By Kyle Willyard
Around mid-December, a detachment of regulars from North Carolina under Colonel Robert Howe had arrived with a few hundred men. Some other riflemen had also arrived. With a combined force of about a thousand men, Woodford moved to Norfolk, while he left Thomas Marshall in charge at Great Bridge. A standoff ensued between Dunmore, aboard his man-of--war, and Woodford, firmly in control of the land.
Dunmore then decided to strike back. On New Year's Day 1776, Norfolk was rocked by a series of explosions. Around mid-afternoon, every vessel in Dunmore's squadron began "a severe cannonade" which lasted until two o'clock the next morning. The forces under Dunmore and Woodford both started fires. Some were a direct result of Dunmore's bombardment, others were set to clear out houses and buildings being used for cover by both sides. By the second of January, most of the city lay smoldering on the ground.
A number of court-martials were held to try officers and solders in the patriot forces for various offenses. However, because Norfolk was home to a large number of tories, little reprimand resulted.
Colonel Howe, whose commission predated Woodford's, had taken command of the army. Howe had nearly restored order, when a second major bombardment hit the city on January 21. Three Virginians were killed in the attack, two of which were from-Abraham Buford's company. A fourth man had his arm smashed. Dunmore, content with the havoc he had wrought, sailed his little fleet up the Chesapeake.
Copyright 1995 by Kyle Willyard
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