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The summer of 2003 my family and I went on vacation to visit Williamsburg, at least that was the plan. Now myself, I'm the kind of person who packs two weeks ahead of time, so of course I went online to see what I could find out about Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. I couldn't seem to find very much, from a tourists point of view, so I went to my back up source, the AAA Auto Club. I picked up a book for Virginia, found the section covering the three towns and started to read. The more I read, the more I discovered how little I knew and the more I wanted to know.

Now, we've all had vacations and trips that were disappointing. Our expectations were high and the reality failed miserably. This was not the case with this trip. My expectations came no-where near the beauty and wonder of the reality. I thought I knew what to expect - how wrong I was!

I hope that people seeing these pages will go out of their way to visit these wonderful historical sites, you won't be disappointed. I would suggest one thing above all else, give yourself plenty of time. A week would be good, you might get to see it all. So far we've split our trip up into two different visits, if you don't count the time I took for pictures, it would have taken us three days so far. We have another visit planned soon for the rest of Yorktown, the Yorktown Victory Center and Williamsburg, we figure at least three more days maybe four. That's without visiting the beautiful plantation houses in the area, I can't even guess how long that would take, because there are a lot.

I really hope that these pages help someone in their research and you enjoy the pictures as much as we enjoyed the visit. As I mentioned, we haven't finished our "vacation" so the pages here are not complete, we still have to go back to Yorktown and Williamsburg.

I want to thank all the National Park personnel, the members of the Living History Museum as well as the other folks at the other places we visited, everyone was wonderful, helpful and very nice! :)
 
"This Yorktown, or Little York, is a small city of approximately 300 houses: it has, moreover, considerable circumference. It is located on the bank of the York River, somewhat high on a sandy but level ground. It has 3 churches, 2 reformed English and 1 German Lutheron... and 2 Quaker meeting houses, and a beautiful court or meeting house..."
Johann Conrad Doehla, Anspach-Bayreuth Battalion, British army, July 31, 1781

Yorktown
Travel a short distance along this walkway to discover historic Yorktown.
Established in 1691, by the 1750s the town was a thriving seaport supporting a prosperous waterfront business district with wharves, warehouses and pubs. Stately and moderate homes, outbuildings, stores, churches, taverns and government buildings filled the bluff overlooking the river.
The town was extensively damaged during the 1781  siege and never recovered its colonial prominence.

Explore Yorktown and discover among a still active community sights that reflect the town's past gory: earthworks encircling the town, the 1881 Monument to the Alliance and Victory, and 18th century buildings, including the home of a signer of the Declaration of Independence.


"I have this day visited the town of York, to witness the destructive effects of the siege. It contains about sixty houses... many of them are greatly damaged and some totally ruined, being shot through in a thousand places and honey-combed ready to crumble to pieces."
Dr. James Thacher, Surgeon, Continental Army, October 22, 1781.
 
Yorktown
The "Old Town" which you enter here is ringed by stout Civil War entrenchments built on top of the British works of 1781. Englishmen, Scotsmen, Welchmen, Hessians, and Loyalist Americans were quartered here while besieged by American-French forces under Washington.
 
Secretary Nelson's House
Thomas, a son of "Scotch Tom," who established the Nelson family in Yorktown, was for many years Secretary for the Colony of Virginia. This comfortable and Spacious home attracted Lord Cornwallis who needed a headquarters near his main defenses on the east side of town. The British commander remained here through much of the siege - until Allied gunners made the house untenable. Its foundations are to your left.
 
Foundations of the home of Thomas Nelson president of the council and Secretary of State of the Colony of Virginia erected in 1725.
First headquarters of Lord Cornwallis, it was destroyed during the siege of Yorktown in 1781.
Preserved and marked by the Yorktown brance association for the preservation of Virginia Antiquities 1930
 
 
 
 
 
Yorktown
Established 1691

"York-Town, Capital of the County if that Name, is situated on a rising Ground, gently descending ever Way into a Valley, and tho' but stragglingly built, yet makes no inconsiderable Figure." Edward Kimber, Observations in Several Voyages and Travels in America in the Year 1736.
Before the American Revolutionary War, Yorktown was a prosperous, thriving tobacco port. Approximately 80% of the town was damaged or destroyed during the climatic military campaign of that war, General George Washington's victory over British General Charles Lord Cornwallis in the 1781siege.

