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.