American Victory at Yorktown

American Victory at Yorktown

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Yorktown Museum Overview

The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, which replaces the Yorktown Victory Center, is among America’s foremost sites that tell the story of the nation’s founding. Through comprehensive indoor exhibits and outdoor living history, the new museum offers a truly national perspective, conveying a sense of the transformational nature and epic scale of the Revolution and the richness and complexity of the country’s Revolutionary heritage.

A new 80,000-square-foot building opened in March 2015. The introductory film and 22,000-square-foot exhibition galleries – and the “American Revolution Museum at Yorktown” name – debuted with a preview of the new museum October 15 and 16, 2016, during the annual Yorktown Victory Celebration event marking the anniversary of America’s momentous 1781 Revolutionary War victory at Yorktown. A Grand Opening Celebration, from March 23 to April 4, 2017, officially launched the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown with a salute to the first 13 states in the order that they ratified the U.S. Constitution. The museum was dedicated on April 1, 2017.

New Exhibits Dazzle, Inform

In the museum theater, “Liberty Fever” draws visitors into the world of Revolutionary America, setting the stage for indoor gallery and outdoor living-history experiences. The introductory film is narrated by an early 19th-century storyteller who has traveled the country gathering stories about the American Revolution and shares his accounts using a moving panorama presentation of the time period.

The permanent exhibition galleries engage visitors in the tumult, drama and promise of the Revolution through period artifacts and immersive environments, dioramas, interactive exhibits and short films. Among close to 500 artifacts on exhibit is a Declaration of Independence broadside dating to July 1776 a June 1776 Philadelphia printing of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, one of the inspirations for the U.S. Declaration of Independence a coronation portrait of King George III from the studio of Allan Ramsay one of the two earliest known portraits done from life of an African who had been enslaved in the 13 original colonies and an extremely rare early southern American long rifle.

The galleries presents five major themes. The British Empire and America examines the geography, demography, culture and economy of America prior to the Revolution and the political relationship with Britain.

The Changing Relationship – Britain and North America chronicles the growing rift between the American colonies and Britain. Within a full-scale wharf setting, issues of taxation and importation are brought into focus.

Revolution traces the war from the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775 to victory at Yorktown in 1781 and the aftermath. An experiential theater will transport visitors to the Yorktown battlefield with wind, smoke and the thunder of cannon fire. The wartime homefront is portrayed in three-dimensional settings that provide a backdrop for the stories of diverse Americans – Patriots and Loyalists, women, and enslaved and free African Americans.

The New Nation outlines the challenges faced by the United States in the 1780s – weak government under the Articles of Confederation, the unstable postwar economy and new social tensions – culminating with the creation of the Constitution as a framework for the future.

The American People explores the emergence of a new national identity following the Revolution – influenced by immigration, internal migration, and demographic, political and social changes. This section shows how the nation’s struggle for independence impacted not just America, but the world.

Historical Interaction Brings History to Life in Outdoor Re-created Settings

The living-history Continental Army encampment and Revolution-era farm continue as an integral part of the museum experience. An informational pavilion assists visitors with the transition from indoor galleries to the outdoor areas, where they engage in array of hands-on activities, from military drills to watering and weeding crops.

The encampment and farm support the new gallery storylines and expand capacity for visitor-participatory demonstrations. The encampment, which represents a portion of an American regiment with tents for soldiers and officers as well as surgeon’s and quartermaster’s quarters, includes a drill field and an artillery demonstration area with tiered seating that from the outside looks like a redoubt.

Situated just beyond the encampment, the farm has a larger house, kitchen and tobacco barn and a new building representing quarters for enslaved people, along with spaces for crop fields, kitchen garden and orchard. A specific 18th-century York County family serves as a frame of reference for historical interpretation.

American Revolution Museum at Yorktown Continues a Revolutionary Tradition

Located within the Jamestown-Williamsburg-Yorktown “Historic Triangle” and next to Yorktown National Battlefield, the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown opened in 1976 as one of three Virginia visitor centers for the Bicentennial of the American Revolution. The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, the state agency that also operates Jamestown Settlement, implemented structural and exhibit improvements in the 1990s, broadening the museum’s focus to encompass the entire Revolution.

The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown is the realization of a master plan adopted in 2007. The plan called for replacing the 1976 facility, with the new building positioned on the 22-acre site to allow for continued operation throughout construction, and repositioning and reconstructing the encampment and farm. An important feature of the new building is an education center, with five classrooms and a separate entrance, to serve student groups and the general public with dynamic, interactive learning experiences.

