During the Revolutionary War, the individual states formed their own navies for local defense and military operations. These state navies existed simultaneously with the Continental Navy. Like many state navies, Virginia’s began when the war started and there was a need to defend the state’s coastline and waterways, just as troops were organized to defend its land. The Virginia State Navy patrolled the Chesapeake Bay, provided security on its rivers, and even went to Europe and the Caribbean to bring back supplies.
After several years of inactivity, by 1781 the war had returned to Virginia. British troops occupied Portsmouth and used it as a base for raids. Governor Thomas Jefferson scrambled to get the state’s defenses ready.
British forces under General Benedict Arnold capture the fledging capital of Richmond, where he dispersed local militia and destroyed supplies. Arnold withdrew to the British base at Portsmouth, but the redcoats would soon…
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