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Cultural & Political Chronology (1750-1783)


Great Virginia houses such as Carter's Grove, Bassett Hall, and the George Wythe House were constructed. Additions that included large public spaces were added to other buildings--the Peyton Randolph House, Wetherburn's Tavern, and the Governor's Palace.


November 11. At the College of William and Mary, students founded the F. H. C. Society, a literary and cultural fraternity.

Lancelot "Capability" Brown (1715-1783) began transforming the English landscape from geometric garden arrangements to a more "natural" look.


Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) published New Experiments and Observations on Electricity.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) published the first volume of his influential--and eventually 28-volume--Encyclopedie.

St. Luke's, the first institution in London devoted exclusively to the mentally ill, opened.

Thomas Gray (1716-1771) composed "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," his most famous poem.

Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762) published The Art of Playing on the Violin.


William and Lewis Hallams' acting company performed in Williamsburg for the first time at the "new theater."

The Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar in England and her colonies.

Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning conductor.

Copperplate printing on textiles was developed in England.


The British Museum was founded (opened in 1759).

An Act of Parliament allowed the naturalization of Jews.


January 16. George Washington (1732-1799) arrived in Williamsburg to report to Governor Dinwiddie about the result of his trip to Fort Le Boeuf. His written report was later published by Williamsburg printer William Hunter (?-1761) as The Journal of Maj. George Washington.

May 9. The Pennsylvania Gazette published America's first newspaper cartoon, a picture of a snake cut into sections, each representing a colony, and the caption "Join or Die."

May 28. George Washington's first battle. The French and Indian War (known as the Seven Years' War in Europe) continued English-French rivalry in the New World until the Treaty of Paris (1763).

The first synagogue in North America opened in Newport, Rhode Island.

Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779) published The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director.

King's College (now Columbia University) was founded in New York.

Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791) composed his Ode to Music, the first published piece of music by a native-born American.


John Wollaston (ca. 1710-after 1775) painted portraits of the Virginia gentry, including members of the Custis, Randolph, and Page families.


February. Major General Edward Braddock (1695-1755) arrived in America and made Williamsburg his headquarters.

April 15. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) published Dictionary of the English Language in London.

An organ was installed at Bruton Parish Church; Peter Pelham (1721-1805) became the first organist.


April 2. Benjamin Franklin, visiting Williamsburg, received the first honorary degree from the College of William and Mary.


April 9. Noted Welsh poet Goronwy Owen became master of the Grammar School at William and Mary.

November 25. The British took Fort Duquesne, abandoned by the French, and renamed it Fort Pitt.

Slaves on William Byrd III's plantation on the Bluestone River in Lunenburg County formed the earliest black church in Virginia.

James Adam (1732-1794) and Robert Adam (1728-1792) began work on Harewood House in England.

John Tayloe II completed his great house, Mount Airy, in Richmond County, Virginia. The design was inspired by James Gibbs's (1682-1754) pattern book.

Francis Fauquier (1704-1768), the most intellectual of Virginia's colonial governors, arrived in Williamsburg, where he remained until his death in 1768.

ca. 1760-1770

Allan Ramsay (1713-1784) painted portraits of King George III (1738-1820) and Queen Charlotte (1744-1818).


March 25. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) entered the College of William and Mary. His mentor at the time was William Small, a Scot and professor of natural philosophy.

October 26. George III was crowned king of England and, despite illnesses, reigned until 1820.

The Bray School for African American children was established in Williamsburg.

Botanical Gardens in Kew, England, opened.

Robert Adam began designs for Kedleston.

Phillis Wheatley (1753?-1784) was brought from Africa to America. She later became the first black woman writer in America.


April 25. Thomas Jefferson began to study law with George Wythe.

Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) perfected cream-colored earthenware and presented a service to Queen Charlotte, who allowed him to call it "Queen's Ware."

Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) established the Soho Manufactory in Birmingham, England, for the production of metal goods.

James Stuart (1713-1788) and Nicholas Revett published The Antiquities of Athens.

