10/3/14 Friday in Gloucester,VA (Chesapeake Bay Campground-TT)
Off to see one of the 3 “Triangle” Towns, significant in early American history: Yorktown (last great battle in the Revolution), Jamestown (1st settlement) and Williamsburg (revolutionary center).
Per Betty/Dale’s tips we drove south on 17 until Yorktown Victory Center sign, turned right, under the bridge, right, then right into the free city parking garage. From here you can take a trolley to the NPS Visitor Center and/or the Yorktown. Unfortunately, since it was off season, the trolley didn’t start running until 11:00. We were there at 10:00. So we walked the beach, looking for signs to the Visitor Center.
We learned lots about Yorktown here, via small signs. Cornwallis had to move his headquarters to a nearby cave due to the incessant shelling of the Americans during the Siege. There was an impact crater there, hitting the York River, the 6th largest. The crater centered 18 miles east of Yorktown (Cape Charles,VA) and Yorktown sits on the western rim of it. The York River bends sharply to the northeast there because it crosses the underlying crater rim.
When we reached the end of the road we asked a couple ladies how to get there. They started by saying we needed to walk back to the garage and drive some narrow roads, following signs. Then one remembered that there was a path, starting at a split rail fence, that went to the Visitor Center.
They’d said there was a sign there. Yes, we saw a sign, but it was about the “Tobacco Road”, not “This way to Visitor Center.” Since it was printed by the NPS, we decided to chance the path. (PS they rolled drums of tobacco down this path to the river, for passage to other ports.) Thankfully, it took us right there, in just a quarter of a mile.
We perused their little museum, then watched the movie.
This was a silk Regiment Flag, used by one of the German Regiments fighting at Yorktown (British) given to the Continental Congress when captured, then to West Point who then loaned it to this museum in 1955.
Right after the movie a wonderful, story weaving Ranger entertained us with the history behind the Siege at Yorktown. She said historians count this as one of the top most influential battles ever, in the world; this led to America winning her war for Independence at a time when George Washington was extremely discouraged. The war had been going on for 7 years (since 1775) and supplies and money for the army were non existent. He was at a stalemate with Sir Henry Clinton at NYC. Because the British was struggling to get a foothold in the NE, they began concentrating on the South, where they found more Loyalists. Thanks to losing at King’s Mountain and Cowpens battles and the brilliant strategies of LaFayette, General Cornwallis (Britain) was not doing so well. Clinton (his boss) thought he would do better protecting the British Navy. Cornwallis chose Yorktown because of it’s proximity to Chesapeake Bay and the deep port waters of the York River at Yorktown. The York River was also a good escape route. Meanwhile Washington REALLY wanted to attack Clinton at New York, but he just couldn’t find a good way. Then he heard that the French would now join in our fight with the British (whom the French had been fighting for 100 years). There was a large fleet of ships in the Caribbean. George asked DeGrasse to lead his ships up to New York, to help in that effort. DeGrasse decided to only go as far as Chesapeake Bay, because the weather (hurricanes) would be too difficult by the time he’d reach NYC. According to our Ranger, Washington had a sort of temper tantrum, because now he knew he just lost his best chance to win in NYC. Thanks to his character George was willing to consider something else that was very risky: march his men around NYC and down to Yorktown and attack Cornwallis, where ¼ of the British Army was sitting. This would only be feasible because DeGrasse would be capable of taking care of the British Navy at the Bay. Our Ranger felt that the “Battle of the Capes” was especially important, because if it hadn’t gone our way (the British had the biggest fleet and most experience, but their leader was too careful), we couldn’t have won at Yorktown. Also thanks to the creative efforts of Washington, he got his army so far past NYC that when Clinton learned of his deception, it was too late to catch George. LaFayette met with GW near Yorktown, so now there were plenty of troops. They created earthworks, planting huge woven baskets filled with sticks, then dirt, then covered with dirt, on the ground.
At a critical point in the siege, our forces had to take over 2 redoubts (#9,#10) that were heavily defended.
At night, the American troops were led by Alexander Hamilton, on Oct. (10th month) 10th, (visible on our $10 bill), attacked redoubt #10 and conquered it in 10 minutes! They had unloaded muskets, with fixed bayonets, because it would be such close fighting that they might hurt their own with their shot. The French attacked redoubt #9 with loaded muskets and had much greater casualties. Pretty amazing. I just thought of Hamilton as our first Secretary of the Treasury.
At the end of our delightful tour we caught the trolley (free), taking it around the whole route, hearing the narration. This is the Victory Monument. The first statue lost its head and arms from a lightening strike, so now there is a lightening rod in her head. The new head was patterned after the statue on the top of our Capital and named Liberty.
We didn’t get off at the Victory Center (it costs and would take time). Maybe another day.
Williamsburg Campground was our next spot – to see if we wanted to go there after Chesapeake Bay. It’s real woodsy, with tight spots, close to lots of other rigs and not very level. It just didn’t feel appealing, so we decided to change our reservations to stay 3 weeks at Chesapeake Bay and just take the car to the attractions at and near Williamsburg. On our return we traveled the National Colonial Parkway (NPS). Beautiful (45 mph speed limit), reminding me of the Trace.
After some grocery shopping (our campground is pretty far from everything) we got back home in time for supper and a quiet evening.