The Revolutionary War (War of American Independence): The Virginia Campaign and the Blockade and Siege of Yorktown, French Participation in the American Revolution by Progressive Management - Read Online
The Revolutionary War (War of American Independence)
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This significant historical book on a vital aspect of the Revolutionary War - the Virginia campaign, the blockade and siege of Yorktown, and the role of the French in the American Revolution. It was written by the Army War College in 1931.

Contents: Part I - Yorktown, 1781 * Part II - The French-American Alliance * Part III - Lafayette * Part IV - Washington * Part V - D'estaing * Part VI - Inaction During 1779 * Part VII - The Southern Campaign In 1780 * Part VIII - Rochambeau * Part IX - Virginia * Part X - Cornwallis * Part XI - Cornwallis-Lafayette * Part XII - Clinton-Cornwallis Controversy * Part XIII - Louis XVI, Vergennes, Franklin * Part XIV - Washington's Intentions And Plans * Part XV - The Sea Battle Off The Capes Of Virginia * Part XVI - Concentration Of The Allies Around Yorktown * Part XVII - The Siege Of Yorktown * Part XVIII - The Capture Of Redoubts 9 And 10 * Part XIX - The Surrender Of Cornwallis's Army At Yorktown

The introduction notes:

YORKTOWN! Indicative of Achievement ** Expressive of Greatness ** Significant of Independence. A name which in itself seems sonorous, suggestive, sacred; but which derives these distinctive attributes from an imperishable glory that found lodgment there, and which shall not depart as long as this country endures.

A place richly endowed with the beauty of a majestic river, of open fields of green encircled by densely wooded hills and vales; a community that conserves a calm serenity undisturbed, prideful that history selected it for great distinction.

It was at Yorktown that the nascent nationalism of each of the thirteen States of America was assured of eventual coalescence into a single nationalism, and where an endless fraternalism between the peoples of the United States and France was sealed.

The revolt of the thirteen colonies against the mother country showed signs of disturbing activity soon after the termination of the French and Indian war in 1763. Opposition to the oppressive measures adopted by Parliament was most aggressive in the trading colonies of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York; but the patriots of Virginia and North Carolina were equally determined to bring about reforms. Lexington was the accumulation of many incipient fires which finally broke into a flaming fury on that battlefield. At Saratoga, after two and a half years of warfare, a great army surrendered. This notable American success brought about an alliance with France. At Yorktown the greatest soldier that England ever sent to America laid down his arms. The Independence of the United States was now assured; with the aid of France this had been made possible.

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1781

YORKTOWN! Indicative of Achievement ** Expressive of Greatness ** Significant of Independence.

A name which in itself seems sonorous, suggestive, sacred; but which derives these distinctive attributes from an imperishable glory that found lodgment there, and which shall not depart as long as this country endures.

A place richly endowed with the beauty of a majestic river, of open fields of green encircled by densely wooded hills and vales; a community that conserves a calm serenity undisturbed, prideful that history selected it for great distinction.

It was at Yorktown that the nascent nationalism of each of the thirteen States of America was assured of eventual coalescence into a single nationalism, and where an endless fraternalism between the peoples of the United States and France was sealed.

The revolt of the thirteen colonies against the mother country showed signs of disturbing activity soon after the termination of the French and Indian war in 1763. Opposition to the oppressive measures adopted by Parliament was most aggressive in the trading colonies of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York; but the patriots of Virginia and North Carolina were equally determined to bring about reforms. Lexington was the accumulation of many incipient fires which finally broke into a flaming fury on that battlefield. At Saratoga, after two and a half years of warfare, a great army surrendered. This notable American success brought about an alliance with France. At Yorktown the greatest soldier that England ever sent to America laid down his arms. The Independence of the United States was now assured; with the aid of France this had been made possible.

WASHINGTON IN 1772

Over the fair face of Tidewater and Piedmont Virginia, on the broad stretches of the Chesapeake, through the sinuous curves of the James, and upon the serene surface of the York marched armies and sailed fleets during the great Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War far more numerous and complex in their movement than were the operations of any other land and naval forces during the entire period of hostilities. Toward the end there were assembled in the Peninsula and on the adjacent waters, nearly all the leaders who at any time had held independent commands in the South: Washington, Rochambeau, Lafayette, Von Steuben, and St. Simon of the Allied Armies; Cornwallis and O'Hara of the British Army; De Grasse and De Barras of the French Fleet; Graves, Hood, and Drake of the British Fleet. Greene and Balfour were in South Carolina; Phillips's day on earth was past; Leslie had returned to Europe; Rawdon was a prisoner of De Grasse; and Arnold was driven by the tortures of conscience from the province.

