Bland, Theodorick

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Bland, Theodorick

BLAND, THEODORICK. (1742–1790). Continental officer. Virginia. Born in Prince George County, Virginia, to a wealthy plantation family, he was schooled in England between 1753 and 1763, where he graduated from the University of Edinburgh as a doctor of medicine and practiced in Virginia from 1764 until 1771, when bad health forced him to retire and become a planter. He was active in Patriot politics and was one of the twenty-four who removed the arms from the governor's palace in Williamsburg to the powder magazine on 24 June 1775. On 13 June 1776 he became captain of the First Troop of Light Dragoons, and on 4 December he was promoted to major of Light Dragoons. He subsequently became colonel of the First Continental Dragoons on 31 March 1777.

Bland commanded mounted troops in the New Jersey campaign and in the Philadelphia campaign. In the Battle of the Brandywine on 11 September 1777, he commanded light cavalry troops at Washington's disposal and was posted on the right (north) flank. Since he failed to gain timely knowledge of the enemy's main attack around this flank, he is largely to blame for the faulty intelligence that caused the American defeat. The main criticism of Bland was not so much that the information was several hours too late, but that he had not properly reconnoitered the creek on Washington's right flank to inform the commander in chief that the enemy could ford it to make a tactical envelopment. "Light-Horse Harry" Lee was wrong in putting the entire blame on Bland, but he probably was justified in the judgment that "Colonel Bland was noble, sensible, honorable, and amiable; but never intended for the department of military intelligence."

On 5 November 1778, Washington gave Bland the mission of escorting the Convention Army from Connecticut to Virginia, and on 1 May 1779 Bland took command of the guard detail at Charlottesville, Virginia. In November 1779 he received permission to leave this post, where he had earned from the captive Major General William Phillips the nickname "Alexander the Great." Elected to the Continental Congress, he served for three years (1780–1783). Although an anti-nationalist, he supported both the incorporation of a national bank and an impost levy by Congress. Bland is credited with persuading the French minister to the United States, Chevalier de la Luzerne, to send a French naval squadron to the Chesapeake Bay region during Benedict Arnold's invasions of Virginia from December 1780 to the spring of 1781. Bland retired to his plantation, Farmingdale or Kippax, in Prince George County, which had been plundered during his absence by British raiders. In 1786 he was an unsuccessful candidate for governor against Edmund Randolph. He served in the House of Delegates from 1786 to 1788, voted against adoption of the federal Constitution in the Virginia Convention of 1788, and in that year was elected to the first U.S. House of Representatives. There he served until his death on 1 June 1790. He has been described as tall, handsome, suave, strictly honest, and of meager intellect.


Campbell, Charles, ed. The Bland Papers. 2 vols. Petersburg, Va.: E. and J. C. Ruffin, 1840 and 1843.

Henderson, H. James. Party Politics in the Continental Congress. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974.

Loescher, Burt G. Washington's Eyes: Continental Light Dragoons. Fort Collins, Colo.: Old Army Press, 1977.

                                revised by Harry M. Ward

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