New Kent County - Four Centuries of Historic Driving Tours 

Lafayette and Cornwallis 1781  Driving Tour



In February 1781, General George Washington sent the Marquis de Lafayette south with a picked force of 1,200 New England and New Jersey troops to counter British forces under Benedict Arnold. This small command was to be complemented by 1,200 French troops.  

The young Marquis faced Cornwallis’s much larger force, but Lafayette proved to be a good strategist in avoiding defeat while harassing his formidable opponent to withdraw to Yorktown. 

In early May 1781, Lafayette with an army he termed “not strong enough even to be beaten” moved to Bottoms Bridge to be in a position to protect Richmond and Williamsburg.

Meanwhile Cornwallis moved into Virginia from North Carolina reaching the Chickahominy River at Bottoms Bridge just behind Lafayette

Cornwallis then moved east, again through Bottom’s Bridge, arriving at New Kent Courthouse on June 23 followed by Lafayette who passed through on June 25.  Both Cornwallis and Lafayette stayed at Bird’s Tavern near New Kent Courthouse.

In July and August 1781 when Cornwallis was carrying on raids to the west of New Kent, Lafayette shadowed him, blocking his route north should the British decide to seek reinforcements.  Cut off from the main British force in New York, Cornwallis moved east to occupy Yorktown.  Lafayette again passed through New Kent Courthouse to camp at Montock near present day West Point.

It was during this maneuver that Lafayette received help from James, a slave on the New Kent Armistead farm, who pretended to serve Cornwallis in Yorktown, but was sending valuable military information to Lafayette and Washington.  James later adopted the name James Lafayette, and lived on his own farm in New Kent County

Throughout his operations in Virginia, Lafayette traveled through New Kent County crossing the Chickahominy River several times at Bottoms Bridge and camping at Providence Forge and New Kent Courthouse.  When it was apparent that Cornwallis was going to stay at Yorktown, Lafayette notified Washington and the Yorktown campaign was launched bringing an end to British rule of the colonies.

Lafayette's Campaign in Virginia
Marquis de Lafayette 
Marquis de Lafayette and the Revolution 
Biography of Lafayette

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Washington Rochambeau Route to Victory 1781
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Lafayette and Cornwallis 1781
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James Lafayette - Spy of the American Revolution

Martha Dandridge Custis Washington - First First Lady of the United States

Letitia Christian Tyler - First Lady

JEB Stuart’s Ride Around the Union Army 1862
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Green v School Board of New Kent County 1968


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