Yorktown was the last town for us to visit in Virginia's Historic Triangle. Therefore our last day while staying at the Williamsburg Christian Retreat Center would be spent driving down the scenic Colonial Parkway to the town of Yorktown. To us, driving Colonial Parkway was much like driving down any part of Natchez Trace as it offered the same beautiful drive through the woods.
We pulled into the sleepy town of Yorktown and found parking right near the old part of Main Street. Yorktown is best known as being the spot where, in 1781, the last pivotal battle of the American Revolution was fought. This is where General George Washington's troops aligned with the French and defeated British troops led by General Charles Cornwall. This victory has been credited with being the one that led to America's independence.
Yorktown was nothing like Williamsburg and Jamestown as it was a pretty quiet place. Main Street is more rural in nature and has houses that date back to the 1700’s all along the block. A few businesses are scattered about but not much to see or do other than visiting the historic sights. Most visitors come here to see Yorktown and its battlefield which is a National Monument and part of Preservation Virginia.
When Yorktown was at its peak from 1740-1770 there were just under 300 buildings with nearly 2000 residents. Modern Yorktown has only 20% of those same buildings as the others were either damaged or destroyed during the 1781 siege. Today Yorktown is still an active community of about 200 residents.
We walked through town and toured the inside of the home of Thomas Nelson Jr. who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. It is always an honor to be able to walk in the footsteps of such historic people. A few of the remaining buildings on Main Street still show scars from the siege in the 1700’s. We could see several cannon balls that were secured in damaged exteriors as a reminder of what happened.
To commemorate this great battle the Yorktown Monument to "The Alliance and Victory" was the authorized by the Government on October 29, 1781, ten days after the victory at Yorktown. Although it had been approved construction on this stately monument didn’t start till 1881 and was finished by 1884. It still stands today to celebrate the British surrender.
After visiting the historic part of town we walked down to the riverfront where we found a nice park and a few businesses. We also saw a masted ship available for tours that was docked near the riverfront. The free Yorktown trolley happened by so we hopped aboard and rode the entire loop around town. It made a stop at the Yorktown Battlefield Visitor Center which we had missed on our way into town.
Once we got off the trolley we drove over to the Visitor Center where we watched short film about Yorktown. The small museum has part of a reconstructed British frigate that we were able to walk in to get the feel of what it was like. The neatest thing at the museum was an exhibit of George Washington's original field tents. Outside there was an observation deck that provided us views of strategic points on the battlefield.
After leaving the Visitor Center we toured the Yorktown Battlefield by taking a driving loop. There were informational signs at the various roadside turn outs. An audio tour tape and recorder can be rented at the Visitor Center's gift shop but we didn’t do that and maybe we should have as it would have likely given us more information than we were privy to. Nevertheless we enjoyed our historical day on the Road of Retirement…