THE COCKADE CITY
When the English arrived in Virginia in 1607 the area roughly 50 miles northwest of Jamestown was inhabited by the Appamatuck (Appomattox), one of the tribes of the Powhatan chiefdom.
By 1635 the English had patented land in the area along the south bank of the Appomattox River, and in 1646 the Virginia Colony established Fort Henry a short distance from the Appamatuck village located near the fall line of the river.
Sometime around 1675 Peter Jones, the commander of Fort Henry, opened a trading post nearby, called Peter’s Point. It was in 1733 that Colonel William Byrd II, the founder of Richmond, conceived plans for a city at Peter’s Point that would be renamed Petersburgh.
The Virginia General Assembly formally incorporated both Petersburgh and Petersburg plus the adjacent Blandford on December 17, 1748. Whittontown, north of the River, was settled in 1749, and became incorporated as Pocahontas in 1752.
During the American Revolution the British drive to gain control erupted in the April 25, 1781, Battle of Blandford, which started just east of Petersburg. As the American forces retreated north across the Appomattox River, they took up planks of the Pocahontas bridge to delay the enemy. Although the British drove the Americans from Blandford and Petersburg, they did not regain a strategic advantage in the war. Cornwallis’ forces surrendered at Yorktown six months after this battle.
The residents of Petersburg were a patriotic lot right from the start. During the War of 1812 they formed the Petersburg Volunteers, who distinguished themselves in action at the Siege of Fort Megis on May 5, 1813. President James Madison called Petersburg “Cockade of the Union (or “Cockade City”), in honor of the cockades the Volunteers wore on their caps.