Early on the morning of December 9, 1775, eight months after Lexington and Concord, six months after Bunker Hill and seven months before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, one of the earliest, smallest, shortest, least known yet most important actions of the American Revolution took place in Virginia within the present-day city of Chesapeake.
Known as the Battle of Great Bridge, less than 300 men, both sides included, took part in an action that lasted less than five minutes.
The Patriot victory at Great Bridge had an impact on the course of the American Revolution that was out of all proportion to its size. It made the British position in Virginia untenable. It resulted in Virginia being free of any organized British presence for five critical years – free to provide massive amounts of men and supplies to the Continental Army with virtually no enemy interference.
It was as Colonel Woodford said in his letter to the Virginia Convention on December 10, 1775, “…a second Bunker’s Hill affair, in miniature –with this difference– that we kept our post.”
The illustration is a map drawn by Captain Samuel Leslie, commander of the detachment of the 14th Foot at the Battle of Great Bridge. Leslie did not advance beyond the British fort (Fort Murray), marked “A” at the bottom of the map. Consequently, although Leslie included all the essential parts of the battlefield, the proportions and relative position of those elements are inaccurate. The original map is in the Clements Library at the University of Michigan.