place
• broadside—a large sheet of paper printed on one side only and typically used as a poster to announce some event/proclamation, or a newspaper printed on one side to report news, print songs, or retell stories at a very low cost to the publisher
• cardinal directions—the directions of north, east, south, and west
• cartouche—the ornamental or decorative framing of inscriptions, titles, symbols, and other relevant information on a map
• choke point—a narrow route providing passage through or to another region
• compass rose—a symbol that shows direction (north, east, south, and west) on a map
• map—a drawing that shows what places look like from above and where they are located
• map legend—a list of shapes and symbols used on a map and an explanation of what each one represents
• map scale—map tool used to measure distance between locations
• region—a place that has common characteristics that are different from the characteristics of the surrounding areas
• relative location—a concept described by using terms that show connections between two places, such as next to, near, or bordering.
• Piedmont—in Virginia, the part of the central region stretching from the Eastern Fall Line of the James, Rappahannock, and Potomac rivers to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains
• title—the name or kind of map
• topography—the shapes, contours, and elevations of landforms
• symbol—a picture or thing that represents something else
• On a projection screen, compare the Fry-Jefferson map with the Henry map.
♦ List and discuss any similarities and differences between the two maps.
♦ Locate these features on the maps: title, legend, map tools, cartouches, symbols, and lines of measurement. What are some common features of the two maps?
♦ Speculate on the location of major north-south transportation routes. Why would they be located along coastlines? Along fall lines? Along the Piedmont?
♦ Locate geographic crossroads where lines of transportation may intersect. Would these geographic points be easily controlled? Why or why not?
♦ How can topography be used to find a beneficial location for a port? For a town? For a trade route?
• Using a wall map of modern Virginia, locate Norfolk, Richmond, Louisa, Charlottesville, Yorktown, Blue Ridge Mountains, James River, York River, Elizabeth River, Chesapeake Bay, and Atlantic Ocean.
♦ Using the Fry-Jefferson Map of Virginia, approximate the locations of the listed geographic features
♦ Using the Henry map of Virginia, approximate the locations of the listed geographic features.
♦ Approximate the latitude/longitude of Great Bridge, Louisa County, Charlottesville, and Yorktown.
• Project the Henry map on a screen.
♦ Have students locate Louisa County. (A tavern in the town of Cuckoo in eastern Louisa County is the possible starting point of Jack Jouett's ride to Monticello.) Then have students locate the City of Charlottesville.
♦ Using the scale, approximate the distance between eastern Louisa County and Charlottesville. List any physical features between the two locations. Are any of these places familiar?
♦ Trace a possible route that Captain Jouett followed. What physical features might he have crossed? What features might he have followed? What features might he have gone around? How could Jack Jouett have stayed hidden from the British Army? Could he use the topography of the region to his benefit? If so, how?
• In small groups or centers, compare the Fry-Jefferson Map with the Henry map.
♦ Locate the mouths of the York and James rivers. Do these maps show accurate detail?
♦ Why would it be beneficial to control these two locations? Economically? Militarily?
♦ Locate the City of Norfolk and the Elizabeth River. Locate a point ten miles south of Norfolk along the Elizabeth River. This is the approximate location of a series of bridges crossing the Elizabeth and surrounding smaller tributaries. The largest bridge, called the Great Bridge, was near a village of the same name. Using a modern Virginia map, list three cities near this point. (Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake)
♦ What other inland areas would be easily accessed if you controlled the port cities in this region?
• Pretend you are Captain Jack Jouett. Write a story/skit about your ride and describe the terrain you went through. Draw a map of your ride from Louisa County to Charlottesville.
• Using Cary Jacob's poem, "The Ride of Young Jack Jouett," create your own "broadside" poem for distribution among the colonies.
Deringer, Lois and Sandra Sterne. The Forgotten Ride of Jack Jouett, Jr. Glen Allen, Va.: Foxhound Publishing, 2010.
Jacobs, Cary. The Ride of Young Jack Jouett. Charlottesville, Va.: Daughters of the American Revolution, Jack Jouett Chapter, 1961.