Lossing's Field Book of the Revolution, Vol. II., Chapter XII.







Ride to Yorktown. – William Nelson, Esq. – Location and Appearance of Yorktown. – Its early Settlement. – Old Church at Yorktown. – The Nelson Tombs. – Cornwallis’s Cave. – An Imposition. – Present Appearance of the British Works. – American and French Armies. – Morris and Peters. – Change in Plan of Operations. – Cornwallis ordered to the Chesapeake. – Takes Post at Yorktown and Gloucester, and Fortifies them. – Sketch of Cornwallis. – Southern Campaign. – De Grasse in the Chesapeake. – Sketch of De Grasse. – Cornwallis’s Attempt to Escape into Carolina. – Admirals Hood and Graves proceed against the French Fleet. – Naval Battle off the Virginia Capes. – French Squadron. – Loss in the Naval Action. – March of the Allied Armies. – Arrival of Washington and French Officers at Williamsburg. – Arrival of Troops at Williamsburg. – Washington’s first Interview with De Grasse. – Approach of the Allied Armies. – Death of Colonel Scammell. – Yorktown and Gloucester invested. – General Arrangements of the Land and Naval Forces. – French Officers. – Biographical Sketch of Lieutenant-colonel Stevens. – Position of the American Corps. – Approach by Parallels. – Cannonade and Bombardment. – Burning of British Ships. – Continued Approaches toward the British Works. – Preparations to Storm Redoubts. – Plan of the Siege of Yorktown. – Successful Assault upon two Redoubts. – Loss sustained by the Combatants. – Bravery and Loss of the French Grenadiers. – Desperate Situation of Cornwallis. – Sortie. – Attempt of Cornwallis to Escape. – Providential Interposition. – Count Dumas. – Patriotism of Gov. Nelson. – Bombardment of his Mansion. – Cornwallis’s Proposition to Surrender. – Destruction in Yorktown. – Ceremonies at the Surrender of the British Army. – Delivery of the Colors. – Conduct of Cornwallis in the Carolinas. – Laying down of Arms. – Loss of both Armies. – Washington’s expressed Approbation of Officers. – Disposition of Prisoners. – A Jubilee for Prisoners. – Intelligence of the Surrender at Philadelphia. – Proceedings of Congress. – Rochambeau. – Awards of Congress to Officers. – General Rejoicings. – Proceedings in Parliament. – Lord North’s Agitation. – Designs upon Southern British Ports. – St. Clair’s Success. – Washington’s Journey to Philadelphia. – Localities at Yorktown. – Moore’s House and its Associations. – Place of Surrender. – Governor Nelson’s House. – Departure for Hampton. – Arrival at Hampton. – Old Point Comfort. – Early History. – Hampton Roads. – Dunmore’s Attack. – Repulse of Dunmore. – St. John’s Church. – Attack on Hampton in 1813. – Voyage to Norfolk. – St. Paul’s Church and its Associations. – Ride to the Great Bridge. – Description of the Locality. – Dunmore at Norfolk. – Seizure of Holt’s Printing-office. – Holt’s Career. – Preparations for Battle. – Fortifications at the Great Bridge. – Attack on the American Redoubt. – Death of Capt. Fordyce. – Stratagem of Maj. Marshall. – Close of the Battle. – Terror of the Captives. – Norfolk entered by the Americans. – Dunmore’s Threat. – Destruction of Norfolk. – Distress. – Disposition of the American Troops. – Dunmore at Gwyn’s Island. – General Lewis. – Attack upon Dunmore. – His Flight. – Distress upon Gwyn’s Island. – Destruction of Property by Collier and Matthews. – Leslie’s Expedition. – Deep Creek and Dismal Swamp. – Drummond’s Lake. – Moore’s Farm. – Return to Norfolk. – Portsmouth and Gosport. – French and English Fleets. – Attempt to capture Arnold.


Again to fair Virginia’s coast
I turned, and view’d the British host
Where Chesapeake’s wide waters lave
Her shores and join the Atlantic wave.
There famed Cornwallis towering rose,
And scorned, secure, his distant foes;
His bands the haughty ramparts raise,
And bid the royal standard blaze.
When lo, where ocean’s bounds extend,
Behold the Gallic sails ascend,
With fav’ring breezes steer their way,
And crowd with ships the spacious bay.
Lo! Washington from northern shores,
O’er many a region wheels his force,
And Rochambeau with legions bright
Descends in terror to the fight.



Evening was approaching when I left Williamsburg for Yorktown, twelve miles distant. It was an exceedingly pleasant afternoon, so mild, that wild flowers peeped cautiously from the hedges, and a wasp and a grasshopper alighted on the splash-board of my wagon, while stopping on the margin of a clear stream. Soon after leaving Williamsburg, the road entered a pine forest; and all the way to Yorktown these solitudes form the principal feature in the landscape. The country is quite level, and the cultivated clearings are more frequent and extensive than further up toward the Chickahominy. The green foliage of the lofty pines, of the modest holly, and the spreading laurel, made the forest journey less gloomy than it would otherwise have been; for the verdure, the balmy air, and the occasional note of a bird, made me forget that the Christmas holidays were near at hand, and that the mountains of New England were probably white with snow.

I arrived at Yorktown at twilight [Dec. 20, 1848.], and passed the night at the only inn in the place, which is owned by William Nelson, Esq., grandson of Governor Thomas Nelson, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. To the kindness and intelligence of that gentleman, I am indebted for much of the pleasure and profit of my visit there. We supped together upon far-famed York River oysters just brought from their oozy bed, and it was near midnight before we parted company. Mr. Nelson resides in the fine old mansion which belonged to his grandfather, and which yet bears marks of the iron hail poured upon it during the siege of Yorktown.

Early the next morning I strolled over the village. It is situated upon a high bluff of concrete or stone marl, covered with a sandy soil, on the south side of the York River, about eleven miles from its mouth. The peninsula on which the town stands is level, and is embraced upon each side by deep ravines, which almost meet in the rear. The ground is the highest upon either the York or James Rivers, below Richmond. Being the shire town of the county, it contains the public buildings. 1 These, with about forty dwellings, some of them decaying, compose the village, which formerly was one of the most flourishing towns on the peninsula. It contained about sixty houses at the time of the siege in 1781. A fire which occurred in 1814 destroyed much property there, and from that blow the village seems never to have recovered. At that time its old church, built a century and a half before, was destroyed; nothing but its stone-marl walls were left standing. In this picturesque condition it remained for thirty years, when it was repaired, and is now used as a place of worship.


In the old burial-ground adjoining it are the tombs and monuments of the Nelson family, situated a few yards from the banks of the York. The nearer one in the engraving, which stands over the grave of the first emigrant of the family (who was called "Scotch Tom"), although mutilated, is yet highly ornamental. It is about four feet high, three feet wide, and six feet long. Upon one end are sculptured two angel-heads breaking from the clouds. Over the upper one are the words, "All glory be to God." The one below it is blowing a trumpet. On the other end are two heads, one of which is about receiving a crown. On the side is an heraldic cloth, with the head of an angel at the center of the top; and on the top slab is the Nelson coat of arms, with an appropriate epitaph. This monument is of white marble, and was made in London. The second monument is that of president William Nelson. It is built of brick, with a handsomely wrought and inscribed marble slab on the top. In a vault at the end of the fragment of the brick wall seen beyond the monuments, rest the remains of Governor Nelson, the signer of the Declaration. There is no monument above it, and nothing marks the spot but a rough stone lying among the rank grass. Around these are strewn fragments of the stone marl of the old church wall, beautifully crystallized, and indurated by exposure. The view from this point is very charming, looking out upon the York stretching away toward the broad Chesapeake, and skirted by woodlands and cultivated fields.


After breakfast, accompanied by Mr. Nelson in his carriage, I visited the several localities which make Yorktown historically famous. We first descended the river bank and visited the excavation in the marl bluff, known as Cornwallis’s Cave. It is square, twelve by eighteen feet in size, with a narrow passage leading to a smaller circular excavation on one side. It is almost directly beneath the termination of the trench and breast-works of the British fortifications, which are yet very prominent upon the bank above. Popular tradition says that this excavation was made by order of Cornwallis, and used by him for the purpose of holding councils with his officers in a place of safety, during the siege. Taking advantage of this tradition, cupidity has placed a door at the entrance, secured it by lock and key, and demands a Virginia ninepence (12 ½ cents) entrance fee from the curious. I paid the penalty of curiosity, knowing that I was submitting to imposition, for I was assured, on the authority of an old lady who resided at Yorktown at the time of the siege, that this excavation was made by some of the people wherein to hide their valuables. A house stood directly in front of it, the foundation of which is yet there. The building made the spot still more secluded. A quarter of a mile below, Lord Cornwallis did have an excavation in the bank, which was lined with green baize, and used by the general for secret conferences during the siege. No traces of his council chamber are left.


We next visited the lines of intrenchments cast up by the British on the south and easterly sides of the town. They extend in irregular lines from the river bank to the sloping grounds in the rear of the village, toward the "Pigeon Quarter," as it was termed, in the form of a figure five. The mounds vary in height, from six to twelve and fifteen feet, and being covered by a hard sward, may remain so half a century longer. The places of redoubts, the lines of the parallels, and other things connected with the siege, are yet visible. These, and their character and uses, may be better understood after receiving the instructions of history. Let us listen to her teachings.

We have considered the flight of Cornwallis from Jamestown to Portsmouth, opposite Norfolk, after his engagement with the Americans at the former place, on the evening of the sixth of July, 1781. On that day Rochambeau joined Washington at Dobbs’ Ferry, on the Hudson, and the two generals earnestly conferred respecting an attack upon the city of New York by the allied armies. Washington had written to Count De Grasse, then with a French fleet in the West Indies, desiring him to sail immediately for Sandy Hook, and cooperate with the land forces against the head-quarters of the British army. While the commander-in-chief was making his arrangements for the enterprise against New York, circumstances obliged him to abandon it. The arrival of re-enforcements for the British commander; a letter from De Grasse announcing his intention to remain in the West Indies, and another from La Fayette from Williamsburg, informing him of the departure of Cornwallis for Portsmouth and the embarkation of a large portion of his army for New York, were the principal causes which influenced Washington in making an entire change in the programme of the operations of the combined armies during the remainder of the campaign. 4 As we have observed (p. 781, vol. i.) the allies crossed the Hudson and marched southward to co-operate with La Fayette in Virginia.


(From an English Print.)

On the arrival of nearly three thousand troops, many of them Hessians, to re-enforce him in New York [Aug. 11, 1781.], Sir Henry Clinton countermanded his orders in which he had directed Cornwallis to send a portion of his army northward. The letter reached the earl at Portsmouth before the transports left Hampton Roads. It also contained expressions of surprise that his lordship should have left the vicinity of Williamsburg without consulting his commander-in-chief; and he was directed to take some strong position on the Chesapeake, in order to carry on his harassing warfare in Virginia and Maryland. Cornwallis accordingly sent his engineers to view, first Old Point Comfort, near Hampton, and then Yorktown and Gloucester. The latter places appeared to be the most eligible for offensive and defensive operations, and for the protection of any co-operative fleet that might be sent to the Chesapeake. A part of Cornwallis’s army accordingly proceeded up the York River in transports and boats, and took possession of these posts on the first of September [1781. {original text has 1780.}]. On the twentieth, the evacuation of Portsmouth was completed; and on the twenty-second, the whole army of the earl, about seven thousand strong, was concentrated at York and Gloucester. Cornwallis immediately commenced fortifying both points. He constructed a line of works completely around Yorktown, and also extended a line of intrenchments across the peninsula of Gloucester, in the rear of that little town. Besides the works in close proximity to Yorktown, he constructed some field works at a considerable distance, to impede the approach of an enemy. 6 All this time La Fayette was within a few miles of the earl, but neither party dared strike a blow. The marquis did not feel sufficiently strong to attack Cornwallis, and the latter was unwilling to impede the progress in fortifying Yorktown, by engaging his troops in other enterprises.


While Washington was uncertain what course to pursue, he received dispatches from Count De Barras, 7 the successor of Ternay at Newport, bearing the agreeable intelligence that the Count De Grasse 8 was to sail from Cape François, in the West Indies, on the thirteenth of August for the Chesapeake, with between twenty-five and twenty-nine sail of the line, and three thousand two hundred land troops under the command of the Marquis St. Simon. De Grasse desired every thing to be in readiness to commence operations when he should arrive, for he intended to return to the West Indies by the middle of October. 9 The plan of the southern campaign was, therefore, speedily arranged, and, as we have seen, the allied armies were far on their march toward the head of Elk before Sir Henry Clinton was assured of their real destination. 10

The Count De Grasse, with twenty-eight ships and several brigades, arrived in the Chesapeake at the close of August [Aug. 31, 1781.]. At Cape Henry, an officer sent by La Fayette gave De Grasse full information respecting the situation of the two armies in Virginia. De Grasse immediately dispatched four ships of the line and several frigates to blockade the mouth of the York River, and to convey the land forces commanded by the Marquis De St. Simon (for portrait, see next page), who were destined to join those of La Fayette on the James River. 11 Cornwallis now perceived the imminent peril that surrounded him, and conceived a plan for escaping into North Carolina, but the vigilance of La Fayette prevented his attempting the movement. 12 He could console himself only with the hope that Sir Henry Clinton would send him timely aid.


