On October 19, 1781, British General Charles Cornwallis formally surrenders 8,000 British soldiers and seamen to a combined French and American force at Yorktown, Virginia, bringing the American Revolution to a close.
Previously, Cornwallis had driven General George Washington’s Patriot forces out of New Jersey in 1776, and led his Redcoats in victory over General Horatio Gates and the Patriots at Camden, South Carolina, in 1780. His subsequent invasion of North Carolina was less successful, however, and in April 1781, he led his weary and battered troops toward the Virginia coast, where he could maintain seaborne lines of communication with the large British army of General Henry Clinton in New York City. After conducting a series of raids against towns and plantations in Virginia designed to disrupt Patriot supply lines as well as to feed his troops, Cornwallis settled in Yorktown in August. The British immediately began fortifying the town and the adjacent promontory of Gloucester Point across the York River.
Washington instructed the Marquis de Lafayette, who was in Virginia with an American army of around 5,000 men, to block Cornwallis’ escape from Yorktown by land. In the meantime, Washington’s 2,500 troops in New York were joined by a French army of 4,000 men under Count de Rochambeau. Washington and Rochambeau made plans to attack Cornwallis with the assistance of a large French fleet under the command of Count de Grasse, and on August 21st they crossed the Hudson River to march south to Yorktown. Covering 200 miles in 15 days, the allied force reached the head of Chesapeake Bay in early September.
Meanwhile, a British fleet under Admiral Thomas Graves failed to break French naval superiority at the Battle of Virginia Capes on September 5th, denying Cornwallis his expected reinforcements and resupply. Beginning on September 14th, de Grasse transported Washington and de Rochambeau’s men down the Chesapeake to Virginia, where they joined Lafayette and completed the encirclement of Yorktown on September 28th. De Grasse landed another 3,000 French troops carried by his fleet. During the first two weeks of October, the 14,000 Franco-American troops gradually overcame the fortified British positions with the aid of de Grasse’s warships. A large British fleet carrying 7,000 men set out to rescue Cornwallis, but it was already too late.
On October 19th, General Cornwallis surrendered 7,087 officers and men, 900 seamen, 144 cannons, 15 galleys, a frigate and 30 transport ships. Pleading illness, he did not attend the surrender ceremony, but his second-in-command, General Charles O’Hara, carried Cornwallis’ sword to the American and French commanders. As the British and Hessian troops marched out to surrender, the British band played the song “The World Turned Upside Down.” I have always found this interesting because it was obviously insulting to the ragtag band of Patriots and their French allies who had bested the mighty British and one of their most celebrated commanders. In fact, I have been watching the AMC television series Turn: Washington’s Spies over the past four seasons and this season they dealt with the surrender and the end of the way. I found it interesting the tact that the show took by having the Patriot band assembled at the surrender to start playing Yankee Doodle Dandy as the British band were playing their chosen tune. When I saw this part, I actually began to tear up as my breast swelled with great pride in our country’s victory! But, in the end, the irony was lost on the day, as this seminal event would signal a mighty change in the world and would establish one of the mightiest nations of modern times and also be the flint that would ignite further Revolution in France.
Although the war persisted on the high seas and in other theaters after Cornwallis’s surrender, the Patriot victory at Yorktown effectively ended fighting in the American colonies. Peace negotiations began in 1782, and on September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed, formally recognizing the United States as a free and independent nation after eight years of war.
Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection from GMT Games
My first entry into the COIN Series of games from GMT Games was Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection designed by Harold Buchanan. I can still remember in the early spring of 2016, seeing images of the game being played on social media and absolutely drooling over the components, the gorgeous map and the amazing looking game play. I ordered my copy and since have played that game about a dozen times, mostly solo though.
Liberty or Death is an asymmetric card assisted game that delves into the multiple factions involved in the Revolutionary War. These factions include the British, the Indians, the Patriots and the French and the game is played in teams somewhat with the British and Indians needing to help each other and the Patriots relying on the French for money and resources early on and then on their additional regular troops after they enter the war. No one side can win alone but only one side can really win as each has their own tailored victory conditions that replicate thematically each sides concerns of the time.
I am a big fan of games that attempt to integrate the theme of the battles depicted and Liberty or Death does a great job of this with capturing the feel of warfare in the 18th century. I really like the battle system used and want to share with you a little about this procedure. 18th century warfare can be characterized as slow, plodding and methodical. There were no helicopters, air drops or truly long range artillery that would change the battlefield. It was simply a group of soldiers lined up in nice tidy formations to slug it out on an open field within yards of each other. Therefore, armies couldn’t march quickly and engage quickly, it took time, planning and logistics. Well, in Liberty or Death, you cannot March and Battle in the same turn (unless you pull an event that allows this) so battles must be thought over and will take you a few maneuvers to get into position to attack. This can be frustrating, but in a good way, as to me it replicates the difficulties of that type of warfare. Also, the battles are very attritional and very rarely does one force totally wipe out another force, but armies are whittled down by larger armies until they are no longer on the board or have moved away for self preservation.
I love Liberty or Death and recommend that you give it a try. I also have played the War in the South scenario found in c3i Magazine Nr. 30 and can also recommend that as a great 2 player game as it really only focuses on the battle between the British and Patriots as the other two factions are minimized in the design. Check out my review of Liberty or Death as well as our video review of the War in the South scenario.