Primary Resource

"Journal of the Siege of Yorktown" by St. George Tucker (1781)

In his "Journal of the Siege of Yorktown," kept between September 28 and October 21, 1781, St. George Tucker, a lieutenant colonel and French interpreter on the staff of General Thomas Nelson, narrates the events that led to the surrender of the British army led by Lord Cornwallis.

Transcription from Original

As the Close of the present Campaign will probably be more important than any other since the commencement of the American War, the following Circumstances are necessary to be enumerated previously to the commencement of a Journal, which I propose to begin with the first Operations of the Army against the British Garrison at York.

About the last of August a Fleet of twenty eight sail of the Line arrived in Virginia under the command of the Count de Grasse [French rear admiral Francois Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse], with about three thousand two hundred Land Forces under the Comd. of [Claude-Anne-Montbleru] the Marquis de St Simon, Major Genl. in the French Service—the Latter were landed with great Expedition at Jamestown. Several vessels of War were stationed in different parts of James river to prevent any Attempt of [Charles Cornwallis] Lord Cornwallis to effect a retreat by that passage to the southern States—The Pennsylvania Line, a Regt. of Virginians, [Robert] Lawsons Brigade of Militiaand a Regiment of Rifle Men under the comand of Coll. [William I.] Lewis had been previously ordered on the south side of James river to harrass his Lordship in his march in Case he should effect his passage across James river, before the Obstructions by Shipping could be thrown in his way. These were now ordered to recross James river, together with a corps of about fifty horse which had been sent under the comd. of Major Seleron [Major Lewis Celeron] on the like Service. At the same time the Marquis de la Fayette mov'd down from New Kent to Green spring with the light Infantry—As soon as the means of transportation could be procured for the French Army they mov'd up to Williamsbg where the French army, the light Infantry and the Pennsylvania Line encamped in a Line extending from a small Creek near Powels plantation to Ludwells Mill pond—The former being posted on the Left the latter in the Center, and the light Infantry composing the right of the Line—Genl. Mulenburg with Gaskin's Regiment of Virginians, a Regt. of Rifle Men and Detachmts. drawn from [Brigadier Generals Edward] Stevens's & [Robert] Lawson's Brigades form'd an advanced Corps which guarded the several Roads & passes from York to Williamsburg, with the assistance of the Horse under Coll. [Benjamin] Temple—Matters were in this situation when the arrival of General Washington on the fourteenth of September 1781. gave new hopes & Spirits to the Army—On the 17th his Excy went down James river to visit the French Fleet & confer with the Count de Grasse who commanded it. The Count had just returnd from an Excursion to Sea occasioned by the Appearance of a British Fleet on our Coast which he immediately pursued with twenty two Ships of the Line, but the Wind being unfavourable he was unable to come up with them with any more than four of his Ships which were warmly engaged. He brought in however the British Frigates Richmond & Iris—

[Marginal note]. Septr. 30, 1781. By Letters from the president of Congress to Genl Washington we are informed that the Intrepid (a British 74) sunk in her Voyage towards N York after the Engagement with the Count de Grasse, & three or four other ships were considerably injured in that Conflict.—The Ship which sunk proved to be the Terrible—

In the Interim seven french Ships of the Line had arrived from Rhode Island & joined those left by the Count de Grasse at the Mouth of York river to prevent the escape of the British fleet from thence.

[Marginal note]. About this time we received the very important Inteligence of a complete Victory obtaind over the British in Sout[h] Carolina my General [Nathaniel] Greene on the eighth of Septr. [Eutaw Springs] in which the Enemy in kill'd, wounded & prisoners lost above a thousand Men; tho' our Loss was also very considerable. We also hear there was a second Engagement two Days after the Event of which is not known.

[Note on Flyleaf of manuscript journal].

Genl Green's Loss on the eight of Septr. Amounted 55 officers & 470 pri. of those Killed 1 Lt. Col. M[ilitia]. 6 Capts. 4 Subs. 4 Serjn. 94 R[ank and] F.


Total 525

Wounded 2 7 19 24 202  
Missing       1 31  
Total 3 13 23 29 327 Continentals

On the 22d. Genl Washington return'd to Town; In the Interim part of the Troops from the northward had arriv'd, and were landed at the mouth of Archer's Hope Creek on James river. In order to give a proper Idea of the Army at this time I shall transcribe the Orders of Septr. 24, prescrib'ng the Manner in which they were reduc'd into Brigades—

Coll. [Joseph] Vose's L. Col. [Francis] Barber's & L. Col. [Jean-Joseph Sourbader de] Gimats Battns of Lt. Inf. a Brigade under Genl. Mulenburg [John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg].

