In 1781, General George Washington moved his Continental Army from the New York City area to Yorktown, Virginia where the British Army under General Cornwallis had chosen the port of Yorktown for their base of operations. This movement by Washington with help from French forces under General Rochambeau set the stage for the beginning of freedom from British rule – American independence was on its way. Yorktown proved to be the last major battle of the Revolution. Pictured below is the Victory Monument. Although Congress authorized it right away in 1781, it was one hundred years before the monument was actually built in 1881.
Located here is a National Historic Park with a Visitor Center of exhibits as well as a driving tour of battlefield sites. Since we have been traveling, I have become aware of how many National Park historic sites there are which is many more than I ever thought would exist. This Visitor Center had a number of interesting artifacts, but I would not have thought I would see an original tent of George Washington, used when he was the General of the Continental Army. We were able to see two of Washington’s tents, one of them for meetings and another used for sleeping. Washington’s tents are the only surviving 18th century Army officer tents. They look in pretty good shape for almost 250 years old although the room was dimly lit and the sleeping tent pictured below was behind glass. I wish the photo would have turned out better.
We bought a CD detailing the battle sites for our driving tour. During the drive we stopped at sites where the American (Continental) Army laid siege lines against the British, like in the picture below. The National Park Service has reconstructed some of the earthworks to give an idea of what the siege lines looked like. From the top of the lines was a great view of the battlefield.
Oops, I got him! Unfortunately, it looks like Mark got in the line of fire!
The French Army provided enormous help to the Americans in winning the battle at Yorktown. The French fleet blockaded the British fleet at the Harbor on the York River and one night at the redoubts (enclosed defensive positions of the British), French troops assisted in capturing two crucial positions. Three days later Cornwallis asked for a cease fire. In photo below, Mark walks around one of the reconstructed redoubts.
It was here at the Moore House on October 18, 1781, that officers from both American and British sides met to negotiate the surrender terms for the army of General Cornwallis.
Surrender Field was my favorite stop of the drive. It is now a beautiful and peaceful place in the country, but on October 19, 1781, 7,000 British soldiers had to march onto this field and lay down their arms to the American and French armies. A walkway takes you up to an enclosed observation deck overlooking the expansive field. An audio recording summarizes the events of that day and thoughts of the soldiers.
I next wandered out into Surrender Field imagining what it must have been like to witness such a spectacle. Below is a picture near the field of part of the driving tour road with blossoming trees.
Next to the observation deck is a great collection of British cannons from the Yorktown battlefields, engraved with the British Crown and date of surrender. I was surprised at how many there were remaining!
We really enjoyed our tour of Yorktown, a significant part of American history that I was glad to be able to experience.
Thanks for reading! In my next blog we head to another site with significant history, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home.
4 thoughts on “Yorktown – Freedom Begins”
Wow! Fascinating- I had no idea that site was so rich in details and the tent looks really cool. Betting the low lighting is to preserve the fabric. Wonder who in the past thought to hang on to it for all time…
Thanks for the nice comment! Washington’s descendants held on to the tents through the years. They are now owned by different agencies. It is neat that others safeguarded them, rather than letting them get sold off for souvenirs or such.
Very cool to see Washington’s tents, could you go into one of them? Agree with Barbara that its impressive it was preserved. I wasn’t too aware of France’s participation in helping us defeat the British, sounds like they were of quite a lot of help and I don’t think we give them much credit nowadays?
We were not allowed to go into the tents, they were behind glass for protection. Yes, the French were very instrumental in helping the U.S. win the War. Who knows how much longer it would have taken or if the U.S. would have been successful without their help. I didn’t know the French were such help either until we visited this and other sites on our trip. I guess some things are not emphasized in school?