Flora, William

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Flora, William

FLORA, WILLIAM. Continental soldier. The son of Virginia free blacks, Flora's birth and early life remain unknown. In 1775 he joined the Second Virginia Regiment under the command of Colonel William Woodford. At the Battle of Great Bridge in December 1775 the regiment confronted Lord Dunmore's Loyalist, British, and "Ethiopian" troops, the latter being slaves who won their freedom by joining Dunmore's forces. On the morning of 9 December, Flora was on guard duty on the bridge over the Elizabeth River when the British attacked. The other sentinels fled in panic, but Flora stood his ground, firing, it was reported, eight times on the advancing enemy before he retreated to the Patriot breastworks. After Dunmore's retreat, Flora won praise for his heroism and then vanished from the records until 1781, when he was present at the Battle of Yorktown. Following the British surrender, Flora returned to Portsmouth, Virginia, where he ran a cartage business and livery stable. In 1784 he became the first black person known to own land in Portsmouth. He married a slave woman and purchased her freedom after Virginia altered its manumission laws in 1782. During the war scare following the attack of the British warship Leopard upon the U.S. ship Chesapeake in 1807, Flora volunteered for duty but his services were not required. In 1818 he and other Virginia veterans of the Revolution received a land grant of one hundred acres each in Ohio, which is the last historical reference to this hero of the Revolution.

SEE ALSO African Americans in the Revolution; Dunmore's (or Cresap's) War.


Davis, Burke. Black Heroes of the American Revolution. San Diego, Calif.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991.