The Battle of Yorktown

The Battle of Yorktown

Victory: The Patriots hard work, dedication, and sacrifices have finally paid off.

On September 13, 1781, the Patriot and French army under Washington’s command arrived at Williamsburg, Virginia. After further reinforcements arrived, Washington now had a force of nearly 18,000 soldiers. On September 28, 1781, Washington led this force out of Williamsburg to surround the British forces in Yorktown. They bombarded the British with their heavy guns. On October 14, 1781, with the British weakened by the heavy bombardment, Washington sent his troops to attack the outer defenses of the British. This allowed Washington to move his heavy guns closer to the British, and after even heavier bombardment, the British concluded that their situation was hopeless. They surrendered and nearly 8,000 soldiers were captured.

The British asked for traditional honors of war, which included the British army marching out with their flags flying. However, the British had denied such honors of war to the defeated Patriot army following the siege of Charleston, so Washington denied the British this honor. The commander of the British force, Lord Cornwallis, refused to attend the surrender ceremony, claiming that he was sick. His second in command, Charles O’Hara, was instead left to lead the British forces in the surrender ceremony.

The statement that all men are created equal is the belief that all people are born free and equal; God (or the divine) created all people equally, and they should be free to choose their path and future.

In contrast, when news of the defeat at Yorktown reached the British Prime Minister, Lord North, he reached the conclusion that the Revolutionary War was all over. The British Parliament soon after voted to end the war, and Lord North and his government resigned.

September 3, 1783

The Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783, to formally end the war.
Article 1 of the treaty identifies the United States of America as free, sovereign, and independent.

Let’s take a look at some important figures during this period.

Major Patrick Ferguson, a notable British military leader, was not only brilliant but arrogant. The colonial Overmountain Men made their way from Sycamore Shoals in pursuit of their enemy, Major Ferguson. These men were in a fight to protect their homes and livelihoods. Major Ferguson made the mistake of underestimating their strength. He sent messages to his officers that revealed his arrogance in believing they’d never be taken down by any colonists. For his flaws both in personality and battle, Major Ferguson was a gifted craftsman. He invented the first breech-loading rifle and secured a patent on it. This rifle could be fired much more rapidly than the muzzle-loading piece, and it was more accurate. It could be fired in rainy, wet weather as the old muzzle-loader was useless when wet. But this brilliant breech-loader was not used in the battle of Kings Mountain against the colonists because British General Howe turned down the idea of this new gun. He resented Major Ferguson and his arrogance in every way. Fighting among British military leaders proved to be one more chink in their armor. While these new rifles worked extremely well at the battle of Brandywine, they were ultimately shelved in storage. The British soldiers had to use the old muzzle loaders again.

The battle of Brandywine was an important moment in the Revolution for another reason. In combat at Brandywine, Major Ferguson, who was a skilled marksman, ended up in close enough range of General George Washington that he could have easily shot and killed him. But he refused to do so because, in the British Officer-Gentleman code, it was bad form to kill enemy officers. Ferguson wrote of his decision to let Washington go. Patrick Ferguson’s successes had all been in open warfare, with speed and surprise. It is hard to imagine how the Revolution or the beginnings of the new America would have played out had Washington been taken out by Ferguson, yet it wasn’t meant to be. Neither Ferguson nor his men had any experience in the type of warfare they would find at Kings Mountain.

Major Patrick Ferguson left Ninety-Six, North Carolina, heading for Charlotte. They covered the left flank of General Cornwallis. They encountered “the most violent young rebels they had ever seen.” Ferguson received a report of 3,000 backwoodsmen, all highly skilled marksmen. He sent an urgent plea for help from Col. Krueger at Ninety-Six. He also sent a runner to General Cornwallis. The messages were never answered. On October 6th, he took up a defensive position on Kings Mountain, part of South Carolina Blue Ridge. He put his men on a hill, feeling extremely confident in their position and power.

The Overmountain Men did not have a general. They were four separate bands, led by a shopkeeper, an innkeeper, a future member of Congress, and a man named Isaac Shelby who later became governor of Kentucky. Colonel William Campbell of Virginia led the group, and he was married to Patrick Henry’s sister. Campbell was a giant of a man and a fierce fighter.

