On this day in 1781, British Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Dundas of the 80th Foot, leading 1,000 British troops, encounters French Brigadier General Marquis de Choisy, leading French troops and a battalion of the Virginia militia totaling 800 men. The action takes place in Gloucester, Virginia, across the York River from British-occupied Yorktown, which was under Patriot siege.
On September 28, 17,000 combined Continental and French forces commanded jointly on land by General George Washington and French Lieutenant General Count de Rochambeau and at sea by French Admiral Count de Grasse had arrived to encircle British General Charles Cornwallis’ camp at Yorktown and began the siege. Prior to the encounter as Gloucester, Dundas and the British had enjoyed complete control of a strategic countryside position on the Gloucester side of the York River. The control of this area allowed the British to forage for nearly unlimited food and supplies, not only for themselves, but for Cornwallis and his British troops located across the river in Yorktown, which limited the success of the Patriot siege.
While returning to camp on the evening of October 3, 1781, Dundas and the British were engaged in battle by General de Choisy. Although the ensuing battle between British and Patriot-allied forces was relatively small, it was nonetheless important, because it cut off supplies to General Cornwallis and the British troops across the river in Yorktown. The capture of Gloucester, Virginia, was one of the final steps toward the eventual Patriot victory at Yorktown just 16 days later.