Cumberland Town

Richard Littlepage III established Cumberland Town on the south side of the Pamunkey River in 1748. A busy shipping center, the town offered a tobacco inspection station, warehouses, wharves, and a ferry. The Virginia House of Burgesses briefly considered Cumberland Town a candidate to replace Williamsburg as the colonial capital in 1748. During the Revolutionary War, a public supply depot and a military hospital were established here. During the Peninsula Campaign of the Civil War, Cumberland was the headquarters of Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan from 13 to 16 May 1862. Nearly 110,000 troops camped here before moving toward White House.

McClellan's Camp at Cumberland Town

In May 1862, during the Peninsula Campaign, the Union Army of the Potomac under Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan advanced up the Pamunkey River toward Richmond, while Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s army moved to defend the city. Cumberland Landing, just northeast of here, served as McClellan’s headquarters and supply depot from 13 to 16 May. Nearly 110,000 troops, possibly the largest American army assembled to that date, camped nearby. James F. Gibson, a pioneer in Civil War photojournalism, captured striking images of the sprawling tent city, ships on the river, and formerly enslaved African Americans called “contrabands.”

French Cannon at Cumberland Landing

Gilbert Chase, a New England ship captain, recovered a bronze French cannon in the Pamunkey River off Cumberland Town in June 1816. Two members of his crew descended in a diving bell patented in 1806, which Chase had acquired the rights to use. The 12-foot-long, 5,240-pound cannon, lost during the Revolutionary War, was decorated with mottoes and coats of arms. Virginia claimed it as state property, but Chase argued that the patent authorized him to keep what he salvaged and that the state had forfeited its rights by abandoning the cannon. In Nicholas v. Chase (1817), Virginia’s Superior Court of Chancery ruled in favor of Chase. The cannon was likely melted down during the Civil War.

George Poindexter

(ca. 1627-ca. 1693)

George Poindexter (Poingdestre), a member of a prominent family on the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel, arrived in Virginia by the 1650s and settled at Middle Plantation, now Williamsburg. He acquired land in at least three counties, prospered as a tobacco planter, owned a number of enslaved African Americans, and controlled an interest in the merchant ship Planter’s Adventure. In 1679 Poindexter was elected to the vestry of Bruton Parish. He and his wife, Susanna, moved to New Kent County in the 1680s. Their descendants owned several plantations in this area, including Cedar Lane, Criss Cross, and Moss Side.