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[227] Virginians by surprise. On Friday, the eighth of De-
Chap. LV.} 1775. Dec.
cember, after dark, he sent about two hundred men, composed of all that had arrived of the fourteenth regiment, and of officers, sailors, and gunners from the ships, mixed with townsmen of Norfolk. They arrived at the Great Bridge in the night, and halted for rest and refreshment. The Virginians could be approached only over a causeway of about one hundred and sixty yards in length, at the end of which was their breastwork. After the break of day, and before sunrise, Leslie planted two fieldpieces between the bridge and the causeway, and gave orders for the attack; but the Virginians had just beat the reveille; and at the first discharge of the cannon, the bravest of them, unmindful of order, rushed to the trenches. The regulars, about one hundred and twenty in number, led by Fordyce, a captain in the fourteenth, were met on the causeway by a well-directed fire; while Stevens, with a party of the Culpepper minute men, posted on an eminence about a hundred yards to the left, took them in flank: they wavered; Fordyce, with a courage which was the admiration of all beholders, rallied and led them on, when, struck with many rifle-balls, some say fourteen, he staggered and fell dead, within a few steps of the breastwork, or according to one account, having had his hand upon it. The two companies of negroes kept out of the way; so did the loyalists of Norfolk; the regulars displayed the conduct of the bravest veterans; but discouraged by the fall of their leader, and disabled by the incessant fire of the American sharpshooters, they retreated, after a struggle of about fourteen minutes, losing at least sixty-one in killed and wounded.

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