« AnteriorContinuar »
w opened from the lines of the besiegers on the ninth
the and tenth of October, and kept up a brisk and continued fire upon the town. Some of their shells passed into the harbour, and a frigate of 44 guns and a transport ship were burnt.
On the tenth, tidings were received from Clinton, which redoubled the anxieties of Cornwallis. The sailing of the promised succors had been unavoidably postponed to the 12th. Doubts were intimated, whether from unforseen casualties, they might not be even later in setting out. Clinton inquired further whether the besieged could not hold out till the middle of November, in which case he would make a diversion in their favour by land, and march to Philadelphia. This disheartening message destroyed the hopes of the beleagured army. Some of Cornwallis's officers renewed the advice given at the commencement of the siege, that he should cross to Gloucester Point; and, keeping a check against pursuit by a strong rear guard, force his way to Philadelphia. This was a desperate proposal, and was declined. Cornwallis retained a feeble lingering expectation that his commander at New York would still be able to send him succors, and resolved to defend himself to the last.
The allied forces continued to advance their works with indefatigable industry. In carrying on their second parallel, it became necessary to reduce two of the redoubts, advanced on the left of the British, which annoyed the working parties. To excite a national emulation, the attack of one was enw trusted to an American detachment, commanded
"" by La Fayette, and of the other to a French detachment, commanded by the Baron de Viomenel. Both of the redoubts were gallantly carried at the point of the bayonet; and immediately included within the American parallel. No effort was made to retake them.
The British general perceived that the completion of this parallel would make instant destruction to his remaining works, inevitable. To retard it, he projected a sortie in the evening of the 15th. A detachment, commanded by Colonel ne yan "Abercrombie, penetrated into the American lines,
o captured two redoubts, and spiked a number of cannon. They were repulsed and driven in by the Viscount de Noaillés, and the cannon restored to service. The next day the batteries were finished and mounted. Nearly a hundred pieces of heavy ordnance were brought to bear on
the British works with such effect, that the walls were shattered, the ditches filled with the ruins, the fortifica- Lesson
tions dismounted, and the whole town made so I utterly defenceless as not to be able to show a gun in defence.
This incessant and terrible cannonading left Cornwallis no
alternative but immediate submission or escape. Hopeless į as was the latter effort, he determined to risk it; and on
the night of the 16th, commenced crossing to Gloucester Point, with the design of pushing at once against General Choisie, siezing his stores and horses, and while the body of the American army was detained south of the river by the want of boats to cross, pressing into the interior, aiming for Philadelphia and New York. One part of his army had
been ferried over on this bold and desperate plan, when a i violent storm arose, dispersed his boats and prostrated his
last hope. The surrender of the post became inevitable, particularly as morning disclosed several new batteries which had been opened from the American lines. Submitting to necessity, he asked a suspension of arms for twenty- Lai
four hours. Two hours were granted for the pur-o É pose of receiving the proposals, on which the besieged were
willing to capitulate; and those being such as to satisfy I Washington of the speedy settlement of the terms, the truce
was continued. On the next day, Viscount de Noailles, and Colonel Laurens, on the part of the allies, and Colonel I. Dundas and Major Ross, on the part of Cornwallis, adjusted the articles, to be submitted to the Commanding
Generals. Washington transmitted them to Cornwallis on si the morning of the 19th, with a letter expressing his expec]; tation that they would be signed by eleven o'clock, and the
garrison be delivered by two P. M. All the efforts of te British General to obtain terms for the American loyali ts failed.. Washington referred their fate exclusively to the civil authorities. The request that the captured soldi rs might be returned to Europe on their parole, not to serve in America during the war, was also declined, because it wo ld
leave them at liberty to serve in garrisons at home. Tne ox; most that was yielded on that point was, that Cornwallis í might dispatch a sloop of war, the Bonetta, to New York,
without search, carrying such persons as he should designate,
he being accountable for the vessel as a prize, and the numi ber of persons as prisoners of war. Many of the Tories who 1 were most obnoxious to popular resentment, availed them
selves of this opportunity. The capitulation was accordingly signed, and at the time appointed, the posts of Yorktown and
our Gloucester were surrendered to the army of Wash
" ington, and the shipping in the harbour to the fleet of De Grasse. The same formalities were observed in the surrender of the troops as had been prescribed by Cornwallis to Lincoln, on the surrender of Charleston. To make the parallel more close, Lincoln was appointed to receive the submission. Cornwallis avoided the embarrassing interview by constituting General O'Hara his representative.
