Day 11: Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Near Jamestowne is another site that is part of the Colonial National Historical Park, best known for being where the United States won her independence. Yorktown was where the Revolutionary War ended!
Yorktown was a prosperous trading port during the 17th century; it shipped tobacco and other trade goods back to England. Incoming freight included household goods, wine and liquor, firearms, and slaves. The town has a lower section near the water, where warehouses and shops were built, and an upper portion at the top of the bluff where residents established fine homes.
It continued to prosper until 1781, when George Washington and Comte de Rochambeau with a combination of American and French troops, chose Yorktown as the site of their now famous siege of the British troops, led by General Charles Cornwallis. Washington planned diversionary tactics to make it look like the Americans were planning their siege on New York, and then moved troops down to Virginia to get ready for the siege at Yorktown. Meanwhile, Washington coordinated with Comte de Grasse of the French Army to provide a naval blockade of the Chesapeake Bay, to block Cornwallis’ escape.
The American and French troops began to surround Yorktown on September 28, 1781. While they were establishing their positions, the British kept up a strong bombardment of the positions, trying to prevent the Americans from becoming entrenched. The siege began on October 14, 1781, and the American and French troops built a series of trenches from which to bombard Yorktown, progressively moving their lines closer to the town. The siege didn’t last long – on October 19, 1781, Cornwallis could see that he was out of options and surrendered to Washington.
Casualties numbered 88 killed and 301 wounded for the American and French forces; the British had 156 killed, 326 wounded and 70 missing. Ultimately, Cornwallis surrendered 7,087 troops in Yorktown and another 804 British sailors.
Interestingly, the American government authorized a monument to be built commemorating the siege at Yorktown right after it ended, but the money to pay for the monument wasn’t appropriated for another 100 years. This sounds familiar!
We wandered around the site and checked out the historic homes that remain from the period; there are some original homes and some that have been reconstructed. There are typically signs outside that mark which are which. We were able to tour the Nelson house, which was built around 1730. Thomas Nelson, Jr., who owned the home during the Revolutionary War, was in the Continental Army and participated in the siege of Yorktown. It is believed that he ordered the bombardment of his own house during the siege! The Nelson House is mostly original, with period and reproduction furniture inside.
Yorktown was also the site of fighting during the Peninsula Campaign of the Civil War, and a National Cemetery was established there in 1866; there are a total of 2204 burials there, of which 1,436 are unknown.
We were getting tired though at that point, and still had a drive ahead of us, so we elected not visit the lower town area or the cemetery. We crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge – wow, that is an impressive structure! For those of you who haven’t been on it, it is a 23 mile span of both bridge and tunnel that connects Virginia Beach to the Eastern Shore of Virginia. It was long! At the very end of the bridge, as we were getting close to the mainland of the Eastern Shore, I saw two dolphins playing in the water! I didn’t get pics, but it was awesome to see!
We reached our next destination, Chincoteague Island, a little after sunset and checked into our hotel. We were tired, and decided to only venture next door for dinner. We went to the Jackspot restaurant, where we split a half dozen oysters on the half shell – four Salts and two Sewansecotts. The Sewansecotts were my favorite! I had the Rockfish with a glass of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and Jon had the Swordfish with an El Guapo Virginia IPA. Our meals were delicious, and the presentation was beautiful!
Before turning in for the night, we sat on the balcony of our hotel room listening to the crickets, waves and wind through the seagrass. It was a great end to a good day.
Driving Distance for Day 11: 161 miles – Williamsburg, VA – Historic Jamestowne – Yorktown Battlefield – Chincoteague Island, VA
Entrance Fee: Yorktown Battlefield is free with your receipt from Historic Jamestowne ($7), or free if you have a National Parks Pass.
Hotel for the night: The Fairfield Inn on Chincoteague Island – excellent!