Sunday, September 16, 2012
ONE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
I just had the pleasure of visiting friends who are native to the historic Yorktown, Virginia area. Since I still find stories of human struggle and victory so fascinating, I also found the area to be equally fascinating, especially the final battle of the American Revolution at Yorktown! The end began for British General Cornwallis here in North Carolina when General Washington’s second in command, General Nathaniel Greene, engaged Cornwallis’ troops at the battle of Guilford Courthouse. Greene and his revolutionaries didn’t win this engagement, but they did cripple the opposition who marched on to the Outer Banks and Yorktown.
Destiny awaited both armies at Yorktown via both French and divine intervention. Cornwallis dug in with earthen redoubts and an escape route at his back across the York River if necessary. He knew reinforcements were sailing from New York in the form of 24 British war ships. But the French had deployed 36 warships from the West Indies to assist the young upstarts and they engaged the British ships in the Chesapeake and routed them out to sea. That victory left the ports open to sail ships up the river with siege mortars and reinforcements for the Americans. The French Comte de Grasse commanding his naval army and the Comte de Rochambeau commanding his auxiliary troops joined Washington’s troops and the Marquis de Lafayette to begin a nineteen day siege of Cornwallis’ defenses. He was outnumbered two to one and ordered a retreat across the York in numerous boats. One wave of one thousand men made it to the opposite shore before a severe storm scattered and sunk the next wave. Cornwallis understood the grave implications and surrendered to end the revolutionary war on October 19, 1781.
A 95 foot tall memorial rose above the shore of this hallowed ground near the York River to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the struggle. The chosen designer, Richard Morris Hunt, fittingly studied architecture in Paris and left an indelible imprint on the American landscape with such other designs as Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, the Administration building at Chicago’s World Columbian exposition, the Tribune building, the façade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty in New York. Lady Liberty stands atop the site as the cool breezes off the York still power sailing ships and billowing storm clouds pass in remembrance of the deciding blow to the defeated army. And circling around the monument are kindred souls locked in unity for the hope of “One Country, One Constitution, and One Destiny”—One United States of America!