Admiral Rodney, commander of the British fleet in the West Indies, at this time was aware that De Grasse had sailed for the American coast, but seems not to have suspected that his whole fleet would proceed to the Continent. He dispatched Sir Samuel Hood after him with only fourteen sail, believing that that number would be quite sufficient to compete with the French squadron. Hood arrived at Sandy Hook on the twenty-eighth of August, and informed Admiral Graves, the successor of Arbuthnot, who was lying in New York Bay with seven ships of the line, only five of which were fit for service, that De Grasse was probably on the Virginia coast. Intelligence was received on the same day, that De Barras had sailed for the Chesapeake from Newport with a considerable squadron. Graves immediately prepared for sea, and with the whole fleet, consisting of nineteen sail of the line, proceeded in quest of the French [Aug. 31, 1781.]. Not suspecting the strength of De Grasse, he hoped to fall in with one or the other of the French squadrons and defeat it

The French fleet lay in Lynn Haven Bay, just within the Chesapeake, near Cape Henry, on the morning of the fifth of September [1781.]. At sunrise the British fleet was seen off Cape Charles. At first Count De Grasse supposed it to be the squadron of De Barras, but being soon undeceived, he prepared for battle. The wind was fair, and the British fleet sailed directly within the Capes for the purpose of attacking the French. De Grasse slipped his cables, and put to sea, desiring more room for conflict than the waters of the Chesapeake afforded. Admiral Graves bore down upon De Grasse, and both fleets, in attempting to gain the weather gage, slowly moved eastward, clear of the Capes, upon the broad Atlantic. At four o’clock in the afternoon, a partial action commenced between the van and part of the center of the two fleets, and continued until sunset. Several ships were considerably damaged, but neither commander could claim a victory. Admiral Graves preserved the weather gage during the night, and intended to have renewed the battle on the following morning; but, having ascertained that several ships of the van division, under Admiral Drake, could not safely be brought into action again without being repaired, he deferred an attack. For five successive days the hostile fleets were in sight of each other, sometimes approaching quite near, but neither party seemed desirous of renewing the contest. At length the Count De Grasse bore away for the Chesapeake, and anchored again in Lynn Haven Bay, within the Capes [Sept. 10.]. There he found De Barras with his squadron, and a considerable land force under M. De Choisé (for portrait, see opposite page), together with fourteen transports, with heavy artillery and military stores suitable for carrying on a siege. Graves approached the Capes of the Chesapeake, but, finding the entrance blocked up by a force with which he was unable to contend with a hope of success, he bore away and returned to New York, for he began to entertain greater fears of the equinoctial gales on the coast than of the guns of the French ships of the line. The French lost in the action two hundred and twenty men, including four officers killed and eighteen wounded. The English lost ninety killed, and two hundred and forty-six wounded. The Terrible, one of the English ships, was so much damaged, that, after taking out her prisoners and stores, they set fire to and burned her. 14


While these events were occurring on the Virginia coast, the allied armies were making their way southward with all possible dispatch, and Sir Henry Clinton, certified of their destination, 15 was trying to divert their attention from the South, and recall some of their forces by menacing movements at the North. He sent Arnold with a strong force to attack New London, an event which we have considered on pages 610 to 613 of vol. 1 inclusive {original text has "42 and 45 inclusive".}. He also threatened New Jersey, and caused a rumor to go abroad that he was about to proceed with a strong force against the American posts in the Hudson Highlands, which Washington had left in charge of General Heath, with fourteen regiments. These movements and rumors failed to produce their desired effect; and the outrages committed by Arnold at New London and vicinity served only to heighten the exasperation of the patriot army, and nerve it to more vigorous action.

When the allied forces arrived at the head of Elk there were not vessels sufficient to transport them, and a large portion of the American troops, and all of the French, made their way to Baltimore and Annapolis by land. Washington, with Count De Rochambeau and the Marquis De Chastellux, 16 reached Baltimore on the eighth [Sept., 1781.], Mount Vernon on the tenth, 17 and Williamsburg on the evening of the fourteenth. He had ordered the troops that were embarked on the Chesapeake to halt, after learning that the fleet of De Grasse had left the Capes to fight Graves, but when he arrived at Williamsburg and found both French fleets in the Chesapeake, 18 he sent Count Fersen, one of Rochambeau’s aids, with ten transports from Barras’s squadron, to hasten the troops forward. This was speedily accomplished, and the forces at the head of Elk, and at Annapolis, proceeded by water to the James River.


On the seventeenth [Sept.], Washington, accompanied by Rochambeau, De Chastellux, and Generals Knox and Du Portail, proceeded to visit De Grasse on board of his flag-ship, the Ville de Paris, lying off Cape Henry. They sailed in a small vessel called the Queen Charlotte, and arrived on the eighteenth. Satisfactory arrangements were made for an immediate attack upon Cornwallis, as soon as the American troops should reach Williamsburg. 19 While awaiting their approach, information was received that Admiral Digby, with six ships of the line, had arrived at New York as a re-enforcement for Graves. Confident that nothing would be left untried in attempts to relieve Cornwallis, and thinking his situation in the Chesapeake unfavorable for an engagement with the augmented force of the English, now nearly equal to that of his own. De Grasse communicated to Washington his intention to leave a few frigates to blockade the York and James Rivers, and to put to sea with his ships of the line in quest of the British. This communication alarmed Washington, for a superior naval force might enter the Chesapeake in the mean while, and assist Cornwallis in making his escape. He prevailed upon De Grasse to remain, and on the twenty-fifth, the last division of the allied troops having reached Williamsburg, preparations for the siege commenced.

Cornwallis, with the main division of his army, occupied Yorktown. The main body of his troops were encamped on the open grounds in the rear of the town. Lieutenant-colonel Dundas, who did good service at Jamestown, occupied Gloucester, with about seven hundred men, and was joined by Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton and his legion when the siege commenced. The Duke De Lauzun with his legion, the marines from the squadron of Barras, and a brigade of Virginia militia under General Weeden, the whole commanded by the French General De Choisé, were sent to invest Gloucester.


On the morning of the twenty-eighth, the combined armies, about twelve thousand strong, left Williamsburg by different roads, and marched toward Yorktown. On their approach, the British left their field-works, and withdrew to those near the town, the remains of which are mentioned on a preceding page. 21 The American light infantry and a considerable body of French troops were ordered to take possession of these abandoned works, and to serve as a covering party for the troops while digging trenches and casting up breast-works. Cannonading from the town, and one or two sorties, occurred during the day. Colonel Alexander Scammell, 22 the officer of the day, while reconnoitering near the Fusileers’ redoubt (A), situated upon the river bank, at the mouth of a little stream on the extreme left, was surprised by two or three Hessian horsemen. He surrendered, but they shot him, and left him for dead. He was carried into Yorktown, and at the request of Washington, Cornwallis allowed him to be taken to Williamsburg. This circumstance is mentioned on page 430, volume i. I visited the site of the redoubt represented in the sketch, and was informed that Colonel Scammell was killed near the stream, which there crosses the river road from Williamsburg to Yorktown.


On the thirtieth the place was completely invested by the allied armies, their line extending in a semicircle, at a distance of nearly two miles from the British works, each wing resting upon the York River. The French troops occupied the left, the Americans the right, while Count De Grasse with his fleet remained in Lynn Haven Bay, to beat off any naval force which might come to the aid of Cornwallis. On the extreme left of the besieging army were the West India regiments under St. Simon, and next to them were the French light infantry regiments, commanded by the Baron and the Viscount Viomenil. The most distinguished colonels of these regiments were the Duke De Laval Montmorenci, and Counts William Deuxponts and Custine. (For portraits, see next page.) The French artillery and the quarters of the two chiefs occupied the center; and on the right, across a marsh, were the American artillery under General Knox, assisted by Colonel Lamb, Lieutenant-colonels Stevens 23 and Carrington, and Major Bauman; 24 the Virginian, Maryland, and Pennsylvanian troops, under Steuben; the New York, Rhode Island, and New Jersey troops, with sappers and miners under General James Clinton; the light infantry under La Fayette; and the Virginia militia under Governor Nelson. The quarters of General Lincoln were on the banks of Wormeley’s Creek, on the extreme right. The general disposition of the troops will be better understood by reference to the map on the next page.


From the first until the sixth of October, the besieging armies were employed in bringing up heavy ordnance, and making other preparations. The evening of the sixth was very dark and stormy, and under cover of the gloom, the first parallel 26 was commenced within six hundred yards of Cornwallis’s works. General Lincoln commanded the troops detailed for this service. So silently and so earnestly did they labor, that they were not discerned by the British sentinels, and before daylight the trenches were sufficiently complete to shield the laborers from the guns of the enemy. On the afternoon of the ninth, several batteries and redoubts were completed, and a general discharge of twenty-four and eighteen pounders was commenced by the Americans on the right. This cannonade was kept up without intermission during the night, and early the next morning [Oct. 10, 1781.] the French opened their batteries upon the enemy. For nearly eight hours there was an incessant roar of cannons and mortars; and hundreds of bombs and round shot were poured upon the British works. So tremendous was the bombardment, that the besieged soon withdrew their cannon from the embrasures, and fired very few shots in return. At evening red hot cannon balls were hurled from the French battery F, on the extreme left, at the Guadaloupe and Charon, two British vessels in the river. The Guadaloupe was driven from her post, and the Charon of forty-four guns and three large transports were burned. The night was starry and mild, and invited to repose, but the besiegers rested not, and Yorktown presented a scene of terrible grandeur, such as is seldom witnessed by the eye of man. 27 All night long the allies kept up a cannonade, and early the next morning [Oct. 11.] another British vessel was set in flames by a fiery ball, and consumed.

NOTE. – Explanation of the Map. – A, British outworks taken possession of by the Americans on their arrival. B, first parallel. C, D, American batteries. E, a bomb battery. G, French battery. H, French bomb battery. I, second parallel. K, redoubt stormed by the Americans. L, redoubt stormed by the French. M M M, French batteries. N, French bomb battery. O, American batteries.

During the night of the eleventh, the besiegers commenced a second parallel, between two and three hundred yards from the British works. The three succeeding days were devoted to the completion of this line of trenches, during which time the enemy opened new embrasures in positions from which their fire was far more effective than at first. Two redoubts (K and L) on the left of the besieged and advanced three hundred yards in front of the British works, flanked the second parallel, and greatly annoyed the men in the trenches. Preparations were made on the fourteenth to carry them both by storm.


To excite a spirit of emulation, the reduction of one was committed to the American light infantry under La Fayette; the other to a detachment of the French grenadiers and chasseurs, commanded by Major-general the Baron De Viomenil, a brave and experienced officer. Toward evening the two detachments marched to the assault. Colonel Alexander Hamilton, who had commanded a battalion of light infantry during this campaign, led the advanced corps of the Americans, assisted by Colonel Gimat, La Fayette’s aid; while Colonel Laurens, with eighty men, turned the redoubt, in order to intercept the retreat of the garrison. At a given signal, the troops rushed furiously to the charge without firing a gun, the van being led by Captain Aaron Ogden, of New Jersey. Over the abatis and palisades they leaped, and with such vehemence and rapidity assaulted and entered the works, that their loss was inconsiderable. One sergeant and eight privates were killed; and seven officers, and twenty-five non-commissioned officers and privates were wounded. Colonel Gimat received a slight wound in the foot, and Major Gibbs, commander of Washington’s Life-guard, was also slightly wounded. Major Campbell, who commanded the redoubt, and some inferior officers, with seventeen privates, were made prisoners. Eight privates of the garrison were killed in the assault, but not one was injured after the surrender. 28 This redoubt (K, on the map) was upon the high river bank, on the extreme right of the American lines. When I visited the spot in 1848, the remains of the embankments were quite prominent.


The redoubt (L) stormed by the French under Viomenil was garrisoned by a greater force, and was not so easily overcome. It was defended by a lieutenant colonel, and one hundred and twenty men. After a combat of nearly half an hour, the redoubt was surrendered. Eighteen of the garrison were killed, and forty-two were made prisoners. The French lost in killed and wounded about one hundred men. 30 In this engagement Count Mathieu Dumas (see portrait, on next page), one of Rochambeau’s aids, bore a conspicuous part. He was in the advanced corps, and was one of the first who entered the redoubt. 31 In this assault the Count De Deuxponts, who led the French grenadiers, was slightly wounded. Count Charles De Lameth, the adjutant general, was also wounded, a musket ball passing through both knees. Washington was highly gratified with the success of these assaults, and in general orders the next day congratulated the armies on the result.


During the night of the fourteenth, these redoubts were included in a second parallel, and by five o’clock the next afternoon [Oct. 15.] some howitzers, which had been placed in them, were opened upon the British works. The situation of Cornwallis was now becoming desperate. Beleaguered on all sides by a superior force, his strongest defenses crumbling or passing into the possession of the besiegers, and no tidings from General Clinton to encourage him, the British commander was filled with the gloomiest apprehensions. Knowing that the town would be untenable when the second parallel should be completed, he sent out a detachment under Lieutenant-colonel Abercrombie, to make a sortie against two almost completed batteries, guarded by French troops. They made a furious assault at about four o’clock in the morning [Oct. 16.], and were successful; but the guards from the trenches soon drove the assailants back, and their enterprise was fruitless of advantage.

Cornwallis, confident that he could not maintain his position, determined to make a desperate effort at flight. His plan was to leave the sick and his baggage behind; cross over to Gloucester, and, with his detachment there, cut up or disperse the troops of De Choisé, Weeden, and Lauzun; mount his infantry on horses taken from the duke’s legion, and others that might be seized in the neighborhood; by rapid marches gain the forks of the Rappahannock and Potomac, and, forcing his way through Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, form a junction with the army in New York. This was a most hazardous undertaking, but his only alternative was flight or capture. Boats were accordingly prepared, and at ten o’clock on the evening of the sixteenth a portion of his troops were conveyed across to Gloucester. So secretly was the whole movement performed, that the patriots did not perceive it; and had not a power mightier than man’s interposed an obstacle, Cornwallis’s desperate plan might have been successfully accomplished. The first body of troops had scarcely reached Gloucester Point, when a storm of wind and rain, almost as sudden and fierce as a summer tornado, made the passage of the river too hazardous to be again attempted. The storm continued with unabated violence until morning, and Cornwallis was obliged to abandon his design. The troops were brought back without much loss, and now the last ray of hope began to fade from the vision of the earl.


At daybreak, on the morning of the seventeenth, several new batteries in the second parallel were opened, and a more terrible storm of shells and round shot was poured upon the town than had yet been experienced by the enemy. Governor Nelson, who was at the head of the Virginia militia, commanded the first battery that opened upon the British works that morning. His fine stone mansion, the most commodious in the place, was a prominent object within the British lines. He knew that Cornwallis and his staff occupied it, and was probably in it when he began the cannonade. Regardless of the personal loss that must ensue, he pointed one of his heaviest guns directly toward his house, and ordered the gunner, and also a bombardier, to play upon it with the greatest vigor. 34 The desired effect was accomplished. Upon the heights of Saratoga, Burgoyne found no place secure from the cannon-balls of the besiegers; in Yorktown there was like insecurity; 35 and before ten o’clock in the morning, Cornwallis beat a parley, and proposed a cessation of hostilities. The house of Governor Nelson, I have already mentioned, still bears many scars received during the bombardment; and in the yard attached to the dwelling, I saw a huge unexploded bomb-shell which was cast there by order of the patriot owner.