Col. Scammels [Alexander Scammell] Regt. & L. Col. [Alexander] Hamilton's Battns. of Light Infy. & Hazen's Regt. a Brigade under Brig. Gen. [Moses] Hazen.
Lt Coll. Gaskin's [Thomas Gaskins] Regt. of Virginian's & the two Battns. of Pennsylv. a Brigade under Br. Genl. [Anthony] Wayne.

The two Jersey Regts. with the Rhode Island Regt. a Brigade under Coll. [Elias] Dayton.

The Third & fourth Maryland Regts. a Brigade under Br. Genl. [Mordecai] Gist—The first & second New York Regts. a Brigade under Br. Genl. [Sir Henry] Clinton. On or about the 21st seven fireships were sent down from York by the British but blew up without Effect. Admiral [Robert] Digby with ten ships of the line having join'd the British fleet their numbers now amounted to thirty two sail of the Line, so that the superiority of the French now amounts only to three Ships of the Line—(This wants confirmation).

[Marginal note]. Septr. 30. Admiral Digby's arrival postively [sic] contradicted—Octr. 7. Admiral Digby has arrived in N York with only three ships of the Line.

Genl. Mulenburg in the mean time had made frequent excursions to the Lines of the British near York, but nothing material happened as he cod. not draw the Enemy out on any Occasion.

On the 24th Coll. [Dr. John] Conolly (a nominal Coll. I believe) of the British Army was taken prisoner by two or three York county men who met with him as he was taking an Airing on the Hampton road.

On the 27th the following order of Battle was prescribed by General orders—

The American Troops forming the right Wing in two Lines—the continental Forces in the front Line consisting of the following Divisions in the following Order—viz. Mulenburg & Hazen's Brigades a Division on the Right commanded by the Marquis de la Fayette, Wayne's & the Maryland Brigade the Center Division under [Friedrich Wilhelm] Baron [von] Steuben for the present—Dayton's and Clinton's Brigades that on the Left—Stevens's and Lawson's Brigades of Militia to form the second Line under Govr. [Thomas] Nelson as Major General. The Senior continental Officer (General [Benjamin] Lincoln) to command the Right Wing—[Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur] Count Rochambeau the left, consisting of the french Troops amounting to about seven thousand including near four thousand from the north who came with the Count. From the best computation I can make our Army is now about sixteen thousand strong of which not three thousand are Militia—Having given this previous State of the Army I shall hereafter begin a regular Journal keeping an exact account Daily of all the material Occurrences which come to my Knowledge.—

Fryday September 28th, 1781. This Morning at five OClock the whole Army marchd from Williamsburg, Mulenburg's Brigade of Infantry Lewis's Corps of Riflemen & the Light Dragoons forming the advanced Guard—The continental & French Troops march'd by the ordinary Road of Burwells Mill; after passing the half way house the former filed off to the Right & falling into the White Marsh road were joined By Nelson's Division of Militia who had march'd down the Warwick Road from Williamsburg passing over Harwoods Mill—The french Troops continuing their March on the ordinary Road took post on the left & part of the rear of York Town—The continentals having march'd to Secretary Nelson's quarter on the Mulberry Island road, discovered Tarlitons Legion [Banastre Tarleton] posted at their Ordinary Quarters about a mile below York at the forks of the Hampton & Warwick roads (at one Hudson Allens I think). At the Appearance of our Troops Tarliton paraded his horse & came down within three hundred yards of a Meadow which lay between him & our reconnoitring party—4 field pieces were brot. down to the Brow of the Hill to drive him off, & cover some Pioneers who were sent to repair Munfords Bridge where the Army were to cross—the second shot produced the desired Effect—The Bridge being mended Genl. Mulenburg passed over & occupied the Ground on the opposite side of the Meadow. A few more Shot were fired but I believe without Execution.

Sat. 29. This morning about eight o Clock the Enemy fired a few shot from their advanced Redoubts, our Right wing having now passed over Munford's Bridge. About nine or ten the Riflemen & Yagers exchanged a few shot across Moores Mill pond at the Dam of which the British had a redoubt—a few shot were fired at different times in the Day and about Sunset from the Enemy's Redoubts—we had five or six men wounded; one mortally & two others by the same Ball. The Execution was much more than might have been expected from the Distance, the dispersed situation of our Men and the few shot fired.