From the time that Cornwallis crossed the frontier in May of 1781 Virginia became the battle ground wherein the fate of the new Nation was to be determined. In October of the preceding year Clinton had sent Leslie to that province, with instructions to establish a post on the Elizabeth River at Portsmouth. If Cornwallis should be in need of reenforcements, however, Leslie was to place himself under the orders of that officer. Complying with orders given to him later, Leslie moved his army to Charleston and joined Cornwallis the day after the battle of the Cowpens.

When Clinton learned that Leslie was about to abandon Virginia, a detachment was placed under the command of the traitor Arnold, who on the 20th of December sailed from New York to conduct operations in that province. Later Phillips was sent to the same place to strengthen the force already there and to take command. He was to establish the British more firmly in Virginia, which was becoming more and more the dominant battle ground of the revolution.

At this time Greene was campaigning in the Carolinas, and Von Steuben was organizing the troops in Virginia. Von Steuben and the several commanders of militia occupied the attention of the British until the death of Phillips. Arnold then took over the command of the British, which he retained until Cornwallis arrived from North Carolina.

Into this complicated theater of operations came Lafayette. The handling of his army, which opposed that of Cornwallis, was performed in a brilliant manner. Meanwhile Washington and Rochambeau eagerly awaited news from De Grasse, and when it was finally reported that the French Fleet would enter the Chesapeake they moved their armies with all possible speed into the Peninsula, there to bring about the final major action of the Revolutionary War.

In this narrative tribute is paid to the honorable services of those commanders who fought against the thirteen colonies. Credit is given to France for making possible the independence of the United States. To the Marquis de Lafayette is accorded the homage due the one who, more than any other individual in America except George Washington, was in obtaining victory. Acknowledgment is made of the military genius of the Count de Rochambeau and the Count de Grasse in leading gallant troops through successful battles on land and sea. Appreciation is expressed for the sympathetic interest in the colonists felt by Louis XVI and the Count de Vergennes, and for their efforts in influencing the French people to regard the United States as a military and economic ally.

PART II - THE FRENCH-AMERICAN ALLIANCE

The Revolutionary War may well be divided into two parts: That antedating 1778, designated the American period; and that subsequent to 1777, which may be called the French-American period. These periods, while entirely distinctive, have one bond to hold them together - Lafayette.

Two of the major events that preceded the actual outbreak of war between England and the thirteen colonies were the Boston tea party, which occurred on the night of December 16, 1773, and the meeting of the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia on the 5th of September, 1774. Then rebellion broke forth when the British soldiers and the Minutemen exchanged shots at Lexington on the 19th of April, 1775. On the 10th of the following month the Second Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia, and on the 17th of June of the same year the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought.

Long before Lexington and Bunker Hill, however, the province of North Carolina had been militantly engaged in opposing the tyrannous conduct of Governor Tryon, through the medium of an association called the Regulation. The governor was indifferent to the grievances presented to him; he refused to remedy the just causes for complaint, and the spirit of disaffection grew. Its culmination came on the 16th day of May, 1771, when a body of about 2,000 Regulators was defeated in the Battle of the Alamance by a force of regulars and militia, commanded by the governor, but little more than a thousand strong. When the news reached North Carolina that open hostilities had begun at Lexington, the inhabitants of Mecklenberg County promulgated a declaration of independence, which antedated by more than a year the declaration made on July 4, 1776, by the Continental Congress at Philadelphia.

THE YORKTOWN MONUMENT

The second year of the war found the British in possession of New York City, which was occupied following the Battle of Long Island, fought on August 27, 1776. From New York the British moved up the North River and effected a crossing, and then began overrunning the jerseys. By the end of the year they occupied a front with the right resting on the North River and the left at Trenton on the Delaware. In the following year Lord Howe moved the major portion of his army to the head of the Chesapeake and then marched to Philadelphia, the city being occupied by an advance detachment under Cornwallis on the 26th of September, 1777. Later in the year Washington went into winter quarters at Valley Forge.

The year 1777 is notable for the outstanding achievement of American arms at Saratoga, where on the 17th day of October the British Army commanded by Lieut. Gen. John Burgoyne surrendered to Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates. Immediately a copy of the articles of convention was sent to Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee, the American commissioners who had been sent to Paris for the purpose of effecting an alliance between the United States and France. The letter from the Committee of Foreign Affairs, dated the 31st of October, which transmitted the capitulation, said, in part:

We rely on your wisdom and care to make the best and most immediate use of the intelligence, to depress our enemies, and produce essential aid to our cause in Europe * * * we are sensible how essential European aid must be to the final establishment and security of American freedom and Independence.