Cornwallis, despairing of victory or escape, sent a flag to Washington with a request that hostilities should be suspended for twenty-four hours, and that commissioners should be appointed to meet at Mrs. Moore’s house on the right of the American lines, and just in the rear of the first parallel, 36 to arrange terms for the surrender of his army. Washington was unwilling to waste precious time in negotiations, for, in the mean while, the augmented British fleet might arrive, and give the earl an opportunity to escape. 37 In his reply to Cornwallis’s letter, Washington desired him to transmit his proposals in writing previous to the meeting of the commissioners, for which purpose he would order a cessation of hostilities for two hours. To this the earl consented, and within the stipulated time he sent a rough draft of the general basis of his proposals. 38 Washington, perceiving that there would probably be no serious disagreement finally, also sent Cornwallis a general basis of terms upon which he should expect him to surrender. 39 Commissioners were appointed to meet in conference at Moore’s house, and hostilities were suspended for the night. The American commissioners were Colonel Laurens, 40 and Viscount De Noailles, a relative of La Fayette’s wife; the British commissioners were Lieutenant-colonel Dundas and Major Ross.

The commissioners met early on the morning of the eighteenth [Oct., 1781.]; but, being unable to adjust the terms of capitulation 41 definitively, only a rough draft of them could be prepared, which was submitted to the consideration of Cornwallis. Washington would not permit the delay that might ensue by leaving these open to further negotiation; he, therefore, had the rough articles fairly transcribed, and sent them to his lordship early on the morning of the nineteenth, with a letter expressing his expectation that they would be signed by eleven o’clock, and that the garrison would march out by two in the afternoon.


Cornwallis was obliged to submit, and at the appointed hour the garrisons at York and Gloucester, the shipping in the harbor, and all the ammunition, stores, &c., were surrendered, after a siege of thirteen days, to the land and naval forces of America and France. The ceremony, on the occasion of the surrender, was exceedingly imposing. The American army was drawn up on the right side of the road leading from Yorktown to Hampton (see map), and the French army on the left. Their lines extended more than a mile in length. Washington, upon his white charger, was at the head of the American column; and Rochambeau, upon a powerful bay horse, was at the head of the French column. A vast concourse of people, equal in number, according to eye-witnesses, to the military, was also assembled from the surrounding country to participate in the joy of the event. Universal silence prevailed as the vanquished troops slowly marched out of their intrenchments, with their colors cased and their drums beating a British tune, and passed between the columns of the combined armies. 42 All were eager to look upon Cornwallis, the terror of the South, 43 in the hour of his adversity. They were disappointed; he had given himself up to vexation and despair, and, feigning illness, he sent General O’Hara with his sword, to lead the vanquished army to the field of humiliation. Having arrived at the head of the line, General O’Hara advanced toward Washington, and, taking off his hat, apologized for the absence of Earl Cornwallis. The commander-in-chief pointed him to General Lincoln for directions. It must have been a proud moment for Lincoln, for only the year before he was obliged to make a humiliating surrender of his army to British conquerors at Charleston. Lincoln conducted the royal troops to the field selected for laying down their arms, and there General O’Hara delivered to him the sword of Cornwallis; Lincoln received it, and then politely handed it back to O’Hara, to be returned to the earl.


The delivery of the colors of the several regiments, twenty-eight in number, was next performed. For this purpose, twenty-eight British captains, each bearing a flag in a case, were drawn up in line. Opposite to them, at a distance of six paces, twenty-eight American sergeants were placed in line to receive the colors. Ensign Wilson of Clinton’s brigade, the youngest commissioned officer in the army (being then only eighteen years of age), was appointed by Colonel Hamilton, the officer of the day, to conduct this interesting ceremony. 44 When Wilson gave the order for the British captains to advance two paces, to deliver up their colors, and the American sergeants to advance two paces to receive them, the former hesitated, and gave as a reason that they were unwilling to surrender their flags to non-commissioned officers. Hamilton, who was at a distance, observed this hesitation, and rode up to inquire the cause. On being informed, he willingly spared the feelings of the British captains, and ordered Ensign Wilson to receive them himself, and hand them to the American sergeants. This scene is depicted in the engraving.

When the colors were surrendered, the whole royal army laid down their arms. It was an exceedingly humiliating task for the captives, for they had been for months enjoying victories under their able commander, and had learned to look upon the rebels with profound contempt. 45 After grounding their arms and laying off their accoutrements, they were conducted back to their lines, and guarded by a sufficient force until they commenced their march for permanent quarters in the interior of Virginia and Maryland. 46

The loss of the British on this occasion was one hundred and fifty-six killed, three hundred and twenty-six wounded, and seventy missing. The whole number surrendered by capitulation was a little more than seven thousand, 47 according to the most reliable authorities, making the total loss between seventy-five and seventy-eight hundred. The combined army employed in the siege consisted of about seven thousand regular American troops, more than five thousand French, and four thousand militia; a total of over sixteen thousand men. Their loss during the siege, of killed and wounded, was only about three hundred. The artillery, and military stores and provisions surrendered, were very considerable. There were seventy-five brass, and one hundred and sixty iron cannons; seven thousand seven hundred and ninety-four muskets; twenty-eight regimental standards (ten of them English, and eighteen German); a large quantity of cannon and musket-balls, bombs, carriages, &c., &c. The military chest contained nearly eleven thousand dollars in specie. 48

On the day succeeding the surrender [Oct. 20, 1781 {original text has "1771".}.], Washington, in general orders, expressed his great approbation of the conduct of both armies. Among the generals whom the commander-in-chief particularly named were Count De Rochambeau, and other distinguished French officers; and Generals Lincoln, Knox, La Fayette, Du Portail, and Steuben, of the American army. 49 He also spoke warmly of Governor Nelson, and expressed his gratitude to him for his essential aid. Joy pervaded all hearts, and that there might be none excluded from a participation in the general thanksgiving, the commander-in-chief ordered that all those who were under arrest or confinement should be immediately set at liberty; 50 and as the next day was the Sabbath, he closed his orders by directing divine service to be performed in the several brigades on the morrow.


The surrender of Cornwallis with so large a portion of the British army in America secured the Independence of the United States. The strong arm of military oppression, moved by governmental power, was paralyzed, and the king and his ministers, from the hour when intelligence of the event reached them, abandoned all hopes of subduing the rebellion and preserving the integrity of the realm. The blow of disseverance had fallen; war could no longer subserve a useful purpose; humanity and sound policy counseled peace. Great was the exultation and joy of the Americans as the intelligence went from lip to lip throughout the confederation. Lieutenant-colonel Tilghman, one of Washington’s aids-de-camp, rode express to Philadelphia to carry the dispatches of the chief announcing the joyful tidings to Congress.

It was midnight when he entered the city [Oct. 23, 1781.]. Thomas M‘Kean was then president of the Continental Congress, and resided in High Street, near Second. Tilghman knocked at his door so vehemently, that a watchman was disposed to arrest him as a disturber of the peace. M‘Kean arose, and presently the glad tidings were made known. The watchmen throughout the city proclaimed the hour, adding "and Cornwallis is taken!" That annunciation, ringing out upon the frosty night air, aroused thousands from their beds. Lights were seen moving in almost every house; and soon the streets were thronged with men and women all eager to hear the details. It was a night of great joy in Philadelphia, for the people had anxiously awaited intelligence from Yorktown. The old State House bell rang out its notes of gladness, and the first blush of morning was greeted with the booming of cannons.

Congress assembled at an early hour, and the grave orators of that august body could hardly repress huzzas while Secretary Thompson read the letter from Washington announcing the capitulation of Cornwallis. On motion of Edmund Randolph, Congress resolved to go in procession at two o’clock the same day [Oct. 24.] to the Dutch Lutheran Church, "and return thanks to Almighty God for crowning the allied armies of the United States and France with success." A committee was appointed, 52 to whom were referred the letters of Washington, and who were instructed to report resolutions of thanks to the armies and their officers, and to recommend appropriate honors. 53 The committee reported on the twenty-ninth, and Congress resolved that their thanks should be presented to Washington, Rochambeau, and De Grasse, and the officers and soldiers under their respective commands; that a marble column should be erected at Yorktown in commemoration of the event; 54 that two stands of colors taken from Cornwallis should be presented to Washington in the name of the United States; that two pieces of the field ordnance captured at York should be presented to each of the French commanders, Rochambeau and De Grasse; and that the Board of War should present to Lieutenant-colonel Tilghman, in the name of the United States, a horse properly caparisoned, and an elegant sword. Congress also issued a proclamation appointing the thirteenth day of December for a general thanksgiving and prayer throughout the confederacy, on account of this signal mark of Divine favor. Legislative bodies, executive councils, city corporations, and many private societies, presented congratulatory addresses to the commanding generals and their officers; and from almost every pulpit in the land arose the voice of thanksgiving and praise, accompanied the alleluiahs of thousands of worshipers at the altar of the Lord of Hosts.


The king and his ministers were sorely perplexed when the intelligence reached them. 56 Parliament assembled on the twenty-seventh of November; its first business was a consideration of the news of the disasters in America, which reached ministers officially on Sunday, the twenty-fifth [Nov., 1781.]. Violent debates ensued, and Fox even went so far as to intimate that Lord North was in the pay of the French. The minister indignantly repelled the insinuation, and justified the war on the ground of its justice, and the proper maintenance of British rights. Upon this point he was violently assailed by Burke, who exclaimed, "Good God! are we yet to be told of the rights for which we went to war! Oh, excellent rights! Oh, valuable rights! Valuable you should be, for we have paid dear at parting with you. Oh, valuable rights that have cost Britain thirteen provinces, four islands, 57 one hundred thousand men, and more than seventy millions [three hundred and fifty millions of dollars] of money!" The younger Pitt distinguished himself in this debate, and was a powerful aid to the opposition. On the thirtieth of November, that party proposed the bold measure (last adopted during the Revolution of 1688) of not granting supplies until the ministers should give a pledge to the people that the war in America should cease. This motion, however, was lost by a vote of nearly two to one. Several conflicting propositions were made by both parties, but without any definite result, and on the twentieth of December, Parliament adjourned to the twenty-first of January [1782.].

Although the British power in America was subdued, it still had vitality. The enemy yet held important posts in the Southern States, and Washington resolved to profit by the advantage he now possessed, by capturing or dispersing the royal garrisons at Wilmington, Charleston, and Savannah. For this purpose, he solicited the aid of Count De Grasse in an expedition against Charleston. He repaired on board the Ville de Paris, and held a personal conference with the admiral. To the urgent solicitations of Washington, De Grasse replied that "the orders of his court, ulterior projects, and his engagement with the Spaniards, rendered it impossible for him to remain on the coast during the time which would be required for the operation." He also declined conveying troops to the South for re-enforcing General Greene, but he consented to remain a few days in Chesapeake Bay, to cover the transportation of the Eastern troops and of the ordnance, to the head of Elk. These, under the command of General Lincoln, were embarked on the second of November, and from the head of Elk proceeded by land to winter quarters in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and on the Hudson River. On the fourth, St. Simon embarked his troops, and on that day the French fleet sailed out of the Chesapeake for the West Indies. Before it sailed, Washington presented Count De Grasse with two beautiful horses, as a token of his personal esteem.

The French army remained in Virginia (Rochambeau having his head-quarters at Williamsburg), ready to co-operate with the Americans North or South. There they remained until the next summer [1782.], when they joined the Continental army on the Hudson. 58 They proceeded to New England in the autumn, and early in December embarked at Boston for the West Indies. General St. Clair, with a body of troops, was sent to re-enforce General Greene at the South. He was directed to march by the way of Wilmington, and dislodge the enemy there. This he effected, and at the close of 1781 there was not a hostile foot except those of resident Tories and prisoners of war, in all Virginia or North Carolina.

When Washington had completed all his arrangements, he left Yorktown [Nov. 5, 1781.], and hastened to Eltham, the seat of Colonel Bassett, to the bedside of Mr. Custis, the only son of Mrs. Washington. He arrived in time to see him die, and stayed there a few days to mingle his grief with that of the afflicted widow. Mr. Custis was a member of the Virginia Legislature, and was then only twenty-eight years of age. 59 From Eltham, Washington proceeded to Philadelphia by way of Mount Vernon, receiving and answering various public addresses on the way. On the day after his arrival in Philadelphia [Nov. 27.], he went to the State House, and on being introduced into the hall of Congress by two members, he was greeted by a congratulatory address by the president. He remained some time in Philadelphia, and was regarded with reverence by all classes.

We will here close the chronicle, visit the historical localities about Yorktown, and then ride down to Hampton, near Old Point Comfort.

In company with Mr. Nelson, I rode to "Moore’s House," where the commissioners of the two armies met to agree upon terms of capitulation. On our way we visited the site of the two redoubts (K and L, on the map) captured respectively by the Americans and French. The visible lines of the one assailed by the French cross the road leading to Moore’s house. On each side of the way the embankments are quite prominent. The remains of the other one, on the river bank, are noticed and delineated on page 313 {original text has "519".}. In the fields farther south, crossing the Hampton road, and extending almost to the old Jamestown road along which the American division of the allied armies approached Yorktown, might be seen a ridge, the remains of the second parallel. In a southwesterly direction, about a mile and a half distant, is the low ground where the armies rested before making a disposition of their forces for attacking Cornwallis.


Moore’s house is very pleasantly situated in the midst of a level lawn within a quarter of a mile of the banks of the York. Although so late in the season [Dec. 21, 1848.], it was surrounded with green shrubbery, and from a bush near the piazza I plucked a full-blown rose growing in the open air. I was shown the room in which it is asserted the capitulation was signed by Cornwallis and his conquerors. This, however, is a mistake. There is no evidence that the earl was beyond his lines until he departed for New York on parole. He signed the capitulation at his quarters in the town; and above the signature of Washington and the French officers is written, "Done in the trenches before Yorktown," &c. Moore’s house is famous only as being the place where the commissioners held their conference.

We next visited the places designated by tradition as the spot where the British laid down their arms. In a field, not more than half a mile southward of the British intrenchments, three tulip poplars were pointed out for many years as indices of the exact place of surrender. The old trees are now gone, but three small ones supply their places. This is on the east side of the Hampton road. In Trumbull’s picture of the Surrender, the house of Governor Nelson is seen. Trumbull visited Yorktown for the purpose of sketching the ground, in 1791, and doubtless had the true location pointed out to him. From the field where the tulip poplars are, however, the house can not be seen, but from a large field on the west side of the Hampton road, sloping in the direction of the "Pigeon Quarter," and about a mile from the British lines (the distance mentioned in history), the house may be plainly seen. It is the opinion of Mr. Nelson and other intelligent gentlemen at Yorktown, that the large field, noted as the spot on the map printed on page 312, is the locality where the captive soldiers laid down their arms, and where the marble column, ordered by Congress, should be erected.

