Posted by at 4:25 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 072010

We spent yesterday exploring Yorktown, where George Washington’s army, assisted by several thousand French soldiers, defeated the British in 1781, resulting in the end of the American Revolution, and independence for a new nation.

Yorktown was established in 1691, and by the early 1700s, it was a busy shipping port. Strategically located at the mouth of the York River, it was also important to the defense of Richmond and the rest of Virginia. So it was probably inevitable that the war would come here.

Yorktown Battlefield is part of Colonial National Historical Park, and is administered by the National Park Service. We started at the Battlefield Visitor Center, where a short video tells the story of the siege and battle that took place here. Then we boarded one of the free trolleys for a tour of the community.

Yorktown trolly 2

Back at the Visitor Center, we then walked to the Yorktown Victory Monument, which was the first monument authorized by the Continental Congress, just after the battle. However, it took another 100 years before the monument was actually erected.

Victory Monument 2

Then we continued into the old downtown section, where the main street is lined with historic buildings, including the handsome Thomas Nelson House. Nelson was the Governor of Virginia during the Revolutionary War, and also the commander of the Virginia Militia. During the siege of Yorktown, he directed artillery fire against the town, including his own home, to drive the British out. The house still shows the scars of American cannon balls.

Nelson house front 2

We retrieved our van and drove the Battlefield Tour, which took us past locations occupied by British, American, and French troops during the battle. Not much remains except earthen redoubts and a few cannons, and information signs telling visitors what took place there.

Yorktown cannon view 2

The Augustine Moore House, where the surrender negotiations took place, was closed, so we couldn’t tour it. But we did stop to take some pictures.   

Moore House

I have to say that overall, we were rather disappointed in Yorktown. Maybe we’ve been spoiled by our visits to places like Valley Forge, Gettysburg, and the Little Bighorn Battlefield, all administered by the National Park Service. But while those historic locations all have rather impressive museums, and lots of statues and monuments, at Yorktown there wasn’t much to see.

It took all of five minutes to see all there was to see in the small museum in the Visitor Center, and except for some cannon and the Victory Monument, and the buildings in town, the rest of the battlefield is pretty much open fields, a few earthen redoubts, and signs. No statues, no monuments.

Yes, it is an experience to stand on the hallowed ground where it all happened, but I would think that Yorktown, where we finally wrested our freedom from the grip of the greatest military power in the world at that time, deserves more. Terry and I were both left with the feeling of “is that all there is?”

I’d be interested to know what readers who have been to Yorktown have to say.

While we were out sightseeing, Bad Nick was busy posting a new Bad Nick Blog titled Abuse Isn’t A Right. Check it out and leave a comment.

Thought For The Day – Beautiful young people are acts of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.

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Nick Russell

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  3 Responses to “Yorktown”

  1. Often it is way too later in history when the immensity of an event are recognized as such. This, I think, is what may have happened in Yorktown. Many of the items, places etc, are forgotten, built-over or otherwise obliterated long before being their historical meaning is realized. Think of the thousands of landing boats used in Normandy on D-Day. None existed today for display in the D-Day museum in New Orleans. One had to be built using the original plans.

  2. I drive throught the battlefield every day on my way to the Coast Guard base where I work, right next to the Moore House.

    I too am amazed that there is very little to see and no mention at all of the Civil War battle that took place on the same grounds.

    On the other hand, it affords my mind’s eye to see what went on here, rather than many monuments all around the battlefield like Gettysburg, the NPS keeps the grounds much like they were when Washington won the war. I feel a better connection to the men that struggled and won our freedom.

  3. We visited Yorktown around 1990 and I also was relatively unimpressed. It just seemed sparse. I thought that much had been done since then, but maybe not.

    Jamestown Settlement is a much better attraction, IMHO. The museum has a lot of well organized history, and is better and more expanded every time that we visit. There is also a replica of the fort, a replica of a period Indian village, and functional replicas of the 3 ships.

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