Hampton (HMMLH)

Location: Hampton, VA 23669
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Country: United States of America
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N 37° 1.459', W 76° 20.612'

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A Sacrifice to the Grim God of War

— 1862 Peninsula Campaign —

The control of Hampton had been disputed during the war's first months. Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler sought to expand Union control over the lower Peninsula. Despite his defeat during the June 10, 1861, Battle of Big Bethel, his troops occupied Hampton on July 3, 1861. When troops were needed to defend Washington following the Bull Run defeat, the Federals abandoned the town.

Confederate commander John Bankhead Magruder learned from an article in the New York Tribune that Butler planned to quarter Union troops and escaped slaves known as "Contraband of War" in Hampton. Magruder swiftly acted to thwart the Union plan. He ordered Hampton resident Capt. Jefferson Curle Phillips of the Old Dominion Dragoons to burn the town. Local residents including members of the Warwick Beauregards and the York Rangers carried out the harsh directive On the night of August 7, 1861.

Capt. Phillips assembled his troops at the western wall of St. John's churchyard. He notified the citizens that the town would have to be destroyed and soon Hampton was engulfed in flames. Only the venerable charred walls of St. John's Church and a few other scattered shells of buildings remained standing. The Philadelphia Inquirer described the eerie scene, "Nothing but a forest of blear-sided chimneys and brick houses tottering and cooling in the wind, scorched trees and heaps of smoldering ruins?. A more desolate sight cannot be imagined."

The Union continued to use the desolated town. Soldiers camped in St. John's churchyard. African-Americans settled in the large "Grand Contraband Camp" in Hampton and "Slabtown" near Fort Monroe. They supported the Union causes as camp laborers, servants to the Federal officers, and crew members on navy ships.

"As the smoke and flames ascended to heaven, I was reminded of the ancient sacrifices on the altar?and I thought of how our little town was being made a sacrifice to the grim god of war." - Sgt. Robert S. Hudgins, Old Dominion Dragoons
Series This marker is part of the Virginia Civil War Trails series
Placed ByVirginia Civil War Trails
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 at 10:45am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 380492 N 4098413
Decimal Degrees37.02431667, -76.34353333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 37° 1.459', W 76° 20.612'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds37° 1' 27.54" N, 76° 20' 36.72" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)757
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 59-99 S King St, Hampton VA 23669, US
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