Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Yorktown and Weapons of Mass Destruction

September marks the commencement of the siege of Yorktown, and though the war dragged on for two years following Cornwallis' surrender, Yorktown was the decisive battle.  Realizing his attempt to stabilize the Carolinas would not be successful, in General Charles Cornwallis moved towards the Virginia coast to either await reinforcements or prepare for evacuation. He fortified the area around Yorktown and across the York River in Gloucester in August 1781. Washington, assured now of French support, seized the opportunity for a conclusive confrontation and marched his forces south. A significant French naval win precluded any chance of evacuation by Cornwallis. The combined French and American forces of almost 16,000 men opposed approximately 8000 British troops. Beginning with siege lines that advanced towards the British position, Washington then launched attacks on the redoubts. One of the more spectacular assaults, on Redoubt 10, was led by Alexander Hamilton. The surrender of Cornwallis did not end the war but made British defeat inevitable.

Here is the French Grand Battery. In our age of drones and nuclear weapons, it is remarkable to travel a place like Yorktown and see what, at the time, constituted the weapons of mass destruction.

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