White the town never regained its colonial prominence,  Yorktown is still a vibrant community, boasting shops, restaurants, places of lodging, churches and a county courthouse. Reminders of the town's 18th century history, such as historic homes and buildings, and military earthworks, can yet be found, providing visible symbols of Yorktown's important contributions to the founding of the of the United States of America.

"the British pull'd down many of the houses in York & those they left have been much injured by the Bombardment..." William Reynolds to William Murdoch, October 26, 1781.
 
Yorktown Victory Monument
This monument was authorized by Continental Congress, October 29, 1781, just after the news of surrender reached Philadelphia. Actual construction began 100 years later and was completed in 1884. The original figure of Liberty atop the Victory shaft was severely damaged by lightning. A new work replaced in in 1956. The shaft of Maine granite is 84 feet in height to which Liberty adds another 14 feet.
 
 
 
 
 
At York on October 19, 1781 after a siege of nineteen days by 5500 American and 7000 French troops of the line 3500 Virginia milita under command of General Thomas Nelson and 38 French ships of war Earl Cornwallis commander of the British forces at York and Gloucester, surrendered his army 7251officers and men 840 seamen 244 cannon and 24 standards to his excellency George Washington Commander in Chief of the combined forces of America and France to his Excellency the Comte De Rochanbeau commanding the auxiliary troops of his most christian majesty in America and to his Excellency the Comte De Orasse Commanding in Chief the Naval Army of France in Chesapeake.
The treaty concluded February 3, 1779 between the United States of America and Louis XVI King of France declares the essential and direct end of the present defensive alliance is to maintain effectually the Liberty and sovereignty and independence absolute and unlimited of the said United States as well in matters of government as of commerce
Erected in pursuance of a resolution of congress adopted October 29 1781 and an act of congress approved  June 17 1880 to commemorate the victory by which the independence of the United States of America was achieved
The provisional articles of peace concluded November 30 1782 and the definitive treaty of peace concluded September 3 1783 between the United States of America and George III King of Great Britain and Ireland declare His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States viz New Hampshire Massachusetts Bay Rhode Island and Providence Plantations Connecticut New York New Jersey Pennsylvania Delaware Maryland Virginia North Carolina South Carolina and Georgia to be free sovereick and independent states.
 
In appreciation of the service of these men who made the supreme sacrifice in the Yorktown campaign, 1781. This tablet is erected by the National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, October 19, 1931.
 
In memory of the men of the French fleet who died in the Naval phase of the Yorktown campaign in the Battle of the Virginia Capes on 5 September 1781.
In appreciation of the services of Admiral Francois Joseph Paul De Grasse, who brought his entire West Indies fleet to the aid of the Americans, who transported more than 3000 French troops under the command of the Marquis De Saint-Simon to reinforce the land forces, and who commanded the French fleet in the Battle off the Virginia Capes, defeating a squadron of the British Royal Navy under Admiral Thomas Graves. General George Washington called French Naval superiority "The pivot upon which everything turned" as the French victory prevented General Earl Cornwallis from aid or escape by sea and allowed a smaller French fleet from Newport under Commodore De Barras to enter the Chesapeake Bay with siege guns essential in the land battle that followed.
In commemoration of the bicentennial of this most important Naval battle fought in American waters which assured the victory at Yorktown and American independence.
This tablet is erected by the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, October 19, 1981
 
In appreciation of the service of these men who made the supreme sacrifice in the Yorktown campaign, 1781. This tablet is erected by the National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, October 19, 1931.
 
A L'occasion Du Bicentenaire des Traites De Paris Et De Versailles Qui Consacrerent Le 3 Septemere 1733 L'independance Des Etats - Unis D'Amerique Cette Plaque A Ete Apposee Par Les Filles De La Revoltion Americaine En Temolonage De Gratitude Envers Les Artisans Qui S'etaient Voues.
"Au Plus Beau  Des Ouvrages -- L'eblaboration De La Paix"
(Benjamin Franklin)

On September 3, 1983, the bicentennial of the treaties of Paris and Versailles which secured the peace and established the independence of the United States of America, this tablet was offered by the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution as a grateful tribute to the architects of these treaties who dedicated themselves to
"The best of all works -- the work of peace."
(Benjamin Franklin)
 