Planning, building and exhibit construction, and renovations to the site, including living-history areas, are funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Major components of the project total approximately $50 million. Private donations to the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown Campaign for Support are funding elements of gallery and outdoor exhibits, including artifact acquisitions, and educational resources.

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00099.079 Author/Creator: Pendleton, Edmund (1721-1803) Place Written: Caroline Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 19 November 1781 Pagination: 1 p. 21 x 17 cm

Important letter on Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown. Visually attractive letter. Mentions: American victory at Yorktown, Count De Grasse, Gen. Greene, Charleston (S.C.), Military rumors.

Copyright Notice The copyright law of the United States (title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specific conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.” If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of “fair use,” that user may be liable for copyright infringement. This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law.

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Excerpted from the George Washington Book Prize finalist

First, an inexplicably protracted Atlantic crossing prevented French admiral Comte d'Estaing from trapping the enemy's fleet in Philadelphia. Shortly after that, d'Estaing turned his attention to British-occupied New York, only to call off the attack for fear his ships would run aground at the bar across the harbor mouth. A few weeks after that, a storm off the coast of southern New England prevented d'Estaing from engaging the British in a naval battle that promised to be a glorious victory for France.

Since then, a botched amphibious assault at Savannah, Georgia, had marked the only other significant action on the part of the French navy, a portion of which now lay frustratingly dormant at Newport at the southern end of Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay. By the fall of 1780, amid the aftershocks of devastating defeats at Charleston and Camden in South Carolina and Benedict Arnold's treasonous attempt to surrender the fortress at West Point to the enemy, Washington had come to wonder whether the ships of his salvation would ever appear.

For the last two years he'd been locked in an unproductive standoff with Sir Henry Clinton, the British commander in North America, in and around New York City. What fighting had occurred had been, for the most part, in the south, where British general Charles Cornwallis sought to build upon his recent victories by pushing into North Carolina. Between the northern and southern theaters of the war lay the inland sea of the Chesapeake, which had enjoyed a period of relative quiet since the early days of the conflict.

All that changed in December 1780, when Clinton sent his newest brigadier general, the traitor Benedict Arnold, to Virginia. Having already dispatched the Rhode Islander Nathanael Greene to do battle with Cornwallis in the Carolinas, Washington sent the young French nobleman whom he regarded as a surrogate son, the Marquis de Lafayette, in pursuit of Arnold.

Thus began the movement of troops that resulted nine months later in Cornwallis's entrapment at the shoreside hamlet of Yorktown, when a large fleet of French warships arrived from the Caribbean. As Washington had long since learned, coordinating his army's movements with those of a fleet of sail-powered men-of-war based two thousand miles away was virtually impossible. But in the late summer of 1781, the impossible happened.

And then, just a few days later, a fleet of British warships appeared.

The Battle of the Chesapeake took place near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay on September 5, 1781.

The Battle of the Chesapeake has been called the most important naval engagement in the history of the world. Fought outside the entrance of the bay between French admiral Comte de Grasse's twenty-four ships of the line and a slightly smaller British fleet commanded by Rear Admiral Thomas Graves, the battle inflicted severe enough damage on the Empire's ships that Graves returned to New York for repairs. By preventing the rescue of seven thousand British and German soldiers under the command of General Cornwallis, de Grasse's victory on September 5,1781, made Washington's subsequent triumph at Yorktown a virtual fait accompli. Peace would not be officially declared for another two years, but that does not change the fact that a naval battle fought between the French and the British was largely responsible for the independence of the United States.

Despite its undeniable significance, the Battle of the Chesapeake plays only a minor part in most popular accounts of the war, largely because no Americans participated in it. If the sea figures at all in the story of the Revolutionary War, the focus tends to be on the heroics of John Paul Jones off England's Flamborough Head, even though that two-ship engagement had little impact on the overall direction of the conflict. Instead of concentrating on the sea, the traditional narrative of Yorktown focuses on the allied army's long overland journey south, with a special emphasis on the collaborative relationship between Washington and his French counterpart the Comte de Rochambeau. In this view, the encounter between the French and British fleets was a mere prelude to the main event. In my book, I hope to put the sea where it properly belongs: at the center of the story.

