The Battle of Petersburg, Va. - April 25, 1781

Digitized by Patrick O'Kelley

Extract of a letter from Major General Baron STEUBEN,

On the road from Petersburg to     
Chesterfield Courthouse,10 miles 
from Petersburg, April 25, 1781."
"On the 24th I reconnoitred the enemy's fleet, then lying off Westover, and consisting of 13 topsail vessels and 23 flat bottomed boats full of men. The whole number of troops on board I judged to be about 2500. The same day the fleet stood up the river. I therefore ordered Gen. Muhlenberg to move up as high as the vicinity of Blandford. In the evening the enemy landed their whole force at City point, which fully evinced that their first object was Petersburg. Being obliged to send large detachments to the neck of land between James and Appamatox rivers, I had not more than 1000 men left to oppose the enemy's advance. I determined, however, to defend the place as far as our inferiority of numbers would permit, and made choice of Blandford for the place of defence, and the bridge of Pocahuntas for our retreat. The troops were disposed accordingly and passed the night under arms.
"This morning I was informed that the enemy were within three miles of our advanced post, and that 11 flat bottomed boats were at the same time moving up the Appamatox river. Towards noon they came in sight, formed and displayed to their left; but it was near three o before the firing commenced, which continued from post to post until past five, when the superior number of the enemy obliged me to order a retreat, and the bridge to be taken up, which was executed in the greatest order, notwithstanding the fire of the enemy's cannon and musquetry. With the same good order the troops retreated to this place, where they are just encamped. --- I am not yet able to ascertain our loss, but believe it not to be great. I do not think the enemy took a single prisoner. Of the enemy's loss I can form no judgment.
"General Muhlenberg merits my particular acknowledgments for the good disposition he made, and the great gallantry with which he executed it. Indeed the gallant conduct of all the officers and the particular good behaviour of the men must, I am persuaded, have attracted the admiration of the enemy.
"I have the pleasure to say that our troops disputed the ground with the enemy inch by inch, and executed their manoeuvres with great exactness.
Published by Order,

Extract of a letter from an officer of rank

Chesterfield Courthouse (Virginia) April 26, 1781.
"On the evening of the 24th instant, General Phillips and Arnold landed 3000 chosen men, at City point, about 12 miles from Petersburg; as we had only about 1000 militia assembled, and the ships of war were ranged close along shore, it was thought unadvisable to attempt to annoy them while they were landing, we therefore returned to Petersburg, where we determined to make a stand. Yesterday, about one o, P.M. the enemy approached the town in two columns, and were met by our light infantry about a mile from the town, when the skirmish commenced, and every inch of ground to the bridge, about a mile in the rear, was disputed. The dispute was very hot at the bridge for some time, but at length they cannonaded us so severely that we broke up the bridge, and retreated in the greatest regularity, after maintaining the fight for near two hours.
"I have the pleasure to assure you, that the militia behaved with a spirit and resolution which would have done honour to veterans. I am convinced the enemy have suffered severely; our loss is not yet ascertained, but I fancy it will not exceed sixty. Tomorrow we shall be joined by the Marquis, when, I think, we shall make Petersburgh too hot for them."

Major General Baron STEUBEN'S ORDERS.

"Chesterfield Courthouse, April 26, 1781.
"IT is with very peculiar pleasure and satisfaction that the General takes this early opportunity to thank, in the most cordial manner, the officers and soldiers who so very much distinguished themselves in defending the post of Petersburg for near two hours, against an enemy far superior in numbers.
"He begs General Muhlenberg will accept his very particular thanks for his gallantry and good disposition. The officers in general behaved with that spirit and firmness which will always entitle them to his highest approbation; he has it not in his power to particularize without inserting the names of all; he therefore begs them to continue their glorious exertions, and assures the militia, that from this day he shall always think himself honoured to have such deserving men to command."

The three documents above were published in the May 9th, 1781 edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, in Philadelphia, PA.