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Yorktown redoubt

Me at one of the redoubts in Yorktown

While in Virginia, I visited Yorktown and the site of its very famous siege, the one that ended the American Revolutionary War.

 

After mixed fortunes in the Southern colonies, the British decided to protect Yorktown and face the Continental Army. Lord Charles Cornwallis was the commander of about 7,500 experienced British soldiers, while American General George Washington led an army of over 18,000 Frenchmen and Continentals. On September 29, 1781, the siege began, and Cornwallis pulled back his troops from the outer defenses of Yorktown. Cornwallis was expecting British reinforcements from the sea, but the British were held back by the French fleet aiding the Americans. The Continentals built a trench and assaulted redoubts 9 and 10, along with their French allies (A redoubt is basically a ditch with a wall in front of it, built from the dirt from the ditch. They were helpful outposts used for increased protection). Interestingly, future Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, was the commander of the assault on redoubt 10. Through heavy fighting, both redoubts fell, and the British feared a general attack. Though it did not come, Cornwallis agreed to surrender.

The treaty of surrender was signed on October 19, 1781. The British were not given the traditional honors of war due to having deprived the Americans the same honor after the siege of Charleston. The Siege of Yorktown was destined to be the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War, and a peace treaty two years later would confirm American Independence. An upstart British colony had taken on the world’s largest and most feared empire, and had won.

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