As Washington understood with a perspicacity that none of his military peers could match, only the intervention of the French navy could achieve the victory the times required. Six months before the Battle of the Chesapeake, during the winter of 1781, he had urged the French to send a large fleet of warships to the Chesapeake in an attempt to trap Benedict Arnold in Portsmouth, Virginia. What was, in effect, a dress rehearsal for the Yorktown campaign is essential to understanding the evolving, complex, and sometimes acrimonious relationship between Washington and Rochambeau. As we will see, the two leaders were not the selfless military partners of American legend each had his own jealously guarded agenda, and it was only after Washington reluctantly — and angrily — acquiesced to French demands that they began to work in concert.

The naval Battle of the Chesapeake kept reinforcements and supplies from British General Charles Cornwallis, who was forced to surrendered afterwards at Yorktown. John Trumbull painted this mural for the U.S. Capitol showing Cronwallis (center), even though he was not himself present at the surrender).

Ultimately, the course of the Revolutionary War came down to America's proximity to the sea—a place of storms and headwinds that no one could control. Instead of an inevitable march to victory, Yorktown was the result of a hurried rush of seemingly random events—from a hurricane in the Caribbean, to a bloody battle amid the woods near North Carolina's Guilford Courthouse, to the loan of 500,000 Spanish pesos from the citizens of Havana, Cuba — all of which had to occur before Cornwallis arrived at Yorktown and de Grasse sailed into the Chesapeake.

That the pieces finally fell into place in September and October 1781 never ceased to amaze Washington. "I am sure," he wrote the following spring, "that there never was a people who had more reason to acknowledge a divine interposition in their affairs than those of the United States."

The victory at Yorktown was improbable at best, but it was also the result of a strategy Washington had been pursuing since the beginning of the French alliance. My book is the story of how Washington's unrelenting quest for naval superiority made possible the triumph at Yorktown. It is also the story of how, in a supreme act of poetic justice, the final engagement of the war brought him back to the home he had not seen in six years. For it was here, on a river in Virginia, that he had first began to learn about the wonder, power, and ultimate indifference of the sea.

Victory at Yorktown

On the morning of October 19th, 1781, British troops along with their allies marched out of Yorktown, Virginia with flags furled to surrender to combined American and French forces. The siege and surrender at Yorktown proved to be the decisive blow to British hopes of regaining control of the American colonies. To celebrate the anniversary of the surrender, the National Archives Motion Picture Department would like to share a film by the National Park Service, recreating the official surrender ceremony while also discussing the siege and its impact.

Victory at Yorktown (Local Identifier: 79-HFC-88)

By the summer of 1781, the Americans had been struggling for independence for six years. They had received a major boost in 1778 when the French had declared open war on the British and sent direct aid to the colonies. This support fully materialized in 1780 when a French fleet under the command of Comte de Rochambeau arrived in Rhode Island with around 5,500 troops. There George Washington met with Rochambeau to plan where to attack the British forces. Washington wanted the combined Franco-American forces to move against New York City, where General Sir Henry Clinton, the overall commander of British forces in America, was stationed. The Compte de Rochambeau, however, favored attacking the southern wing of British forces, under the command of General Charles Cornwallis in Virginia, where the British were in a much weaker position. The deciding factor was the Admiral Comte De Grasse, commanding the French West Indies fleet, who had been ordered to swing north after attacking British positions in the Caribbean. De Grasse (with input from Rochambeau) communicated his intentions to sail for the Chesapeake Bay and attack Cornwallis, settling the debate. Washington agreed and the combined armies began moving south in August, leaving behind a small force to deceive Clinton into believing an attack on New York was imminent.

Meanwhile, the British leadership, under General Clinton, spent much of 1781 issuing vague and often contradictory orders. Clinton was worried that the combined Franco-American forces would indeed attempt to lay siege to New York and ordered Cornwallis to send any troops he could spare north to aid in its defense. After Cornwallis had begun loading troops onto transport ships and was making preparations to sail north, Clinton directly countered his previous orders and ordered him to fortify either Yorktown or Williamsburg to fulfill a request by the Royal Navy to secure a southern deep water port, noting limitations of New York harbor. Cornwallis pointed out that due to the geography of the Chesapeake Bay region, any naval base would always be open to an attack. Nevertheless, he complied with the order and after inspecting various locations settled on Yorktown as the best option and began fortifying the location while communicating as such to Clinton.

