Tarleton's Virginia Raid of 9-24 July 1781

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Tarleton's Virginia Raid of 9-24 July 1781

TARLETON'S VIRGINIA RAID OF 9-24 JULY 1781. Intent on destroying the rebels' public and private stores, Cornwallis ordered Tarleton to ride through Prince Edward Court House to New London, Virginia, more than 150 miles west of Cornwallis' new base at Suffolk on the south side of the James River. Tarleton left Cobham (opposite Jamestown Island) on 9 July and rode through Petersburg, Amelia Court House, Prince Edward Court House, Charlotte, New London, and Bedford. Here he camped in the rich grasslands at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains for two days and collected some of the finest horses in America. Task forces of this type were too strong to be opposed by the Virginia militia which by this point in the war lacked adequate arms. But Lafayette sent Wayne into Amelia County with his Pennsylvania Continentals to try to intercept Tarleton on his return. Morgan was assembling a second strong force at Goode's Bridge, near Petersburg, for the same purpose. Learning of this threat, Tarleton burned his three light wagons and returned by a more southerly route through Lunenburg County. Despite intense July heat, which limited his movement to the early morning and late afternoon, Tarleton covered 30 or 40 miles a day and outran all news of his location; he was never in danger. On 24 July he returned to Suffolk, having covered 400 miles in 15 days. It was a remarkable performance, but Tarleton noted that:

The stores destroyed, either of a public or private nature, were not in quantity or value equivalent to the damage sustained in the skirmishes on the route, and the loss of men and horses by the excessive heat of the climate.

SEE ALSO Virginia Military Operations.

                      revised by Robert K. Wright Jr.