Johann Zoffany (ca. 1733-1810) painted Mr. and Mrs. David Garrick, the famous acting couple, in front of their Temple of Shakespeare.

Death of Richard "Beau" Nash (1674-1762), master of ceremonies at Bath, England.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) published The Social Contract.


February 10. The Treaty of Paris, ending the French and Indian War, was signed. The French relinquished claims to Canada and all land east of the Mississippi except New Orleans.

October 7. George III signed the Proclamation of 1763, which restricted settlement west of the Appalachians and reserved land for the Indians. Virginians resented limitations on western lands.

December 1. Patrick Henry (1736-1799) argued the Parsons' Cause before the Hanover County Court, challenging the Crown's right to nullify colonial laws. This case brought Henry both popular acclaim and political leadership.


April 5. Parliament passed the Revenue Act, known as the Sugar Act, to raise funds to pay for colonial administration.

April 19. Parliament adopted the Currency Act, preventing the colonies from issuing paper money as legal tender. The measure was prompted chiefly by Virginia's issuance of £440,000 to finance the French and Indian War.

December 18. The Virginia General Assembly reacted to threats of a stamp tax by writing an address to the king and sending memorials to both houses of Parliament. They argued that only the House of Burgesses had the right to tax Virginians. This remained a basic point of contention through the Revolutionary period.

December 22. Stephen Hopkins (1707-1785), governor of Rhode Island, published "The Rights of Colonies Examined."

John Wilkes (1725-1797) was expelled from Parliament for his attack on George III in the magazine The North Briton.

Rhode Island College (later Brown University) was founded as a Baptist institution.

The Literary Club of London was founded.

Voltaire (1694-1778) published Treatise on Tolerance.

Publication of History of Ancient Art by J. J. Winckelmann (1717-1768).

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) gave a concert at Ranelagh Gardens, London.


March 22. The Stamp Act was enacted by Parliament. Stamps were required on newspapers, pamphlets, playing cards, dice, and legal papers in the colonies after November 1.

May 15. The Quartering Act became law. It required colonists to provide barracks and supplies for British troops. To Americans this seemed yet another example of taxation without representation.

May 29. Patrick Henry introduced his Stamp Act Resolves in the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg.

May 30. Henry made his daring "Caesar-Brutus" speech in the Capitol supporting the Virginia Stamp Act Resolves. Although Henry's declaration that "Tarquin and Caesar had each his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third . . ." provoked cries of treason from other burgesses, the house ultimately approved five of Henry's resolves.

May 31. The House of Burgesses rescinded the fifth (and most radical) Stamp Act Resolve. Henry apparently had already left Williamsburg and was not present during this session of the burgesses.

June 8. The Massachusetts General Court adopted a circular letter calling for a Congress of representatives from all colonies to convene in October.

October 7. The Stamp Act Congress met in New York.

October 30. Virginia Governor Fauquier rescued stamp agent George Mercer from an angry mob in Williamsburg. Mercer resigned the next day.

Presbyterians petitioned the York County Court for permission to meet in Williamsburg.

John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) painted a portrait of John Hancock.


February 11. In Virginia, the Northampton County Court proclaimed the Stamp Act unconstitutional.

February 13. Before the House of Commons in London, Benjamin Franklin declared that the Stamp Act could not be enforced.

March 7-14. Richard Bland, a Virginian, published An Inquiry into the Rights of the British Colonies, a pamphlet expertly and persuasively stating the colonial constitutional opposition to the stamp tax.

March 18. Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, but the news did not reach the colonies for nearly two months.

May 11. With the death of John Robinson, Speaker of the House of Burgesses and treasurer of the colony of Virginia, a scandal came to light in Virginia. Robinson had made £100,000 worth of private loans to his friends with retired paper money. The two offices were separated thereafter.

June 9. In Virginia, Governor Fauquier announced the repeal of the Stamp Act, although the Virginia Gazette had published the news on May 2.

June 13. In Williamsburg, a ball and general illumination of the town celebrated the repeal of the Stamp Act.