Sunday 30th. This morning it being discovered that the Enemy had abandoned all their advanced Redoubts on the South & East Ends of the Town a party of French Troops between seven & eight OClock took possession of two Redoubts on penny's Hill or Pigeon Quarter, an eminence which it is said commands the whole Town—About ten a smart firing was heard on the upper End of the Town, accompanied by some Guns from the Ships—Being at this time in one of the Redoubts at penny's Hill I saw some of the British retreating or rather running very hastily across the sandy Beach into the Town; soon after which the firing ceas'd & a very considerable smoke (on the upper side of the town across the Creek) indicated the Destruction of their advanced Redoubt on that Quarter by the French Troops; and this I take to be really the Case; but if it should prove otherwise I shall mention it in the sequel—A party under Major [Joseph R.?] Reid having advanced pretty near to their Works on our right, were obliged by a few well directed shot from them to retire. It is now conjectured by many that it is Lord Cornwallis's Intention to attempt a retreat up York river by West point, there being no Ships yet above the Town to prevent such a Measure. This morning Coll. Scammel of the Lt. Infantry reconnoitring the Enemies Works rather too near was wounded & taken prisoner.#

[Marginal note p. 7]. #Coll. Scammel was taken prisoner by two Officers who permitted a Dragoon to ride up & shoot him after he surrendered—He is since dead of his wounds.

The conflict at the upper End of York was between a party of French who attack'd a Redoubt of the British at Nelson's Farm—The officer comg. the party was mortally wounded, two Men slightly wounded—The Redoubt was evacuated & burnt.*

*This account is erroneous—the redoubt was not evacuated untill the surrender.

Monday, Octr. 1st 1781. Last night our Works were set on Foot at the Redoubts which had been abandoned by the Enemy yesterday—Several Cannon were fired from the Enemy's Works during the night—In the Morning twelve hundred Militia comprehending the whole of Lawson's & part of Steven's Brigade were ordered on a Fatigue—One Militia man was killd at the Redoubt on the right of Pigeon Hill—A Waiter was killd in the Fields at some distance from the rear of those Redoubts—I have not heard of any other injury, altho' the firing has been continued with small Intermissions during the whole Day—The Shot, however which were well directed gave great Interruption to the Soldiers employ'd in carrying on the works—

Tuesday Octr. 2d. The Firing from the Enemies works was continued during the whole night at the distance of fifteen or twenty Minutes between every Shot—By these means our works were interrupted altho' no Execution was done—Since Sunrise this Morning the firing has been much more frequent the Intermissions seldom exceeding five Minutes and often not more than one or two Minutes—Our Men are so well covered by their Works that I have not heard of any Execution done to day. This Forenoon I rode down to the mouth of Wormeley's Creek but could not descry any of the French Ships in the River—As the Wind has been perfectly favourable yesterday & to day I am apt to conclude it is not intended that they shall cooperate with the Army in the Siege—but whether this is really the Case or not I can not hear—The British Ships are stretch'd across the Channel of the River between York & Gloster point—It is said five of them are fire ships chaind to each other. But of this Circumstance I have not been inform'd from good Authority. This Afternoon from Mr. [Augustine] Moores I cou'd discover two of the French Ships which were conceald by a point of Land from Wormeley's Creek—I discovered by the Assistance of a Glass from seventy to an hundred horses dead on the shore of York or floating about in the River—This seems to indicate a Want of Forage & no Intention of pushing a March. I could also discover that the British had sunk several square rigged Vessels near the Shore and at the distance of one hundred and fifty, or two hundred Yards from it—Whether this was meant as a precaution against the French landing from their Ships in Case of a general Assault I can not determine.

Wednesday 3d. Last night the Enemy continued their Fire on our Works as usual; but without Execution except in the Instance of one Ball which kill'd 4 men belonging to the covering party—I find that a new work, on the right of the Enemies Redoubts which they had constructed on pigeon Hill, has been set on Foot, and those two Redoubts appear to remain without any additional Work. At Sun rise this morning the firing ceasd and has not yet been renewed. Our works still go on.

Thursday 4th. The Enemy fired a few shot after ten OClock and during the Night of yesterday—but without Effect.