The news of Burgoyne's surrender reached France by a packet from Boston early in December. It apparently occasioned as much general joy in France, wrote the commissioners, as if it had been a victory of their own troops over their own enemies, such is the universal, warm, and sincere good will and attachment to us and our cause in this nation.

The commissioners took this favorable opportunity of pressing the ministry to a conclusion of the proposed treaties, which had so long been under consideration. A meeting was arranged for the 12th of December, at which final accord was reached. As the concurrence of Spain was necessary, a courier was dispatched to Madrid the following day to obtain the agreement of that Government.

On the 6th of February, 1778, three treaties were signed with France. One was a treaty of amity and commerce; another a treaty of alliance, eventual and defensive; and the third an act separate and secret which provided that the other two treaties were to be referred to the King of Spain for approval. In the treaty of alliance it was provided that if war should break out between France and Great Britain, during the continuance of the conflict then existing between the United States and Great Britain, His Majesty and the United States would make it a common cause, and aid each other mutually with their good offices, their counsels, and their forces.

The essential and direct purpose of the defensive alliance was to maintain effectually the liberty, sovereignty, and independence absolute and unlimited of the said United States, as well in matters of government as of commerce.

The three treaties were unanimously ratified by the Congress of the United States on the 4th day of May, 1778. At the same time it was resolved that the commissioners at the court of France be directed to present the grateful acknowledgments of this Congress to his most Christian majesty, for his truly magnanimous conduct respecting these states, in the said generous and disinterested treaties, and to assure his majesty, on the part of this Congress, it is sincerely wished that the friendship so happily commenced between France and these United States may be perpetual.

PART III - LAFAYETTE

Lafayette! Another name to be interpreted in the light of history. A name whose mere mention brings to mind valiant youth, vividly questioning, imaginative, ambitious, proud, reticent, affectionate, worshipful; a crusader by instinct; a soldier from love of glory; a friend faithful and true, compelling affection because of the sparkling sincerity of his personality. Born at Chavaniac in Auvergne on the 6th day of September, 1757, Lafayette was destined to add immeasurably to the martial glory of a name already adorned by a father whom he never saw - killed in battle shortly before the birth of the son. Lafayette's mother died when he was in his thirteenth year and was followed in death some days later by her father, the Marquis de la Rivière. It was from this grandparent that he inherited the very considerable wealth which made possible so many gracious acts in connection with his services in the Army of the United States.

Lafayette in his Memoirs wrote:

You ask me at what period I first experienced my ardent love of liberty and glory? I recollect no time of my fife anterior to my enthusiasm for anecdotes of glorious deeds, and to my projects of travelling over the world to acquire fame.

Love of liberty and glory were the dominant characteristics of his youth, but the latter was always kept subjected to the former. He writes of the unfavorable opinion entertained of him owing to his habitual silence when he did not think the subject under discussion worthy of thought or comment. His days in the college at Paris, where he continued his education at the tender age of 12, were uneventful except for his ardent desire to study without restraint. He said that as a student he never deserved to be chastised, and that in spite of my usual gentleness, it would have been dangerous to have attempted to do so. He deliberately sacrificed the hope of a high mark in rhetoric by describing a perfect courser as one who, on perceiving the whip, threw down his rider.

LAFAYETTE IN 1779

The marriage of Lafayette to the daughter of the Duke d'Ayen was celebrated on the 11th day of April, 1774, at which time he Was but 16 years and 7 months of age and his bride only 14 years and 5 months old. The head of the elder branch of his wife's family, the Marshal de Noailles, wished to obtain for the young man a place in the household of a prince of royal blood (afterwards Louis XVIII), but Lafayette's love of republican principles was so great that he did not hesitate displeasing his patrons to preserve his independence. Such was his frame of mind when he first learned of the rebellion in America, and when in the following year the memorable declaration of the 4th of July reached France.