From the field of humiliation we rode back to the village, and after visiting the remains of the elegant dwelling of President Nelson, which was situated near that of the governor, within the British lines, I passed an hour in the venerated mansion of Governor Nelson, printed on page 315. It was erected by the first emigrant Nelson (" Scotch Tom"), and is of imported bricks. Among other relics of the past, I saw upon the walls the mutilated portraits of President Nelson and his lady, the parents of the governor. They were thus injured by the British when they rifled his house at Hanover, whither he had taken his family and furniture for security.

I left Yorktown at two o’clock for Hampton, twenty-four miles distant. Charley was invigorated by rest and abundance of oats, and the road being generally quite level, and in excellent condition, I was only about four hours on the way. The country is an inclined plane sloping toward the ocean, and quite thickly settled. The forests are chiefly of pine, interspersed with oaks, chestnuts, tulip poplars, gums, sycamores, and occasionally an elm. The green holly with its blazing berries, and the equally verdant laurel, every where enliven the forest scenery. I crossed two considerable swamps, and at twilight reached the margin of a third, within a few miles of Hampton. The branches of the tall trees interlaced above, and the amber light in the west, failed to penetrate and mark the pathway. Suddenly the bland air was filled with chilling vapors, which came rolling up from the sea on the wings of a southeast wind, and I was enveloped in absolute darkness in the midst of the broad morass. As at Occaquan, I gave Charley a loose rein, and relied upon his instinct and better sight for safety. His faculties proved trustworthy, and at six o’clock in the evening I was at comfortable lodgings close by the beach, in the old town of Hampton, ninety-six miles southeast of Richmond. 61

Early the next morning I rode to old Point Comfort, 62 two and a half miles distant, notwithstanding heavy masses of clouds were yet rolling in from the ocean, and a chilling mist enveloped every thing as with a shroud. Old Point Comfort is a sandy promontory, which, with Point Willoughby opposite, forms the mouth of the James River. It is a place of public resort in summer as an agreeable watering-place. The fine sandy beach affords delightful bathing grounds, and the cool breezes from the ocean deprive summer of half of its fervor. The extremity of the point, eighty acres in extent, is covered by Fort Monroe, 63 one of the most extensive fortifications in the United States. Within the area of the fort are the officers’ quarters, with neat flower-gardens attached; and over the surface are scattered beautiful live-oaks, isolated and in groves, which give the place a summer aspect, even in mid-winter. Between Point Comfort and the opposite Cape the water is shallow, except in a narrow channel through the bar. Here the ocean tides and the river currents meet, and produce a continual ripple. From this circumstance the name of Rip Raps was given to the spot. In the midst of these, nineteen hundred yards from Fort Monroe, is the half-finished Fort Calhoun, or Castle of the Rip Raps. It was ascertained, while building it, that the ground was unstable, and the heavy masonry began to sink. Immense masses of loose stones have since been piled upon it, to sink it as deep as it will go before completing the walls. In this condition it now remains, and it is to be hoped that not another hour will be employed upon it, except to carry away the stones for the more useful and more noble purpose of erecting an iron-foundery or a cotton-mill. Henceforth our fortresses, and other paraphernalia of war, will have no other useful service to perform than to illustrate the history of a less enlightened age.

Within the bar of the Rip Raps is the spacious harbor called the Hampton Roads, wherein vast navies might ride with safety. Twice hostile fleets have cleft those waters. The first was in October, 1775, when Lord Dunmore, driven by his fears, as we have seen, from Williamsburg, gratified his desire for revenge by destroying the property of the patriots. The people of Hampton anticipated an attack by the British fleet, 64 and applied to the Committee of Safety for assistance. Colonel Woodford, with one hundred Culpepper men, was sent to protect them; but before their arrival, Captain Squires, of the British navy, sent by Dunmore with six tenders, appeared in Hampton Creek [Oct. 24, 1775.]. He commenced a furious cannonade, and under that cover sent armed men in boats to burn the town. Virginia riflemen, concealed in the houses, soon sent so many death-shots that the boats were obliged to return. The tenders were compelled to recede beyond the reach of their rifles, and wait for re-enforcements. Woodford arrived at daybreak on the twenty-fifth, and, momentarily expecting an attack from the enemy, he immediately disposed his men for action. At sunrise the hostile fleet bore in for the shore, and, laying with springs on her cables, commenced a heavy cannonade upon the town, and greatly damaged many of the houses. Woodford commanded his men to fire with caution and sure aim, the vessels being within rifle shot. Men were picked off in every part of the ships, and great terror soon prevailed in the fleet. The cannons were deserted, for every gunner became a target for the sharp-shooters. Unable to withstand such a destructive fire, the British commander ordered the cables to be slipped and the vessels to retreat. The latter movement was difficult, for men seen at the helm or aloft adjusting the sails were singled out and shot down. Many of them retreated to the holds of the vessels, and refused obedience to their commanders when ordered out on the perilous duty. Two of the sloops drifted ashore. Before the fleet could escape, the inhabitants of the town, with Woodford’s corps, sunk five vessels. The victory was complete. 65


Among the buildings yet remaining, which suffered from this cannonading, is St. John’s (Protestant Episcopal) Church, said to be the third oldest house of worship in the state. The earliest inscription in its grave-yard is 1701. Before the Revolution, the royal arms, handsomely carved, were upon the steeple. It is related that soon after the Declaration of Independence was promulgated, the steeple was shattered by lightning, and the insignia of royalty hurled to the ground.

In 1813 [June 25.], Hampton was attacked by Admiral Cockburn, with his fleet, and by a force of two thousand men under General Beckwith, who landed at Old Point Comfort. The garrison of the slight fortification at Hampton consisted of four hundred and fifty militia. They were too weak to defend themselves, and retired. The town was given up to pillage at the hands of a renegade corps of French prisoners, who had been promised such a gratification. For two days they desolated Hampton without restraint. Private property was plundered or destroyed; the leading citizens were grossly insulted and abused; females were violated; and in one instance an aged sick man was murdered in the arms of his wife. 67 When filled to satiety, the vultures left Hampton Roads to seek for prey elsewhere.

The easterly wind ceased at noon; the clouds dispersed, and the sun shone out with all the brilliancy and fervor of early June, when I rode back to Hampton from Old Point Comfort. At three o’clock a strong breeze from the west brought back the masses of vapor which had been borne toward the Blue Ridge all night. They came in heavy cumulous clouds, and when, a little before five o’clock, I embarked upon a steam-packet for Norfolk, eighteen miles distant, rain fell copiously. We entered the Elizabeth River at dusk, and arrived at Norfolk a little past six o’clock. 68


The morning of the twenty-third [Dec., 1848.] was cold and blustering, like a late November day at the North. Before breakfast, I called upon the sexton of old St. Paul’s Church, procured the key of the strong inclosure which surrounds it and the ancient burial-ground, and in the keen frosty air made the annexed sketch. This venerable edifice is almost the only survivor of the conflagration of the town on the first of January, 1776, an event which will be noticed presently. The church is cruciform, and built of imported bricks, the ends of which are glazed, and gives the edifice a checkered appearance like that of Carpenters’ Hall, and several other buildings in Philadelphia. On the street front of the church, near the southwest corner, is a large cavity made by a cannon-ball hurled from the British shipping during the attack just alluded to. It is an honorable scar, and has been allowed to remain for the gratification of the curious, and as a mute relator of the malice of the foes to liberty. The short battlemented tower, built of wood, is a recent addition to the church. Originally there was a small tower with a spire at each corner, on the other end of the main building. With these exceptions, the exterior is the same as when Norfolk was destroyed; its interior has been entirely changed, and adorned with fresco painting. Over the principal side entrance to the church, the date of its erection (1739) is given in large figures formed by projecting bricks. I worshiped in the old fane on the Sabbath, but confess to wandering thoughts, for the associations of the place often closed the sensorium to the voice of the preacher.


At eight o’clock I started for the Great Bridge, and the verge of the Dismal Swamp. The country is level most of the way; and the road crosses two considerable swamps between Norfolk and the Great Bridge, wherein the dark-green gall-bush, loaded with fruit resembling whortleberries, abounds. Great Bridge is the name for a comparatively insignificant structure, unless the causeways connected with it may be included in the term. The Great Bridge proper is about forty yards in length, and spans the south bank of the Elizabeth River, about nine miles from Norfolk. Extensive marshes, filled and drained alternately with the flow of the tide, spread out on each side of the river, making the whole breadth of morass and stream, at this point, about half a mile wide. The Great Bridge extends across the main stream from two islands of firm earth, which are covered with trees and shrubbery. Each of these islands is connected with the main by a causeway and smaller bridges. On the western side of the river is the small scattered village of Great Bridge, not much larger now than it was at the period of the Revolution. On the island at the western end of the bridge are two or three houses and a tide-mill, and upon the one at the Norfolk side, where Dunmore cast up intrenchments, is a wind-mill, seen on the extreme left in the preceding picture. The marsh is covered with osiers, and tall coarse grass and the whole scene, though picturesque, is rather dreary in aspect. Let us observe what history has chronicled respecting the Great Bridge and vicinity.

We have already considered the flight of Dunmore from Williamsburg, and his attempt to destroy Hampton, and have alluded to his raising the royal standard at Norfolk, and proclaiming martial law throughout the colony, and freedom to the slaves. He made Norfolk harbor the rendezvous for the British fleet, and determined there to establish the headquarters of ministerial power in the Old Dominion. Previous to making an effort to take possession of the town, he sent a few soldiers and sailors ashore, under cover of the guns of the ships, to carry off John Holt’s printing establishment, which was doing good service for the patriot cause. Holt, though a high churchman, was an ardent and uncompromising Whig. This outrage was committed, and two of Holt’s workmen were taken away prisoners, without resistance from the people. The Tories were numerous, and the Whigs were overawed. The corporation of Norfolk sent a letter of remonstrance to Dunmore; it was answered by insult. 70 This insult was followed by violence. Hampton was attacked, and depredations were committed upon the shores of the Elizabeth and James Rivers. Repelled with spirit, Dunmore resolved to strike a blow of terror. With his motley force he penetrated Princess Anne county, to plunder and lay waste. He was successful, and emboldened thereby, declared open war. All Lower Virginia was aroused, and the government directed its whole attention to the portion of the state thus menaced. It was at this time that Dunmore’s attempt to bring the Indians upon the colonists was made known. The people burned with fierce indignation. Colonel Woodford, who afterward became a brigadier general in the Continental army, was sent with a detachment of minute-men into Norfolk county, and the militia of that section were called to arms. Adjutant Bullit accompanied him. Perceiving these preparations, Dunmore became alarmed. He constructed batteries and intrenchments at Norfolk, armed the blacks and Tories, and ordered the country people to send their cattle to the city for his use, under penalties for disobedience.

Apprised of the movement of Woodford, and the point from whence he might expect the approach of the Virginians, Dunmore resolved to fortify the passage of the Elizabeth River at Great Bridge. His force consisting of only about two hundred regulars, and a corps of Norfolk volunteer Loyalists, he beat up for recruits among the negroes and the vilest portion of society. He cast up breast-works upon the island, on the Norfolk side of the Great Bridge, and furnished them amply with cannons. This presented a serious obstacle to the Virginians, who could approach the batteries only upon a narrow causeway. With a motley force of regulars and volunteers, negroes and vagrants, in number about six hundred, Dunmore garrisoned his fortress. The Virginians constructed a small fortification, of semicircular form, near the western end of the causeway, the remains of which were yet quite visible when I visited the spot [December, 1848.]. From the breast-work a street ascended about four hundred yards to a church, where the main body of the patriots were encamped.

On Saturday morning, the ninth of December [1775.], before daylight, Dunmore, who remained at Norfolk, ordered Captains Leslie and Fordyce to attack the redoubt of the patriots. He had been informed that they were few in number, and weak in skill and experience; he, therefore, felt certain of success. 71 When the Virginians had beaten the reveille, Captain Fordyce, with about sixty grenadiers and a corps of regulars, was ordered to the attack. After firing one or two cannons and some musketry, he pressed forward, crossed the Great Bridge, burned the houses and some shingles upon the island, on which the tide-mill now stands, and made an attack upon the guards in the breast-work. The fire of the enemy was returned, and the assailants were thrown into confusion. Fordyce rallied them, and having brought two pieces of cannon over the bridge, and placed them on the island in such a position as to command the breast-work, led his men (about one hundred and twenty in number) steadily across the causeway, keeping up a constant and heavy fire as they approached Woodford’s redoubt. Lieutenant Travis, who commanded in the redoubt, ordered his men to reserve their fire until the enemy came within fifty yards, and then, with sure aim, pour volley after volley upon the assailants as rapidly as possible. Believing the redoubt to be deserted, Fordyce waved his hat over his head, shouted "The day is our own!" and rushed forward toward the breast-work. The order of Lieutenant Travis was obeyed with terrible effect. His men, about ninety in number, rose to their feet and discharged a full volley upon the enemy. The gallant Captain Fordyce, who was marked by the riflemen, fell, pierced by fourteen bullets, within fifteen steps of the breast-works. His followers, greatly terrified, retreated in confusion across the causeway, and were dreadfully galled in their rear.

Captain Leslie, 72 who, with about two hundred and thirty negroes and Tories, had remained upon the island at the west end of the bridge, now rallied the regulars, and kept up the firing of the two field-pieces. Colonel Woodford, with the main body of the Virginians, left the church at the same time, and advanced to the relief of the garrison in the intrenchments. Upon his approaching line the field pieces played incessantly, but the Virginians pressed steadily forward. Colonel Stevens, 73 of the Culpepper battalion, went round to the left, and flanked the enemy with so much vigor that a rout ensued and the battle ended. The enemy left their two field-pieces behind, but took care to spike them with nails, and fled in confusion to their fort on the Norfolk side. The battle lasted only about twenty-five minutes, but was very severe. The number of the enemy slain is not precisely known. Thirty-one killed and wounded fell into the hands of the patriots, and many were carried away by their friends. Gordon says their whole loss was sixty-two. They fought desperately, for they preferred death to captivity, Dunmore having assured them that, if they were caught alive, the savage Virginians would scalp them. 74 It is a remarkable fact that not a single Virginian was killed during the engagement, and only one man was slightly wounded in the hand, notwithstanding the two field-pieces upon the island hurled double-headed shot as far as the church, and cannonaded them with grape-shot as they approached their redoubt. The wounded who fell into the hands of the Virginians were treated with the greatest tenderness, except the Tories, who were made to feel some of the rigors of war.

