Yorktown Day

October 19, 2015

Today is the 234th anniversary of the victory at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781, which effectively concluded the American War for Independence.

Monument to the Alliance and Victory, Yorktown

Victory Monument at Yorktown

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.

Monument to the Alliance and Victory, Yorktown

“Erected in pursuance of a resolution of Congress adopted October 29 1781 and an act of Congress approved June 7 1880 to commemorate the victory by which the independence of the United States of America was achieved”

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.”

Victory Monument at Yorktown

Monument to the Alliance and Victory
Yorktown Monument Commissioners, 1881
R.M. Hunt, Architect Chairman
Henry Van Brunt, Architect
J.Q.A. Ward, Sculptor
Oskar J.W. Hansen, Sculptor of Liberty, 1957

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.

Pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, designed by Richard Morris Hunt

Pedestal of the Statue of Liberty

Richard Morris Hunt

Richard Morris Hunt

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