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20 > Page 20 of Old Yorktown and its history / by Mrs. Sydney Smith.

20 OLD YORKTOWN AND ITS HISTORY A brief account of the siege of Yorktown follows: Cornwallis occupied the town with several of his ships lying at anchor above Gloucester Point. The American Army formed a crescent about Yorktown, Washington with his army being stationed about three miles out in the county to the south, Nelson with the militia at Wormley's Creek, to the east, and Rochambeau to the west. The French fleet, Compte de Grasse commander, lay off in the river forming a block against the British. Cornwallis, finding himself completely hemmed it, attempted to get over to the Gloucester side, where part of his army was stationed. He had little latteaux (flat-bottomed boats) made ready so that when everything seeme(l opportune he might make his escape. At twelve o'clock the little boats with muffled oars, led by Corn- wallis in person, started across the river. When they were in mid-stream a heavy storm arose, so violent that the small craft could not live in the rough waters. Some were driven ashore, some capsized, and others were captured by the French ships. Part of the English fleet were sunk and others captured by the French. Before the ships were taken Cornwallis dlirected that everything of any value be thrown overboard, and it is said that a large and. heavy chest filled with money and other valuables was let (lown into the water in order that it might not fall into the hands of the Americans. Several times the river has been dragged for this chest, but nothing of the supposed Cornwallis treasure has ever been discovered. This occurred on October 18, 1781, and on the 19th at 11 o'clock the surrender took place. Cornwallis wrote to Washington requesting a postponement of the surrender by reason of his inability to attend on account of sickness. He had written to New York for reinforcements and was expecting them at any time, and this was his actual motive for asking the postponement. Washington heard of this and even at the time that the message was sent ships were entering the river with reinforcements for the British Army. One was sunk at the mouth of the river by the French, and others were driven back. Washington refused Cornwallis' request and insisted that the surrender must take place on the 19th. Cornwallis sent General O'Hara to present the sword. Washington refused to receive the sword from a minor general and deputized General Lincoln to receive it for him from General O'Hara. This was a happy day for sweet revenge for General Lincoln, for the previous year he had surrendered at Charleston to an inferior officer.