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Tall Ships, the American Revolution and Yorktown

You history buffs may know that at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, General George Washington's resounding defeat of Lord Cornwallis's British army caused the British to surrender, thus effectively ending that American Revolutionary War. The battle at Yorktown raged from September 28 to October 19, 1781 and 8,000 British soldiers surrendered to the Americans at the end of that battle. (I am telling you, Virginia is truly THE most interesting state!)

Despite living my entire life in Virginia, I had never visted Yorktown before. So I planned this wandering adventure to expose my kids to the role of Yorktown in the American Revolution and to have some York river fun in the quaint town.

Yorktown is about a 70 minute drive from Richmond.

Our first stop of the day was a river cruise on the Schooner Alliance, a 105' three-masted tall ship.The Alliance sails 3 times daily from Riverwalk Landing Pier in historic Yorktown from April to November. Her Summer sailing schedule is: 11a to 1 pm, 2p-4p and sunset cruiuses. On board, you can lend a hand at the sails, take the helm and steer the ship, or look for dolphins and osprey as you glide along the shores of the York River. The crew gives a complete history of Yorktown and its crucial roll on winning American independence.

The town of Yorktown is beautifully situated on the York River with a 2-acre beachfront for boating, swimming, and fishing. (The Waterfront has restroom and shower facilities which are open from April through October 19th -- so we were able to change in and our of bathing suits there.)

After our sail, we headed to "The Beach Delly" for a cheap and fun waterfront lunch. (

While sitting outside, a crazy "boat car" decked out in skulls and Barbies and sharks drives by and parks nearby. Well, you gotta check something like that out so we jumped up to go chat with the artist/owner and hear his story. He graciously gave us a tour of the car and let us take photos. He was kind and colroful to say the least!

After lunch, we changed into bathing suits and had some water fun on the river beach, followed by a quick walk about and ice cream at the neat local shops at Riverwalk Landing.

Our last quick stop of the day before heading back to Richmond was the Conwallis Cave.

Cornwallis Cave: Local legend tells us that General Cornwallis hid in this cave on the bank of the York River during the artillery bombardment of Yorktown. Cornwallis was a seasoned soldier. He understood the risks of war as did all the soldiers. Having your commander hiding in a cave while the rest of the army was being bombarded relentlessly was no way to inspire your forces to perform with utmost bravery that was required to win. (Should you like to visit the cave, it is along the beach front area just east of town next to the Archer House. A small parking lot is available next to the cave located at 624 Water Street.)

Honestly, there is so much to see in Yorktown, we want to go back and keep exploring. Next time, we want to check out:

  • The illuminated Yorktown Victory Monument.

  • The Yorktown Battlefield tours

  • The Yorktown Battlefield Visitor Center

  • The Watermen's Museum

  • Also, the unique youth Fife and Drum Corps of Yorktown performs regularly in regimental unforms. The Corps was formed in 1976 by the County of York during the Bicentennial of the American Revolution and today has grown to a membership of almost 85 youngsters. To become a member, the boy or girl must be between the ages of 10 and 18. Click here for theie summer 2014 performance schedule:

What we learned today:

  • The 9,000 American forces were in the minority during the Yorktown Campaign. The French army and navy (our allies in the fight) combined for over 25,000 men, while the British army and navy participants numbered over 21,000.

  • General Cornwallis said he was sick and didn't show up to the surrender. He sent General Charles O'Hara to surrender his sword. (Coward!)

  • The British tried to surrender to the French, but the French made the British surrender to the Americans.

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