The repulse of the British at Great Bridge greatly exasperated Dunmore, who had remained in safety at Norfolk; and in his rage he swore he would hang the boy that brought the tidings. The motley forces of his lordship were dispirited by the event, and the Loyalists refused further service in arms unless they could act with regulars. The Virginians, on the other hand, were in high spirits, and Colonel Woodford determined to push forward and take possession of the city. He issued a pacific proclamation to the people of Princess Anne and Norfolk counties, and many of the inhabitants repaired to his camp. Those who had joined Dunmore on compulsion, were treated kindly; those who volunteered their services were each hand-cuffed to a negro fellow-soldier and placed in confinement.

On the fourteenth [Dec., 1755.], five days after the battle at the bridge, Woodford entered the city in triumph, and the next morning, Colonel (afterward General) Robert Howe, with a North Carolina regiment, joined them, and assumed the command of all the patriot forces. Dunmore, in the mean while, had caused the intrenchments at Norfolk to be abandoned, the twenty pieces of cannon to be spiked, and invited the Loyalists and their families to take refuge with him in the ships of the fleet. The poor negroes who had joined his standard were left without care or protection, and many starved.

Distress soon prevailed in the ships; famine menaced them with its keen fangs. Parties sent on shore to procure provisions from the neighboring country were cut off or greatly annoyed by the Virginians, and supplies for the multitude of mouths became daily more precarious. The ships were galled by a desultory fire from the houses, and their position became intolerable. At this juncture the Liverpool frigate, from Great Britain, came into the harbor, and gave boldness to Governor Dunmore. By the captain of the Liverpool, he immediately sent a flag to Colonel Howe, commanding him to cease firing upon the ships and supply the fleet with provisions, otherwise he should bombard the town. The patriots answered by a flat refusal, and the governor prepared to execute his barbarous threat. On the morning of the thirty-first of December [1775.], Dunmore gave notice of his design, in order that women and children, and the Loyalists still remaining, might retire to a place of safety. At four o’clock on the morning of the first of January [1776.], the Liverpool, 75 Dunmore, and two sloops of war, opened a heavy cannonade upon the town, and parties of marines and sailors went on shore and set fire to the warehouses. The wind was blowing from the water, and the buildings being chiefly of wood and filled with pitch and turpentine, the greater part of the compact portion of the city was in flames before midnight. The conflagration raged for fifty hours, and the wretched inhabitants, Whigs and Tories, saw their property and homes licked up by the consumer, and their heads made shelterless in the cold winter air, without the power of staying the fury of the destroyer or saving the necessaries of life. Not content with laying the town in ashes, the petty Nero heightened the terror of the scene and the anguish of the people by a cannonade from the ships during the conflagration. Parties of musketeers, also, went to places where people were collected and attacked them. Horror reigned supreme, and destitution in its worst features there bore rule. Yet a kind Providence guarded the lives of the smitten inhabitants; and during the three days of terror while the fire raged, and cannon-balls were hurled into the town in abundance, not one of the patriot troops was killed, and only three or four women and children were slain in the streets. Seven persons were wounded. 76 The invading parties were uniformly driven back to their ships with loss. In these repulses the intrepid Stevens was conspicuous, and displayed all the courage of a veteran soldier.

Colonel Stevens and his little band remained upon the site of Norfolk, until February [1776.], when, having removed the families and appraised the dwellings which remained, he caused them to be destroyed, that the enemy might have no shelter. Thus the most flourishing town in Virginia was made an utter desolation; 77 but its eligible location insured its phœnix like resurrection, and again, when peace returned, "beauty for ashes" soon characterized the spot. Howe divided his troops; some were stationed at Kemp’s Landing, some at the Great Bridge, and others in Suffolk, whither most of the fugitives from the city fled, and found open-handed hospitality in the interior.

Dunmore’s movements on the coast compelled the Virginians to exercise the most active vigilance. After Howe abandoned the site of Norfolk, the fugitive governor erected barracks there, but being prevented from obtaining supplies from the neighboring country, he destroyed them, sailed down the Elizabeth River, and after maneuvering for a while in Hampton Roads [May, 1776.], he finally landed upon Gwyn’s Island, in Chesapeake Bay, on the east side of Matthew’s county, near the mouth of the Piankatank River. This island contains about two thousand acres, and was remarkable for its fertility and beauty. Dunmore’s force consisted of about five hundred men, white and black. He cast up some intrenchments, and built a stockade fort, with the evident intention of making that his place of rendezvous while plundering and desolating the plantations on the neighboring coast.

General Andrew Lewis, 78 then in command of a brigade of Virginia troops, was sent by the Committee of Safety to dislodge Dunmore. On the eighth of July, he erected two batteries (one mounting two eighteen pounders, and the other bearing lighter guns), nearly opposite the point on the island where the enemy was encamped. The next morning [July 9, 1776.], at eight o’clock, Lewis gave the signal for attack, by applying a match, himself, to an eighteen pounder. The ball passed through the hull of the Dunmore, which was lying five hundred yards distant; a second shot cut her boatswain in twain, and a third shivered one of her timbers, a splinter from which struck Lord Dunmore, wounded his leg, and smashed his china. Both batteries then opened upon the governor’s fleet, camp, and works. Terror now prevailed in the fleet, and confusion in the camp. Almost every ship slipped its cables, and endeavored to escape. Dunmore’s batteries were silenced; the tents of his camp were knocked down, and terrible breaches were made in his stockade. The assailants ceased firing at nine o’clock, but no signal of surrender being given, it was renewed at meridian.

Early on the following morning, having collected some small craft in the neighborhood, Lewis ordered Colonel M‘Clanahan, with two hundred men, to cross to the island. The enemy evacuated before the Virginians landed, and fled to the ships, leaving their dead and many wounded behind them. A horrible scene was there presented. Half-putrefied bodies lay in almost uncovered shallow graves, and the dying, scattered in various directions, were filling the air with their groans. The island was dotted with graves, for the small-pox and fevers had raged with great violence in the fleet and in the camp for some time. Some were burned in the brush huts, which took fire; and others, abandoned to their fate, had crawled to the sandy beach and were perishing. Only one man of the assailants was killed; Captain Arundel, who was slain by the bursting of a mortar of his own invention. The loss of the enemy could not be ascertained, but it must have been considerable.

On leaving the island, Dunmore caused several of his vessels, which were aground, to be burned, and with the remnants of his fleet he sailed out of the Chesapeake, entered the Potomac, and, after plundering and desolating several plantations on that river, above Aquia Creek, 79 he returned to Lynn Haven Bay, where he dismissed some of the ships for the Bermudas, some to the West Indies, and some to St. Augustine, with booty, among which was almost a thousand slaves. He soon joined the naval force in New York, and toward the close of the year sailed for England. 80

After the departure of Dunmore, the Virginia coast enjoyed comparative quiet until 1779 [May 9.], when a British fleet, under Admiral Sir George Collier, entered Hampton Roads. He sailed up the Elizabeth River and attacked Fort Nelson, which had been erected by the Virginians a little below Portsmouth to secure that place, Norfolk, and the navy-yard at Gosport from attack. The fort was garrisoned by about one hundred and fifty men under Major Thomas Matthews, who, on the approach of Collier, and General Matthews, who commanded the British land forces, abandoned it, and retreated to the Dismal Swamp, leaving the American flag flying from the ramparts The British took possession of Portsmouth, Norfolk, Gosport, and Suffolk, on the eleventh, all being abandoned by the Virginians. Great quantities of stores, ammunition and cannons, fell into the hands of the invaders. A large quantity of naval stores were carried away; the residue, and a great quantity of tobacco, were burned or otherwise destroyed. 81 After pillaging Portsmouth and destroying Suffolk, the fleet, with General Matthews and his land forces, went to sea, returned to New York, and assisted Sir Henry Clinton in taking possession of the fortresses on Stony and Verplanck’s Points, on the Hudson.

Again, in 1780, hostile vessels were in the Elizabeth River. Brigadier-general Leslie with about three thousand troops from New York, landed at Portsmouth [Oct.], and took possession of every kind of public property there and in the vicinity. Leslie was to co-operate with Cornwallis, who proposed to enter Virginia from the south. He did not remain long, for Cornwallis, hearing of the defeat of Ferguson at King’s Mountain, hastily retreated; and Leslie, on being advised of this, left for Charleston [Nov. 22, 1780.], for the purpose of joining the earl in the Carolinas. Again, in 1781, hostile troops, under Arnold, were on the shores of the Elizabeth. That expedition we will consider presently.

I left the Great Bridge at noon, and rode to Deep Creek, a small village on the northern verge of the Dismal Swamp, nine miles distant. 82 There the Dismal Swamp Canal terminates, and far into the gloomy recesses this work opens an avenue for the vision. I ardently desired to go to Drummond’s Lake, lying in the center of the swamp, around which clusters so much that is romantic and mysterious; but want of time obliged me to be content to stand on the rough selvedge of the morass and contemplate with wonder the magnificent cypresses, junipers, oaks, gums, and pines which form the stately columns of the grand and solemn aisles in this mysterious temple of nature. 83 Below waved the tall reeds, and the tangled shrubbery of the gall-bush and laurel; and up the massive trunks and spreading branches of the forest-monarchs crept the woodbine, the ivy, and the muscadine, covering with fretwork and gorgeous tracery the broad arches from which hung the sombre moss, like trophy banners in ancient halls. A deep silence prevailed, for it was winter-time, and buzzing insects and warbling birds were absent or mute. No life appeared in the vast solitude, except occasionally a gray squirrel, a partridge, or a scarlet taniger, the red plumage of the latter flashing like a fire-brand as it flitted by.

" ’Tis a wild spot, and hath a gloomy look;
The bird sings never merrily in the trees,
And the young leaves seem blighted. A rank growth
Spreads poisonously ’round, with power to taint
With blustering dews the thoughtless hand that dares
To penetrate the covert." – W. GILLMORE SIMMS.

I returned to Norfolk toward evening. It was Saturday night, and as Monday would be the opening of the Christmas holidays, I met great numbers of negroes on the road, going to the country to spend their week of leisure with their friends on the plantations of their masters. They all appeared to be happy and musical as larks, and made the forest ring with their joyous laugh and melodious songs. All carried a bundle, or a basket filled with presents for their friends. Some had new hats, and others garments; others were carrying various knickknacks and fire-crackers, and a few of the men were "toting" a little too much "fire-water." From the youngest, to the oldest who rode in mule-carts, all faces beamed with the joy of the hour.

I arrived at Norfolk in time to cross the river to Portsmouth 84 and walk to the government navy-yard at Gosport, a short distance above. It is reached by a causeway from Portsmouth, and is well worthy of a visit from the traveler. There lay the Pennsylvania. the largest ship-of-war in the world – a colossal monument of government folly and extravagance. She was full rigged, and near her were the frigates Constitution and Constellation, dismantled. Her timber and iron might make many comfortable dwellings, but they are allowed to rot and rust in utter uselessness. I tarried but a moment there, for the sun was going down, and I wished to sketch Arnold’s head-quarters, at Portsmouth, before returning to Norfolk, for I expected to ascend the James River on Monday. Arnold’s quarters, represented in the engraving, is a building of stone, and stands on the corner of High and Crawford Streets, a short distance from the ferry. Let us note the events connected with Arnold’s residence here.


We have mentioned on page 230 the retreat of Arnold down the James River after his depredations at Richmond. He proceeded to Portsmouth, where he took post, and began to fortify on the twentieth of January [1781.]. Generals Steuben, Nelson, Weedon, and Muhlenberg were actively engaged in collecting the militia to defend the country and drive out the invaders, and Washington devised a plan for capturing the traitor. Having learned that four British ships, which had been lying in Gardiner’s Bay, off the east end of Long Island, had gone eastward, and that two of them were disabled in a storm, he requested Rochambeau to send the French fleet (then commanded by D’Estouches, the successor of Admiral Ternay) and a detachment of his land forces to the Chesapeake. At the same time, he sent La Fayette thither with a detachment of twelve hundred infantry. The plan was to attack the traitor by sea and land simultaneously, so that he could not escape from the Elizabeth River. A part, only, of the French fleet was sent, under De Tilley [Feb. 9, 1781.], with orders to attempt the destruction of the British fleet there. They took or destroyed ten small vessels. They also captured the Romulus, a handsome, well-furnished vessel, at the entrance of Lynn Haven Bay, and carried her into Newport harbor. This expedition accomplished nothing respecting Arnold; and Washington, anxious to have co-operation with La Fayette and the Virginia militia against the recreant, went to Newport and held an interview with Rochambeau. The result was that the French fleet left Newport on the eighth of March. They were followed by the British fleet, then in Gardiner’s Bay, under Admiral Arbuthnot, who intercepted the French at the entrance of the Chesapeake [Feb. 16.]. They drew up in battle order, eight ships on a side, and a partial engagement ensued. Neither party could justly claim a victory. The French abandoned their design of co-operating with the marquis, and returned to Newport. The plan, so well arranged and so nearly accomplished, was defeated. La Fayette marched back to the head of Elk, and Arnold was left to the skill and bravery of the Virginia troops near him. 85 These were inadequate to drive him from Portsmouth, and he remained there until about the middle of April, when he was joined by a detachment under Major-general Phillips. The two commanders now determined to overrun all the fertile portion of Virginia lying near the James River, and on the twenty-fourth of April they reached City Point with twenty-five hundred troops. Thither we will follow them presently.



1 York is one of the original counties into which Virginia was divided in 1634. The village was established by law in 1705, and for a long time vied with Williamsburg, the capital. The average width of the river is here nearly two miles, but is narrowed to a mile opposite Yorktown, by the projecting cape on which Gloucester stands. The latter village was once a thriving place. It had considerable commerce, but, like Yorktown, the depreciation of the surrounding country for agricultural purposes paralyzed its enterprise, and made busy the fingers of decay.

2 This view is from the burial-ground looking down the York River toward Chesapeake Bay. The inscription upon the first monument is in Latin; the following is a translation of it: "Here lies, in certain hope of a resurrection in Christ, THOMAS NELSON, gentleman, son of Hugo and Sarah Nelson, of Penrith, in the county of Cumberland; born February 20th. A. D. 1677, died October 7th, 1745, aged sixty-eight years." The inscription upon the second monument is much longer, and quite eulogistic. William Nelson was president of his majesty’s council in Virginia, and died on the nineteenth of November, 1772, at the age of sixty-one years. No epitaph tells of the many virtues and heroic deeds of him who lies in the obscure vault beyond. History has written them upon the enduring pages of the chronicles of our republic; and in this work his biography and portrait may be found among those of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

3 This view is from the fields in the direction of the American works, looking north. Toward the left is seen a portion of Governor Nelson’s house, and on the extreme left, a few other houses in Yorktown appear.

