Petersburg, Virginia

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Petersburg, Virginia

PETERSBURG, VIRGINIA. 25 April 1781. The combined forces of Benedict Arnold and William Phillips landed at City Point on 24 April and advanced the next day toward Petersburg, where Muhlenberg guarded important military supplies and tobacco with some one thousand militia. About noon the British, advancing along the road on the south bank of the Appomattox River, came in sight of the rebel position near Blandford, a village about a mile east of Petersburg. Phillips, an artilleryman by training, demonstrated a very high degree of skill in this action. He knew that he enjoyed a wide advantage in both numbers and quality of men, but also that he could not replace losses anywhere near as easily as the Americans. Therefore, Phillips refused to pay the price of a frontal attack and opted to maneuver Muhlenberg out of position. Jägers hit the flank of the American outpost line and drove them back on the main battle position. John Simcoe's Rangers and the light infantry fixed and enveloped the Americans, who put up a spirited defense for a while. But when the British finally got four of their own guns into position on the American right and the turning movement was detected by the defenders, Muhlenberg started an orderly withdrawal. By the time Phillips cautiously advanced to the high ground near Blandford Church, Muhlenberg had made it across the Appomattox and destroyed the bridge.

In this creditable little action, each side probably suffered sixty or seventy casualties. Phillips burned four thousand hogsheads of tobacco and several small vessels, but he did not destroy the buildings. The main body went on to destroy barracks and stores at Chesterfield Court House on 27 April, while Arnold led a column to surprise and destroy a rebel force at Osborne's on the same day.

SEE ALSO Arnold, Benedict; Muhlenberg, John Peter Gabriel; Osborne's (James River), Virginia; Phillips, William; Simcoe, John Graves; Virginia, Military Operations in.


Simcoe, John Graves. A Journal of the Operations of the Queen's Rangers. New York: New York Times, 1968.

                          revised by Robert K. Wright Jr.

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Petersburg, Virginia

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