Yorktown Victory Monument
Main St, Yorktown, VA, USA
Yorktown Victory Monument Reviews
One Country, One Constitution, One Destiny May 24, 2015
The Battle of Yorktown was one of the decisive battles in the American Revolutionary War, and the last major land battle of that war which eventually led to the British surrender and negotiation for a peace treaty. In 1781 the American Continental Army, led by George Washington, and the French army, led by Lieutenant General Jean-Baptiste Ponton de Rochambeau, surrounded the British army led by Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia. The battle lasted about 20 days, but the British were simply outnumbered more than two to one. General Cornwallis signed the Articles of Capitulation on Oct. 19, 1781, and surrendered his entire army of over 7000 men. The war would go on for another two years and there would be other land battles, but not major ones like that in Yorktown. Some major sea battles did take place, however, but the Battle of Yorktown is considered a great turning point that lead to the Treaty of Paris in 1783, officially ending the American Revolutionary War.
That's the backstory, and the Yorktown Victory Monument was built to commemorate the decisive victory at Yorktown. The building of monument itself has a story as well. On Oct. 29, 1781, Congress directed the following: "That the United States in Congress assembled, will cause to be erected at york, in Virginia, a marble column, adorned with emblems of the alliance between the United States and his Most Christian Majesty; and inscribed with a succinct narrative of the surrender of earl Cornwallis to his excellency General Washington, Commander in Chief of the combined forces of America and France; to his excellency the Count de Rochambeau, commanding the auxiliary troops of his most Christian Majesty in America, and his excellency the Count de Grasse, commanding in chief the naval army of France in the Chesapeake."
Though the congressional resolution was never forgotten, it would be another 100 years until the monument was actually constructed between 1881 and 1884. This was in time for the centennial of the Battle of Yorktown when the cornerstone of the monument was laid by "the order of the Ancient Free and accepted Masons" on October 18, 1881. Worth the wait I guess, because it is an impressive monument indeed!
The Yorktown Victory Monument is made of Maine Granite, even though Congress originally said it should be marble. The star-studded column is 84 feet tall, supporting thirteen female figures representing the original States. The Goddess of Liberty, extending another 14 feet, is balanced with out-stretched arms at the top of the shaft. On the belt beneath the female figures feet, are the words, “One Country, One Destiny, and One Constitution.” The 38 stars on the column represent the States admitted to the Union up to the time the monument was erected. In the midst of the stars is the shield of Yorktown, covering the branch of peace. The total cost to the Federal Government was $100,000, a considerable amount for that time, and extra effort was expended on the inscriptions of more than 270 words covering the four sides of the pedestal base. The pediments over each sides are carved as follows: emblems of war, emblems of alliance, emblems of peace and emblems of nationality. The inscriptions on the monument below each of these emblems, respectively, on all four sides are:
Front of Monument (narrative of the siege):
At York on October 19 1781, after a siege of nineteen days by 5500 American and 7000 French troops of the line, 3500 Virginia Militia under command of General Thomas Nelson and 36 French ships of war, Earl Cornwallis, commander of the British forces at York and Gloucester, surrendered his army, 7251 officers and men, 840 seamen, 244 cannon and 24 standards, to his Excellency George Washington, Commander in Chief of the combined forces of America and France, to his Excellency the Comte de Rochambeau commanding the auxiliary troops of his most Christian Majesty in America and to his Excellency the Comte de Grasse Commanding in Chief the naval army of France in Chesapeake.
Right Side of Monument (commemorates treaty of alliance with France):
The treaty concluded February 6, 1788 between the United States of America and Louis XVI King of France declares the essential and direct end of the present defensive alliance is to maintain effectually the liberty and sovereignty and independence absolute and unlimited of the said United States as well in matters of government as of commerce.
Left Side of Monument (tells of the resulting treaty of peace with England):
The Provisional Articles of Peace concluded November 30, 1782 and the definitive Treaty of Peace concluded September 3, 1783 between the United States of America and George III King of Great Britain of Ireland declare his Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia to be free, sovereign and independent
Back of Monument (dedicates the monument as a memorial of victory):
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.
One country, one constitution, one destiny.
There are also some bronze commemorative plaques leading to and surrounding the monument that have been put in place over time.
Part of the Virginia perspectives (1990 - present) travel blog
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