It was during the month of August, 1775, that Lafayette, then a subaltern stationed at Metz, met the Duke of Gloucester, brother of the King of England, at a dinner given by Count de Broglie, the of the fort. The conversation was soon directed to American affairs, the resistance of the colonists, generally referred to in Europe as the insurgents, and the strong measures adopted by the ministry to crush the rebellion. Lafayette absorbed this information with avid attention. The idea of a people fighting for liberty so inflamed his imagination that when he left the table he was determined to look further into the matter, to see if a youthful, chivalric love of liberty and glory would be satisfied by offering the aid of his banner to the revolutionists. As an answer to the obstacles which were to be expected from his own and his wife's family, and equally to serve as an encouragement to himself and as a reply to others, he ventured to adopt for a device on his arms the words, Cur non? In commenting, later in life, upon political conditions which preceded the revolution, Lafayette wrote:

The Americans, attached to the mother country, contented themselves at first with merely uttering complaints; they only accused the ministry, and the whole nation rose up against them; they were termed insolent and rebellious, and at length declared the enemies of their country: thus did the obstinacy of the king, the violence of the ministers, and the arrogance of the English nation, oblige thirteen of their colonies to render themselves independent. Such a glorious cause had never before attracted the attention of mankind; it was the last struggle of Liberty; and had she then been vanquished, neither hope nor asylum would have remained for her.

Great care and discretion were necessary in determining who would be the recipients of Lafayette's confidence. Intimate friends were approached, only to have their enthusiasm for the adventure frowned on by more worldly-wise parents. His friend, Count de Broglie, when requested to countenance the enterprise, answered:

I have seen your uncle die in the wars of Italy; I witnessed your father's death at the battle of Minden; and I will not be accessory to the ruin of the only remaining branch of the family.

De Broglie did relent, however, to the extent of introducing the ardent adventurer to Baron de Kalb, an officer of German birth, then in the service of France. De Kalb in 1768 had made an intelligence examination of America as the agent of M. de Choiseul, and was now desirous of offering his sword to the United States. Lafayette and De Kalb secured an audience with Silas Deane, who at the time represented the new Confederation of States in Paris. When the marquis presented his boyish face (for he was only 19 years of age) he spoke more of his ardor in the cause than of his experience. Deane knew but little French, De Kalb was a poor interpreter, the British ambassador's spies were suspicious, and it became necessary to place the further conduct of the affair in the hands of an intermediary. An agreement was finally entered into on the 7th of December, 1776, signed by Silas Deane, Lafayette, and De Kalb, to the effect that -

The ranks and the pay, which the most honorable Congress shall affix to them to commence at the periods marked in the present list, have been agreed to by us the undersigned.

The name of Lafayette headed the list. His rank of major general was to date from the 7th of December, 1776. De Kalb, who came next on the list, was given the same rank, to date from the 7th of November. The list contained 11 other names.

Following the agreement, and constituting part of it, is a further accord entered into between Deane and Lafayette, largely for the information of Congress. Deane says of Lafayette:

His high birth, his alliances, the great dignities which his family holds at this Court, his considerable estates in this realm, his personal merit, his reputation, his disinterestedness, and above all his zeal for the liberty of our provinces, are such as to induce me alone to promise him the rank of major general in the name of the United States.

Then follows a voluntary statement signed by Lafayette, that he is to serve without any pension or particular allowance, reserving to himself the liberty of returning to Europe when his family or his King shall recall him.

Preparations were made to dispatch a vessel with arms and other military supplies for the American Army, in which Lafayette was to take passage. Unfortunately for the venture, bad news was accumulating in Europe of a prolonged series of reverses suffered by the insurgents. First it was the Battle of Long Island; then the evacuation of the city of New York; and later the island of York; followed by the retreat of Washington's army across the Jerseys and beyond the Delaware. All the credit of the Americans vanished. To Deane's earnest efforts to dissuade him from further participation in the enterprise, Lafayette, thanking him for his friendly concern, said:

Until now, Sir, you have seen only my ardour in your cause, and that may not prove at present wholly useless. I shall purchase a ship to carry out your officers; we must feel confidence in the future, and it is especially in the hour of danger that I wish to share your fortune.

The deep sincerity of this statement is evidenced by its reiteration in another form, contained in a letter written to the President of Congress after more than a year's residence in America, and after Lafayette had been severely wounded at the Battle of Brandywine:

The moment I heard of America, I loved her; the moment I knew she was fighting for freedom, I burnt with a desire of bleeding for her.

Lafayette's project was received with approbation by Deane, and an agent was dispatched to Bordeaux with instructions to purchase a vessel.

In order to fulfill an engagement of long standing and allay suspicion which might be directed toward him, the young marquis made a visit to England in the latter part of February. He paid his respects to the King and to high officials; and at the opera saw General Clinton, whom he was afterwards to meet at Monmouth. He openly avowed his sentiments of republicanism and often defended the Americans. He refused offers made him to visit the seaports, vessels fitting out against the 'rebels, and everything that might be construed as an abuse of confidence.

On the 12th day of March, 1777, Lafayette returned to Paris and