4 it is related that when Washington received the letter from De Grasse, Robert Morris, the superintendent of finance, and Richard Peters, the secretary of the board of war, were at the head-quarters of the general in the Livingston House, printed on p. 763 vol. i. and were present. * Washington was bitterly disappointed, for he saw no fair hope of success without the aid of a fleet. The cloud upon his brow was but for a moment. He instantly conceived the expedition to Virginia, and, turning to Judge Peters, asked, "What can you do for me?" "With money, every thing; without it, nothing," was his brief reply, at the same time turning an anxious look toward Morris. "Let me know the sum you desire," said the patriot financier, comprehending the expression of his eye.

Before noon, Washington completed his estimates, and arrangements were made with Morris for the funds. Twenty thousand hard dollars were loaned from Count De Rochambeau, which Mr. Morris agreed to replace by the first of October. The arrival of Colonel Laurens from France, on the twenty-fifth of August, with two millions and a half of livers, a part of a donation of six millions by Louis XVI. to the United States, enabled the superintendent of finance to fulfill his engagement without difficulty.

* These gentlemen were appointed commissioners by Congress to proceed to head-quarters {original text has "head-qaurters".}, and consult the commander-in-chief respecting the army for the ensuing campaign. The basis of a scheme which they proposed was a reduction of the army. – Sparks. viii., 142.

5 Charles Cornwallis, son of the first Earl of Cornwallis, was born at Culford Hall, in Suffolk, in 1738. He was educated at Westminster and St. John’s College, Cambridge. He entered the army in 1759, and succeeded to the title and estates of his father in 1761. He was the most competent and energetic of all the British generals sent here during the war, but the cruelties exercised by his orders at times, during the southern campaigns, have left an indelible stain upon his character. Soon after the close of the war, he was appointed Governor General of the East Indies, which office he held six years. During that time he conquered the renowned Tippoo Sultan, for which service he was created a marquis, and made master of the ordnance. He was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1798 to 1801, and was instrumental in restoring peace to that country, then distracted by rebellion. He signed the treaty of Amiens in 1802, and in 1804 was again appointed Governor General of India. He died in October the succeeding year at Ghazepore, in the province of Benares, at the age of sixty-seven years – See Georgian Era, London, 1833.

6 The works, which surrounded the village, consisted of seven redoubts and six batteries on the land side, connected by intrenchments. On the river bank was also a line of batteries; one near the church was a grand battery, with eleven pieces of cannon, which commanded the passage of the river between York and Gloucester. The outworks consisted of three redoubts on the margin of the ravine, southwest of the town, one a little eastward of the road to Hampton, two on the extreme right, near the river, and the fusileers’ redoubt on the extreme left, near the river. Cornwallis’s head-quarters were at the house of Governor Nelson.

7 Barras, in his dispatches to Washington, said, that as the Count De Grasse did not require him to form a junction with his fleet in the Chesapeake, but left him at liberty to undertake any other enterprise, he proposed an expedition against Newfoundland, and expressed a desire to take with him the land forces which had been left at Newport under M. De Choisé. Both Washington and De Rochambeau disapproved of this proposition, and, as soon as he received their remonstrance against it, Barras resolved to proceed to the Chesapeake.

8 François Joseph Paul, Count De Grasse, a native of France, was born in 1723. He was appointed to command a French fleet, to co-operate with the Americans at the beginning of 1781. Although he was the junior in service of Count Be Barras, he was made his superior in command, with the title of lieutenant general. His co-operation was much more valuable to the Americans than that of D’Estaing; and in the capture of Cornwallis and his army at Yorktown, he played a very important part. His domestic relations seem to have been very unhappy; his second wife, whom he married after leaving America, proving a very unworthy woman. His life was a burden to him, particularly after losing the favor of his king in consequence of an unfortunate military movement. He died early in 1788, at the age of sixty-five years. Alluding to the unhappiness of his latter days, Washington, in a letter to Rochambeau, April, 1788 {original text has "1778".}, on hearing of the death of De Grasse, said, "His frailties should now be buried in the grave with him, while his name will be long deservedly dear to this country, on account of his successful co-operation in the glorious campaign of 1781. The Cincinnati in some of the states have gone into mourning for him."

9 The land troops for this expedition were borrowed from the garrison at St. Domingo, and consisted of detachments from the regiments of Gatinois, Agenois, and Tourraine. There were one hundred artillery, one hundred dragoons, ten pieces of field ordnance, and several of siege artillery and mortars. De Grasse promised to return these troops by the middle of October.

10 See page 782, vol. i.

11 The distance between the York and the James River, at Yorktown, is only about six miles, and this gave the Americans a great advantage in the siege that ensued.

12 A Jerseyman named Morgan was for some time employed as a spy in the British camp at Yorktown, by La Fayette. He pretended to be a deserter, and enlisted in the army of Cornwallis. On one occasion that general inquired of Morgan whether La Fayette had many boats. Morgan, according to instructions. told him the marquis had enough to transport his whole army across at a moment’s warning. "There!" exclaimed Cornwallis, turning to Tarleton, "I told you this would not do." That expression was an evidence that escape across the James River had been contemplated. Morgan could not be prevailed upon to accept money for his services in La Fayette’s behalf, neither would he receive office. He only desired a favorite gun to be restored to him. Morgan said he believed himself to be a good soldier, but he was not certain that he would make a good officer. These circumstances were related to Mr. Sparks by La Fayette himself, fifty years after their occurrence.

13 The portraits of the French officers given in this chapter I copied from Trumbull’s picture in the Rotunda of the Capitol at Washington, representing the surrender of Cornwallis. Trumbull painted the most of them from life in 1787, at the house of Mr. Jefferson, in Paris, when that statesman was minister there.

14 Marshall, i., 448. Stedman, ii., 398-401. Ramsay, Gordon, Rochambeau’s Memoirs.

15 Sir Henry seems not to have suspected the destination of the allies until the second of September, on which day he wrote to Cornwallis, and expressed his belief that they were marching toward Virginia.

16 FRANCIS JOHN, Marquis DE CHASTELLUX, came to America with Rochambeau, bearing the title of major general. He traveled extensively while here, and wrote a journal of his tour. A large portion of it was printed on board one of the ships of the French fleet, before leaving America. Only twenty-four copies were printed for distribution among his most intimate friends. The complete work was translated by an English traveler from the original manuscript, and published in London, with maps and drawings, in 1787. On his return to France, the king made De Chastellux a field-marshal, and the French Academy elected him one of its members. At the close of 1787, he married an accomplished lady, a relative of the Duke of Orleans. This circumstance he communicated to Washington, who, in a playful letter (April, 1788) in reply, said. "I saw, by the eulogium you often made on the happiness of domestic life in America, that you had swallowed the bait, and that you would as surely be taken, one day or another, as that you were a philosopher and a soldier. So your day has at length come. I am glad of it, with all my heart and soul. It is quite good enough for you. Now you are well served for coming to fight in favor of the American rebels, all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, by catching that terrible contagion, domestic felicity, which, like the small-pox or plague a man can have only once in his life." De Chastellux died in 1793. The fortune of himself and wife seems to have been swept away by the storm of the French Revolution, for in 1795 his widow made application to Washington, asking for an allowance from our government to her and her infant son, on account of the services of her husband. The application was unavailing.

17 This was the first time that Washington had visited his home since he left it to attend the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, in 1775, a period of six years and five months; and he now remained there only long enough to await the arrival of Count De Rochambeau, whom he left at Baltimore.

18 Count De Grasse, anxious to accomplish the object of his expedition, and impatient at the delay of the allied armies, had urged La Fayette to co-operate with him in an attack, by land and water, upon York and Gloucester. But the marquis, governed by more prudent counsels, unwilling to hazard the advantage he possessed, refused to make any offensive movement before the arrival of Washington.

19 De Grasse refused to comply with the desire of Washington, that he should ascend the river above Yorktown with a few of his vessels. He was unwilling to risk a blockade in so narrow a space.

20 For a sketch of Lauzun, see page 602, vol. i.

21 Intelligence from General Clinton at New York induced Cornwallis thus to abandon his field-works, without an attempt to defend them. In his letter, Clinton informed him of the arrival of Digby, and that at a council of officers it was determined to send at least five thousand troops with the fleet to relieve him, and that they would sail as early as the sixth. Cornwallis, therefore, withdrew within his interior works, confident that he could hold out there, and keep possession of both Yorktown and Gloucester, until the arrival of these re-enforcements. Just four years before, Burgoyne received like assurances from Clinton, but was disappointed. Had he not expected aid, he could have retreated back to Lake Champlain in time to have saved his army; had not Cornwallis expected promised aid from Clinton, he might possibly have escaped into North Carolina, notwithstanding the vigilance of La Fayette.

22 Alexander Scammell was born in Menden (now Milford), Massachusetts, and graduated at Harvard College in 1769. He studied law with General Sullivan, assisted Captain Holland in his surveys for the map of New Hampshire, and in 1775 was appointed brigade major in the militia of that state. He was appointed colonel in 1776, and in that capacity fought nobly, and was wounded in the first battle at Stillwater. In 1780, he was appointed adjutant general of the American army, and was a very popular officer. He was shot while reconnoitering a redoubt at Yorktown, on the thirtieth of September, 1781. He was conveyed to Williamsburg, where he died of his wounds on the sixth of October. His friend, Colonel Humphreys, who took the command of his regiment, wrote the following epitaph on the day after the surrender of Cornwallis:

"ALEXANDER SCAMMELL, adjutant general of the American armies, and colonel of the first regiment of New Hampshire, while he commanded a chosen corps of light infantry at the successful siege of Yorktown, in Virginia, was, in the gallant performance of his duty as field officer of the day, unfortunately captured, and afterward insidiously wounded – of which wound he expired at Williamsburg, October, 1781. Anno Ætatis."

The elegiac lines appended to this epitaph are printed on page 431, volume i., of this work.

23 The history of the services of several most meritorious officers of the Revolution is only partially written; this is especially true of those of Lieutenant-colonel Stevens of the artillery, who was a most efficient and patriotic officer from the commencement of the war to its close.

EBENEZER STEVENS was born in Boston in 1752, and at an early age became strongly imbued with the principles of the Sons of Liberty. He was engaged in the destruction of the tea in Boston harbor, in December, 1773 (see list of names, volume i., p. 499), and, anticipating evil consequences to himself, he went to Rhode Island to reside. When that province, after the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord, sent an army of observation to Roxbury (p. 592, vol. i.), young Stevens received a commission as lieutenant, which bears date May eighth, 1775. His skill was soon perceived by Gridley and Knox, and early in December of that year, he was directed by General Washington to raise two companies of artillery, and one of artificers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and proceed to join the expedition against Quebec. The recruiting was speedily accomplished, and with Captains Eustis and Nichols, Captain Stevens being in command, traversed, with cannon and mortars, through deep snows, the rough hills of New Hampshire and Vermont, to the mouth of Otter Creek, on Lake Champlain, nearly opposite Split Rock, enduring great privations and sufferings. They descended the lake, and the Sorel to the St. Lawrence, and went down that stream as far as Three Rivers, where they heard of the fall of Montgomery, and the defeat of the Americans at Quebec. They returned to St. John’s, and Major Stevens and his corps rendered efficient service in the northern department during 1776. In the spring of 1777 he went to Ticonderoga, and commanded the artillery there. On the approach of Burgoyne, when St. Clair and the garrisons retreated, Major Stevens shared in the mortifications produced by that retreat. He joined General Schuyler at Fort Edward, and commanded the artillery at the battle of Stillwater, in which service he was greatly distinguished. He continued in the command of the artillery at Albany; and in April, 1778, "in consideration of his services, and the strict attention with which he discharged his duty as commanding officer of artillery in the northern department during two campaigns," * he received from Congress brevet rank as lieutenant colonel of foot, and in November following was appointed lieutenant colonel of artillery. General Gates desired to retain him in the command of the artillery of the northern and middle department. Hitherto his corps had been considered by him as an independent one; now it was attached to that of Colonel Crane. Unwilling to serve under this officer, Lieutenant-colonel Stevens was assigned to Colonel Lamb’s regiment in the New York line, until the close of the war. He was often intrusted with special duties of great moment, and was for some time at the head of the laboratory department. He was selected to accompany La Fayette in the contemplated expedition into Canada. Early in 1781 he proceeded with La Fayette into Virginia to oppose the ravages of Arnold, and in the autumn of that year was actively engaged with very full powers, under the orders of General Knox, in collecting and forwarding artillery and other munitions to be employed in the siege of Yorktown. During that siege he was in alternate command of the artillery with Colonel Lamb and Lieutenant-colonel Carrington. After the surrender of Cornwallis, Lieutenant-colonel Stevens returned north, and from that time until the close of the war he remained in command with Colonel Lamb, at West Point and its vicinity. When peace returned, he commenced the business of a merchant in New York, at the same time performing the duties first of colonel, then of brigadier, and finally of major general, commanding the division of artillery of the State of New York. He held the latter office when the war of 1812 broke out, and was called into the service of the United States for the defense of the city. He continued to be the senior major general of artillery until the peace of 1815. General Stevens was often employed by government in services requiring skill, energy, and integrity. In the year 1800, he superintended the construction of fortifications on Governor’s Island. For many years he was one of the leading merchants of New York, in which pursuit he amassed a considerable fortune He died on the second of September, 1823.

Colonel Trumbull has introduced Lieutenant-colonel Stevens, in his picture of the surrender of Cornwallis, mounted at the head of the regiment; and also prominently in his picture of the surrender of Burgoyne. Letters written to Colonel Stevens by Generals Washington, La Fayette, Schuyler, Knox, Gates, Lincoln, and other officers, yet in possession of his family, attest the extent of his services, his efficiency as an officer, and their high regard for him as a man. The gold medal voted by Congress to General Gates, and his small library, were left to members of General Stevens’s family, and are still retained by them. General Stevens’s second wife was Lucretia, sister of Colonel William Ledyard, who was massacred in Fort Griswold, at Groton, as recorded on page 612, vol. i.

* Journals of Congress, iv., 180.

24 The same officer whose name was appended to the report on the condition of the artillery of West Point, which was furnished to Arnold when preparing for his treasonable act. Major Bauman was postmaster at New York city for thirteen successive years, commencing in 1790.

