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Deuxponts, leading on the royal grenadiers of the same name, was likewise wounded.
The grenadiers of the Gatinais regiment remembered the promise of De Rochambeau, and fought with true Gallic fire. One third of them were slain, and among them Captain de Sireuil, a valiant officer of chasseurs; but the regiment by its bravery on this occasion regained from the king its proud name of the Royal Auvergne.
Washington was an intensely excited spectator of these assaults, on the result of which so much depended. He had dismounted, given his horse to a servant, and taken his stand in the grand battery with Generals Knox and Lincoln and their staffs. The risk he ran of a chance shot, while watching the attack through an embrasure, made those about him uneasy. One of his aides-de-camp ventured to observe that the situation was very much exposed. "If you think so," replied he gravely, "you are at liberty to step back."
Shortly afterwards a musket ball struck the cannon in the embrasure, rolled along it, and fell at his feet. General Knox grasped his arm. "My dear general," exclaimed he, "we can't spare you yet." "It is a spent ball," replied Washington quietly; 66 no harm is done."
When all was over and the redoubts were taken, he drew a long breath, and turning to Knox, observed, "The work is done, and well done!" Then called to his servant, "William, bring me my horse."
In his despatches he declared that in these assaults nothing could exceed the firmness and bravery of the troops. Lafayette also testified to the conduct of Colonel Hamilton, "whose well
DESPERATE SITUATION OF CORNWALLIS.
known talents and gallantry," writes he, "were on this occasion most conspicuous aud serviceable." *
The redoubts thus taken were included the same night in the second parallel, and howitzers were mounted upon them the following day. The capture of them reduced Lord Cornwallis almost to despair. Writing that same day to Sir Henry Clinton, he observes, "My situation now becomes very critical; we dare not show a gun to their old batteries, and I expect that their new ones will open to-morrow morning. The safety of the place is, therefore, so precarious, that I cannot recommend that the fleet and army should run great risk in endeavoring to save us," a generous abnegation of self on the part of the beleaguered commander. Had the fleet and army sailed, as he had been given to expect, about the 5th of October, they might have arrived in time to save his lordship; but at the date of the above letter they were still lingering in port. Delay of naval succor was fatal to British operations in this war.
The second parallel was now nearly ready to open. Cornwallis dreaded the effect of its batteries on his almost dismantled works. To retard the danger as much as possible, he ordered an attack on two of the batteries that were in the greatest state of forwardness, their guns to be spiked. It was made a little before daybreak of the 16th, by about three hundred and fifty men, under the direction of Lieutenant-colonel Abercrombie. He divided his forces; a detachment of guards and a company of grenadiers attacked one battery, and a corps of light infantry the other.
The redoubts which covered the batteries were forced in gal
* Lafayette to Washington. Cor. of the Rev. iii. 426.
lant style, and several pieces of artillery hastily spiked. By this time the supporting troops from the trenches came up, and the enemy were obliged to retreat, leaving behind them seven or eight dead and six prisoners. The French who had guard of this part of the trenches, had four officers and twelve privates killed or wounded, and the Americans lost one sergeant. The mischief had been done too hastily. The spikes were easily extracted, and before evening all the batteries and the parallel were nearly complete.
At this time the garrison could not show a gun on the side of the works exposed to attack, and the shells were nearly expended; the place was no longer tenable. Rather than surrender, Cornwallis determined to attempt an escape. His plan was to leave his sick and wounded and his baggage behind, cross over in the night to Gloucester Point, attack Choisy's camp before daybreak, mount his infantry on the captured cavalry horses, and on such other as could be collected on the road, push for the upper country by rapid marches until opposite the fords of the great rivers, then turn suddenly northward, force his way through Maryland, Pennsylvania and the Jerseys, and join Sir Henry 'Clinton in New York.
It was a wild and daring scheme, but his situation was desperate, and the idea of surrender intolerable.
In pursuance of this design, sixteen large boats were secretly prepared; a detachment was appointed to remain and capitulate for the town's people, the sick and the wounded; a large part of the troops were transported to the Gloucester side of the river before midnight, and the second division had actually embarked, when a violent storm of wind and rain scattered the boats, and drove them a considerable distance down the river. They were
collected with difficulty. It was now too late to effect the passage of the second division before daybreak, and an effort was made to get back the division which had already crossed. It was not done until the morning was far advanced, and the troops in recrossing were exposed to the fire of the Americanbatteries.
The hopes of Lord Cornwallis were now at an end. His works were tumbling in ruins about him, under an incessant cannonade; his garrison was reduced in number by sickness and death, and exhausted by constant watching and severe duty. Unwilling to expose the residue of the brave troops which had stood by him so faithfully, to the dangers and horrors of an assault, which could not fail to be successful, he ordered a parley to be beaten about ten o'clock on the morning of the 17th, and despatched a flag with a letter to Washington proposing a cessation of hostilities for twenty-four hours, and that two officers might be appointed by each side to meet and settle terms for the surrender of the posts of York and Gloucester.
Washington felt unwilling to grant such delay, when reinforcements might be on the way for Cornwallis from New York. In reply, therefore, he requested that, previous to the meeting of commissioners, his lordship's proposals might be sent in writing to the American lines, for which purpose a suspension of hostilities during two hours from the delivery of the letter, would be granted. This was complied with; but as the proposals offered by Cornwallis were not all admissible, Washington drew up a schedule of such terms as he would grant, and transmitted it to his lordship.
The armistice was prolonged. Commissioners met, the Viscount de Noailles and Lieutenant-colonel Laurens on the part of
the allies; Colonel Dundas and Major Ross on the part of the British. After much discussion, a rough draft was made of the terms of capitulation to be submitted to the British general. These Washington caused to be promptly transcribed, and sent to Lord Cornwallis early in the morning of the 19th, with a note expressing his expectation that they would be signed by eleven o'clock, and that the garrison would be ready to march out by two o'clock in the afternoon. Lord Cornwallis was fain to comply, and, accordingly, on the same day, the posts of Yorktown and Gloucester were surrendered to General Washington as commander-in-chief of the combined army; and the ships of war, transports and other vessels, to the Count de Grasse, as commander of the French fleet. The garrison of Yorktown and Gloucester, including the officers of the navy and seamen of every denomination, were to surrender as prisoners of war to the combined army; the land force to remain prisoners to the United States, the seamen to the King of France.
The garrison was to be allowed the same honors granted to the garrison of Charleston when it surrendered to Sir Henry Clinton. The officers were to retain their side arms; both officers and soldiers their private property, and no part of their baggage or papers was to be subject to search or inspection. The
The number of prisoners made by the above capitulation amounted to 7,073, of whom 5,950 were rank and file, six commissioned, and twenty-eight noncommissioned officers, and privates, had previously been captured in the two redoubts, or in the sortie of the garrison. The loss sustained by the garrison during the siege, in killed, wounded, and missing, amounted to 552. That of the combined army in killed was about 300. The combined army to which Cornwallis surrendered, was estimated at 16,000, of whom 7,000 were French, 5,500 continentals, and 3,500 militia.-Holmes's Annals, vol. ii. p. 333.