[Marginal note, opposite entry for "Thursday 4th."] Two Frenchmen and one American deserted this night

We are Told that Tarliton made an Excursion yesterday with two hundred Horse into Gloster; it is also said a Firing was heard on that side & that Tarliton was repulsed but we have not yet heard any particulars of the affair—the number of dead horses seen yesterday by some Gentlemen amounted to near four hundred—A few shot fired during the Course of the Day—This Evening it was mentioned in Gen. Orders that the Duke de Lozun's Legion [Armand Louis de Gontaut, duc de Lauzun] with Mercers Corps of Grenadier Militia (about I50) repuls'd Tarliton yesterday & drove him back to the Enemy's Lines—Our loss was three Hussars Kill'd, eleven and an officer wounded—the Enemy lost fifty Men in kill'd and wounded—The Officer commanding the Infantry was kill'd, & Tarliton himself badly wounded*—

[Marginal note]. *Tarliton is not wounded.

It is said his own men rode over him in the precipitancy of their Retreat—About three Days ago about nineteen hundred French Troops were landed from the Fleet in Gloster—Our Force there amounts to near four thousand men at present I am told. 2300. only.

Fryday, 5th Our patroling parties & the Enemy's meeting last night between the Lines occasioned a little skirmishing in which we lost one Man—As soon as the Enemy's Patroles retired within their Works a general Discharge of Cannon and Musketry in platoons took place along their whole Lines—Some Deserters who came out yesterday say that the Besieged lie on their Arms every night apprehending a general Assault & Storm. A good deal of our Ordnance being now brought up we may expect that some of it will be mounted in a few days.

Saturday 6th. Last night a discharge of Musketry was heard on the Enemys Lines succeeded by Cannon rather more frequent than in the Day—the cause was probably the same as the night before. Yesterday we had one Man mortally wounded at our Works by a Cannon Ball which carried off part of his Hips—The Enemy have for some days had recourse to an Expedient for interrupting our Men at work without wasting their Ammunition, by flashing a small Quantity of Powder near the Muzzles of their Cannons, which is frequently mistaken for the fusing at the Touch-hole. It is worth Observation that a Man was kill'd by a Cannon Ball a day or two past without any visible Wound—He was lying with his Knapsack under his head which was knock'd away by the Ball, without touching his Head—A Sentry was yesterday kill'd on his post—

Sunday 7th. Last night we begun to run our first paralel on our Right—The French Army on the left I believe commenced their operations in like Manner—About nine O Clock a very smart cannonade begun from the Enemy on our left—A Rocket was fired from their Works—The Cannonade after some time begun on our Right & continued with very little Intermission the whole night—I have not yet heard the result of the operations of the night. The French lost fourteen men killd & wounded—A Hessian Hussar deserted from them & gave the Information of their Intentions of opening the Trenches—The night being very dark & favourable for our operations it was very late before the operations on our right were discovered—probably those of the French would not have been discovered but for the Deserter's Information—We lost not a single Man—Our Trenches were carried on with spirit all this Day, the Enemy firing but few Cannon and doing no Execution at all by their Fire.

Monday 8th. This Morning the Major of the Regmt. of deux ponts had his Arm shot off as he entered the Trenches—There was a smart Cannonade during a small part of the night, in which the French had seven men kill'd & wounded—I was on Duty in the Trenches to day & sent out a small patrolling party at night under John Hughes who meeting with the Enemys patroles exchanged a few shot with them & was wounded in the Knee. A number of Shot were fired into the Battery during the Evening and between eleven & three at night but without Effect—I now had an opportunity of observing our Works; on the right on the Bank of the River they are engaged in constructing a Battery for twelve heavy Cannon—on the left of these at intermediate Spaces are two Redoubts—opposite the South East End of Secretary Nelsons house we are constructing a Battery for five Cannon—I had not an opportunity of reconnoitering the works further on the left except a single Redoubt which the French are constructing nearly in Front of the Secretary's, at the distance of five hundred yards (as I concieve at most)—We had one Man kill'd & one wounded in the continental Line during the Day & night. The Battery on the right will be finishd before Noon to morrow. One french Soldier was killd sitting down in the Trenches—

Tuesday 9th. Nothing remarkable happened last night or to day untill five O Clock unless the passage of a Flag from ours to the Enemy's Lines during which they continued firing on our Works be worthy remembrance. At five this Evening the continental Standard was hoisted at our Battery on the Right—a discharge of Cannon instantly ensued—One or two shells were discharged from eight Inch Howitzs without effect falling many yards short of the Enemy's Works. Our Cannon were so well directed that the first shot after the general Discharge struck within a foot of the Embrasure of the Enemys works on the right. Several succeeding Shot were lodged in their Works further to the left—A few Minutes after sun-set I left the Lines and have not yet heard the Events of the night. Coll. [James?] Meriwether who reliev'd me to day had three Men wounded this forenoon.

