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“Virginia does battlefields up right!”

Yorktown Battlefield
Ranked #2 of 25 things to do in Yorktown
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Frederick, Maryland
Level Contributor
96 reviews
45 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 114 helpful votes
“Virginia does battlefields up right!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 5, 2012

Despite having visited Williamsburg VA seven previous times, my wife and I had never visited Yorktown. Determined to remedy this oversight, we traveled to Williamsburg with our friend Jim and stayed at the Williamsburg Plantation. We spent our first full day of touring at Yorktown.

We have visited other battlefields in Virginia; but, without exception, those were Civil War battlefields. Yorktown Battlefield does indeed have a cemetery where mostly unknown Union troops are buried, but War of the American Revolution is its main focus. Indeed, the names of General George Washington, the marquis de Lafayette (Gilbert du Motier), the comte de Rochanbeau, the comte de Grasse, Admiral Louis de Barras, and (James) Armistead (Lafayette) are the heroes vs. the general Lord Charles Cornwallis. We found that the strategy, fortifications, and chronology of this final battle was clear and easy to understand. the demarcations of the siege lines -- French and American -- well defined and fascinating to walk through, the reconstruction of the redoubts and the Moore house where the surrender was negotiated all interesting and well maintained. Our survey of Surrender Field and the Trophies of Victory proved both instructive and impressive.

I came away with two insights, one that I should have appreciated already and one that I found eminently satisfying. Without the French, i.e., the person of Lafayette, the army general Rochambeau, the naval officers de Grasse and de Barras, General Washington had no chance to win the war. Their combined experience with siege and battle strategy, fortifications, and armaments made the difference for the eventual victory over the forces of the British Empire. My second insight resulted from learning the connection between the British general Cornwallis and Major General Benjamin Lincoln, now Washington's second-in-command. Quoting from the Official Guide, "the third article of the surrender, on which Washington insisted, denied the British forces what were called "the honors of war." Under normal circumstances, defeated troops were allowed to march to the surrender field with regimental flags flying and the fife and drum corps playing an enemy tune." This honor had not been granted to Lincoln when the British defeated the Continentals at Charleston SC in May 1780. To add salt to Cornwallis' wounds, Washington appointed Lincoln to receive the surrender sword on October 19th, 1781.

Armistead was a slave from New Kent County who received permission from his owner to become a spy for the revolution. He proved himself not only a master spy, but so ingratiated himself with Cornwallis that the general recruited Armistead to spy for the British. As a result, the Official Guide states, "much of what was discussed in the British officers' mess at dinner was reported to Lafayette before breakfast." Cornwallis was not so fortunate! Armistead won his freedom in 1787.

I took enough photos to remind myself of this memorable visit. I urge all Americans to delve into all of our nation's wars and the lessons learned.

Visited October 2012
2 Thank StillSteppinOut
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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1,073 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
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English first
Asheville, North Carolina
Level Contributor
83 reviews
23 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 45 helpful votes
“battlefield tour”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 4, 2012

We routinely do battlefield tours (Revolution and Civil war) and enjoyed Yorktown. We bought the $5.00 cd that you play in your car , would have paid the $5 just to rent it and readily given it back simply because it contains directions and there is no use for it off premises, just seems like a waste to keep it, but it is informative and fairly well done. Husband doesn't care for Ranger-lead tours, but I got to catch part of the one they offer, and it also seemed well done, I think its easier to hear a person tell the story (but Hubby does't care for walking with groups) Either way, well worth it for the history buffs. The encampments are more of geographical location than anything else, but it gives you a sense of distance and layout.

Visited October 2012
Thank treehuggersfriend
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Muncie, Indiana
Level Contributor
72 reviews
16 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
“Booming success”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 26, 2012

We got here in late afternoon, used our NPS Golden Eagle Pass again, and just in time to see the tail end of the video in the auditorium then join a lady ranger with a big voice. She was great! She first told us about a cannon in the visitor center next to the gift shop, then walked us all outside to a cannon being fired by re enactors in British uniforms. It was the last demonstration of the day, and it was awesome. Our ranger was very knowledgeable and she projected her voice so we all understood the steps to the live fire. It was a six pounder. The blast was loud, the ground shook beneath our feet, and smoke filled the air. Imagine 18 and 24 pounders being fired almost continously by the Colonists and the French! They fired it off twice. We took a short view of the earthworks, then had to leave. Got awesome videos. Very much worth the stop, would like to go back when we have more time and take a good look all around, including the nearby town with museum and historic buildings.

Visited October 2012
Thank MotNat
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Vancouver, WA
Level Contributor
107 reviews
36 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 65 helpful votes
“An Inspirational Slice of American History”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 24, 2012

This is my third trip to Yorktown Battlefield and each time it gets better. When you arrive at the visitors center, avoid talking to a Ranger named Roger Green who apparently doesn't like his job based on his rude behavior. Ask when the next Ranger talk is and be sure to join in on the 55 minute walking tour of the battlefield with a park Ranger. Don't miss the video in the theater that gives an overview of the battle and then take the auto tour which takes about an hour and a half. You can get a map for the auto tour from a ranger. We spent about three hours before we had to go but you should allocate four to five hours to cover the Ranger talk, Visitor Center, Battlefield and Historic Downtown Yorktown.

Visited October 2012
1 Thank mrob1515
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Dover, Delaware
Level Contributor
58 reviews
28 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 42 helpful votes
“Wonderful Battlefield Site”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 21, 2012

We toured the Office and Museum and then the Battlegrounds. Everything was nicely displayed with well written explanations. We spent about 4 hours on the battlefield on the driving tour. It was an exciting day of learning

Visited October 2012
Thank deladypilot
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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