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On this day in 1781, British General Lord Charles Cornwallis surrendered
to American General George Washington, bringing an end to the Siege of
Yorktown and effectively ending the American Revolution. Negotiations
for that surrender had begun after Cornwallis first raised a white flag
of surrender two days earlier, on October 17.
Americans had won an impossible victory!
They had been fighting for
6.5 long years—ever since the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April
1775. Their revolution was fought against a very powerful British
military. Often, the Americans had survived on sheer guts and
perseverance. They lacked funds. They lacked military supplies. They
suffered through long, cold winters. They lost soldiers to small pox.
Sometimes, even their basic needs—food, shoes and clothes—went unmet.
Through it all, Washington held the army together. Yes, he made
strategic errors, and he has been criticized for it. There are
undoubtedly military leaders with better qualifications or better
tactical skills. However, few men could have done what Washington did as
a leader. Washington held his army together, through all their
difficulties, through sheer strength of will. His men loved, revered,
and trusted him. For Americans, he was the right man in the right place
at the right time.
Washington himself viewed the victory as a
miracle. The day after Cornwallis's surrender, he issued the following
general orders to his troops:
"Divine Service is to be
performed tomorrow in the several Brigades or Divisions. The Commander
in Chief earnestly recommends that the troops not on duty should
universally attend with that seriousness of Deportment and gratitude of
Heart which the recognition of such reiterated and astonishing
interpositions of Providence demand of us."
Today, then, is the anniversary of a miracle. Let's celebrate and defend the freedom that was achieved for us that day.
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