Wednesday 10th. Last night & this Morning a very smart Cannonade & Bombardment has been kept up from our Batteries & those of the French—Several Bombs have been thrown into the Enemy's works, where they have bursted, apparently with some Effect. The Enemy last night shut up the Embrasures of their Battery opposite to ours on the right, & their next Battery is entirely silent the Cannon being drawn in from the Embrasures. Some Shells were thrown at the Shipping this morning but I have not heard with what Effect. A smart firing of Musketry was heard to day at Gloster.—Since writing the above I have rode out—The French have a Battery on the Hampton road about six hundred Yards below the Secry Nelson's House opposite the South West Angle, consisting of four twenty four pounders and six other Cannon which appear to be somewhat smaller, two eight inch Howitz, two twelve Inch Mortars and six eight Inch ones—these have been employ'd incessantly the whole Day—A number of Shells have been thrown into the Enemy's Works, &the shot so well directed in general that many of the Embrasures of the Enemies are wholly rendered incapable of offensive Operations—there are but two Cannon now to be seen in their Embrasures—the large Shells were generally directed for the shipping—I am told the Enemy have sunk twenty or thirty of their Vessels to day in shallow Water. On the left of the above Battery is another not yet finishd constructed for four Guns—Another still further on the left (about two hundred Yards from the principal Battery) for the like number.—On the Margin of the river over the Creek on the upper End of York is a considerable Redoubt or Battery of the British—The French have also a redoubt in that Quarter which commands both the Enemy's Works on our right & the River, but as I have not seen it I can not precisely determine the Spot where it is—Secry Nelson this Day came out of York I am told he is not restricted by a Parole—I shall insert whatever Information he brings which may hereafter come to my Knowledge.

Thursday 11th. Last Evening and during the night the Cannonade & Bombardment from ours & the french Batteries were kept up with very little Intermission. Red hot Balls being fired at the Shipping from the french Battery over the Creek, the Charon a forty four Gun ship and another ship were set fire to & burnt during the night & a Brig in the morning met with the same Fate—Our Batteries have continued an incessant Firing during the whole Day—This Evening I walk'd down to the Trenches—The Enemy threw a few shells from five mortars which appear to be in the Battery in front of Secry Nelson's House, at the French Battery near the Clay Hill (a small distance from Pigeon Hill). Most of these burst in the Air at a considerable Height nor do I know whether any one of them fell into, or near the Battery. After this their shells were directed apparently towards the place where we this Evening begun to open our second paralel—One half of them at least burst in the Air; I do not know what Effect the remainder had—A few shot at the Interval of twenty or thirty minutes were all the Annoyance we recieved from their works during the Evening, except the Shells—I this day dined in Company with the Secretary. He says our Bombardment produced great Effects in annoying the Enemy & destroying their Works—Two Officers were killed &one wounded by a Bomb the Evening we opened—Lord Shuten's [George Waldegrave, fourth earl Waldegrave, Viscount Chewton] Cane was struck out of his Hand by a Cannon Ball—Lord Cornwallis has built a kind of Grotto at the foot of the secretary's Garden where he lives under Ground—A negroe of the Secretary's was kill'd in his House—It seems to be his Opinion that the British are a good deal dispirited altho' he says they affect to say they have no Apprehendsions of the Garrison's falling—An immense number of Negroes have died, in the most miserable Manner in York. A Whale Boat from New York arrived at York the morning the Secry came out, with two British Major's on board—He could not hear any news from N.Y. except that it was probable that Admiral Digby with his Squadron would shortly make a push at the Count de Grasse however inferior he may be to him in Strength. We may therefore expect some important news from the Fleet soon—

Fryday 12th. Last night our second parallel was begun—It is within two hundred yards in some points of the Enemies Works—During the Course of this Day the Enemy have kept up a more considerable Fire than for some Days past, chiefly shells—they have kill'd & wounded five or six Men to day—A pretty constant Cannonade & Bombardment has been kept up from our Batteries during the Day & the last night—I have not yet been in the new Trenches and am not inform'd what new works we are erecting on our second Line.