While these events were transpiring, Admiral De Grasse’s fleet had sailed north, unbeknownst to the British, who had not expected his entire fleet to head towards the American colonies. De Grasse reached the Chesapeake Bay at the end of August, where he set up a blockade of the York and James rivers to prevent any aid from reaching Cornwallis. Once the British command knew that the allied force was headed south, the Royal Navy departed with nineteen ships while Clinton warned Cornwallis and assured him he was sending 4,000 reinforcements. On September 5th, the Royal Navy force made it to the Chesapeake and found the French fleet anchored there. De Grasse ordered his ships to attack, and in the ensuing Battle of the Chesapeake Bay, also known as the Battle of the Virginia Capes, or more simply the Battle of the Capes, the French ended up victorious. After the British fleet retreated and headed back to New York for repairs, the French navy began ferrying troops to the encirclement of Yorktown.

On September 28, 1781, General George Washington led over 17,000 soldiers to begin the encirclement and siege of Yorktown, occupied by over 8,000 British troops. Cornwallis recognized that he could not hold out for long without reinforcements, so he wrote to General Clinton informing him of the dire situation. Clinton responded back that he had would send the navy with 5,000 troops from New York at the beginning of October. In the Meantime, Cornwallis and his soldiers constructed a mainline of defenses around the town consisting of ten small enclosed forts known as redoubts connected by trenches and artillery positions. The Franco-American forces had begun digging a trench opposite the British lines once they had reached Yorktown and by October 9 had finished them and moved their own artillery into place. On the night of October 11th, they began construction of a second line 400 yards in front of the British. Before they could be finished, however, redoubts 9 and 10 had to be captured from the British. During the night of October 14th, 400 French and 400 Americans stormed both redoubts and successfully captured them.

After several last desperate attempts to escape, Cornwallis realized the situation was hopeless and sent a solitary drummer followed by an officer flying a white flag with a note to General Washington to begin discussions of formal surrender. The next day, four officers: one American, one French, and several British met at Moore House outside Yorktown to lay out the formal surrender ceremonies. The terms were rather strict: their flags must be furled and there were to be no regimental marches or cadences, leaving British musicians to play the popular tune “The World Turned Upside Down.” On October 19th, Cornwallis marched his army out of Yorktown to lay down its arms. Between two lines of soldiers, one American and the other French, the British and Hessian soldiers proceed to an open field, known today as “Surrender field” to lay down their arms or “ground their firelocks,” in 18th-century military language.

These events were recreated almost 190 years later by historic reenactors in front of cameras for “Victory at Yorktown” and narrated by William Conrad. This is actually the second time that this film has been covered in the Unwritten-Record. Five years ago Heidi Holstrom wrote about Mark Meader, a Specialist within Motion Pictures who had spent over forty years participating in living history reenactments, including his participation in this very film, which you may read more about here. The film ends with a list of participating reenactment organizations.

Welcome aboard the American Victory Ship and Museum, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization! As one of only 4 fully-operational WWII ships in the country, the American Victory Ship is a true American icon and is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. Anchor your place in American maritime history by experiencing an unforgettable voyage of discovery. Come aboard and witness virtually the entire ship including cavernous three-level cargo holds, radio and gyro rooms, hospital, galley, weaponry, steering stations, flying bridge, signaling equipment, wheelhouse, mess halls, crew cabins, lifeboats, the Captain's quarters, cargo equipment and the engine. Enjoy rare artifacts, exciting exhibits, uniforms, medals, documents and photographs. It's all right here throughout nine decks and our 455'x109' cargo vessel.

We are a world-class, shipboard, maritime museum dedicated to honoring the men and women who built, sailed, protected and provided service, worldwide, through the American Merchant Fleet since 1775 during times of peace and war. The American Victory Ship and Museum is a mighty beacon to veterans, active military and its community. It transports you back nearly seven decades to when brave sailors fought the harsh seas to reach their comrades around the world servicing in the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, carrying ammunition, goods, cargo, equipment, materials and troops necessary to defend our county. As the "unsung heroes" of numerous conflicts and the military, the merchant marines experienced the highest percentage rate of casualties of any service.

The American Victory Ship and Museum receives very little city, county, state, federal or tax dollar financial support. It relies heavily on private donations, grassroots efforts, and sincere dedication from its group of committed volunteers. We look forward to welcoming you aboard!