Queen's College (later Rutgers University) was founded in New Jersey as a Dutch Reformed institution.


June 29. The Townshend Duties were enacted in London. They were taxes on glass, lead, paint, paper, and tea.

September 4. Charles Townshend died and was succeeded by Lord North.

October 28. The Boston Town Meeting renewed the nonimportation agreement. Actions to compel the repeal of the Townshend Acts followed in other colonies.

George Stubbs (1724-1806), an English artist, painted The Anatomy of the Horse.


March 3. Death of Virginia's Governor Francis Fauquier. John Blair, president of the Council, served as acting governor until the appointment and arrival of Governor Botetourt.

April 16. The Virginia General Assembly adopted memorials to the king and Parliament protesting the Townshend Acts.

October 1. Two regiments of British soldiers landed in Boston to enforce custom laws.

October 14. In Hard Labor, South Carolina, Cherokees and colonial officials signed a boundary treaty.

October 26. Norborne Berkeley, baron de Botetourt (1718-1770) arrived in Williamsburg and was met with great celebrating by citizens. He was Virginia's first full governor in residence in nearly 60 years. In office, Botetourt proved himself to be both a diplomatic and a trendsetting governor.

November 5. The Treaty of Fort Stanwix was signed with the Six Nations of the Iroquois and related tribes. This agreement reopened vast acreage in western New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia for settlement.

The first weekly numbers of Encylopedia Britannica appeared.

Smallpox inoculations in Norfolk, Virginia, caused riots.

Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782) performed in concert on a pianoforte in London. At about the same time, the pianoforte, invented in 1709, began to replace the harpsichord as the preferred keyboard instrument.

Captain James Cook (1728-1779) set out on the first circumnavigation of the globe.


May 16. The House of Burgesses adopted resolutions claiming once again their exclusive right to levy taxes in Virginia.

May 17. Virginia legislators adopted an address to the king based on the resolves of the previous day. Consequently, Governor Botetourt dissolved them. Most of the burgesses reconvened at the Raleigh Tavern, where they began considering an association not to import a long list of British goods.

May 18. Most of Virginia's burgesses and many others throughout the colony signed the nonimportation association.

September 14. Benjamin Powell agreed to repair Bruton Parish Church and add the tower for £410.

November 7. At the opening of the legislative session in Williamsburg, Governor Botetourt announced that the British ministry would seek repeal of the Townshend Duties, except the tax on tea.

Dartmouth College was founded in New Hampshire. Initially begun as an Indian school in Connecticut in 1754, the college was a Congregational institution.

James Watt (1736-1819) patented the steam engine.

Benjamin Bucktrout (?-1813) made the Masonic Master's chair at the Anthony Hay Shop in Williamsburg.

Thomas Jefferson began constructing Monticello in Albemarle County, Virginia.

The American Philosophical Society, formed in 1743, merged with the American Society. After they joined forces, the society became more active and influential under Benjamin Franklin's leadership.


March 5. A runaway slave, Crispus Attucks (1723?-1770), was killed when British soldiers fired into a crowd of demonstrators in Boston. The event became known as the Boston Massacre.

April 12. In Parliament, the Townshend Revenue Act was repealed, except for the tax on tea.

June 22. A new nonimportation association was signed by burgesses and merchants in Williamsburg.

June 27. The House of Burgesses unanimously agreed to petition the king to end Parliamentary taxation in America.

October 15. Death of Governor Botetourt. William Nelson of Yorktown, president of the Council, acted as governor until Dunmore was appointed.

October 18. The Treaty of Lochaber, South Carolina, in which the Cherokees agreed to cede more land to European settlers, was signed. When the line was run several months later, it was even farther west--to the Kentucky (then Louisa) River, opening up part of Kentucky to Virginians.

Robert Munford (ca. 1730-1784) of Mecklenburg County, Virginia, wrote the satirical play, The Candidates; or, The Humours of A Virginia Election.

Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) painted Blue Boy ca. 1770.

The James City Courthouse was completed in Williamsburg.

In Boston, William Billings (1746-1800) published the first collection of entirely American music.


September 25. John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore (1732-1809), the new governor of Virginia, arrived in Williamsburg. Previously, he had served one year as governor of New York.

The first separate Baptist Association was formed at a meeting in Orange County, Virginia.

Benjamin West (1738-1820) painted Death of Wolfe.

The Assembly Room in Bath, England, opened.


Joseph Pilmore (1739-1825), an itinerant Methodist preacher, commanded a large audience at the Williamsburg Playhouse and in the Capitol Yard.

November 2. Committees of Correspondence were organized in Massachusetts; similar committees followed soon afterward in the other colonies.


March 12. A Committee of Correspondence was formed in Virginia to communicate with other colonial legislatures. Virginia was the first to propose communication among the colonies.

April 7. England ordered all colonial governors to cease granting lands except to veterans of the French and Indian War. In Virginia, Dunmore gave this order the most liberal interpretation possible and included colonial troops as well as regular British Army soldiers.

May 10. Parliament passed the Tea Act, ending most taxes on tea shipped to America and permitting direct sales to the colonies. The law, however, did not suspend the Townshend Duty of threepence a pound.

October 11. The conflict between Pennsylvania and Virginia over land around Pittsburgh was resolved by creating the district of West Augusta with overlapping jurisdiction. (The term "district" was used to get around the order against establishing new counties.)

December 16. The Boston Tea Party protested the tea tax by dumping 340 chests of tea into Boston Harbor.

A View on the Past
Taxation, Tyranny & Tea: An essay on the origins of American taxation.

(PDF file. Requires Adobe Acrobat.)

The Silver Bluff Church for slaves was founded in South Carolina.

The Williamsburg Masonic Lodge obtained a new charter. The Masons had been meeting in Williamsburg since at least 1751.

The Public Hospital in Williamsburg opened. It was the first hospital in America devoted exclusively to the treatment of mental illness.

Robert and James Adam published Works in Architecture.

First production of She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774).

Richard Hayward's statue of the deceased Virginia governor Lord Botetourt was installed at the Capitol in Williamsburg.

Museums founded in Philadelphia and Charleston.

Matthew Pratt (1734-1805) organized an exhibition of paintings at Mrs. Vobe's tavern in Williamsburg.


March 31. Parliament passed the Boston Port Act, closing the port to all trade as of June 1. This was the first of Britain's coercive acts.

May 13. General Thomas Gage (1721-1787) arrived in Boston to take command of British forces quartered there.

May 24. The House of Burgesses adopted a resolution naming June 1, the day the port of Boston was to be closed, a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer in Virginia.

May 26. Lord Dunmore dissolved the General Assembly after the burgesses' May 24 resolution was printed.

May 27. Members of the now-dissolved House of Burgesses met at the Raleigh Tavern to propose an annual "general congress" of the colonies. They also formed another new association boycotting tea and all other commodities imported by the East India Company except saltpeter and spices.

June 1. Virginians expressed their sympathy for Bostonians by observing a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer. George Washington recorded that he "Went to Church and fasted all Day" in Williamsburg.

July 10. Governor Dunmore departed for the Ohio Valley in an expedition against the Shawnees, beginning Dunmore's War. He reached the Ohio River with about 1,300 men in early October.

August 1-6. The first Virginia Convention met in Williamsburg and adopted resolves against British goods and the importation of slaves after November 1 and against exports to Britain after August 10, 1775. Richard Bland, Benjamin Harrison (1726?-1791), Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee (1732-1794), Edmund Pendleton (1721-1803), Peyton Randolph (1721?-1775), and George Washington were elected to represent Virginia in the Continental Congress.

September 1. General Gage seized the stock of gunpowder at Charlestown, Massachusetts.

September 5-October 26. The First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia. They adopted an association based on Virginia's, but extended the dates slightly.