Saturday 13th. The works on our second parallel were carried on last night with great Spirit. We lost some Men from the Enemies Fire which was rather encreased than diminish'd during the Night. The Enemy have drawn off most of their Ships across the Channel to the Gloster Shore—

Sunday 14th. Last night I was on Duty again. The party under my Comand was employ'd in erecting a Battery opposite the South East End of Secry Nelsons house, at the distance of about two hundred Yards from one of the Enemies Batteries and a Redoubt from which they discharged Shells—The French at the same time were constructing two considerable Batteries further on the left—the furthest is about one hundred & fifty Yards in front of the Enemies Battery in Front of Secry Nelson's house. The other about one hundred and seventy Yards & on the Flank of the same Work—between our Battery and these is a Redoubt which I apprehend is intended as a Bomb Battery—The Enemy kept up an extremely hot fire during night but with no other Injury in the Battery where I was employd than the wounding two men by the bursting of a shell—As soon as it was so light as for them to discover our situation (for the work was begun after Dark) they annoyd us excessively with round and Grape Shot as well as Shells of all which there was an incessant Fire untill twelve OClock when I was relieved—We lost one Man killd & eight wounded after day Light—the Continental Troops. had an Officer & nine or ten Men killd or wounded in the same Battery—As we march'd out of the Trenches a Shell fell in among the first plattoon of my Men, and wounded three men very badly & Several others slightly—tho' within ten Foot of it I was happy enough to escape without Injury as I did from five others which burst within that or near the same. Distance in the Course of the Morning—The Enemy have continued a very galling Fire from their Works the whole Day. In the morning several Yagers or Rifle men fired at us for some time—A few rifle men being posted to return their Fire soon silenc'd it.

Monday 15th. Last Night the French Troops, at a Quarter before seven, under command of Baron Viominit [Antoine Charles du Houx, Baron de Viomenil] attack'd the Enemy's Redoubt on York River at the upper End of the Town across the Creek and carried it—at half after seven the continental Troops under Marquis la Fayette attack'd the Redoubt from which we had been so much annoy'd in the Morning with Shells—at the same time another party under Mulenburg attack'd the Redoubt on the River which form'd the left of the Enemy's whole Works, being opposite our Battery on the Right of the first parallel. The latter was carried in four Minutes, the former in seven—the French succeeded in about ten if I may judge from the Firing—Being overwhelm'd for want of Sleep I left the Trenches where I was a spectator of the Scene as soon as it was known that we had succeeded, and it being now early in the Morning I know nothing of the particulars of the several Actions, of which I shall make Enquiries after Breakfast.—

I have above given a very unjust Account of the proceedings of last night; a proof how difficult it is to gain accurate Intelligence in Camp—What I have represented as an Attack on the Enemies Redoubt on their Right, was but a Feint made by the French in that Quarter under the Comand of the Marquis de St Simon to draw their Attention from their Left where the real Attack was made on the two Redoubts I have described, with this difference, that the Americans attackt the Redoubt next the River and the French the other. The Success was as before represented—We lost about thirty Men kill'd and wounded—the French thirty one—The British had eighteen Men killd in the Redoubt attack'd by the French but I can not learn how many in the other—Our second Parallel is now compleated running across from the Batteries we were erecting near the Secry's House to the two Redoubts which were taken last night—A Line of Communication parallel to the River is drawn between the Lines running from the left of our Principal Battery on the first Line to the Redoubt on the River on the second—This Redoubt appears to me of great Importance as it seems to comand the Communications from York to Gloster point—It also appears to command some of their Works—The other Redt. being an hundred & eighty yards distant only from one of the Enemies Batteries appears likewise to be of very great Consequence. It is said some of our Batteries on the second parallel will open this Evening; I think this probable as I observed all the platforms in the French Batteries in the first Line are taken up—Coll. Gimat, Coll. Barber and Major Barber were wounded in the Attack last night, tho' but slightly—the latter reciev'd a Contusion on his left Side. Not a single Gun was fired either by the French or Americans during the Attack—Major [either Patrick or James] Campbell of the seventy first, 5 other commissioned officers & sixty four 64 privates were made Prisoners—many of the British in these Redoubts made their Escape, some sliding down the steep, or rather perpendicular Bank to the river shore. 1 Majr. 3. Capt. 2 Subs. Prisoners

Tuesday 16. Just at Daybreak this Morning the Enemy made a Sally & attack'd the Redoubt which the French had taken the night before—[Major Henry] Skipwith with one hundred Men was in the Redoubt; their Arms were deposited in the Trenches behind—As soon as the Enemy were discoverd he march'd his Men out of the Redoubt to take their Arms—by this time the Enemy had gained the parapet but the French Troops who formed the covering party rushing in immediately, soon repulsed them. At the same time the Enemy attackd another Redoubt further on our left and scaling the Works with great Alacrity Spiked up eight pieces of Cannon which were intended for a Battery on which we were at that time employ'd. They were immediately after repulsed—The Cannon were cleared again before the Battery was in readiness to mount them, So that they effected no good purpose by the Sally & lost some Men; six or eight were killed in the Redoubt where Skipwith was stationed. This Afternoon one of our Batteries on the second parallel was opened—All those on the first I believe are dismantled—At least the two principal ones are. As the Genl. Orders of to day prohibit any officer from entering the Trenches I must write by Guess hereafter except when I go upon Duty.