Hotels Near Yorktown

    – 508 Water Street (757) 898-3232 - 702 Main Street (757) 369-0200) - 220 Church Street (757) 898- 3859 - 329 Commonwealth Drive (757) 952-1120 - 105 Cybernetics Way (757) 874-9000 - 7833 George Washington Hwy. (757) 898-5436 - 4531 George Washington Hwy. (757) 283-1111 - 401 Commonwealth Drive (757) 251- 6644 - 200 Cybernetics Way (757) 874-8884 - 8829 George Washington Hwy. (757) 898-5451)

This Historic Triangle is a popular destination for visitors and offers an unparalleled view of colonial America at a time when Virginia was a powerful center of politics, commerce and culture. For a longer getaway, spend some time visiting Jamestown and Williamsburg.

Victory in the Balance – Yorktown: Ending the Revolutionary War

The siege of Yorktown began on 28 September 1781. It was to last until October 19. In the weeks preceding the final battle, the British held the upper hand. General Charles Lord Cornwallis commanded 9,000 seasoned veterans in the twin ports of Yorktown and Gloucester.

Offshore, in the Atlantic, a fleet of Royal Navy warships was sailing to the Chesapeake with supplies and reinforcements. Opposing Cornwallis, at first, were but 3,000 ill-equipped American Continentals under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette.

The Marquis de Lafayette visiting George Washington in 1777 during the American Revolutionary War.

Prelude: Franco-American Cooperation

The genesis for the Battle of Yorktown is found in the alliance formed between the fledgling United States and France in 1777. King Louis XVI and his chevaliers were determined to exact revenge for the losses France had suffered at the hands of the English during the Seven Years War. In the early years of the revolution, France offered little support to America.

By mid-1781, however, the French decided to act. The Comte de Rochambeau was dispatched to Newport, Rhode Island with 11,000 French army troops. At the same time, the Americans sent word to Admiral de Grasse in the West Indies, requesting him to sail north with his fleet of twenty-nine warships.

Originally, the point of attack was to be New York, headquarters of the British in North America. Reluctantly, General Washington agreed to the alternative plan proposed by General Rochambeau: attack Cornwallis in Yorktown, Virginia. Among other factors cited by the French commander, Yorktown would be easier on Admiral De Grasse, who insisted he would return to the Caribbean in mid-October, after the close of the hurricane season.

Franco-American routes during the Yorktown campaign.

The Battle of the Chesapeake

When de Grasse arrived in Virginia in late August he found no Royal Navy ships of consequence there. That would change when, a few days later, a fleet of British ships was sighted bearing down on the Chesapeake, in numbers equal to the French fleet.

The sea battle that ensued was fought in traditional line-of-battle formation and was essentially a draw. Nonetheless, Admiral Thomas Graves decided to return to New York. His fateful decision left the Chesapeake open to the French and Cornwallis’s avenue of re-supply cut off.

Still, Cornwallis could have escaped the noose closing around him simply by marching his army out of Yorktown. Lafayette’s small force could have done little to stop him. Why he chose to remain in Yorktown is unclear perhaps he was simply holding to the promise that he would be rescued by the Royal Navy.

Meanwhile, General Washington was leading an army of 8,000 regulars, 3,100 militia, and 10,800 French soldiers south from White Plains, New York. They arrived in Williamsburg on September 14.

The Battle of the Chesapeake where the French Navy defeated the Royal Navy in 1781

The Battle of Yorktown

Cornwallis was now hemmed in on land and sea. Escape had become impossible. He had no choice but to fight.

With the arrival of the allies, the siege began. The French army took position on the left side of Yorktown, the American on the position of honor on the right.

The first parallel was constructed, then the second, moving allied artillery ever closer to the British defenses. Day after day those defenses were bombarded by French and American cannon. Outer British defenses, called redoubts, were assaulted, captured, and added to the allied lines, thus closing the noose ever tighter.

Finally the British had had enough. On the morning of October 17, a young drummer boy and a Royal Army officer waving a white handkerchief appeared atop the British defenses. The battle ended just as a massive rescue fleet dispatched from British headquarters in New York approached the Chesapeake.

Storming of redoubt#10 during the Siege of Yorktown.

The Miracle of Yorktown

The victory at Yorktown effectively ended the Revolutionary War. No further land or sea battles of consequence were fought in North America. But for several weeks, which side would prevail at Yorktown hung in the balance. If the British Navy had won the Battle of the Chesapeake, the French fleet under de Grasse would have had to withdraw.

The allied army under Washington and Rochambeau would then have been caught in a vise between Cornwallis’s army marching north from Virginia and a second British army marching south from New York. Or, if Cornwallis had marched out of Yorktown when he had the chance, to fight another day, the outcome of the war could well have been different.

