Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 13, 2010

Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown by John Trumbull

September 28. 1781: General George Washington, Marquis de Lafayette, and Comte de Rochambeau lead an assault on the British-held Yorktown under the control of General Lord Cornwallis. The American Revolutionaries and their French allies met the British forces who were also using German mercenaries in what was to be the final battle of the Revolutionary War.

In May 1781, Washington and Rochambeau met in Connecticut to plan their strategy. New York City was held by the British with 15,600 troops under General Sir Henry Clinton. Yorktown, Virginia was held by Cornwallis after a successful campaign through the southern states. Cornwallis had only 7,500 men at Yorktown. Clinton had told Cornwallis to wait there for the Royal Navy to receive supplies and reinforcements. Washington learned of this on July 19 and he felt that moving in to Yorktown was a better strategy.

The French sailed their fleet of 28 ships to the port while Washington began to move his men into battle ready positions. The combined French and American troops numbered 18,300 against the British/German armies of 8,225. The armies took up position on this date. By the next day, Cornwallis evacuated his outer sites believing that Clinton would soon arrive. The allies dug siege lines while British artillery tried to disrupt the work.

The first set of siege lines were dug by October 9 and the artillery batteries were completed. Washington fired the first American gun at 5 PM and the French engaged in naval battle in the harbor. By October 17, the British waved the flag of truce and on October 19, Cornwallis, through an intermediary, surrendered to Washington who did not accept the intermediary’s surrender personally, but allowed him to surrender to a second intermediary. The war was over, officially sanctioned by Great Britain in March of 1782 with a final peace treaty signed in September 1783.

“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.”

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”

“War – An act of violence whose object is to constrain the enemy, to accomplish our will.”

“Experience teaches us that it is much easier to prevent an enemy from posting themselves than it is to dislodge them after they have got possession.”

“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” – all from George Washington

Also on this day, in 1975 the Spaghetti House siege begins.

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