[Marginal note] Wednesday 17th An officer's Baggage by some means or other fell into our hands by the running on shore of a Boat destin'd for N. York. A Journal of the Siege to yesterday was found—In it this remarkable Conclusion—Our provisions are now nearly exhausted & our Ammunition totally. The Marquis de St Simon recieved a slight wound on his Ankle & Genl [Henry] Knox a similar one on the Ear last Evening from the bursting of a Bomb.

Wednesday 17. As we have heard a very smart or rather incessant Cannonade last night and this Morning I take it for granted that all or the greater part of our Batteries are opened by this time. This Forenoon a Flag from York brought a Letter couch'd nearly in the following Terms—

Sir, I propose a Cessation of Hostilities for twenty four Hours, and that two Officers be appointed from both sides to meet at Mr. Moores, and agree on Terms for the surrender of the posts of York & Gloucester—I have the Honor to be your Excellency's most obedt. & most hble Servant—Cornwallis


To his Excellency

General Washington, Comdr. in Chief of the combined Forces of France & America.

The Answer was to the following purport. Sir, I have recieved your Favor of this Morning. Regard to humanity induces me to agree to a suspension of hostilities for two hours that your Lordship may propose the Terms on which you choose to surrender," &ca

I am now ordered on Duty, & with more Sanguine hopes than ever filld the Mind of Man I now set out for the Trenches.

Thursday 18th. Lord Cornwallis being allow'd but two hours sent out another Flag to request further time to digest his proposals—It has been granted and Hostilities have ceased ever since five OClock. It was pleasing to contrast the last night with the preceeding—A solemn stillness prevaild—the night was remarkably clear & the sky decorated with ten thousand stars—numberless Meteors gleaming thro' the Atmosphere afforded a pleasing resemblance to the Bombs which had exhibited a noble Firework the night before, but happily divested of all their Horror. At dawn of day the British gave us a serenade with the Bag pipe, I believe, & were answered by the French with the Band of the Regiment of deux ponts. As Soon as the Sun rose one of the most striking pictures of War was display'd that Imagination can paint—From the point of Rock Battery on one side our Lines compleatly mann'd and our Works crowded with soldiers were exhibited to view—opposite these at the Distance of two hundred yards you were presented with a sight of the British Works; their parapets crowded with officers looking at those who were assembled at the top of our Works—the Secretary's house with one of the Corners broke off, & many large holes thro the Roof & Walls part of which seem'd tottering with their Weight afforded a striking Instance of the Destruction occasioned by War—Many other houses in the vicinity contributed to accomplish the Scene—On the Beach of York directly under the Eye hundreds of busy people might be seen moving to & fro—At a small distance from the Shore were seen ships sunk down to the Waters Edge—further out in the Channel the Masts, Yards & even the top gallant Masts of some might be seen, without any vestige of the hulls. On the opposite of the river the remainder of the shipping drawn off as to a place of security. Even here the Guadaloupe sunk to the Waters Edge shew'd how vain the hope of such a place. On Gloster point the Fortifications and Encampment of the Enemy added a further Variety to the scene which was compleated by the distant View of the french Ships of War, two of which were at that time under sail—A painter need not to have wish'd for a more compleat subject to imploy his pencil without any expence of Genius.

This was the Scene which ushered in the Day when the pride of Britain was to be humbled in a greater Degree than it had ever been before, unless at the Surrender of [British general John] Burgoyne [in 1777]—It is remarkable that the proposals for a surrender of Lord Cornwallis's Army were made on the Anniversary of that important Event—At two o Clock the Surrender was agreed on & Commissioners appointed to draw up the Articles of Capitulation—They are now employed on that Business—

The Guadaloupe or some other Frigate was sunk two night ago—we know not whether by Design or Accident—

I can not omit one Anecdote which happened during the Siege—Baron Viominit at the Attack on the Enemy's redoubts on Monday Evening observing two Sargeants distinguish themselves by their Intrepidity, sent for them to dine with him the next Day & placed them at his right hand where he treated them with the highest Respect and Attention—