October 10. Colonel Andrew Lewis defeated the Shawnees under Chief Cornstalk at the Battle of Point Pleasant (now in West Virginia).

October 19. The Treaty of Camp Charlotte, in which Cornstalk recognized Virginia's claims to the upper Ohio River valley, was signed, ending Dunmore's War.

November 7. At the Yorktown Tea Party, two half-chests of tea imported by John Prentis & Company of Williamsburg were thrown into the York River.

November 9. About 500 merchants signed the Continental Association in Williamsburg.

Johann Goethe (1749-1832) wrote The Sorrows of Young Werther.

Thomas Jefferson's Summary View of the Rights of British America was published by Clementina Rind in Williamsburg and reprinted in Philadelphia and London. The manuscript brought Jefferson acclaim; consequently, the Continental Congress later chose him to draft the Declaration of Independence.


January 14. Dixon and Hunter's Virginia Gazette published the news of Lord Dartmouth's orders to colonial governors forbidding the colonies to import powder and arms from Great Britain.

March 17. The Treaty of Sycamore Shoals, by the terms of which the Cherokees sold the Transylvania Company of North Carolina all land between the Kentucky and Cumberland Rivers (present-day central and western Kentucky and north central Tennessee), was signed.

March 23. At a meeting at St. John's Church in Richmond, the second Virginia Convention heard Patrick Henry deliver his "liberty or death" speech supporting a resolution to put Virginia "into a posture of defense."

March 25. The Virginia Convention required each county to form a volunteer company of cavalry or infantry.

April 18/19. Paul Revere's (1735-1818) midnight ride warned Massachusetts colonists of the arrival of the British.

April 19. The first battles of the American Revolution took place at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts.

A View on the Past
From Colonists to Countrymen: A Memorial Day Retrospective

(PDF file. Requires Adobe Acrobat.)

April 21. In the very early morning, royal marines, acting under Dunmore's orders, took 15 half-barrels of gunpowder from the Magazine in Williamsburg.

April 22. Dunmore publicly threatened to arm slaves who would fight with him, but it was an idle threat. Virginia remained relatively peaceful for the time being.

May 10. The second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia. Representatives from all thirteen colonies attended.

June 3-4. Several young men broke into the Magazine in Williamsburg late Saturday or early Sunday. Two were wounded by a shotgun triggered by a spring. A mob stormed the Magazine, calling the governor a would-be assassin and worse.

June 8. Dunmore fled with his family about 2:00 A.M. and boarded the H.M.S. Fowey at Yorktown. Their flight alarmed Virginians, who believed British soldiers intended to invade. Lady Dunmore and the children sailed for England at the end of June, and Dunmore stayed on board ship near Norfolk, Virginia.

June 15. Congress formally appointed George Washington commander in chief of the Continental army. Washington departed Philadelphia on June 23 for Cambridge, Massachusetts.

June 17. The Battle of Bunker Hill ended in a British victory.

July 6. Congress adopted a "Declaration of the Causes and Necessities of Taking Up Arms."

July 8. Congress adopted a petition to King George offering reconciliation. Franklin and Adams thought this was a useless gesture, but they consented to appease the "moderates."

July 17. The third Virginia Convention met in Richmond and appointed a Committee of Safety. They also ordered the formation of two regiments as well as minutemen and militia.

August 23. George III declared the colonies in a state of rebellion and threatened to deal harshly with traitors. The Virginia Gazette printed the proclamation on November 10.

October 12-21. British troops raided areas around Norfolk, Virginia. They captured or destroyed more than 70 cannon hidden by the rebels.

November 15. After a clear victory at Kemp's Landing near Norfolk, Dunmore issued his Emancipation Proclamation, which declared martial law and freed "all indented Servants, Negroes, or others . . . that are able and willing to bear Arms, they joining His Majesty's forces." Eventually, several hundred African Americans joined his ranks. The governor also raised the king's standard at the battle site and in Norfolk the next day.

