October 19, 2015
Today is the 234th anniversary of the victory at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781, which effectively concluded the American War for Independence.
During the summer of 1781 General Lafayette and a relatively small force in Virginia skirmished with the British troops in the south under the command of General Cornwallis. Toward the end of summer the British decided on a different strategy and Cornwallis pulled his forces back to the coast near Yorktown, unaware that a formidable fleet of French war ships, sent by Louis XVI, was on its way to Chesapeake Bay. Recognizing the opportunity to overwhelm the British in the south, General George Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau hurried to Virginia, bringing American and French troops from the north. The combined land forces, together with the French fleet, encircled the British in a siege at Yorktown. Cornwallis soon realized he had no choice but to surrender his forces.
The Continental Congress acknowledged the significance of this victory and immediately in October 1781 authorized the construction of a commemorative monument, which it described as a “marble column, adorned with emblems of the alliance.”
Work on the monument, however, did not begin until nearly a century later.
The cornerstone was laid as part of the centennial Yorktown Day celebration in 1881.
While the Monument to the Alliance and Victory was still under construction, the architect responsible for the design, Richard Morris Hunt, was selected to design the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.