Commemorating the War for Independence at Great Bridge

Letterpress print on paper in serif type with “Dunmore” in all capital letters.
A copy of the 1775 print of Lord Dunmore's Proclamation.

Courtesy Library of Congress

Recipient: Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation

Award Amount: $278,134.88
Acreage: 0.66

Though small in acreage, this land bears witness to the experiences of African American soldiers during the American Revolutionary War. The Battle of Great Bridge was the first major land action in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Following Lord Dunmore’s 1775 proclamation announcing that those enslaved by revolutionaries could fight for their freedom by joining the British army, hundreds of freedom seekers fled to Virginia. They formed the “Ethiopian Regiment,” which fought at the Battle of Great Bridge in December 1775. Liberty proved elusive, though. British forces sustained heavy casualties and retreated to the fleet in the Chesapeake, where many soldiers tragically died of smallpox while crammed onto warships. This early American victory forced the British evacuation of Virginia and, ultimately, the disbanding of the regiment. Many soldiers went on to serve in other Black Loyalist units and, at the conclusion of the war, moved throughout the British empire as free, though not equal, subjects. Thanks to a Battlefield Land Acquisition Grant from the American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP), the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (VA DCR) was able to acquire the property.
Photo of open landscape and with three flag poles in center and signage across Great Bridge Battlefield Historic Park in the City of Chesapeake, VA.
View across the tract to be acquired into the adjacent Great Bridge Battlefield Historic Park in the City of Chesapeake, VA.

Courtesy of the American Battlefield Trust.

Partnering with the American Battlefield Trust, VA DCR will transfer the tract to the City of Chesapeake, Virginia, and incorporate it into the adjacent Great Bridge Battlefield Museum and Historic Park. Preservation of this tract fulfills ABPP’s goal of highlighting the diverse stories of the American Revolution in anticipation of the 250th anniversary of the nation’s founding in 2026.

Battlefield Land Acquisition Grants empower preservation partners nationwide to acquire and preserve threatened Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War battlefields. In addition, the program administers three other grants: Preservation Planning Grants, which are open to all sites of armed conflict on American soil, the newly authorized Battlefield Restoration and Battlefield Interpretation grant programs. This financial assistance generates community-driven stewardship of historic resources at the state, tribal and local levels.

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Check out the American Battlefield Protection Program's website for more information about various grant offerings and eligibility.

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Part of a series of articles titled 2021 Battlefield Land Acquisition Grant Success Stories.

Last updated: June 10, 2022