December 9. The Battle of Great Bridge was fought between the British 14th Regiment and Woodford's Virginia forces. British deaths and injuries were numerous, while only one Virginian was injured.

December 14. With reinforcements from Williamsburg and North Carolina, the Americans occupied Norfolk.

December 31. Richard Montgomery (1736-1775) and Benedict Arnold (1741-1801) led the American assault on Quebec and were repulsed. Montgomery was killed and Arnold wounded in the fighting. Captain Daniel Morgan (1736-1802) and his Virginians were captured.

Edward Barnes wrote the words to "Yankee Doodle" and set it to an old English tune.

Philip Freneau (1752-1832) published a poem called "American Liberty."

Josiah Wedgwood perfected jasperware.

Tazewell Hall on South England Street in Williamsburg was completed about 1775 for the family of John Randolph. The use of English room names such as saloon and drawing room implied the growing search for privacy.


January 1. Washington raised a Continental flag with thirteen stripes before his quarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

January 1. British ships lying off Norfolk opened fire on the occupying American forces.

February 2. Excerpts from Thomas Paine's (1737-1809) pamphlet Common Sense were printed in the Virginia Gazette.

February 17. British General Sir Henry Clinton (1738-1795) arrived in the Chesapeake Bay on his way, not to relieve Dunmore, but to meet up with General Charles Cornwallis (1738-1805) and attack the Carolinas.

May 15. Virginia's delegates to Congress were instructed to propose independence, the first colony to do so. At the same time, the Convention made plans for a new state constitution.

June 7. Richard Henry Lee (1732-1794), chairman of the Virginia delegation, offered a resolution for independence in Congress.

June 11. Congress appointed a committee, chaired by Thomas Jefferson, to draft a declaration of independence.

June 12. The Virginia Convention, still in session in Williamsburg, adopted the first Declaration of Rights in America. Based on George Mason's (1725-1792) draft, the Virginia Declaration had wide influence, notably on the later federal Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen during the French Revolution.

June 29. The Virginia convention adopted a constitution for the new commonwealth and chose Patrick Henry as the state's first governor. (Henry was reelected in 1777, 1784, and 1785, but declined in 1786.)

July 2. Richard Henry Lee's resolution for independence, introduced on June 7, was adopted by the Continental Congress.

July 4. The Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence drafted by Thomas Jefferson.

July 18 or 19. News of the Declaration of Independence reached Williamsburg.

August 2. The Declaration of Independence, engrossed on parchment, was signed by the members of Congress still present in Philadelphia.

December 5. At its first session, the new Virginia House of Delegates exempted dissenters from taxes to support the Anglican church. It took ten years for the legislature to accept Jefferson's Bill for Religious Freedom.

Phi Beta Kappa was founded at the College of William and Mary.

Adam Smith (1723-1790) published Wealth of Nations.

Publication of the first volume of The History of the Decline of Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon (1737-1794).

Hampden-Sydney College was founded in Prince Edward County, Virginia. The college initially was a Presbyterian institution.


July 20. The Cherokees make peace with Virginia and North Carolina, giving up lands east of the Blue Ridge Mountains and north of the Nolichucky River. Some Cherokees rejected this and other treaties, withdrawing to Chickamauga (in what is today Georgia) and continuing to fight for several years.

August 14. Planning an attack on Philadelphia, British General Sir William Howe (1729-1814) entered the Chesapeake Bay, disembarking at Head of Elk, Maryland, on August 25. General John Burgoyne (1722-1792), in the meantime, marched troops down from Canada to cut off New England.

September 25. General Howe occupied Philadelphia after the British forced their way through Washington's troops at Brandywine Creek in Pennsylvania on September 11.

October 4. Howe's troops again defeated the Americans at Germantown, Pennsylvania. The Virginia 9th Regiment in its entirety was captured.

October 19. American General Horatio Gates (ca. 1728-1806) forced Burgoyne to surrender at Saratoga, New York, a decisive battle and clear victory.

December 15-16. Both houses of the Virginia Assembly unanimously authorized delegates in Congress to ratify the Articles of Confederation.

