Great Bridge Park will be the scene of an important recreation of history this weekend. For the first time in 233 years, African Americans will recreate their participation in the second land battle of the Revolutionary War. In 1775, Lord Dunmore, the Governor of Virginia offered freedom to slaves that would and join him. Within a month, over 800 had done so, including 30 of George Washington’s slaves. Dunmore called his black troops the Ethiopian Regiment During the Battle of Great Bridge, December 9, 1775, the white troops were repulsed, and the African American troops covered their retreat. Members of the First Rhode Island Regiment (http://www.firstrhodeisland.org/) will portray Dunmore’s Ethiopians. “Dunmore’s Ethiopians were an important part of African American history. Because of them, George Washington was forced to change his mind about African American combat troops.” said Algernon Ward, of Trenton, New Jersey, who drove all the way to Virginia just for the event.
The Reenactment will be held on Saturday December 7th and Sunday December 8, 2008, Great Bridge Lock Park in Chesapeake. Great Bridge Lock Park is just off of Battlefield Blvd. near the bridge. Camps are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4. p.m., with a recreated battle each day at 1.00. The event features Revolutionary War encampments, firing demonstrations, character portrayals, camp life, historical displays and lectures, skilled artisans demonstrating early American trades, and children’s crafts and activities. Admission is FREE, and both battles are narrated.
The reenactment commemorates two of the early battles of the Revolutionary War. In November of 1775, the British raided the patriot supply depot at Kemp’s Landing (modern Kempsville), dispersing three companies of patriots. The British used this victory to rally the local population to the British cause, and to establish a Fort Murray at Great Bridge to stop patriot reinforcements from North Carolina. On December 6, 1775, the North Carolina patriots arrived to help the Virginians, who had built their own fort at the other end of the bridge. The British decided to attack the patriots across the bridge, only to be defeated. The defeat led to the British leaving the colony, allowing Virginia to sell her tobacco crops to finance the Revolution.
Throughout each day, His Majesty’s Marines and Dunmore’s Ethiopians will be available for questions, and will be giving seminars about camp cooking, Revolutionary War clothing, and musket demonstrations. Before each battle, Lord Dunmore, Royal Governor of Virginia, will attempt to persuade the public of the justness of His Majesty’s cause, to rally support for it, and will try to get the public to take a loyalty oath to the King.