Wednesday, August 22: Yorktown, with its tiny population of 220 people (2000 census), is the county seat of York County, Virginia. Its claim to fame is the siege and subsequent surrender of British General Cornwallis to American General George Washington on October 19, 1781 in the American Revolutionary War. Cornwallis’s surrender to a combined American and French force in the Siege of Yorktown led to the end of major hostilities in North America.
According to Remember Yorktown, Cornwallis’s cave, located along the water front, is reported to have been the hiding place of Cornwallis during the siege at Yorktown during the Revolutionary War in 1781. However, the York County Historical Committee says that contrary to the legend that describes this as Cornwallis’ hiding place at the end of the 1781 siege, it was probably used by a British gun crew to defend the river from the French Fleet. The site is National Park Service property.
The Yorktown Victory Monument was authorized by Continental Congress, October 29, 1781, just after news of the 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 figure replaced it in 1956. The shaft of Maine granite is 84 feet tall; Liberty adds another 14 feet.
Yorktown also figured prominently in the American Civil War (1861–1865), serving as a major port to supply both northern and southern towns, depending upon who held Yorktown at the time (Wikipedia: Yorktown, Virginia).
Yorktown has a lot of historic houses including the Hornsby House Inn, a bed & breakfast that has been recently renovated. It looks similar in style to many houses in the town. (Hornsby House Inn)
I grew up in York County, not Yorktown proper, but as a child and teenager, my friends and I spent a lot of time at Yorktown Beach and on the Yorktown Battlefield, at the Yorktown Pub, on boats on the York River, and at Nick’s Seafood Pavilion, a landmark restaurant until it was damaged severely in a hurricane. Every year on October 19, Yorktown Day, we went to the town to participate in the festivities, to gawk at the French sailors who came to town, and to eat Brunswick Stew.
There are lots of great things to see in Yorktown. The town is part of the national treasure known as the Historic Triangle of Yorktown, Williamsburg and Jamestown. Yorktown lies at the eastern end of the Colonial Parkway, built between 1930 and 1957, which links the three communities, shielding drivers from views of commercial development; a major effort has been made to keep traffic signs and other modern roadside items to a minimum, and to make essential signs unobtrusive. There are often views of wildlife in addition to York River panoramas at several pull-offs.
The Yorktown Victory Center, which is the American Revolutionary War museum, shows our country’s evolution from colonial status to nationhood through thematic exhibits and living-history interpretation in a Continental Army encampment and 1780s farm. People can visit the Yorktown Battlefield, Moore House, Nelson House, Custom House and Grace Episcopal Church. If you want to visit Yorktown, please see: Historic Yorktown.