Forty men and women of the Cherokee Nation journeyed to Williamsburg for negotiations with the governor. Afterward, they favored the public with a dance on Palace green.

First production of School for Scandal by Richard B. Sheridan (1751-1816).


February 6. In Paris, at long last, a treaty was signed making France an ally with America in the American Revolution. News of the alliance reached Virginia on May 8.

December 17. British forces commanded by Detroit's Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton recaptured Vincennes. George Rogers Clark's (1752-1818) troops were too few to hold it.

Voltaire and Rousseau died.

Captain James Cook discovered Hawaii.


January. English and German prisoners from the battle of Saratoga arrived in Virginia. They took up quarters at Ivy Creek near Charlottesville.

February 24. Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton of Detroit surrendered Fort Sackville at Vincennes to George Rogers Clark. Instead of going into winter quarters, the Americans had marched 180 miles from Kaskaskia. Virginia controlled the Illinois country for the remained of the war.

May. Benedict Arnold began secret negotiations with the British. He did not openly join the British until September 1780.

June 1. Thomas Jefferson was elected governor of Virginia. He served two successive terms.

June 5. The Virginia House of Delegates passed an act moving the capital from Williamsburg to Richmond. The Senate agreed on June 12.

December 4. The College of William and Mary reorganized as a university, offering the first elective system of studies in the United States.

Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729-1799) proved that semen was necessary for fertilization.


April 7. The capital of Virginia was moved to Richmond.

May 12. After nearly two months' battle, Major General Benjamin Lincoln (1733-1810) surrendered Charleston, South Carolina, to General Clinton. Woodford's Virginia Continental Line, almost to a man, was captured.

August 16. American militiamen gave up their ground and American regulars were overwhelmed at Camden, South Carolina, by Cornwallis's troops.

November 20. Major General Nathanael Greene (1742-1786) appointed Major General Baron von Steuben (1730-1794) the Continental commander in Virginia. In March 1781, Steuben was supplanted by the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834).

December 30. British Brigadier General Benedict Arnold took Virginians by surprise and sailed into the Chesapeake Bay and up the James River to Richmond.

The Virginia Gazette ceased publication in Williamsburg.

The American Academy of Science was founded in Boston.

Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) painted a portrait of George Washington.


January 2. Virginia's General Assembly gave up claims to the vast expanse of land north of the Ohio River only on the condition that Congress ignore earlier land purchases in the area from Indians.

January 5-6. Arnold's forces inflicted significant damage to Virginia's capital city by razing buildings and a foundry and destroying or capturing tobacco, gunpowder, and other commodities.

January 17. At Cowpens, South Carolina, Brigadier General Daniel Morgan's troops from Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, along with Virginia militiamen, annihilated Banastre Tarleton's (1754-1833) Legion.

February 14. French naval forces from Rhode Island arrived in the Chesapeake Bay intending to surprise Benedict Arnold at Portsmouth, Virginia. Arnold's fleet was too far up the Elizabeth River for the French ships to pursue. The French had to retreat to the north.

March 15. Cornwallis defeated Greene's American forces at Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina. Suffering immense losses, the British abandoned the Carolinas and headed for Virginia and the company of other British forces.

March 26. Major General William Phillips (1731?-1781) replaced Benedict Arnold as commander of British troops in Virginia.

April 25. Generals Phillips and Arnold moved up the James River and defeated Steuben and the militia at Blandford and burned supplies at Petersburg. Two days later, they took or burned more than 20 Virginia ships and then plundered Chesterfield Courthouse.

May 13. British General William Phillips died at Petersburg; Benedict Arnold regained command.

June 3-4. General Cornwallis sent John Graves Simcoe's rangers and Tarleton's dragoons to surprise Lafayette with a two-pronged attack. Simcoe outwitted Steuben and was able to burn supplies at Point on Fork on the James River. Tarleton did not accomplish his aim, the capture of Governor Jefferson and the legislature at Charlottesville, because Captain John Jouette, Jr., of Louisa County raced over 40 miles of country roads to warn them.

