Sunday, October 19th marks the 233rd anniversary of the Battle of Yorktown. Although not the official end of the Revolutionary War, the battle assured American independence from Great Britain. The American militia’s role in the battle remains an important part of National Guard heritage, forged in the fighting at Redoubt No. 10.
The opening shots of the battle occurred on September 29th. French and American forces began construction of siege works and trenches on October 5th. As the trenches inched closer to the British entrenchments outside of Yorktown, British artillery unwittingly fired over the heads of their American and French adversaries. The American lines were soon within 150 yards of Redoubts 9 and 10, British infantry positions located southeast of Yorktown and immediately outside of the main British defenses. In order for the French and Americans to finalize the second siege parallel, these positions needed to be taken out.
General Lafayette’s Light Infantry Division, which included a large number of Virginia militia, were tasked with taking Redoubt No.10. Some 400 troops were placed under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton. Around 70 British troops defended the outpost. At the same time, Redoubt No. 9 was attacked by French Regular troops.
On October 14th, Hamilton’s American troops led a bayonet charge on the British position, cutting their way through the abatis and overwhelming the defenders in just ten minutes. 9 Americans were killed in the assault, and another 25 wounded. Redoubt no. 9 fell to the French assault a short time later.
The British army under Lord General Cornwallis surrendered five days later, on October 19th. The British bands played “The World Turned Upside Down,” a fitting melody to reflect the citizen-soldier’s tenacity against the English empire.