| American History Stories, Volume II|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Tales of Revolutionary times, including the causes of the American Revolution, the daring exploits of those defending liberty, the early battles, the struggles of the army, and the heroes who led the colonists to victory. Ages 8-12 |
SURRENDER OF CORNWALLIS
 AFTER the surrender of Burgoyne, there was, I think,
never quite such deep despair in the hearts of the Americans.
Still the British were by no means weak. There
were Clinton and Cornwallis with large and powerful armies
yet to be defeated.
At last came the final great battle between Cornwallis'
troops and those of Washington at Yorktown. Cornwallis
had been very busy fortifying this town, into which he had
withdrawn his forces. He had dug trenches, and had
thrown up earth works all around the city to keep away
Washington's army. Cornwallis' army had now grown
much smaller than the Americans had any idea of. Indeed
he had only 7000 men, 1000 of whom were negro slaves.
Washington's army was nearly 16000, all well trained, and
3000 of them were "picked men" from the Virginia
Clinton had promised, however, to send aid in a week's
time surely; and so Cornwallis felt sure that if he could
hold out until then, he should defeat Washington.
On September 28, 1781, the American army marched up and
encamped one mile from Yorktown. Cornwallis withdrew
all his forces into the city to wait for Clinton's aid.
The Americans, however, had no thought of waiting. At
once the batteries began their terrible work against the
 besieged city. Gun after gun which the British had placed
upon their walls fell from the hands of the brave Briton
who held it. The ditches were filled with fragments of the
shattered walls, and heaped with the bodies of the dead
The American forces drew nearer and nearer every night
under cover of the entrenchments which they threw up in
the darkness. On the evening of the 14th of October,
they had come so close that Washington ordered an
immediate attack; and accordingly two columns were formed—one
French, the other American—to rush upon the city
from the right and from the left. A hot battle ensued.
Cornwallis, giving up all hope now of aid from Clinton,
and finding himself surrounded on every side, declared all
defence useless, and gave up the struggle.
The general whom Washington appointed to take possession
of the defeated army was one who, at a previous battle,
had been defeated by Cornwallis, and had been made to
surrender his troops to him. Cornwallis had at that time been
very severe with the general; and now he meted out to
Cornwallis the same measure of severity.
The French and American armies were drawn up in two
lines, and between them the conquered army passed.
When they came to stack their arms, the men, most of
them, maintained a sullen silence, shading their faces with
their hats. Some threw their guns with violence upon the
 ground. Some of the officers wept outright at giving up
their arms, while others wore a look of haughty defiance,
and refused to look upon their conquerors.
Washington and all his officers showed the utmost
kindness to their captives. Even Cornwallis, in his report to
of this, and mentions with great warmth
the kindness of the French officers, which he hopes will be
remembered in future warfare. But Cornwallis was so
deeply humiliated by his conquest that he could hardly
appreciate the courtesy of Washington. Once when they
were conversing together, Cornwallis stood with his head
"You had better be covered from the cold, my lord,"
said Washington, politely.
"It does not matter what becomes of this head now,"
answered Cornwallis, putting his hand to his brow.
With this surrender of Cornwallis, the war was really at
an end. The power of the English army was broken.
There were battles in other parts of the country after this,
but all felt that peace was at hand; and when, at two o'clock
in the morning, the news of Washington's great victory
reached Philadelphia, the people were awakened by the
watchman's cry, "Cornwallis is taken! Cornwallis is
SURRENDER OF CORNWALLIS AT YORKTOWN
Lights flashed through the houses, and soon the streets
were thronged with crowds eager to learn the glad news.
 Some were speechless with delight. Many wept, and the
old door-keeper of Congress died of joy. Congress met at
an early hour, and that afternoon marched in solemn
procession to church to return thanks to God.
As soon as possible, the British army embarked in their
vessels, leaving New York once more a free city. Then
indeed, there was great rejoicing: There was a great show
of fireworks on Bowling Green, where, you remember,
had once stood the leaden statue of King George III.
OF THE PROCLAMATION RESPECTING ILLUMINATION ON THE SURRENDER OF CORNWALLIS
A week later, Washington called together all his officers
to bid them farewell, and thank them for their ever ready
aid and helpful courage during the terrible war. These
brave men who had stood side by side in the bloody battle,
facing death together for seven long years, met now
together in silence and sadness.
When all were present, Washington raised his glass, and
drank to the health of them all. Then he said—and his
voice trembled, and there were tears in his eyes, as he
spoke, "I cannot come to each of you to take my leave of
you; but I shall be glad if each man will come and take me
by the hand."
Then General Knox, a man whom Washington loved, came
forward and with tears in his eyes, attempted to speak.
Though he could not say one word, Washington understood;
and, with tears in his own eyes, drew his friend's
head down upon his shoulder and kissed him. Then each
 officer came forward to take his leave of his much loved
commander; and the bravest men, the most warlike, men
who without one tremor had faced the cannon's mouth, men
who without a murmur had borne the sufferings of these
terrible years, were not ashamed on that day, to let the
tears run down their rough sun-burned faces as they said
goodby to Washington.
WASHINGTON TAKING LEAVE OF HIS COMRADES
Sometimes I fear we get almost tired of hearing of
Washington so much. I confess I often did when I was a
child at school. There was the hatchet story of his childhood,
the story of his wonderful journey when he was only
twenty-one, and the old, old titles of "First President,"
and "Father of his Country"—yes, I did sometimes say
that I was tired of hearing about him; but when I grew
older, and I came at last upon a history that told me more,
about the real character of the man, rather than so much
about the battles he fought, and the victories he won, then
I came to respect the great heart of the man. He was so
brave and daring, and yet always so gentle, so charitable.
Although he could dash into the thickest of the fight, yet
when the battle was over, and the enemy were taken, you
never hear of his blustering about as Burgoyne did, or
bullying those who had fallen into his hands as Cornwallis
did at the South, or Colonel Prescott at Newport. When a
battle was over, he never thought he must celebrate it by
getting drunk and making a brute of himself. No, whether
 in the camp or the drawing-room, whether with friends or
with foes, whether conquered or conquering, Washington
always thought it worth while to be a gentleman. I do not
mean by that an aristocrat—not that; but a real
gentleman,—a gentle man.
DATES TO REMEMBER
Revolution began 1775—ended 1781. Battle of Lexington
April 19, 1775. Battle of Bunker Hill June 17,
1775. Declaration of Idependence July 4, 1776.
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