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Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown: a first report...
Item # 662725
November 27, 1781
THE LONDON CHRONICLE, England, Nov. 27, 1781 This is one of the more noteworthy issues of the Chronicle for the entire Revolutionary War, as it is the first issue in this title to announce the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, essentially ending the Revolutionary War.
Although the formal letter from Cornwallis announcing the surrender would appear in the next issue, that issue dated Nov. 29 was simply a more formal announcement as the "news" was in this issue of November 27. Page 4 has a report headed: "London" which includes: "We are sorry to communicate to our readers the following authentic particulars of the disastrous catastrophe of the gallant General Lord Cornwallis and his army. On Sunday night Capt. Melcombe...arrived at the Admiralty with dispatches from Rear Admiral Graves...containing the disagreeable intelligence of the surrender of Lord Cornwallis..." and what follows are the particulars of Cornwallis' situation which left him no choice but to surrender to General Washington and the French allies. The report further includes: "...his situation was such that an attempt to relieve him might be; attended with the most fatal consequences to the rest of the British army...This unpleasing part of his fate took place on the 19th of last month...when 7000 men...laid down their arms. On the day preceding his Lordship's surrender he made a desperate sally..." with more.
There is a significant note which reads: "The Gazette of this evening will probably furnish us with more particulars of this unfortunate event." which would infer that the Chronicle was on the streets before the London Gazette with this historic news.
This report is followed by yet another which includes: "Yesterday the Captain of the Rattlesnake sloop, which arrived with the disagreeable news of the surrender of Lord Cornwallis in Virginia, was at the Queen's house & underwent an examination relative to the above important affair...It is said his Lordship lost 1000 men before he agreed to surrender, & that he and his whole force were allowed to march out with all the honours of war. According to the most authentic accounts, on the 19th of October his Lordship made a desperate & vigorous sally on the nearest part of the American army...but unfortunately a powerful reinforcement arriving to the assistance of the Americans, the British troops were repulsed & driven back to their lines with great loss...Next day his Lordship, encompassed with insurmountable difficulties & the enemy being in possession of every advantage, found himself under the unavoidable necessity of surrendering with his whole army." See the photos for the full report.
Adding supportive reports to this account is a very nice full column letter headed: "Substance of a Journal of the Operations of the French Corps under the Command of Count de Rochambeau, Lt. General of the King's Armies since the 25th of August last". The report begins with: "On the 14th of Sept. General Washington, myself...arrived at Williamsburgh where we found the Marquis de la Fayette....Lord Cornwallis was employed in entrenching himself at York and Gloucester..." followed by much great detail on the events immediately preceding the surrender on Oct. 19, noting how the troops positioned themselves for the final blow. It carries over to the last page with reports on the days of October 6 and 7 and noting: "...and different engagements took place till the 17th. The enemy began to come to a parley. The capitulation was signed on the 19th in the morning, by which Lord Cornwallis and his whole army were made prisoners of war. The American and French troops took possession of the redoubts at noon. The garrison at York Town filed off, at two o'clock, by beat of drum, with their arms, which were then piled up with twenty pair of colours. The same took place at Gloucester..." with more. The very end notes: "It is supposed there are about 6000 or 7000 prisoners, and 170 pieces of cannon taken. (The Articles of Capitulation in our next)."
This is followed by a letter which references the surrender, including: "...That it was with great concern that he informed them that the events of war had been very unfortunate to his arms in Virginia, having ended in the loss of his forces in that province..." with more. It also includes a few very noteworthy particulars relating to the surrender: "...A few days previous to the surrender it is said Lord Cornwallis had given orders that in case his military stores & ammunition should not falls short, the horses belonging to his army should be killed & salted, to serve as provision to his men, and that he was determined to live on the same fare. It is asserted that Lord Cornwallis positively refused to capitulate with General Washington; and that the negociation, as well as the surrender, was carried on entirely between M. Rochambeau and his Lordship. It is with infinite regret we learn that the brave General Tarleton is among the prisoners taken at York Town." Even more content on the war as well.
First reports are always the most desired, but most first reports are very brief and sketchy. This report on Cornwallis contains much more detail of the battle and surrender than one would expect to find in a first report.
Although it pales in comparison to the Cornwallis report, another page has 2 columns taken up with: "Observations on the Late Conduct of Sir Henry Clinton, Commander in chief of the British Forces in North America" (see for portions).
Complete in 8 pages, never bound nor trimmed, 9 by 12 1/4 inches, great condition.
A first report in an American newspaper, with such detail, would exceed $9,000. Here is a great opportunity for the same historic content, particularly noteworthy being in a newspaper from England, the country which ultimately surrendered to the American cause of independence.