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Published: April 2nd 2020
CORNWALLIS MESSAGE TO HIS SUPERIOR.THE SIEGE OF YORKTOWN
He retired in disgrace and never lived it down.
America won the Revolutionary War and independence from the Crown of England when General Charles Lord Cornwallis suffered defeat at Yorktown and surrendered the Redcoat army. George Washington commanded the American forces at Yorktown, but would not have even dared to attack there without the generous assistance of the French. We would not have won the war without their help.
Cornwallis gathered his army in the late summer of 1781 at Yorktown, near the mouth of the York River where it entered Chesapeake Bay. They were a bit ragged and weary after defeats at Kings Mountain and at the Cowpens in South Carolina, and the pursuit of the combined colonial militia commanded by Nathaniel Green and Daniel Morgan as far as the Dan River in North Carolina. The Redcoats retreated to Hillsboro and then to Yorktown in order to refit and resupply.
The Redcoats had pretty much abandoned New England after their defeats at Saratoga in upstate New York and at Trenton in New Jersey. They decided to focus their energy on the Carolinas and Georgia and hopefully to connect to bases in British Florida. As the tides of war shifted thousands of loyalist
MOORE HOUSE CORNWALLIS AGREED TO SURRENDER TERMS HERE.
Old place is still standing, but was closed during my visit.
Tories had fled to settlements in Georgia. Those energies proved to be futile ones after they suffered defeat at the Battle of Kettle Creek and were forced to retreat back to South Carolina. Cornwallis had made little headway in his conquest of the southern colonies by the time he arrived at Yorktown and his army was in low spirits.
Washington had consolidated the Colonial Army along with French forces commanded by the Comte Rochambeau in New York where there were no Redcoats to oppose them. When Washington learned that the French fleet commanded by Admiral de Grasse was going to sail north and blockade Chesapeake Bay he decided to move his army south to support that effort and trap Cornwallis. On September 5, 1781, while Washington and Rochambeau marched merrily along, they learned that at the Battle of the Capes Admiral de Grasse had driven the British merchant fleet out of Chesapeake Bay. Cornwallis was left in an isolated position with his back to the York River. Washington and Rochambeau arrived on September 28 and a spirited artillery duel began. Washington held the right flank and Rochambeau held the left flank against stout redoubts constructed by the Redcoats. Their
O'HARA SURRENDERED CORNWALLIS' SWORD NEAR THIS SPOT TO BENJAMIN LEE
The sword was surrendered a couple of miles north of the meadow where the redcoats grounded their firelocks.
armies dug in too and maintained artillery fire day and night to prevent the Redcoats from further strengthening their position. As they gained strength Washington and Rochambeau decided to move their lines closer to better concentrate their guns. In order to do so they needed to push the Redcoats back from strongly held positions at Redoubts 9 and 10. Alexander Hamilton commanded a vicious bayonet assault against Redoubt 9 and captured it. The French captured Redoubt 10, and the Redcoats were about out of ammo for their guns. They tried to escape across the river and make a getaway, but heavy weather blew in and prevented them from crossing. Cornwallis could hold out no longer and on October 15 he agreed to begin to negotiate the surrender of his army. Among them were a few regiments of Hessians. They were German mercenary soldiers that enjoyed no support from either their own government, nor from the British. On October 19, 1781 a formal surrender was done. Cornwallis did not attend it, but had a subordinate officer present his sword to a subordinate officer of Washington. After the ceremony Washington’s staff returned the sword to Cornwallis as a reminder of his sorry
SURRENDER FIELD. THE REDCOATS AND HESSIANS GROUNDED THEIR FIRELOCKS HERE.
This is the ground where the United States of America was born on October 19, 1781.
failure. The Redcoats were taken into custody and marched off under guard to Philadelphia where they were put aboard ships and returned home. The Hessians were stranded in Philadelphia and soon became a burden to imprison and feed. After they were pardoned they mostly remained among us.
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