[Marginal note] Fryday—This Morning at nine oClock the Articles of Capitulation were signed and exchanged—At retreat beating last night the British play'd the Tune of "Welcome Brother Debtor"—to their conquerors the tune was by no means dissagreeable—

Fryday 19th. At two OClock to day a Detachmt. of American Light Infantry and French Grenadiers took possession of the horn-work on the East End of Yorktown—Our Army was drawn up in a Line on each side of the road extending from our front parallel to the Forks of the Road at Hudson Allen's the Americans on the right, the French on the left. Thro' these Lines the whole British Army march'd their Drums in Front beating a slow March. Their Colours furl'dand Cased. I am told they were restricted by the capitulation from beating a French or American march. General Lincoln with his Aids conducted them—Having passed thro' our whole Army they grounded their Arms & march'd back again thro' the Army a second Time into the Town—The sight was too pleasing to an American to admit of Description—

I have not yet been happy enough to see, or hear of the particular's of the capitulation.

Three thousand two hundred & seventy three Men march'd out & grounded their Arms on the York side of the River—Including the non commissioned Officers the Garrison in York amounted to five thousand five hundred and sixty four Men, and two hundred & fifty four commission'd Officers, including thirty two Surgeons with their Mates—Lord Cornwallis and General [Charles] O Hara are not included—I have not yet heard the strength of the post at Gloucester—It is about a thousand Men I believe—At York there were taken sixty five pieces of Brass Ordnance, and twenty two Standards—

[Marginal note] York Garison

Col. 2
Lt. Col. 8
Majors. 11
Capt. 52
Lts. 89
Ens. 36
Chaplns. 2
Adjutn. 12
Qr. Mrs. 10
Surgeons 10
Surg. M[ates] 22
Comd. 254 Offrs.
Sarjeants 295
Dr. & Fifes 121
R[ank] & F[ile] 3273
Fit for 3943 Duty
Sarjn. 90
Dr. & F. 44
R. & F. 1741
Sick & 1875 woundd.
Total 5818

The Garrison at Gloster not included in the above—

Saturday 20.
 I went into York to day with Genl. Lawson who waited on Lord Cornwallis on some Business relative to the prisoners which he was appointed to conduct to Winchester—His Lordship in the course of conversation told us that he had meditated a transition over the river on the night of Tuesday but was prevented by his Boats being blown away from the Shore in a very severe squall—A thousand Men had actually cross'd—Their Intention was to have suprised our Camp in Gloster & endeavoured to push their Way thro' the Country.

The total number of prisoners including commissioned Officers at both posts amounts to six thousand eight hundred & odd Men—The present return of ordnance is one hundred and forty Iron, and seventy four Brass—seven thousand three hundred & twenty stand of Arms and Accoutrements are also return'd. It is said this return is by no means exact. No account yet of the quantity of military Stores, or number of horses that I have heard.

Sunday 21. At ten OClock to day the prisoners march'd out of the Garrison; escorted by Genl. Lawson they proceeded to Williamsburg on their Way to Winchester—By Dint of good Fortune I got excus'd from this dissagreeable Jaunt, altho' my Regiment was obliged to go. The prisoners from Gloster are to join the escort at Fredericksburg.

If we consider the number of prisoners, Arms & ordnance taken in this Garrison we shall find it a much more important Event than the reduction of Burgoyne. But when we take into the view the amazingly fine Body of horse under [John Graves] Simcoe & Tarliton which are either taken or destroy'd we can not draw any parallel between them—Three hundred & odd Dragoon horses were surrendered at Gloucester. These with their Accoutrements were a great Acquisition.


Tuesday 23. This Forenoon Coll. Tarliton was dismounted in the Streets of York by a Citizen who claim'd the horse he rode—Tarliton would have persuaded the Man to let him pursue his morning's ride, but was answered that he would not trust him with the Horse. Major [William Overton] Callis was Eye witness of this Scene.

  • Again a dim Eclipse obscures thy Beam
  • While thro' the South the mad Tornado flies.
  • With dreadful Flash the livid Lightenings gleam,
  • And deep mouth'd Thunders shake the vaulted Skies.
  • Let there be Light! then spake the eternal Word,
  • And darkness fled before thy heavenly Ray.
  • To peace the jarring Firmament's restor'd
  • While Chaos trembling yields his wonted Sway,
  • Fair smiles the Face of Heaven—beneath thine Eye
  • In adamantine Chains th' imprison'd Furies lie.