We are now friends with England and with all mankind.
Benjamin Franklin, 1783
American Peace Commissioner

This great peace monument is a symbol of the sacrifices in lives and property in the Revolutionary War, which ended at Yorktown and which brought us our independence. It symbolizes, too, the peace between the Mother country and America - A peace not seriously interrupted since 1781.
Horace M. Albright, 1931
Director, National Park Service

The Treaty of Paris was the first step toward and alliance with Great Britain which has grown stronger through two centuries to become one of our most important alliance relationships. Political, cultural, economic,  and defense ties between our two nations are firm and lasting.
Ronald Reagan, 1983
President, United States of America

Dedicated 19 October 1984
Bicentennial year, Ratification Treaty of Paris
 
David and I made another attempt to see Yorktown in September, 2003, but unfortunatly Hurricane Isabel was set on a course and due to hit the next day so most of the houses had boards covering all the windows. We will go back eventually, but probably after the hurricane season is over and most likely, not until the Spring of 2004 :) The rest of Yorktown will be posted then, my apologies for the delay :)
Street Sign: Main and De Grasse Streets
 
 
 
Dudley Digges House, Circa 1760
"... Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton directed them to charge into the town, [Charlottesville, Virginia]... and to apprehend, if possible, the governor and assembly. Seven members of the assembly were secured...and several officers and men, were killed, wounded, or taken." Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton, A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781

Dudley Diggers built this classic Virginia Tidewater style home around 1760. The outbuildings, wellhouse, kitchen, granary and smokehouse are typical of those found in the colonial era. The house was restored in 1960 and the outbuildings were reconstructed by the National Park Service in the 1970's.

One of the members of the Virginia assembly captured by the British during their Charlottesville raid on June 4, 1781 was the former lieutenant governor, Dudley Digges. Digges' capture ended his prominent political involvement in the American Revolution.

The Digges family participated in colonial government since the immigration in 1650 of Dudley's great-grandfather, Edward Digges, from England. Dudley was born around 1728 and by his early twenties was a practicing lawyer in York County.  He served in the House of Burgesses from 1752 until the start of the American Revolutionary War. Throughout the war, Dudley remained active in numerous areas of Virginia government, including helping to write the commonwealth's first constitution and becoming one of the first members of the state council.

Dudley's home, like so many other Yorktown houses, was damaged during the 1781 siege and rendered uninhabitable. Dudley moved to Williamsburg and died there in 1790.
 
Old Houses
From this point you can see seven houses built more than 200 years ago. Yorktown was then a leading Virginia seaport. Cannon fire threatened all the buildings during the Siege; damaged many. The following winter French troops quartered here.
 
 
The "Great Valley"
In the 1700's a road wound down this ravine from "Maine Street" on the bluff to Water street "under the hill," then a busy shore front.
 
 
The Thriving Town of York 1750
17th Century Europe's desire for tobacco brought wealth into the Virginia Colony. Trade boomed - so did taxes. Yorktown and other river ports were created as centers for taxing the tobacco trade. By 1750 Yorktown ranked among Virginia's busiest seaports.

"Great Valley Road," one of old Yorktown's principal streets, led from here to the waterfront. A half-hour walk along this trail will take you to the waterfront and back via "Tobacco Road." You'll find historic feature and exhibts along the way.
Here, above the bluffs, stood the elegant houses of prosperous merchants and tobacco farmers, and the shops and hostelries of artisans and inn-keepers. Under the bluffs were the docks and warehouses of the sea trade.
 
York "Under the Hill"
Initially York was laid out about the bluffs, but the thin strip of ground here between water and cliff was essential to the town's commerical life. Port facilities crowded the area - wharves, warehouses and stores as pictured here. These same facilities, and the excellent harbor, prompted Cornwallis to establish his base, at Yorktown in the summer of 1781.
 
York Under Siege 1781
Early in October French-American forces closed their grip on the besieged British army in Yorktown and bombarded the town with their combined artillery. Incessant shellfire drove townspeople to seek shelter under this bluff and forced British commander, Lord Cornwallis, to move his headquarters to a nearby cave. The end came quickly with the British surrender on October 19. Yorktown returned to peace, but never to its former prosperity.
 
 
   Yorktown
York County
    Virginia
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