On September 28, when the American and French troops left Williamsburg for Yorktown there were almost 9,000 Americans under General Washington's command. Of those almost 40 percent were Virginia Militia under the command of Virginia governor, Brigadier General Thomas Nelson, Jr. who also happened to be a resident of Yorktown. Nelson would soon discover that his home, a stately 3 story brick colonial structure with very thick walls, that the British Commander, Lord Cornwallis, had made his HQ. Once all of the artillery pieces had been placed around the southern edge of Yorktown, Nelson's home would become one of the primary targets for American artillery pieces. Despite the almost continual bombardment of his home, it would suffer little damage during the siege.
It was the 6th year of a long war. Some said it was a stalemate, but the Americans were out of money and resources. It would take a perfect storm to save the revolution and that's exactly what Washington was hoping for-- and what he got.
In 1781 when everything seemed ready to collapse, the French send not only money to pay unpaid American soldiers, but they also sent much needed supplies, men and leadership. Not far off was the French navy. The perfect storm that descended upon Yorktown brought all the necessary forces together, and yes, even a freak storm helped prevent the British escape the noose tightening around Great Britain's southern commander.
The battlefield where these events took place has been preserved and turned what was a complex series of events into easily understandable explanation of how one of the greatest military forces in the world, were forced to surrender to a thread-bare, hungry band of rebels fighting for their freedom.
The Yorktown Victory Center is a museum of the American Revolution that features a number of exhibits and outdoor living history experiences.
The Yorktown Victory Center, a museum of the American Revolution, chronicles America's evolution from colonial status to nationhood through a unique blend of thematic exhibits and outdoor living history.
The first courthouse in Yorktown was built on this site in 1696. Since then there have been 4 additional courthouses occupy this space. The current building was built in 1955 and called Circuit Courthouse. York Hall as it is now called also has displays of local artisans, a gift gallery and in the lower level is the York County Historical Museum.
A number of the historic buildings have been restored and open to the public.
By late September, the noose had tightened around Cornwallis' at Yorktown. Lafayette had blocked his route to North Carolina. General Anthony Wayne was blocking his route back to Williamsburg. Grasse's fleet had blocked the Chesapeake preventing Cornwallis' escape or rescue by the Royal Navy.
Washington and his French allies were in position. For Washington, it was a perfect storm.
Originally, what is now known as the York River, was called the Pamunkey River, the name of Chief Powhatan's Native American tribe. This name was later changed in favor of the Charles River, and then once again changed to the York River. In 1691 the Virginia Ports Act authorized 15 port towns to be built along several of the major rivers including one town that was to be built on the York River for the purpose of collecting tariffs.
Disregarding Lincoln's suggestion to attack Richmond directly from Washington D.C., Union General McClellan began his attack on Richmond by amassing a major force from Hampton Roads. McClellan was surprised when his scouts reported that Yorktown was heavily defended.
Confederate Brigadier General John B. Magruder had established a small outpost at Yorktown. When seen by McClellan, he made a false assumption that Yorktown and defensive positions running south to the James River, would prove too difficult to assault with the forces he had on hand. He therefore requested additional artillery to be shipped in for a massive assault against the rebels, making this assault the largest artillery deployment in the world to that time. McClellan was preparing for a long and costly siege.