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August 19, 2003

Colonial Williamsburg Presents "Prelude to Victory," Washington Prepares Troops for the Battle of Yorktown Aug. 29-31

General George Washington maps out strategies for defeating British troops during Colonial Williamsburg’s weekend re-enactment, “Prelude to Victory: Washington Prepares for the 1781 Siege of Yorktown,” Aug. 29-31. The popular program re-creates the events leading up to the Battle of Yorktown.

The entrance of advance units of Washington’s army into Colonial Williamsburg signals the beginning of the annual re-enactment Labor Day weekend. While the advance group prepares for the arrival of the remainder of Washington’s troops, several programs throughout the weekend tell the little-known story of African-American patriots of the Rhode Island Regiment.

The reading of Washington’s orders at the Courthouse begins the army’s tasks Saturday morning, while Washington’s staff formulates strategies for the siege. Washington addresses his troops and issues final marching orders as the army prepares to leave for Yorktown at 5 p.m. Sunday.

The weekend is filled with evidence of military prowess by the Continental Army troops, including artillery practice and musket drills. Dragoons or cavalry demonstrate horsemanship and field maneuvers. Military music also echoes throughout the Historic Area.

Weekend highlights include:

Friday, Aug. 29

  • Speckled Troops, 10 a.m., Hay Pasture. Williamsburg slaves encounter African-American soldiers of the First Rhode Island Regiment.
  • Welcomed Strangers, 2 p.m., Mary Stith House. The enslaved community provides support for African-American soldiers.

    Saturday, Aug. 30

  • Reveille, 9:30 a.m. All units will hold roll call in the company streets.
  • Military Hospital, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Governor’s Palace. An army surgeon tends to the sick.
  • Once a Slave, Now a Soldier, 10 a.m., Hay Pasture. Members of the First Rhode Island Regiment share their experiences.
  • General Orders are Read, 10:30 a.m., Courthouse. The entire army forms on the street to receive Generals Washington and Le Compte de Rochambeau, commander of the French forces. Troops welcome them with a 21-gun salute. Washington briefly speaks before retiring into the Courthouse.
  • Preparing for a Siege, 11 a.m., Courthouse. Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette and Rochambeau discuss contingencies for Yorktown.
  • Negro Soldiers: Equal in Bravery! 2 p.m., behind the Raleigh Tavern. African-American soldiers of the First Rhode Island Regiment share their aspirations for themselves and their country.
  • Military Review, 5 p.m., Market Square. The army displays its proficiency before Washington and the public. Lafayette and Rochambeau address the battalion concerning the siege at Yorktown.

    Sunday, Aug. 31

  • Conversations with Lafayette, 10 a.m., Courthouse. Lafayette talks with the general public and disgruntled citizens.
  • Officers’ Dinner, 2:30 p.m., Randolph House. Washington, Lafayette, Rochambeau and other officers enjoy dinner and conversation.
  • Washington Addresses Troops, 5:20 p.m., Market Square. General Edward Hand will read Washington’s marching orders that were issued the day before.
  • Army Marches Out, 5:30 p.m. The army, led by Washington and Rochambeau in a carriage and Lafayette on horseback, starts the march to Yorktown.

    A Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket is required to attend all of these programs.

    Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that operates the restored 18th-century capital of Virginia. Known worldwide as the nation’s largest living history museum, Colonial Williamsburg recently was recognized as the “Best Historic Site” by readers of Southern Living magazine for the seventh straight year. Colonial Williamsburg is located 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information or reservations, call toll-free (800) HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s web site at

    Media Contact:
    Penna Rogers
    (757) 220-7121

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