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Knox, Henry (1750-1806) to John Adams

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.01252 Author/Creator: Knox, Henry (1750-1806) Place Written: Yorktown, Virginia Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 21 October 1781 Pagination: 8 p. : docket

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.01252 Author/Creator: Knox, Henry (1750-1806) Place Written: Yorktown, Virginia Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 21 October 1781 Pagination: 8 p. : docket

Summary of Content: A detailed account of the siege of Yorktown. Affirms the correctness of Adams' ideas about a need to conduct a major attack against the British in the southern states. Announces the recent surrender of Lord Cornwallis at the Battle of Yorktown. Explains the "harmonious concurrence of circumstances" that made the victory possible, mentioning the fleet from the West Indies commanded by Admiral Comte de Grasse, the American and French troops marching down from the Hudson River, and a fleet from Rhode Island under the command of Compte de Barras. Provides a chronological explanation of the Allied forces' actions against Yorktown between 27 September 1781 and 19 October 1781. Comments on the terms of surrender, ordnance confiscated, and strategic benefits of the victory. Also discusses the talent of General Nathanael Greene, the harmony between troops, the French fleet, the state of West Point, and the European trip his brother William Knox is taking. Postscript is in Samuel Shaw's hand.

Background Information: Original of GLC02437.01251.

Full Transcript: Camp before York in Virginia 21 October 1781.
[struck: My dear Sir]
I have had the honor of receiving several letters from your Excellency, since your departure from America, which I have ...duly answerd, and hope you have received them. Your ideas of the necessity of some important blow [inserted: to the british power] in the Southern States were extremely just. The reasons are too obvious to be mentioned.
I am happy my dear Sir, in having it in my power to announce to you the [struck: happy] joyful event of the reduction of Lord Cornwallis & his whole force in Virginia. This important affair has been effected by the most harmonious concurrence of circumstances that could possibly have happened. A fleet & troops from the West Indies under the orders of one of the best men in the world, an army of American & French troops marching [inserted: from the N River] 500 miles, and a fleet of Count DeBarras [inserted: from Rhode Island], all joining so exactly [2] in point of time as to render what has happened almost certain. [struck: Our forces] I shall not enter into a detail of circumstances previous to the collection of our force at Williamsburg 12 miles distant from this place which was [struck: completed] [inserted: made] on the 27th ultimo. on the 28th we marched to this camp & on the 29th & 30th we completed our investiture of York. [struck: and] a body of American militia the Duke Lazerns [sic] Legion & some [struck: troops] marines from the fleet of Count De Grasse [inserted: at the same time] formed in the vicinity of Gloucester so as to prevent any incursions of the Enemy into the country. From the 1 of October to the 6th was spent in preparing our materials for the siege in bringing forward our cannon & stores and in reconnoitg the points of attack. On the evening of the 6th we broke ground & began our first parrell [sic] within 600 yards of the Enemies works undiscovered. The first parrallel, some redoubts & all our batteries [struck: were opene] finished by the 9th at [3] 2 oClock PM when we opened our batteries & kept them playing continually. On the night of the 12 we began our second parrallel [inserted: at 300 yds distance of ye Enemy], and on the night of the 14th we stormed the two redoubts which the Enemy had [adv] of their main works. The gallant troops of France [inserted: under the orders of Baron Verominil], and the hardy soldiers of America [inserted: under the Marquis de la Fayette] [strikeout] [inserted: attacked] separate [struck: works] [inserted: works] [inserted and struck: attacked] and carried them both in an instant - This brilliant stroke was effected without any great loss on our side, The enemy lost between one & two hundred. This [struck: impo] advantage was important as it gave us an opportunity of perfecting our 2d parall [sic], in to which, we took the two redoubts. On the 16th just before day the enemy made a [Sortie] and spiked up some of our Cannon, but were soon repulsed & driven back to their works - The Cannon [struck: which the Enemy [inserted: were] spiked up] were soon [strikeout] cleared [4] and the same day our batteries in the 2d parrallel began to fire, & continued [struck: if] on [struck: [illegible] peal of thunder] [inserted: without interruption] untill 9 oclock in the morning of the ever [struck: memorable] 17 October, [inserted: ever memorable on account of the Saratoga affair] when the Enemy sent a flage [sic] offering