October 6, 2006
CW presents "Prelude to Yorktown"
Several hundred Revolutionary War military re-enactors representing the Allied Armies of 1781 encamp in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area for a special week-end –“Prelude to Yorktown – Oct. 13-15. The program chronicles preparations in late September 1781 by the Continental Army, under the command of Gen. George Washington, and the French Army, commanded by the Comte de Rochambeau, for the siege of Yorktown, the final battle of the American Revolution.
As the summer of 1781 draws to a close, American armies under Gen. Lafayette and Gen. von Steuben, and British forces commanded by Gen. Charles Cornwallis and Gen. Benedict Arnold, have marched through and thoroughly foraged eastern Virginia, producing a general shortage of food and material. Lafayette barely escaped Cornwallis’ trap at the Battle of Green Spring, and now Washington is moving to trap Cornwallis at Yorktown. To complicate matters, smallpox arrived with the British Army when they occupied Williamsburg in June and many residents are still suffering.
The special weekend begins Friday morning, Oct. 13 with the British still holding Williamsburg and Loyalists continue to harass the patriot rebels. At noon, a British dragoon rides into town to warn of the advance of the Continental Army. By late afternoon, advance units of the Continental Army march into the city and prepare the encampment.
Activity in the camp on Market Square begins at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Generals Washington and Rochambeau arrive at the Courthouse of 1770 at 9:30 a.m. to address the assembled troops and discuss plans for the siege of Yorktown.
A detachment of Continental Army soldiers on patrol encounters a British patrol near Bassett Hall at 11:15 a.m. A skirmish ensues, and the Continentals return to camp with prisoners and the wounded.
Saturday afternoon is filled with gunfire and military music as artillery crew practice, the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums march on Duke of Gloucester St., the entire battalion demonstrates the Manual of Arms and combat musketry, and dragoons demonstrate cavalry tactics and horsemanship under fire. Saturday programming ends as the battalion demonstrates its military proficiency for Gen. Washington.
Activity in the camp begins Sunday at 8:30 a.m. with a drumhead church service in the camp at 9:30 a.m. Washington and Rochambeau finalize their battle plans at the Courthouse from 10 – 11 a.m.
Again, gunfire and military music punctuate the afternoon. In addition to artillery and cavalry demonstrations, military re-enactors demonstrate the use of the rifle on the battlefield. The travails of British sympathizers are evident the citizens of Williamsburg harass a Loyalist doctor and his family as they try to slip out of the city. At the Wythe House, two British officer prisoners of war bemoan their treatment and possible fates at the hands of their captors. The special weekend programming ends as Washington address his troops before leading them as they march to Yorktown at 5:30 p.m.
Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia. Williamsburg is located 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information or reservations, call toll-free 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg on the Internet at www.ColonialWilliamsburg.com.