By 1781, many Americans had grown tired of war and didn’t much care who won as long as the war ended. As for France, if the British had been victorious in Yorktown, or if Cornwallis had avoided a battle there, the empire of King Louis XVI would have suffered a terrible blow.

The French treasury was nearly bankrupt. Further aid to America would have been impossible, and the fledging United States would not survive without French aid.

Revolutionary War victory at Yorktown began with picks and shovels

YORKTOWN — When the British army woke up on the morning of Oct. 7, 1781, one of the most decisive moments in the Siege of Yorktown and the winning of American independence had already come and gone.

American and French troops digging under the cover of darkness through a stormy night had completed a crucial 2,000-yard-long trench that would enable them to bring their superior artillery within range of the British defenses.

Two days later those guns would open fire with the first shots in a lethal bombardment that insured the triumph of the American Revolution.

Barely a week before, Washington and his allied army had marched from Williamsburg, stopping at Endview Plantation as they approached the British defenses along the old Yorktown Road. Taking up the outermost ring of earthworks as their foes pulled back, the American and French troops spent several days sorting out their lines and sizing up the most advantageous positions for their guns before they started digging.

As the Allies prepared to excavate -- and cut down thousands of trees to use in constructing their siege works --the British army under Lord Cornwallis began to slaughter horses that couldn't be fed and threw their bodies into the York River. But the tide washed them back to the beach, compounding the Crown's increasingly uncertain position with the stench of hundreds of rotting carcasses.

No until after hemming in a mounted British force foraging for badly needed supplies outside Gloucester Point did the Allies begin to dig their first trench paralleling the enemy's earthworks on the evening of Oct. 6. According to tradition, Washington marked the importance of the moment with a ceremonial swing of the first pick, followed by wave after wave of soldiers opening up the earth along a 2,000-yard path marked out by the engineers.

Yorktown Victory Monument 03

Damaged Yorktown Victory Monument, July 1942

The monument was begun in 1881, the crowning figure set on August 12, 1884, and it was officially reported as complete, with a 12 foot wide granite pavement around it, all enclosed by a simple iron fence "to keep meddlesome people at a distance," by Lt. Col. William P. Craighill, Corps of U.S. Engineers, in a communication, dated January 5, 1885, to the Secretary of War. This in turn was transmitted to Congress. It was not until June 1890 that the Monument was officially inspected by a designated group who reported on the work that had been consummated. A special edition of a report on the construction of the Monument was authorized by a concurrant resolution of Congress in 1892. Of the specified five thousand copies, some two thousand, bound "in full leather," were to be earmarked for distribution to descendents of the French who fought at Yorktown. Lt. Col. William P. Craighill of the Army Engineers wrote in his completion report that:

The monument at Yorktown having been completed, it seems necessary to make provision for the accommodation of a watchman, as the location is isolated, and without some oversight this beautiful structure would soon be marred by relic hunters and other mischievous or inconsiderate persons.

For some time an enlisted man from the army was detailed as "keeper of the monument" but measures to secure a regular position for a watchman together with a keeper's house were not successful.

The present monument in its origin, in its design, and in its associations, is symbolic of the great victory which was achieved at Yorktown through the French-American alliance. Today, complete with its "emblems" and "inscriptions," as specified by the Congress in 1781 and again in 1880, it still stands after a century occupying a vantage point in Yorktown. It is "within the line of defense of Cornwallis" and, with its grounds, covers four original Yorktown lots, numbers 80-83. Some 98 feet high, it overlooks the wide harbor of the York River, from which it is visible, and forms a part of the familiar scene that is remembered by the many thousands who have seen it in the passing years. In this long span it has stood undisturbed and unchanged except for the severe damage to the figure of "Liberty" that came during an electrical storm on July 29, 1942.

Because of lightning damage, it was necessary to replace "Liberty" and a commission for the new figure was given to Sculptor Oskar J.W. Hansen. The completed work was placed in 1956. At the same time lightning protection was added to the shaft which was thoroughly cleaned and repointed. This work on the Monument to the Alliance and Victory was completed in time for the annual Yorktown day exercise in 1957.

In 1990, "Liberty" was again struck by lightning, suffering damage to the figure's hands and torso. Repairs were made that same year and the lightning rod system was upgraded.

Today the monument still stands as a fitting symbol to the French and American victory at Yorktown on October 19, 1781 - a victory that resulted in American Independence.

Watch the video: Americas Final Victory - 1781 (July 2022).


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