The number of prisoners, exclusive of seamen, was 7,073, of whom 3,000 were unfit for duty-sick, or wounded. The British loss during the siege in killed, wounded, and missing, was reported at 553: of the Allies about 300. A large quantity of cannon, chiefly brass, fell into the hands of the Americans; two frigates and twenty transports, with their crews, into the hands of the French.
On the same day that Cornwallis surrendered, Sir Henry Clinton sailed from New York with a large armament of land and sea forces; the former of which amounted tu 7,000 men, and arrived before the Chesapeake on the 24th. The succour came too late, and he immediately returned to New York.
The victorious Allies separated soon after the surrender. De Grasse was under orders from his government to return to the West Indies. Count Rochambeau and his troops were cantoned in Virginia. The Pennsylvania and Maryland brigades were put under the command of General St. Clair, and dispatched to the south to the army of Greene, and the remainder of the American force, commanded by General Lincoln, returned to New York, and resumed their position in the Highlands of the Hudson. Washington repaired to Philadelphia.
The victory over Cornwallis was in effect the conclusion of the war. It prostrated the British power upon the continent, and recovered the whole country to the Union. Thenceforth the enemy was confined to a few posts on the coast, the cities of New York, Charleston, and Savannah, and reduced to merely defensive measures. Their hold on the States was for ever gone. Hostilities were protracted languidly through another season; but the capture of a second British army, of such magnitude, and under a general of so much ability and reputation, confirmed the Independence of
the States beyond further dispute, and annihilated every British hope of regaining the colonies by war.
The victory was therefore hailed with great rejoicings and triumphal celebrations, from one end of the continent to the other. On the day after the capitulation, General Washington ordered all those who were under arrest to be pardoned and set at liberty; and announced the performance of divine service on the 21st, in the different brigades and divisions, recommending that "all the troops do assist at it with serious de portment, and that sensibility of heart which the surprising and particular interposition of Providence in our favour, claims.” Congress, on receiving the official intelligence, went in procession “to return thanks to Almighty God for the signal success of the American arms,” and appointed the 13th of December as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer.
Thanks were solemnly voted to the General-in-chief, the Commanders of the French fleet and army, and to the Allies generally. It was resolved to erect a marble column at York. town, bearing appropriate emblems of the allied powers, and the victory. Two stands of colours were presented to Washington, and two field pieces to Rochambeau.
From the states, cities, corporate bodies, and various public institutions, affectionate congratulatory addresses were presented in great numbers to the illustrious Commander-inchief.
La Fayette, soon after the surrender of Cornwallis, obtained leave to return to his native country. Coming to America in her deepest adversity, and having borne a conspicuous part in her trials and reverses, he left her, finally, after a victory in which he shared some of the highest honours, and which secured the liberties of his adopted country beyond the power of her enemies. His zeal for the cause of American Independence, his eminent services in the field and in the cabinet, received, at the time, warm acknowledgments from Congress and a grateful people; and have made him, through a long life of usefulness and glory in another hemisphere, the object of enthusiastic admiration and affection, to their descendants through three generations.
Thus closed in triumph the year 1781. It opened in glooin, and terminated under brightened auspices : such as gave assurance of returning peace, and renewed promises of the blessings of established institutions and well regulated
liberty, wealth and increase, order and law, of which the Independence that was now won was to be the fruitful parent.
The prosecution of these advantages at home and abroad, so as to assume a proper attitude in the domestic preparations for defence, and to give dignity and efficiency to the relations of the United States with foreign nations, occupied the: immediate attention of Congress and the Commander-in. chief. The negotiations in Europe, soon manifested the general conviction of all the continental courts of the firm establishment of American sovereignty. Great Britain yielded her pretensions reluctantly at first, but policy soon taught her the usefulness of making her concessions as prompt and liberal as possible. A condensed view of the dispositions of the European belligerents to each other, and of each towards America, will show against what intrigues and diplomatic subtleties, the American negotiators contended successfully, to secure the fruits of the victory of Yorktown.