Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia
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The Revolution Begins

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  • Continental Congress to George Washington, June 19, 1775, Commission as Commander in Chief. George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741–1799: Series 8b, Manuscript Division. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., LOC
    Washington Commission
  • By His Excellency the Right Honourable John Earl of Dunmore . . . A proclamation. [Declaring martial law and to cause the same to be . . .] Williamsburg, 1775, Printed Ephemera Collection, Portfolio 178, Folder 18, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., LOC
    Dunmore's Proclamation
  • William Woodford to the President of the Virginia Revolutionary Convention, December 9, 1775, Revolutionary Government, Papers of the Fourth Convention, Record Group 2, Accession 30003, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    Great Bridge Letter
  • Virginia House of Burgesses, Journal, May 6, 1776, Bound manuscript, Colonial Government, 
House of Burgesses, Record Group 1, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    Finis Document
  • Virginia, Convention, General Correspondence, Minutes, and Journals, 1774–1776, Accession 30003, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    5th Va. Convention Motion for Independence
  • Patrick Henry's election as governor was recorded on this page from the fifth Virginia Revolutionary Convention journal for June 29, 1776., LVA
    5th Va. Convention Elected Henry
  • Broadside 1818. U5 Vault, Special Collections, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    Declaration of Independence
  • Virginia General Assembly,
    Act for Raising Army Volunteers
  • Parole of Charles Cornwallis, earl Cornwallis, 28 October 1781, Special Collections, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    Cornwallis Parole
  • Carte de la Partie de La Virginie ou l'armée combinée de France & des États-Unis de l'Amérique a fait prisonniere l'Armée Anglaise commandée par Lord Cornwallis le 19 Octbre. 1781. Avec le plan de l'attaque d'York-town & de Glocester. Paris: Esnauts et Rapilly, ca. 1782. Geography and Map Division. Library of Congress., LOC
    Map of Yorktown
  • Lami, Eugene-Louis. <em>Storming of a British Redoubt by American Troops at Yorktown </em>, oil on canvas, 1840. Library of Virginia Fine Arts Collection: acquired 1878., LVA
    Storming a Redoubt at Yorktown
  • Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (1757–1834), Marble Bust by Jean-Antoine Houdon, 1786. State Artwork Collection, Library of Virginia., LVA
    Marquis de Lafayette Bust
  • (Undated manuscript copy in the handwriting of Isham Talbot) T. J. Bell. Loyalty Oath, Personal Papers Collection, Accession 21461, Library of Virginia., LVA
    Oath of Allegiance
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« Return to Becoming Free and Independent States

The Revolution Begins

On April 19, 1775, the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. The Second Continental Congress began in May, and Virginian George Washington was commissioned as the commander in chief of the soon-to-be-organized Continental army. Events intensified in Virginia when Governor Dunmore issued his November 7, 1775, Proclamation, which scared many slaveholders into joining the rebel cause. Major fighting broke out in Virginia with the Battle of Great Bridge on December 9, 1775, and did not end there until General Charles Cornwallis surrendered after the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781. All the while the five Virginia Revolutionary Conventions met and not only created the new government of the Commonwealth of Virginia, but also engaged and directed the Continental Congresses as when the Virginia delegates to Congress were instructed to make a resolution for independence.

People Featured in This Unit:

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  • Billy (fl. 1770s–1780s)
  • Mary Willing Byrd (1740–1814)
  • Charles Cornwallis, second earl Cornwallis (1738–1805)
  • George III (1738–1820)
  • Patrick Henry (1736–1799)
  • Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)
  • James Lafayette (ca. 1760–1830)
  • Marquis de Lafayette (1757–1834)
  • Anna Maria Lane (fl. 1776–1807)
  • Richard Henry Lee (1733–1794)
  • John Murray, fourth earl of Dunmore (ca. 1730–1809)
  • Peyton Randolph (ca. 1722–1775)
  • George Washington (1732–1799)
  • William Woodford (1734–1780)
  • Edmund Pendleton (1721–1803)
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