25 ADAM PHILIP, Count DE CUSTINE, was born at Metz in 1740. He entered the army in early life, and served under Frederick the Great, of Prussia, during the Seven Years’ War. He commanded a regiment in the French army in America, under Rochambeau. On returning to France, he was made governor of Toulon. In 1792, he had command of the army of the Rhine. when he was suddenly summoned to Paris by the Terrorists and sent to the guillotine. He was decapitated in August, 1793, at the age of fifty-three years.

26 Parallel is a technical term applied to trenches and embankments dug and thrown up as a protection to besiegers against the guns of a fort. In this way the assailants may approach a fort, and construct batteries within short gun-shot of the works of the beleaguered, and be well protected in their labors.

27 Doctor Thatcher in his journal, page 274, says, "From the bank of the river I had a fine view of this splendid conflagration. The ships were enwrapped in a torrent of fire, which, spreading with vivid brightness among the combustible rigging, and running with amazing rapidity to the tops of the several masts, while all around was thunder and lightning from our numerous cannons and mortars, and in the darkness of night, presented one of the most sublime and magnificent spectacles which can be imagined. Some of our shells over-reaching the town, are seen to fall into the river, and bursting, throw up columns of water, like the spouting of the monsters of the deep.

28 Gordon (iii., 258) says that La Fayette, with the sanction of Washington, ordered the assailants to remember Fort Griswold (p. 612, vol. i.), and put every man of the garrison to death after the redoubt should be captured. There is no other than verbal evidence that such an order was ever given, an order so repugnant to the character of both Washington and La Fayette. Colonel Hamilton afterward publicly denied the truth of the allegation; and so also did La Fayette. Stedman, an officer under Cornwallis, and historian of the war, does not mention it.

29 This view is from the mounds looking northwest, up the York River. The first head-land on the right is Gloucester Point, and upon the high bank on the left is situated the village of Yorktown. The dark spot in the bank indicates the place of the so-called Cornwallis’s Cave.

30 Doctor Thatcher says, the reason why the loss of the French was so much greater than that of the Americans was the fact that they awaited the removal of the abatis before they made the assault, and all that time were exposed to the galling fire of the enemy. Doctor Munson informed me that while the assault upon these redoubts was progressing, Washington, with Lincoln, Knox, and one or two other officers, were standing in the grand battery (C) watching every movement, through the embrasures, with great anxiety. When the last redoubt was captured, Washington turned to Knox, and said, "The work is done, and well done;" and then called to his servant, "Billy, hand me my horse."

31 Rochambeau, in his Memoirs, mentions an interesting circumstance connected with the attack upon this redoubt. The grenadiers of the regiment of Gatenois, which had been formed out of that of Auvergne, called Sans Tache, were led to the attack. When informed that they were to be engaged in this perilous enterprise, they declared their willingness "to be killed, even to the last man," if their original name, which they so much revered, would be restored to them. Rochambeau promised them it should be done. They fought like tigers, and one third of their number were killed. When Rochambeau reported this affair to the king, Louis signed the order, restoring to the regiment the name of Royal Auvergne. Dumas, in his Memoirs, vol. i., 52, also mentions this circumstance.

32 COUNT MATHIEU DUMAS, who, after his return from America, was made a lieutenant general, was born in Montpellier, in 1753. At the age of twenty he entered the army. He accompanied Rochambeau to America as his aid, and served with distinction at the siege of Yorktown. On his return to Europe, he entered into the French service. He was married to Julia De La Rue in 1785. In 1789 he was elected a member of the Legislative Assembly, and from that period until the close of Napoleon’s career he was continually engaged in the most active public duties. Yet he found time to use his pen, which he wielded with power. At the beginning of the "Reign of Terror," he fled with his family, in company with Count Charles Lameth, who was wounded at Yorktown, to England. He soon returned, but was obliged to flee into Switzerland. He acted with La Fayette in the reorganization of the National Guard, and was at length elevated to a place in the Chamber of Peers. He was with Bonaparte at the battle of Waterloo, and with that event closed his military career. The leisure which ensued he employed in writing historical essays, and preparing Memoirs of his own times. These extend from 1773 to 1826, when he was seventy-three years of age. From these Memoirs I have compiled this brief notice of his public life. He took an active part in the French Revolution in 1830, and co-operated with La Fayette in placing Louis Philippe on the throne. He died at the house of his son (the editor of his Memoirs), in 1837, at the age of almost eighty-five years. He was thirty-five years of age when Trumbull painted the portrait here given.

33 This view is from the street looking northwest. A long wooden building, with steep roof and dormer windows, a portion of which is seen on the left, is also a relic of the Revolutionary era. It, too, was much damaged by the bombardment. A few feet from the door of Mr. Nelson’s dwelling is a fine laurel-tree. On the occasion of La Fayette’s visit to Yorktown in 1824, a large concourse of people were assembled; branches were taken from this laurel-tree, woven into a civic crown, and placed upon the head of the venerable marquis. He took it from his brow, and, placing it upon that of Colonel Nicholas Fish of the Revolution, who accompanied him, remarked that no one was better entitled to wear the mark of honor than he.

34 Never did a man display more lofty patriotism than Governor Nelson on this occasion. He was the chief magistrate of the state, and by virtue of his office was commander-in-chief of its militia. At that time the treasury of Virginia was empty, and there was great apprehension that the militia would disband for want of pay. Governor Nelson applied to a wealthy citizen to borrow money on the credit of the state. The security was not considered safe, and the patriot pledged his private property as collateral. The money was obtained and used for the public service. Because Governor Nelson exercised his prerogative as chief magistrate of the state in impressing men into the military service on the occasion of the siege of Yorktown, many influential men were offended, and many mortal enemies appeared. But he outlived all the wounds of malice, and posterity does honor to his name.

35 Dr. Thatcher says: "I have this day visited the town of York, to witness the destructive effects of the siege. It contains about sixty houses; some of them are elegant, many of them are greatly damaged, and some totally ruined, being shot through in a thousand places, and honey-combed, ready to crumble to pieces. Rich furniture and books were scattered over the ground, and the carcasses of men and horses, half covered with earth, exhibited a scene of ruin and horror beyond description. The earth in many places is thrown up into mounds by the force of our shells, and it is difficult to point to a spot where a man could have resorted for safety.

36 See the map on page 312.

37 Delay on that occasion would, indeed, have been dangerous, perhaps fatal to the hopes of the Americans. Admiral Digby hastened the repairs of his vessels with all possible dispatch, and on the very day when the capitulation was signed, Sir Henry Clinton, with seven thousand of his best troops sailed for the Chesapeake to aid Cornwallis, under a convoy of twenty-five ships of the line. This armament appeared off the Capes of Virginia on the twenty-fourth; but, receiving unquestionable intelligence of the capitulation at Yorktown, the British general returned to New York.

Thomas Anburey, a British officer in Burgoyne’s army, and who served in America until near the close of 1781, published two interesting volumes, called Travels in America. Alluding to the capture of Cornwallis, which occurred three or four weeks previous to his sailing for Europe, he says: "When the British fleet left Sandy Hook, General Washington had certain intelligence of it, within forty-eight hours after it sailed, although at such a considerable distance as near six hundred miles, by means of signal guns and alarms. A very notorious rebel in New York, from the top of his house, hung out the signal of a white flag the moment the fleet got under way, which was immediately answered by the firing of a gun at a small village about a mile from our post at Paulus’ Hook (now Jersey City); after that a continual firing of cannon was heard on the opposite shore; and about two days after the fleet sailed, was the period in which General Washington was so pressing for the army to surrender." – Volume ii., page 481. There is no evidence that Washington was informed of the departure of the fleet previous to the surrender. Although Digby did not leave Sandy Hook until the nineteenth, on account of unfavorable winds and other causes of delay, he left the harbor of New York on the seventeenth.

38 He proposed that the garrisons at York and Gloucester should be prisoners of war, with the customary honors; that the British soldiers should be sent to Great Britain, and the Germans to Germany, under an engagement not to serve against France, America, or their allies, until released or regularly exchanged; that all arms and public stores should be delivered to the conqueror, reserving the usual indulgence of side-arms to officers, and of retaining private property by the officers and soldiers; and that the interests of several individuals (Tories) in civil capacities, and connected with the British, should he attended to, and their persons respected.

39 Washington declared that a general basis for a definitive treaty should be the reception of the two garrisons as prisoners of war, with the same honors as were granted to the American prisoners at Charleston; but he would not agree to send the prisoners out of the country. They were to be marched to some convenient place, where they could be sustained and treated kindly. The shipping and boats in the harbor of Yorktown and Gloucester, with all their guns, stores, tackling, apparel, and furniture, to be delivered to a naval officer appointed to receive them. The artillery, arms, munitions, and public stores to be delivered up, and the sick and wounded to be supplied with the British hospital stores, and attended by the hospital surgeons.

Cornwallis, in reply, asked the privilege of retaining the Bonetta sloop of war, and sufficient officers and men, to carry his dispatches to Sir Henry Clinton, pledging her safe delivery to the conqueror subsequently, if she escaped the dangers of the sea. This was granted.

40 At that very time, Colonel Laurens’s father, who had been president of Congress, was confined in the Tower of London on a charge of high treason. He had been captured at sea while on his way to Holland to solicit a loan. This circumstance will be more fully noticed hereafter.

41 The following is an abstract of the Articles of Capitulation: I. The garrisons at York and Gloucester to surrender themselves prisoners of war; the land troops to remain prisoners to the United States; the naval forces to the naval army of the French king. II. The artillery, munitions, stores, &c., to be delivered to proper officers appointed to receive them. III. The two redoubts captured on the sixteenth to be surrendered, one to the Americans, the other to the French troops. The garrison at York to march out at two o’clock, with shouldered arms, colors cased, * and drums beating; there to lay down their arms and return to their encampment: The works on the Gloucester side to be delivered to the Americans and French; the garrison to lay down their arms at three o’clock. IV. The officers to retain their side-arms, papers, and private property. Also, the property of Loyalists found in the garrison to be retained. V. The soldiers to be kept in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, and to be subsisted by the Americans. British, Anspach, and Hessian officers allowed to be quartered near them, and supply them with clothing and necessities. VI. The officers allowed to go on parole to Europe, or to any part of the American confederacy; proper vessels to be granted by Count De Grasse to convey them, under flags of truce, to New York, within ten days, if they choose. Passports to be granted to those who go by land. VII. Officers allowed to keep soldiers as servants, and servants, not soldiers, not to be considered prisoners. VIII. The Bonetta to be under the entire control of Cornwallis, to go to New York with dispatches, and then to be delivered to Count De Grasse. IX. Traders not considered close prisoners of war but on parole, and allowed three months to dispose of their property, or remove it. X. Loyalists not to be punished on account of having joined the British army. Considering this matter to be of a civil character, Washington would not assent to the article. XI. Proper hospitals to be furnished for the sick and wounded, they to be attended by the British surgeons. XII. Wagons to be furnished, if possible, for carrying the baggage of officers attending the soldiers, and of the hospital surgeons when traveling on account of the sick. XIII. The shipping and boats in the two harbors, with all their appendages, arms, and stores, to be delivered up, unimpaired, after the private property was unloaded. XIV. This article is given entire in the preceding fac simile, which, with the signatures, I copied from the original document, now in possession of Peter Force, Esq., of Washington City. These articles were signed, on the part of the British, by Lord Cornwallis, and by Thomas Symonds, the naval commander in York River; on the part of the allied armies, by Washington, Rochambeau, Barras, and De Grasse.

* This disposition of colors is considered degrading. Lincoln was obliged to submit to it at Charleston, where the British general intended it as an insult. As Washington made the terms of surrender "those of Charleston," Cornwallis was obliged to submit.

As Washington refused to agree to any stipulations respecting the Tories in the British camp, many of them sailed in the Bonetta for New York, unwilling to brave the ire of their offended countrymen.

Considerable private property of the loyal citizens had been placed on board the vessels for security during the siege. This was included in the terms of the article.

42 The Abbé Robin, chaplain to the French army, wrote an interesting account of this siege and surrender. He says, "We were all surprised at the good condition of the English troops, as well as their cleanliness of dress. To account for their good appearance, Cornwallis had opened all the stores (about to be surrendered) to the soldiers before the capitulation took place. Each had on a complete new suit, but all their finery seemed to humble them the more, when contrasted with the miserable appearance of the Americans." – New Travels in North America in the year 1781, and Campaigns of the Army of Count De Rochambeau.

43 The conduct of Lord Cornwallis during his march of over fifteen hundred miles through the Southern States was often disgraceful to the British name. He suffered dwelling-houses to be plundered of every thing that could be carried off; and it was well known that his lordship’s table was furnished with plate thus obtained from private families. His march was more frequently that of a marauder than an honorable general. It is estimated that Virginia alone lost, during Cornwallis’s attempt to reduce it, thirty thousand slaves. It was also estimated, at the time, from the best information that could be obtained, that, during the six months previous to the surrender at Yorktown, the whole devastations of his army amounted in value to about fifteen millions of dollars.

44 Robert Wilson, the honored ensign on this occasion, was a native of New York. He had been early trained in the duties and hardships of military life, by his maternal uncle, the famous Captain Gregg well known in the history of the Mohawk Valley. One of his exploits I have related on page 252, volume i. Young Wilson became attached to the army at the age of twelve years. His commission as ensign (which I have seen) is dated June 9th, 1781, four months previous to the surrender at Yorktown. At the close of the war, he became a member of the Society of the Cincinnati, and from his certificate I made the copy printed on page 696, vol. i. He settled in Central New York when it was a wilderness; was magistrate many years; and for some time was postmaster at Manlius, in Onondago county. He died in the year 1811, leaving a widow, who still survives him, and four children, all of whom are now dead. The late James Gregg Wilson, one of the proprietors of the Brother Jonathan newspaper, was his last surviving child. The statement in the text respecting his participation in the surrender of the colors at Yorktown I received from his relatives, and have no reason to doubt its truth. It is also corroborated by an eye-witness who lived to the age of ninety-eight, and knew Wilson from his boyhood until his death.

45 Dr. Thatcher, who was present, says that he saw many of the soldiers, with sullen countenances, throw down their guns on the pile with violence, as if determined to render them unfit for further service. By order of General Lincoln, this conduct was checked, and they were made to lay them down in an orderly manner.

46 The British prisoners were marched, some to Winchester, in Virginia, and some to Fort Frederick, and Fredericktown, in Maryland. The latter portion were guarded by militia, commanded by General Philip Van Cortlandt, and many serious quarrels between them and their custodians occurred. They were finally removed to Lancaster, in Pennsylvania, and guarded by Continental troops. Cornwallis and other British officers went by sea to New York on parole. Arrangements were finally made for the exchange of most of them.

