Burwell's Ferry.

Other names: Burrill's Ferry, Burrell's Ferry

9(-10?) Nov 1775 *12 riflemen vs. HMS Kingfisher
17 Apr 1781. Militia vs. *Simcoe
20 Apr 1781. American victory.
and many others.


37.22284 -76.67285, Burwell's Ferry, north landing [A]
37.18225 -76.61624, Burwell's Ferry, north landing [B]
37.0566 -76.6693, Burwell's Ferry, south landing

Maps: [map notes]


  • It is apparent that there were at least 2 landings on the north side of the James River. One is described as "a mile below the mouth of College Creek" [A]. The other is shown on period maps as just west of Skiss (Skiffes) Creek [B], and may be the one referred to as "near Newport News".

  • Library of Congress map:

    Campagne en Virginie du Major Général M'is de LaFayette... [Both A and B shown].


  • Library of Congress map:

    A Plan of the entrance of Chesapeak [sic] Bay, with James and York Rivers; .... [Both A and B shown, identified as B]. Location of the landing on the south side of the James River is arbitrarily located at Burwell Bay due to the modern name and to the similarity with roads shown on this map.


  • Google Book Search for "Burwell's Ferry", unrestricted books, and the years 1775-1783 yielded 41 returns!

  • "Moving Upstream":
    "In September the French fleet arrived to support the Americans, bringing some most welcome rum. Almost every small boat, barge, and even canoes left near the James gathered at Burwell's Ferry near Newport News [B] to form the "Mosquito Fleet." Two boats which had been sunk for concealment from the British were raised and restored. Meanwhile, Washington and the French army had cornered the British troops under Lord Cornwallis in Yorktown and forced the surrender which effectively ended the war. "

  • Kyle Willyard"Hampton":
    "A few days later on the 10th of November, the same squadron that attacked Hampton tried to prevent the 2nd Virginia Regiment and Culpeper Battalion from crossing the river at Burwell's Ferry[A or B] . Pendleton wrote, "the King Fisher and four tenders full of men came up to Burwells Ferry and made several attempts to land during three days stay, but never came nearer than to receive a discharge of the Rifles, when they retired with great pricipitation, and 'tis Supposed the loss of some men." The squadron fired on a vessel at the ferry landing and ordered her to come along side. Riflemen stationed there ordered the captain to stay where he was. Page states, "The Vessel lay about 3 Hundred Yds. from our Men and about 3/4 Mile from the Man of War, which began to fire on her, and finding that her Shot had no Effect sent off a Barge full of Men to take her, but as soon as the Barge had got within a small Distance of the Vessel the Riflemen fired and say they killed three Men." The barge tried one more time, meeting the same fate, except that this time they lost only one man. Page continues, "I can assure you that about 20 Rifle Men have disputed with the Man of War and her Tenders for this Vessel 2 Days and they have hitherto kept her and the Ferry Boats safe, which it is supposed they wish to burn. It is incredible how much they dread a Rifle." Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol.1, p.258)"

  • "Pension application of James Adams S16306 Transcribed by Will Graves":

    "from Williamsburg deponent marched to Col. Burwell's ferry [A or B] on James River, where he was stationed about seven or eight weeks, thence he was called to go against the Indians."

  • "Pension application of Thomas McClanahan (McLanahan) W1052 Transcribed by Will Graves":

    "...from there he was marched to Williamsburg and was occasionally in some little skirmishes with some British shipping at Burrell's Ferry and Old James Town [sic Jamestown]," [probably A].

  • "Pension application of William Longley R6435 Transcribed by Will Graves":

    "These troops were marching from Loudon County to Williamsburg in Virginia where they were stationed in the barracks for several months, and from whence parties of our men were detached to hold the British forces under Arnold [Benedict Arnold] in check. After being stationed here one month, declarant does not recollect the precise time, the British forces landed at Burrill's [sic, Burrell's or Burwell's?] ferry at the mouth of the James River [likely A, see following], where about 200 of our men and declarant one of them, were stationed. We stood our ground and fired upon the enemy until our cartridges were exhausted, each man of us having fired near 30 rounds, when we were so far outnumbered that we had to retreat. We retreated to Williamsburg, 6 miles from the above named ferry and on reaching there all our troops retreated from town and the British marched in and occupied our barracks that night."

  • Memoir, Correspondence, And Miscellanies,From The Papers Of Thomas Jefferson. , Edited by Thomas Jefferson Randolph. 1829 Volume One, Gutenburg Project:
    "On the 18th instant, the enemy came from Portsmouth up James river, in considerable force, though their numbers are not yet precisely known to us. They landed at Burwell's Ferry, below Williamsburg, and also a short distance above the mouth of Chickahominy [probably A]."

  • "VA-W47 Kingsmill" historical marker:
    "Burwell, the naval officer (colonial customs inspector) for the upper James River, built his inspection station here at Burwell's Landing, which included a tavern, storehouse, warehouse, and ferry house [probably A]. In Nov. 1775, American riflemen skirmished nearby with British naval vessels; later, the Americans built two earthen forts here that the British captured in 1781."

    John S. Salmon, compiler, A Guidebook to Virginia's Historical Markers, Revised and Expanded Edition, University Press of Virginia, copyright 1994, 3rd printing, 2001:
    W-47* [* denotes no longer in place] Kingsmill
    Kingsmill Plantation is two miles south. Burwell's Ferry, a river landing was there
    [A]. In January, 1781, General Thomas Nelson, with militia, prevented Benedict Arnold from landing at the ferry. On April 20, 1781, Arnold and Philips landed there and marched to Williamsburg. James City Co.: Rte. 60, 2.4 miles s.e. of Williamsburg.

  • Robert A. Selig, Ph. D., Project Historian, The Washington - Rochambeau Revolutionary Route In The State Of New Jersey, 1781 - 1783, An Historical and Architectural Survey Volume I, p.226:
    "The French grenadiers and chasseurs disembarked on 23 September at Burwell's Ferry a mile below the mouth of College Creek [A] and encamped behind the Capitol."

  • Boatner, not found.

  • RevWar75  
    listing 11/9/1775 Burwell's Ferry HM Sloop Kingsfisher. Shown as draw.
    4/17/1781 Burwell's Landing, James River. British victory.
    4/20/1781 Burwell's Landing, James River. American victory.

    Related sites:

    Submitted by: Will Graves

    Confidence level: 3