The men of this group didn’t have a real need for a general; they just found a tree to hide behind and took their best shots. They fought like Native Americans. They trapped Patrick’s men with no way to escape off the mountain. The Overmountain Men surrounded them. Colonel Campbell’s men led the charge. Patrick Ferguson’s men charged down the hill with their bayonets. There were several charges and retreats. His men wanted to surrender, but Ferguson cut the white flag with his sword. The Overmountain Men closed in the circle, and the battle was over. Ferguson was spotted trying to sneak away, but he was ultimately shot down and killed.

There were just a few British survivors, and they were marched to North Carolina. The defeat was crushing to the Redcoats. It cut off their southern forces. At Kings Mountain, a spontaneous patriot army destroyed one of the best and most successful British units. It was a turning point in the war.

Francis Marion was born at his family’s plantation in Berkeley County, South Carolina, around 1732. The family’s youngest son, Francis, was a small boy with malformed legs, but he was adventurous and daring. At around the age of 15, he joined the crew of a ship and sailed to the West Indies. During Marion’s first voyage, the ship sank, supposedly after a whale breached it. The seven-man crew escaped in a lifeboat and spent a week at sea before they drifted ashore. After the shipwreck, Marion decided to stick to land, managing his family’s plantation until he joined the South Carolina militia at 25 years old to fight in the French and Indian War.

In 1761, after his militia had defeated the area Cherokees, Marion returned to farming. He was successful enough to purchase his own plantation, Pond Bluff, in 1773. In 1775, Marion was elected to the first South Carolina Provincial Congress, an organization in support of colonial self-determination. After the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, the Provincial Congress voted to raise three regiments, commissioning Marion a captain in the second. His first assignments involved guarding artillery and building Fort Sullivan, in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. When he saw combat during the Battle of Fort Sullivan in June 1776, Marion acted bravely. But for the following several years, he remained at Fort Sullivan, spending time keeping his troops in line. It is said that Marion was appalled by his rag-tag and drunken group of soldiers who often appeared barefoot at roll call. In 1779, they joined the Siege of Savannah, which the Americans lost. With the American army in retreat, things looked bad in South Carolina.

Marion took the lead of the small group of soldiers and experienced his first military success in August when he and just 50 men defeated the British. By hiding in the forest, Marion’s soldiers surprised a group of Redcoats from behind and ended up rescuing 150 American prisoners. Although they were an undersized and undersupplied group, Marion’s men continued to be successful against many British soldiers due to their sneaky and unconventional tactics, wearing down their opponents or catching them unprepared. Because the British were unable to prepare for Marion’s unpredictable attacks, they were forced to divide up their armies, and as a result, weaken their military power. Through repeated successful skirmishes or small battles with British troops and his empowering of other colonial patriots, Busick says, Marion “helped make South Carolina an inhospitable place for the British. Marion and his followers played the role of David to the British Goliath.”

Marion’s famous nickname – “Swamp Fox” – originated from a prolonged and hard-fought battle in November 1780. British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton heard where Marion was located from an escaped prisoner. Tarleton tried to hunt down Marion and his men for seven hours. It’s said Tarleton trailed them for around 26 miles! Marion hid in the swamp, and Tarleton finally gave up his chase, saying, “As for this damned old fox, the Devil himself could not catch him.” The tale of Marion’s swamp escape was shared widely among colonists, who later dubbed him the “Swamp Fox.” Biographer Hugh Rankin explained Francis Marion’s life as “something like a sandwich—a highly spiced center between two slabs of rather dry bread.” Later after the war, Marion took on the quiet, simple lifestyle of a farmer. At 54, he finally married a 49-year-old cousin, Mary Esther Videau. He led a peacetime militia and had a role in the South Carolina Assembly. It was in his service there that he fought against the common practice of punishing loyalists, or those who had stayed faithful to the King of England during the war. Marion’s desire to make peace with those Americans who were loyal to the British speaks volumes of his character. In 1790, Marion helped write the South Carolina state constitution and then was considered completely retired. Years of poor health led to Francis Marion’s death at his plantation, Pond Bluff, on February 27, 1795.