At the time of the American Revolution the population of Hampton was probably about one thousand people. There, as elsewhere, the spirit of patriotic resistance had its home, and the following gentlemen chosen 23 of November, 1775, constituted the Committee of Safety for Elizabeth City and the town of Hampton: William Roscow Wilson Curie, Chairman, John Tabb, George Wray, John Allen, Miles King, Augustine Moore, Edward Cooper, Wilson Miles Cary, Westwood Armistead, George Booker, James Wallace Bayley, John Parsons, Henry King, Jacob Wray, John Jones, John King, Joseph Cooper, William Mallorv, Simon Hollier, John Carv, Moseley Armistead. Robert Bright, Clerk.
The following gentlemen were members of the different revolutionary conventions: Conventions of March 20, 1775, July 17, 1775, Dec. 1, 1775, Henry King, Worlich Westwood; Convention of May 6, 1776, Wilson Miles Cary, Henry King.
After the rupture of Lord Dunmore, the last royal governor of Virginia, with the House of Burgesses, the former retired to Norfolk, which he made his headquarters for military operations. Hampton became the scene of the first real collision in Virginia. Runaway slaves resorted to Lord Dunmore 's ships and the British sailors created annoyance by landing on the shores at night and carrying off sheep and other live stock belonging to the inhabitants near the water. On the second of September, 1775, a sloop commanded by Captain Mathew Squires, who was charged with being a prime instigator in these robberies, was driven by a storm on the shore near Hampton. The officers and sailors barely escaped with their lives, and some of them were entertained at the house of one Finn, to whom they presented the vessel and damaged stores as a reward for his hospitality Captain Squires was separated from his people and wandered about all night in the storm, but managed to escape in the morning to the friendly protection of Lord Dunmore 's fleet. On the 10th Captain Squires made a demand on the committee of the town of Hampton for the return of the stores, which was answered by a promise to return the same if he would deliver up a negro slave belong-
ing to Mr. Henry King and cease his nocturnal depredations. Captain Squires threatened violence, and his threat reaching Williamsburg, one hundred men under the command of James Innis, Captain of the Williamsburg Guard, marched from that place to the protection of Hampton.
Captain Squires, however, did not immediately attempt to execute his threat, and Captain Innis and his troops after receiving the thanks of the Hampton Committee, soon returned to Williamsburg, but it was thought proper to replace them soon after by a like number of men under the command of Major Francis Eppes.
Captain Squires, however, did not relinquish his desire for revenge, and on October 24 appeared in Hampton River with six armed tenders sent by Dunmore, and a message was received at Hampton that he would that day land and burn the town. The Virginia troops, who were then in the vicinity, consisting of a company of regulars under Captain George Nicholas, a company of minute men, and a small body of militia, made the best disposition they could to prevent their landing.
The British, accordingly, attempted to land, but were retarded by some boats sunk across the channel for that purpose.
Squires then commanded a furious cannonade, and under that cover sent armed men in boats to make a landing, but the Virginians sent so many death shots that the boats were obliged to return. In the morning, Col. William Woodford arrived from Williamsburg with reinforcements, and when the enemy resumed their cannonade of the town, his men replied with a hot fire, which soon spread terror among the British. Unable to withstand such a valiant attack, the British commander ordered the cables to be slipped and the vessels to retreat, but before the fleet could get away, two of the vessels were captured. The victory was complete. Not a single Virginian was killed.
Many of the buildings in Hampton, including the church, were injured by the fire of the British, and one house, Mr. George Cooper's, was burned. Not long after this incident, when the Declaration of Independence was promulgated, it is said that lightning struck the steeple of the church and hurled to the ground the insignia of royalty which adorned it.