Smithfield in Isle of Wight County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Battle of Smithﬁeld
The Town that Wouldn’t Surrender
Smithﬁeld was the only town in the Hampton Roads/Tidewater region not occupied by Union forces during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign. Todd's Battery, defending the Pagan River at Battery Park, had been destroyed and Confederate soldiers had evacuated the town.
In late January 1864, a Federal steamer on the James River was ﬁred upon and run aground by a Confederate force from the Isle of Wight shore. Immediately, the Union retaliated by sending the gunboat, Smith-Briggs, to Smithﬁeld. The vessel disembarked 90 soldiers at the old abandoned shipyard at the foot of Church Street. The troops marched inland, skirmished with local Confederates, then returned to Smithﬁeld, only to ﬁnd that the Smith-Briggs had not returned to retrieve them. The next day, February 1, 1864, the Confederates disputed the Union retreat by positioning two cannon, one at the county
When the Smith-Briggs ﬁnally returned for the Federal soldiers it was greeted with shot and shell, one of which pierced the steam drum of the Union vessel. The gunboat, now disabled, drifted away from the wharf into a mud bank on the opposite side of the Pagan River and surrendered. The Smith-Briggs was set on ﬁre. When the ﬂames reached the magazine with its two tons of gun powder, the vessel was blown to pieces. Before the explosion, however, a local Confederate went aboard and wrenched the gilded eagle from the pilothouse as a trophy of war. The eagle remains a proud symbol of one Southern town that refused to surrender to the Northern invaders.
(upper left) Gilded eagle from the USS Smith-Briggs pilothouse. Courtesy of Isle of Wight Museum
(lower right) USS Smith-Briggs - Courtesy of Isle of Wight Museum
Erected by Virginia Civil WarTrails.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails marker series.
Location. 36° 58.931′ N, 76° 37.473′ W. Marker is in Smithfield, Virginia, in Isle of Wight County. Marker is on South Church Street (Business U.S. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Smithfield VA 23430, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Smithfield (here, next to this marker); Ivy Hill Cemetery (approx. 0.4 miles away); Joseph W. Luter, III (approx. 0.4 miles away); Law & Politics in 18th Century Isle of Wight (approx. 0.4 miles away); Old Isle of Wight Courthouse (approx. 0.4 miles away); Isle of Wight County War Memorial (approx. 0.4 miles away); Liquid Maze (approx. half a mile away); Bennett’s Plantation (approx. 2.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Smithfield.
Also see . . . The Battle of Smithfield. Smithfield & Isle of Wight Convention & Visitors Bureau (Submitted on September 1, 2014.)
Categories. • War, US Civil • Waterways & Vessels •
More. Search the internet for Battle of Smithfield.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on September 1, 2014, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 449 times since then and 37 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on September 1, 2014, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.