Anyone knowledgeable about the history in and around Williamsburg during the American Revolution will recognize the name of British General Lord Cornwallis. He surrendered to the American and French troops at Yorktown during 1781. But before settling in nearby Yorktown and only months before he was trapped in that town, he was based in Williamsburg. From here, he ordered John Simcoe and his Queens Rangers, along with some Hessian soldiers, to raid an American supply depot near the Chickahominy River.
The current Route 633 in Williamsburg was the Chickahominy Road used by Simcoe. It is possible that he traveled on it from the river to the point where it connects with the present Route 614. During the Revolution, this road was part of the Jamestown Road but today it also is known as Centerville Road.
When the Marquis de Lafayette and General Anthony Wayne learned about the raid, they dispatched Colonel Richard Butler with infantry and cavalry to strike Simcoe as he returned to Williamsburg. After an all-night march, an advance unit of Butler’s men caught up with Simcoe on June 26 at a location then known as Spencer’s Ordinary. It was located on high ground off the Jamestown Road and reachable via the Chickahominy Road.
Details about the engagement come from Simcoe’s map of the area and the description he entered into his journal. America forces were on the high ground, straddling the Chickahominy Road. Simcoe placed his men along the road below and facing the Chickahominy Road.
Simcoe was winning the battle when he became concerned that Lafayette’s main force might have followed behind Butler. This caused him to withdraw to Williamsburg. Simcoe lost 33 men. Butler reported nine dead, 14 wounded and 14 missing. Both claimed victory, but the skirmish appears to have been a draw.
Finding the Battle Location
The site still exists today and will interest Revolutionary War buffs. However, you will need to know exactly where to look since the site is not marked with any roadside signage.
Locate the battle site by finding a modern Baptist church on Route 614. When facing the church (imagine an unobstructed view toward the high ground at the time of the battle), the battle road is immediately to the right next to what was an open field. The road takes some winding turns and passes several small modern homes as it travels up toward and along the high ground.
Most of the fighting occurred on this high ground. The road next to the church is the advance route of Simcoe as he led his men in a column.
Simcoe’s map corresponds with the topography in every detail. It also shows the location of farms close to a fork along the Chickahominy Road. Either one of these farms could have been the “ordinary,” which was a place where travelers stopped to purchase refreshments.
For no known reason, the marker that tells the story about this engagement was placed with markers explaining other area incidents on a busy main road several miles away in the hamlet of Lightfoot.