to treat of a surrender of the posts of York & Gloucester - The [firing] continued untill two oClock, when commissioners on both sides met to adjust the [struck: treaty] capitulation which was not finished and signed, until 12 o'clock on the 19th. [struck: The t] Our troops took possession of two redoubts of the Enemy soon after, and about two oclock the Enemy marched out & Grounded their Army. The whole Garrison are prisoners of War and had the same honors [inserted: only] as were granted to our garrison at Charlestown - their Coulours were cased & they were prohibited playing a french or American tune. [Strikeout] The Returns are not, yet collected but including officers [struck: and] sick & well they [struck: around about] [inserted: are [struck: up] more than] [5] 7000, exclusive of [struck: sailors,] seamen who are suppos'd to amount to [struck: eight hundred or] 1000. There are near forty sail of topsail Vesells in the harbour, about one half of which the Enemy sunk upon different occasions. [struck: 17 new] [inserted: about] two hundred peics of [struck: troops] Cannon, nearly one half of which are brass, a great number of arms Drums & Colours are among the trophies of this decisive stroke. The prisoners are to be sent [struck: into the Country] into every part of this State, Maryland or Pennsylvania, -
The consequences will be extensively beneficial. [struck: but] The Enemy will immediately be confined to Charleston [struck: and there will be no] [inserted: & New York] reduced to a defensive war of those two posts, In which they have not more troops in America than to form [island] garrisons
The exalted talents of General Greene have been amply displayed [6] in North & South Carolina - without an army without means, without any thing he has performed Wonders - he will now be reinforced with a large body of troops which will enable him to push the Enemy to the gates of Charlestown.
This Army is compos'd of [struck: about 8 or 9000] French & American troops [inserted: 3000 of the former came from the West Indies] [struck: the former in a proportion of two to one, & commanded by the good General Rochambeau] [inserted in the left margin: whose disinterested patriotism & worth rises every day, & demands the [inserted: [pride]] [pen] of the [struck: most] of [time] [animated] rebublican to do him sufficient justice] the whole [inserted: commanded] in person by our beloved General Washington - The Harmony and good understanding between the American & french troops exceed all description - one soul actuates the Whole mass, and all are fired with Zeal for the interests of America. The troops which came [inserted: with Count de Grasse] from the West Indies under the orders of Marquis de [Luzan] will return with him immediately - [strikeout] The Army which came from France [7] under Count Rochambeau will be canton'd for the present in this State. The American troops belonging to the states east of Pennsylvania will immediately depart for the North River - Those west from Pennsylvania exclusively will go to the Southward - The Enemy have a post at Wilmington in North Carolina [inserted: of which] those troops will dispossess them & then join General Greene
We have a very respectable defensive force on the [struck: North] [inserted: Hudsons] River amply sufficient to Garrison the important posts in the highlands and to form a small covering army. [struck: This is]
If I can possibly procure copies of the capitulation and returns of the [struck: stores] troops & stores taken I will do myself the honor to enclose them.
The [struck: exalted] [inserted: unequivocal] testimonies which America has already received of the friendship of France induces us to hope much from the future. if it shall be found possible to have a superior french fleet [8] before New York by the 1st of Next June to stay certainly through the operation, I should not hesitate to pronounce with as much decision as military affairs will admit that in Six Weeks we should wrest that important place from the hands of the English.
My Brother will soon go to Europe & will certainly have the honor to wait on you. I think it would be unnecessary for me to request the favor of your civilities to him.
I have the honor to be
with great esteem & respect
Your Excellencys Most Obedient
His Excellency
Jno Adams Esqr.
American Minister at Amsterdam
P.S. since writing the foregoing his Excellency Gen Washington has informed me that he has enclosed to you authenticated copies of the capitulation and returns as far as can be collected.

To His Excellency
John Adams Esq
21 Octo. 1781.
See More

People: Knox, Henry, 1750-1806
Adams, John, 1735-1826

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: NavyFranceBattle of YorktownRevolutionary WarRevolutionary War GeneralContinental ArmyArtilleryBattleSurrenderGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyPresidentCaribbeanAmmunitionWest Point (US Military Academy)Children and FamilyTravel

Sub Era: The War for Independence

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