The World Turned Upside Down
by Mort Kunstler
Yorktown, Va., October 19, 1781
Finally, they had won. After more than six years of warfare, the War for Independence was ending—and it was an American victory. So many times the cause of American freedom had seemed lost. So much hardship had been borne by these Continental troops, and so often General George Washington had kept them in the war equipped with little more than determination. Now, aligned before them was the fearsome British army that had been sent to conquer the South—the army that had won so many victories in the Carolinas and had inﬂicted so much suffering on American civilians. Now these troops in red uniforms, composing perhaps the ﬁnest army in the world, were laying down their arms in surrender. And standing victorious before them were America’s citizen soldiers— “contemptible, cowardly dogs,” a British commander had once erroneously and ironically called them.
Led by General Washington and strengthened by a French army under General Comte de Rochambeau, these Continental troops had trapped General Charles Cornwallis and his British army with their backs to the water at Yorktown, Virginia. Washington had led a forced march from New York to the Virginia coast, and had taken the British by surprise. A French ﬂeet had defeated the British navy at the nearby battle of the Capes, ending all hope of rescue for Cornwallis. The British had been battered into submission at Yorktown by a ﬁve-day artillery bombardment and repeated attacks by the Americans and the French. Finally, Cornwallis admitted defeat, and surrendered his army to the Americans he had so underestimated but he could not bear to do it in person. He ofﬁcially claimed to be ill, and sent a substitute, General Charles O’Hara, to perform the humiliating task. O’Hara offered the surrender sword to General Rochambeau, who recognized the intended insult, and pointed him toward General Washington. The General refused as well, and directed the British substitute to a subordinate, General Benjamin Lincoln.
And so it ended. Other British troops were in the ﬁeld—a huge army in New York—but the surrender at Yorktown was humiliation enough, and King George III agreed to give up the American colonies he had once vowed to subdue. As Cornwallis’ defeated army marched to the surrender, a British band played a contemporary tune entitled The World Turned Upside Down. It was more appropriate than even they realized: American independence would launch a freedom movement that would topple tyrants for generations to come and would inspire oppressed peoples throughout the world to a “new birth of freedom.”
|Archival Paper||18" x 29 1/2"|
|Classic Edition||20" x 33"|