George Washington; October 17, 1781

While reading background on the siege and victory at Yorktown, Virginia in October 1781, I came across the following passage written by historian Jerome Greene.

     “The officer was then quickly escorted to Washington’s headquarters in a nearby house,       where he delivered Cornwallis’s message: “I propose a Cessation of Hostilities for 24             hours, & that two Officers may be appointed by each side, to meet at Mr. Moore’s house         to settle terms for the Surrender of the Posts of York & Gloucester.” One can only                   imagine the emotions coursing through Washington’s body as he read these words.”

That last line is what really struck me.

Every image we have of George Washington depicts a stoic expression staring back out of us. Historians have a few instances from a long life of the Washington behind the marble, behind the self-imposed restraint, that he crafted for posterity.

However, he was human, he did have a fiery temper and he was a passionate person. One of the reasons he strove so hard to mask those emotions, to keep them in check, to keep perspective, and to persevere.

Those competing inclinations would have been bubbling at the surface on October 17, 1781, when that written communication was handed to him outside Yorktown, Virginia. What that moment must have been like, for Washington, for the French and American forces, and for all those fighting in favor of American independence.

Jerome Greene wondered about it. I am curious about it. Are you?

 

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Siege of Yorktown 1836

“Our clocks are slow” L’Hermione, Lafayette and the Franco-American Alliance

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Marquis de Lafayette

With the visit of the L’Hermione to the east coast of the United States this summer, there has been a heightened interest in the Franco-American alliance that won the American Revolution.  The French rebuilt the L’Hermione not only for its beauty but also its historical significance.  Most importantly, its mission and the passenger it contained when it arrived in Boston in the fall of 1780.

The spring of 1780 was a low point in the American cause of independence.  Stagnation in the north between Washington and British commander General Sir Henry Clinton combined with devastating defeats in the Southern Theater caused low morale among the patriots.  Cornwallis had complete control over the Southern colonies and no standing American force seemed to be able to stop his movements.  Continue reading ““Our clocks are slow” L’Hermione, Lafayette and the Franco-American Alliance”