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gun, and on the 14th the American batteries played on the two advanced redoubts with such effect that the breaches were pronounced practicable. Washington at once ordered an assault. The smaller redoubt was stormed by the Americans under Hamilton and taken in ten minutes. The other, larger and more strongly garrisoned, was carried by the French with equal gallantry, after half an hour's fighting. During the assault Washington stood in an embrasure of the grand battery, watching the advance of the men. He was always given to exposing himself recklessly when there was fighting to be done, but not when he was only an observer. This night, however, he was much exposed to the enemy's fire. One of his aides, anxious and disturbed for his safety, told him that the place was perilous. “If you think so, ” was the quiet answer, “you are at liberty to step back.” The moment was too exciting, too fraught with meaning, to think of peril. The old fighting spirit of Braddock's field was unchained for the last time. He would have liked to head the American assault, sword in hand, and as he could not do that he stood as near his troops as he could, utterly regardless of the bullets whistling in the air about him. Who can wonder at his intense excitement at that moment? Others saw a brilliant storming of two outworks, but to Washington the whole Revolution, and all the labor and thought and conflict of six years were culminating in the smoke and din on those redoubts, while out of the
dust and heat of the sharp quick fight success was coming. He had waited long, and worked hard, and his whole soul went out as he watched the troops cross the abattis and scale the works. He could have no thought of danger then, and when all was over he turned to Knox and said, “ The work is done, and well done. Bring me my horse.”
Washington was not mistaken. The work was indeed done. Tarleton early in the siege had dashed out against Lauzun on the other side of the river and been repulsed. Cornwallis had been forced back steadily into the town, and his redoubts, as soon as taken, were included in the second
parallel. A sortie to retake the redoubts failed, and a wild attempt to transport the army across the river was stopped by a gale of wind. On the 17th Cornwallis was compelled to face much bloody and useless slaughter, or to surrender. He chose the latter course, and after opening negotiations and trying in vain to obtain delay, finally signed the capitulation and gave up the town. The next day the troops marched out and laid down their arms. Over 7000 British and Hessian troops surrendered. It was a crushing defeat. The victorious army consisted in round numbers of 5500 continentals, 3500 militia, and 7000 French, and they were backed by the French fleet with entire control of the sea.
When Washington had once reached Yorktown with his fleet and army, the campaign was really at an end, for he held Cornwallis in an iron grip from which there was no escape. The masterly part of
the Yorktown campaign lay in the manner in which it was brought about, in the management of so many elements, and in the rapidity of movement which carried an army without any proper supplies or means of transportation from New York to the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. The control of the sea had been the great advantage of the British from the beginning, and had enabled them to achieve all that they ever gained. With these odds against him, with no possibility of obtaining a fleet of his own, Washington saw that his only chance of bringing the war to a quick and successful issue was by means of the French. It is difficult to
anage allied troops. It is still more difficult to manage allied troops and an allied fleet. Washington did both with infinite address, and won. The chief factor of his success in this direction lay in his profound personal influence on all men with whom he came in contact. His courtesy and tact were perfect, but he made no concessions, and never stooped. The proudest French noble who came here shrank from disagreement with the American general, and yet not one of them had anything but admiration and respect to express when they wrote of Washington in their memoirs, diaries, and letters. He impressed them one and all with a sense of power and greatness which could not be disregarded. Many times he failed to get the French fleet in coöperation, but finally it came.
Then he put forth all his influence and all his address, and thus he got De Barras to the Chesapeake, and kept De Grasse at Yorktown.
This was one side of the problem, the most essential because everything hinged on the fleet, but by no means the most harassing. The doubt about the control of the sea made it impossible to work steadily for a sufficient time toward any one end. It was necessary to have a plan for every contingency, and be ready to adopt any one of several plans at short notice. With a foresight and judgment that never failed, Washington planned an attack on New York, another on Yorktown, and a third on Charleston. The division of the British forces gave him his opportunity of striking at one point with an overwhelming force, but there was always the possibility of their suddenly reuniting. In the extreme south he felt reasonably sure that Greene would hold Rawdon, but he was obliged to deceive and amuse Clinton, and at the same time, with a ridiculously inferior force, to keep Cornwallis from marching to South Carolina. Partly by good fortune, partly by skill, Cornwallis was kept in Virginia, while by admirably managed feints and threats Clinton was held in New York in inactivity. When the decisive moment came, and it was evident that the control of the sea was to be determined in the Chesapeake, Washington, overriding all sorts of obstacles, moved forward, despite a bankrupt and inert government, with a rapidity and daring which have been rarely equalled. It was a bold stroke to leave Clinton behind at the mouth of the Hudson, and only the quickness with which it was done, and the careful deception which had been
practised, made it possible. Once at Yorktown, there was little more to do. The combination was so perfect, and the judgment had been so sure, that Cornwallis was crushed as helplessly as if he had been thrown before the car of Juggernaut. There was really but little fighting, for there was no opportunity to fight. Washington held the British in a vice, and the utter helplessness of Cornwallis, the entire inability of such a good and gallant soldier even to struggle, are the most convincing proofs of the military genius of his antagonist.