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Visit Historic Yorktown Virginia - Part
of the Historic Triangle
No trip through Colonial history is complete without a visit to
Yorktown, the historic settlement that altered the course of the
American Revolution. Once you have walked the abandoned streets
of Jamestown and relived the heady
pre-revolutionary days of
Colonial Williamsburg, it's time to revisit one of the most
important moments in the American colonists' fight against
British rule. The battle at Yorktown and subsequent victory
effectively ended the war and gave the colonists what they had
long yearned for - Independence.
Yorktown was established in 1691, and by the early 1700s, had
emerged as a major tobacco port and economic center in Virginia.
At the peak of its success, Yorktown consisted of 200
residents, a bustling wharf with docks and storehouses, a Main
Street that sat atop a bluff and was lined with stately homes,
as well as several taverns and shops that were scattered
throughout the town. All told, approximately 250 to 300
buildings made up Yorktown proper in 1750.
In 1781, as the American Revolution entered its sixth long year,
the British General Lord Charles Cornwallis brought his troops
to Yorktown. He had aggressively pursued the Colonist armies,
sure of a British victory, but recent Patriot victories at
King's Mountain and Cowpens had sapped his reserves. He
entrenched at Yorktown and began fortifying Yorktown and
Gloucester Point, located across the York River. Nearby, a
combined contingent of French and colonist troops watched
Cornwallis's movements and carefully planned their attack.
On August 30, 1781, a hastily assembled, yet formidable, French
fleet under the command of Admiral Francois De Grasse blockaded
the Chesapeake Bay and the York River. An additional 9 ships
under the command of Admiral de Barras were racing to join him.
On land, General George Washington began moving his allied
American and French forces from New York to Virginia. By the end
of September, 17,800 troops surrounded Cornwallis's 8,300.
Cornwallis could neither escape nor receive reinforcements. The
siege on Yorktown began, ending in Cornwallis's surrender on
October 19, 1781. This major victory for the Colonists resulted
in the British Prime Minister proclaiming that it was all over.
And it was. Only a few minor skirmishes occurred thereafter and
the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783 formally recognizing the
United States as an independent country.
Click here for more information on
Yorktown as it is today
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