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The World Turned Upside Down  (Yorktown, Virginia)

(Reprint from News: July 18, 2001)

July 17, 2001

 

I spent a couple hours at Jamestown, then hit the Colonial Parkway bound for Yorktown, nervously glancing at my watch the whole way.  I left Jamestown at 5:25 p.m. and the Yorktown Visitor Center closed at 6:00 p.m., so I had to hustle.  I zipped past the turnoff to Williamsburg without a regret and made it to Yorktown five minutes before it closed, just enough time to stamp my National Park passport book and run through the life-size, 18th century warship there.

 

Yorktown, of course, was the site of the last battle in the American Revolutionary war.  By 1781, the Redcoat army had been battling Washington's Continental Army for six years, first in the north and then the south, but without much success.  In the fall of 1781, the pompous English commander, Lord Cornwallis, was being chased across Virginia by the pesky French and American army and moved his Redcoats down the York Peninsula, expecting to get rescued by the British fleet.  The fleet, though, was having its own problems and was turned back by the French off Cape Henry.  

 

After a brief siege in the village of Yorktown, Cornwallis surrendered to General Washington and during the surrender ceremony, his band play the song "The World Turned Upside Down."  Everyone, including King George, realized that the war was over, although the official treaty between England and the newly-formed United States wasn't signed for another two years.

 

Even though I got kicked out of the Yorktown Visitor Center (much as the British had gotten kicked out of Yorktown two centuries earlier), I had a good time there and spent about an hour walking around the entrenchments.  At 7 p.m., though, it was time once again to hit the road.  

 

       

Above left:  This is a cool ship inside the Visitor Center at Yorktown National Battlefield.  It's cool because it's air-conditioned.

Above center:  And here's a cool French mortar.  American and French troops cornered the British General Cornwallis here on the York peninsula in 1781 and drew the noose ever tighter.  

Above right:  A French howitzer on the siege lines at Yorktown.  

 

 

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