47 An estimate made soon after the surrender, made the total loss of the British eleven thousand eight hundred. In that estimate was included two thousand sailors, one thousand eight hundred negroes, and one thousand five hundred Tories.

48 Ramsay, Gordon, Marshall, Stedman, Robin, Thacher, Botta, Sparks.

49 Brigadiers Du Portail and Knox were each promoted to the rank of major general; and Colonel Govion, and Captain Rochefontain, of the corps of engineers, were each advanced a grade, by brevet.

50 Thatcher, 281.

51 JEAN BAPTISTE DONATIEN DE VIMEUR, the Count De Rochambeau, was born at Vendôme in 1725, and entered the army at the age of sixteen years. In 1746 he became aid-de-camp to Louis Philippe, duke of Orleans, and was afterward appointed to the command of the regiment of La Marche. He was wounded at the battle of Lafeldt, where he distinguished himself. He fought bravely at Creveldt, Minden, Corbach, and Clostercamp. He was made lieutenant general in 1779, and in 1780 came to America with a strong force. After assisting in the capture of Cornwallis at Yorktown, and remaining several months in America, he returned to France, and was raised to the rank of field-marshal by Louis XVI. During the French Revolution, he was appointed to the command of the army of the North. He was superseded, and suffered the persecutions of calumny, but a decree of approbation was passed in 1792. He then retired to his estate near Vendôme. Under the tyranny of Robespierre, he was arrested, and narrowly escaped death. In 1803 Bonaparte granted him a pension, and the cross of grand officer of the Legion of Honor. He died in 1807, at the age of eighty-two. His Memoirs were published in 1809.

52 The committee consisted of Edmund Randolph, Elias Boudinot, Joseph Varnum, and Charles Carroll.

53 Journals of Congress, vii., 162.

54 The marble for this column, like many other monuments ordered by the Continental Congress, is yet in the quarry. It was proposed to have it "ornamented with emblems of the alliance between the United States and his most Christian majesty, and inscribed with a succinct narrative of the surrender of Earl Cornwallis," to Washington, Rochambeau, and De Grasse. – Journals, vii., 166.

55 This is a representation of one of the flags surrendered at Yorktown, and presented to Washington. I made this sketch of the flag itself, then in the Museum at Alexandria, in Virginia. It belonged to the seventh regiment. The size of the flag is six feet long, and five feet four inches wide. The ground is blue; the central stripe of the cross red; the marginal ones white. In the center is a crown, and beneath it a garter with its inscription, "Honi soit qui mal y pense," inclosing a full-blown rose. These are neatly embroidered with silk. The fabric of the flag is heavy twilled silk.

56 Sir N. W. Wraxall, in his Historical Memoirs of his Own Times (page 246), has left an interesting record of the effect of the news of the surrender of Cornwallis upon the minds of Lord North and the king. The intelligence reached the cabinet on Sunday, the twenty-fifth of November, at noon. Wraxall asked Lord George Germain how North "took the communication?" "As he would have taken a cannon-ball in his breast," replied Lord George; "for he opened his arms exclaiming wildly, as he paced up and down the apartment during a few minutes, ‘Oh! God, it is all over!’ words which he repeated many times, under emotions of the deepest consternation and distress." Lord George Germain sent off a dispatch to the king, who was then at Kew. The king wrote a calm letter in reply, but it was remarked, as evidence of unusual emotion, that he had omitted to mark the hour and minute of his writing, which he was always accustomed to do with scrupulous precision. Yet the handwriting evinced composure of mind.

57 He referred to disasters in the West Indies, and the loss of Minorca in the Mediterranean.

58 The order and discipline of the French army while on this march, and the deputation of Quakers who met Rochambeau at Philadelphia, are noticed on page 623, vol. i.

59 Mr. Custis left four infant children. Washington adopted the two younger, a son and daughter. The son still survives; the respected George Washington Parke Custis, Esq., of Arlington House, Virginia.

60 This is a view from the lawn, looking south. It is a frame building with a brick foundation. At the time of the siege it belonged in fee to Governor Nelson, but its occupant, a widow Moore, had a life interest in it. and it was known as Moore’s house. The narrow piazza in front is a modern addition. This house is upon the Temple Farm, so called from the fact that vestiges of a small temple or church, and the remains of an ancient settlement, are there seen, about a mile and a half south of Yorktown. Around the temple was a wall, and within are several tomb-stones. One of these bear the name of MAJOR WILLIAM GOOCH, and the date of his death, 1655.

61 Hampton, in Elizabeth City county, is one of the oldest towns in Virginia. Its site was visited by Captain John Smith in 1607, while exploring the mouth of the James River. The natives called the place Ke-cough-tan. The English commenced a settlement there in 1610, and in 1705 it was erected into a town by law.

62 This point was Smith’s first landing-place, and because he found good anchorage, a hospitable reception, and various other comforts, he gave it the name it now bears.

63 In 1630 a small fort was erected on Point Comfort; and it was there that Count De Grasse caused some fortifications to be thrown up to cover the landing of the troops under St. Simon previous to the siege of Yorktown in 1781.

64 Dunmore’s force consisted of the Fowey, Mercury, Kingfisher, and Otter, two companies from a West India regiment, and a motley rabble of negroes and Tories.

65 Jones, p. 63-64. Howison, ii., 95.

66 This view is from the church-yard looking southeast. The edifice is cruciform, and built of imported brick. It is near the head of the town, on the east side of the York road. In a field about a mile from Hampton are four black marble tablets, with arms and inscriptions upon two of them. One there, over the grave of Vice-admiral Neville, bears the date of 1697; the other, over the remains of Thomas Carle, has the date of 1700 upon it.

67 Perkins’s History of the Late War. These outrages, so dishonorable to the British character, are facts well attested by a committee of Congress appointed to investigate the matter.

68 Norfolk is situated on the north bank of the Elizabeth River, at the head of steam-boat navigation. It was established by law as a town in 1705, formed into a borough in 1736, and incorporated a city by the Virginia Legislature in 1845.


69 This view is from the western bank of the stream, near the tide-mill, looking north. On the left of the bridge are seen piles of wood and lumber, the chief articles of trade there. The causeway is seen extending on the right, to the island on the Norfolk side, whereon is a wind-mill constructed several years ago by a man whose acumen was certainly not remarkable. Placed in the midst of a morass and surrounded by trees, its sails never revolved, and it remains a monument of folly. It stands upon the site of the southern extremities of the fortifications thrown up by Dunmore, and serves the useful purpose of a guide to the remains of those works.

70 The municipal authorities informed Dunmore that they could easily have prevented the removal of the type, but preferred a peaceable course, and asked for the immediate return of the persons and property illegally carried away. Dunmore replied that he had done the people of Norfolk good service by depriving them of the means of having their minds poisoned by rebellious doctrines, and intimated that cowardice alone prevented their interfering when the types were carried to the fleet. Holt went to Williamsburg, where he had formerly resided and held the office of mayor, and published a severe article against Dunmore. He then went to New York, where, ten years before, he had published the New York Gazette and Post Boy, in company with James Parker, and established a newspaper. When the British took possession of the city, he left it, and published his journal at Esopus and Poughkeepsie. While at the former place, he published Burgoyne’s pompous proclamation, noticed on page 133, volume i.; and while at the latter, he sent forth to the world the dreadful account of the Wyoming massacre, which he received from the flying fugitives. Holt died January thirtieth, 1784, aged sixty-four years. His widow printed a memorial of him on cards, which she distributed among their friends. * – See Thomas’s History of Printing, ii., 105.

* The following is a copy of the memorial preserved in Alden’s Collection of American Epitaphs, i., 271: "A due tribute to the memory of John Holt, printer to this state, a native of Virginia, who patiently obeyed Death’s awful summons, on the thirtieth of January, 1784, in the sixty-fourth year of his age. To say that his family lament him, is needless; that his friends bewail him, useless; that all regret him, unnecessary; for that he merited every esteem, is certain. The tongue of slander can not say less, though justice might say more. In token of sincere affection, his disconsolate widow hath caused this memorial to be erected."

71 Thomas Marshall, father of the late chief-justice, and also the latter, then a lieutenant in the minute battalion, were among the Virginians at the Great Bridge. Thomas Marshall was major at that time. He had a shrewd servant with him, whom he caused to desert to Dunmore, after being instructed in his duty. He reported to his lordship that there were not more than three hundred shirtmen (as the British called the Virginian riflemen, who wore their hunting shirts) at the bridge. This emboldened Dunmore. and he sent Captains Leslie and Fordyce at once to attack the redoubt.

72 This officer, the son of the Earl of Levin, was mortally wounded at Princeton, on the second of January, 1777. See page 332, volume i.

73 Edward Stevens, who afterward became a brigadier, was a very efficient officer. His epitaph upon a monument in his family burial-ground, half a mile north of the Culpepper Court House, tells briefly the events of his public life:

"This gallant officer and upright man served his country with reputation in the field and Senate of his native state. He took an active part and had a principal share in the war of the Revolution, and acquired great distinction at the battles of Great Bridge, Brandywine, Germantown, Camden, Guilford, and the siege of York; and although zealous in the cause of American freedom, his conduct was not marked with the least degree of malevolence or party spirit. Those who honestly differed with him in opinion he always treated with singular tenderness. In strict integrity, honest patriotism, and immovable courage, he was surpassed by none, and had few equals."

He died on the seventeenth of August, 1820, in the seventy-sixth year of his age.

74 "The prisoners expected to be scalped," wrote a correspondent of the Virginia Gazette, and cried out, "For God’s sake, do not murder us!" One of them, unable to walk, cried out in this manner to one of our men, and was answered by him, "Put your arm around my neck, and I will show what I intend to do." Then taking him, with his arm over his neck, he walked slowly along, bearing him with great tenderness. to the breast-work." – Virginia Gazette, December 14, 1775; Gordon, Ramsay, Botta, Girardin, Howison.

75 It was a shot from this vessel which struck the corner of St. Paul’s Church, referred to on a preceding page.

76 Virginia Gazette, January, 1776, Burk, iii., 451. Howison, ii., 109.

77 When Dunmore destroyed Norfolk, its population was six thousand, and so rapidly was it increasing in business and wealth, that in the two years from 1773 to 1775, the rents in the city increased from forty thousand to fifty thousand dollars a year. The actual loss by the cannonade and conflagration was estimated at fifteen hundred thousand dollars; the personal suffering was inconceivable.

78 Andrew Lewis was a native of Donnegal county, Ireland. He settled in Virginia, and, with five brothers, engaged in the conflicts of the French war. He was a major in Washington’s Virginia regiment, and was highly esteemed by him for his courage and skill. He was the commander, as already noticed on page 281, at the battle of Point Pleasant, in 1774. When Washington was appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental army, he recommended Lewis as one of the major generals, but he was overlooked. He accepted the office of a brigadier general, and commanded a detachment of the army stationed near Williamsburg. He drove Dunmore from Gwyn’s Island in 1776, and resigned his command on account of illness in 1780. He died in Bedford county, forty miles from his home, on the Roanoke, while on his way thither. General Lewis was more than six feet in height, and possessed great personal dignity.

79 See page 213.

80 Dunmore never returned to the United States. He went to Europe, and two years afterward was appointed governor of Bermuda. He was very unpopular, and did not long remain there. He died in England in 1809. His wife was Lady Charlotte Stewart, daughter of the Earl of Galloway.

81 The amount of property destroyed in this expedition up the Elizabeth River was very great. Previous to the abandonment of Portsmouth and Gosport, the Americans burned a ship-of-war of twenty-eight guns, then on the stocks, and two heavily-laden French merchantmen. One of these contained a thousand hogsheads of tobacco. Several vessels of war were taken on the stocks, and also several merchantmen. The whole number of vessels taken, burned, and destroyed amounted to one hundred and thirty-seven. They were laden with tobacco, tar, and turpentine. Many privateers were captured or destroyed. At Suffolk, nine thousand barrels of salted pork, eight thousand barrels of tar, pitch, and turpentine, and a vast quantity of stores and merchandise were burned.

82 The Dismal Swamp lies partly in Virginia and partly in North Carolina. Its extent from north to south is about thirty miles, and from east to west about ten miles. No less than five navigable streams and several creeks have their rise in it. It is made subservient to the wants of commerce, by furnishing the raw material for an immense quantity of shingles and other juniper lumber.

The Dismal Swamp Canal runs through it from north to south, and the Portsmouth and Roanoke railway passes across five miles of its northern border. The canal has a stage-road running parallel with it, extending from Deep Creek to Elizabeth.

83 Drummond’s Lake, so called after a hunter of that name who discovered it, is near the center of the swamp. A hotel has been erected upon its shore, and is a place of considerable resort. Being on the line between Virginia and North Carolina, it is a sort of Gretna Green where "runaway matches" are consummated. Tradition tells of a young man who, on the death of the girl he loved, lost his reason. He suddenly disappeared, and his friends never heard of him afterward. In his ravings he often said she was not dead, but gone to the Dismal Swamp, and it is supposed he wandered into its gloomy morasses and perished. Moore, who visited Norfolk in 1804, on hearing this tradition, wrote his touching ballad, commencing,

"They made her a grave too cold and damp

For a soul so warm and true;
And she’s gone to the Lake of the Dismal Swamp,
Where all night long, by her fire-fly lamp,
She paddles her white canoe.
And her fire-fly lamp I soon shall see,
And her paddle I soon shall hear;
Long and loving our life shall be,
And I’ll hide the maid in a cypress tree
When the footsteps of Death are near."

84 Portsmouth is a considerable town on the west side of the Elizabeth River, opposite Norfolk. It lies upon lower ground than the latter. It was established as a town in 1752, on lands owned by William Crawford, in whose honor one of its finest streets was named. The Gosport navy-yard is within half a mile of the center of Portsmouth, and around it a little village has grown up.

85 Governor Jefferson was eager to capture Arnold, and offered five thousand guineas to any of the men of General Muhlenberg’s Western corps who would accomplish it. – See Jefferson’s Letter to Muhlenberg, 1781.



Transcription and html prepared by Bill Carr, last updated 10/14/2001.

Please provide me with any feedback you may have concerning errors in the transcription or any supplementary information concerning the contents. [email protected]

Copyright Notice: Copyright 2001. All files on this site are copyrighted by their creator. They may be linked to but may not be reproduced on another site without the specific permission of their creator. Although public information is not in and of itself copyrightable, the format in which it is presented, the notes and comments, etc., are. It is, however, quite permissible to print or save the files to a personal computer for personal use ONLY.