June 10. Brigadier General Anthony Wayne (1745-1796) with 800 Pennsylvanians joined Lafayette at the South Anna River. The combined forces then followed Cornwallis to the south.

June 16. Having given up pursuing Lafayette, Cornwallis withdrew to the east toward Richmond. He and his forces continued on to Williamsburg, which they reached on June 25.

June 19. Steuben joined with Wayne and Lafayette, making a total of 1,900 Continentals and about 3,000 militia.

June 26. The massive forces of the combined American army arrived at Bird's Tavern, about 10 miles from Williamsburg.

July 4. Cornwallis evacuated Williamsburg, his forces retreating gradually over the James River during the next several days. On July 6, Lafayette sent Brigadier General Waye and 800 men to attack the British at Green Spring near Jamestown. Cornwallis's main force had not crossed the river and inflicted heavy damage on the Americans.

August 2. Despite orders from British commander in chief Clinton, Cornwallis decided that Yorktown was preferable to Old Point Comfort as a base of naval operations in the Chesapeake.

August 19. Because the French admiral the Comte de Grasse (1722-1788) was sailing from the West Indies to the Chesapeake, George Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau's (1725-1807) army began moving south toward Virginia.

August 26. De Grasse arrived in the Chesapeake.

September 2. Commanded by the Marquis de St. Simon, 3,000 troops disembarked at Jamestown.

September 5. Fighting off the Virginia Capes, de Grasse forced Admiral Thomas Graves's (1725?-1802) fleet to withdraw for New York, closing one of Cornwallis's possible escape routes.

September 10. Admiral de Barras's fleet from Rhode Island reached the Chesapeake.

September 14. Washington and Rochambeau reached Williamsburg ahead of the main body of their troops. After conferring with de Grasse on board the Ville de Paris, they returned to Williamsburg on September 22.

September 26. The combined American and French forces assembled in Williamsburg.

September 28. The American and French armies marched from Williamsburg to Yorktown.

September 30. On the first day of the siege at Yorktown, the British surrendered their outermost earthworks.

October 6. The French and Americans began the first parallel of breastworks.

October 14. British redoubts 9 and 10 fell to assaults by the Comte de Deux Ponts and Colonel Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804). The allies completed a second parallel of breastworks closer to Yorktown.

October 16. Cornwallis tried to escape across the York River but was halted by a sudden storm.

October 19. Cornwallis surrendered 7,247 British forces at Yorktown. General Washington, with plentiful help from Lafayette and other French officers and field, had practically won independence for the colonies.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) published Critique of Pure Reason.

Publication of On the Civil Amelioration of the Condition of the Jews by Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786).

About 1781, African Americans in the Williamsburg area formed their own independent Baptist church. (Local oral tradition maintains that this happened in 1776.)


July 1. The Comte de Rochambeau's army began leaving Williamsburg, their winter quarters after the Battle of Yorktown. French troops wounded in the fracas had been hospitalized in the main building (the Wren Building) of the College of William and Mary. The President's House burned while French officers occupied it in December 1781. By the end of the summer, all the French had left Virginia, heading for Boston and their voyage back across the Atlantic to France.

November 30. In Paris, Americans signed preliminary articles of peace with the British. News of this provisional peace agreement reached Virginia in late April 1783.

Virginia legislators passed a law permitting the freeing of slaves.

Francis Asbury (1745-1816) preached at the Courthouse in Williamsburg.

James Watt invented the double-acting rotary steam engine.


September 3. The United States and Great Britain signed the definitive peace treaty in Paris, formally ending the American Revolution. News of the ratification reached Virginia on February 3, 1784.

Benjamin Franklin's pamphlet Remarks Concerning the Savage of North America included an Indian quotation showing cultural differences.

Noah Webster (1758-1843) published part one of Grammatical Institute of the English Language.


On April 30, 1789 George Washington, 57, took the oath of office as the first president of the United States.

A View on the Past
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