Primary tabs

Account of the burning of Norfolk; from Lord Dunmore' s Virginia Gazette



Norfolk, Ship Dunmore, January 15, 1776.

Soon after the arrival of the Liverpool frigate from England, Captain Bellew sent a flag of truce, and demanded to be informed, whether His Majesty' s ships-of-war would be supplied from the shore with provisions. The reply being in the negative, and the ships in the harbour


being continually annoyed by firing from the Rebels, out of that part of the town next the water, rendered it necessary to destroy if, and dislodge them from the houses they occupied, directly under the muzzles of the ship' s guns. Accordingly, previous notice being given to the inhabitants, in order that the women, children, and innocent persons, might have time to remove out of danger, on the 1st instant, about four o' clock in the afternoon, the Liverpool, frigate, the Otter and Kingfisher, sloops-of-war, with the Governour' s ship, Dunmore, began to cannonade the town, and, in the mean time, a few men were landed in boats, who set fire to the houses next the water.

As the wind was moderate, and from the shore, it was judged with certainty that the destruction would end with that part of the town next the water, which the King' s ships meant only should be fired; but the Rebels cruelly and unnecessarily completed the destruction of the whole town, by setting fire to the houses in the streets back, which were before safe from the flames.

The ill-judged and misapplied fury, discharged upon the weak and the innocent, was not confined to the town. The country around, for several days, was illuminated with the fires of the houses they burnt, amongst which is the distillery, about three miles from the town, a work of great value and publick utility, with a large stock of rum and molasses.

The ships continued firing, with intervals, till about ten o' clock next morning, during which the ardour of the men could not be repressed; and, notwithstanding all possible care taken to prevent them, a few boats went on shore, where they exchanged some shot with the enemy' s parties, and had three or four men slightly, and one mortally, wounded. Several accounts concur, that the enemy had eighteen killed, and about forty men wounded.