Although the village of Great Bridge has changed much since the Revolutionary War battle of 1775 was fought here, there is still a “great bridge” at Great Bridge, Virginia.
During the beginnings of the American Revolution the first company of the 2nd Virginia Regiment was under the command of Captain George Johnston, and the regiment was commanded by Colonel William Woolford. Colonel Woolford’s men were ordered to the vicinity of Norfolk, Virginia to repel attacks from British forces and to drive out Loyalists under the command of former Royal Governor Lord Dunmore.
The first battle of the 2nd Virginia was at Great Bridge, December 3, 1775, where they defeated the British regulars and Lord Dunmore’s forces. This battle is considered the “Bunker Hill of the South” as it forced Dunmore out of Virginia. Later that month the soldiers were given their first uniforms at the College of William and Mary; purple hunting frocks with capes and cuffs, fringed down the front, blue shroud leggings, plain linen shirts with cuffs, round hats, and … tomahawks. The following year the new soldiers were given more tradiional military garb.
On February 13, 1776, the 2nd Virginia was accepted into the Continental Line and then ordered north to join up with the Army under the command of General George Washington. By August of 1776, enlisting in the Regiment was becoming increasingly popular with young Virginians. During the year of 1776, the 2nd Virginia participated in the battles of Long Island, Harlem Heights, and White Plains, New York. In September, Colonel Woolford resigned his commission and was replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Spotswood.
In January of 1777, company commander Captain Thomas Tibbs died and Captain John Peyton Harrison succeeded him. Later that year, the 2nd Virginia was involved in the capture of Elizabethtown, and the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown. The following was reported in the newspaper Virginia Gazette on October 17, 1777:
“The heroism and gallantry of the second Virginia regiment I cannot help particularly mentioning; they would do honor to any country in the world. It is universally believed they behaved the best of any troops in the field.“
In December of 1777, the regiment’s force totaled 406 troops, but more than half of them were sick as they faced the freezing winter of 1778 encamped at Valley Forge. With Spring’s arrival the 2nd Virginia had been reduced to a total of 246 men. Two months later, on June 29, 1778, they were fighting at the battle of Monmouth, New Jersey.