"The Siege Will Commence Tomorrow!"
Why September 17, 1781 is an important date
in American history.
Editor’s Note: What stirring words that continue to echo to this day and date.
September 17, 1781, is important moment in American Revolutionary history. What’s more, did you know that Hermione played an important supporting role in the French naval blockade in 1781 leading up to this date? She sailed as part of Admiral de Grasse’s proud fleet, whose presence at the mouth of the Chesapeake prevented an English fleet led by Admirals Graves and Hood from rescuing British forces, led by Lord Cornwallis, whose troops were completely hemmed in at Yorktown by allied French-American forces in September 1781.
Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America wishes to thank Glen Hoptman and Lightbeam Studio for permission to share this fascinating account below – including an excerpt from the Hermione’s actual log book about Hermione’s role in this history-making siege – with the followers of Lafayette, the Hermione and American Revolution history buffs of all ages.
With Lafayette having assured Washington and French General Rochambeau, in a meeting held in Williamsburg on the 14th of September, 1781, that General Cornwallis was indeed trapped in Yorktown, the French-American allied siege was scheduled to commence on September 17th, 1781.
In large measure, thanks to the victory of the French fleet in the Battle of the Chesapeake (aka Battle of the Capes) on September 5th, 1781 – during which the Hermione performed valiantly in a supporting role but not at the actual battle – the Americans and their French allies have the British under Cornwallis with their backs to the Chesapeake with no opportunity of escape.
Imagine if British Admiral Hood had stayed at the Chesapeake on the 25th of August (when his fleet first passed by the opening to the bay), instead of sailing north to New York, he might have been able to inflict serious damage on Admiral de Grasse’s fleet.
Instead, Admiral de Grasse arrived on the 28th of August, ‘with a fleet of 24 ships carrying 1,700 guns and 3,000 soldiers. The land forces were put ashore several days later and joined with the army of the Marquis de Lafayette.’
The rest, as they say, is history!
From the log of the Hermione, Friday, September 28, 1781:
“At noon, I noted two ships. . . .
At 1 o’clock, a cool breeze came from SE. I navigated toward the West. At 2 o’clock, I recognized two ships in view as two frigates. When I approached them within one and a half leagues, I gave signals and they responded. I displayed my number. Soon thereafter, they posted theirs. I knew by this method that these frigates were the Concorde and the Surveillante. At 6 o’clock, I joined them. I put my dinghy into the sea and I came on board the Concorde. I learned that the squadron of Mr. Barras had joined the army of the Comte de Grasse on the 7th of this month; the latter had arrived on August 29th; the English frigates, the Iris and the 32-gun Richmond, had been captured as well as several other ships (totaling 10); Lord Cornwallis had taken refuge in Yorktown that we were about to attack; and the Navy was in the bay of the York River. I entered the bay with these frigates. At 9 o’clock, they left the coast in order to perform surveillance. My location was 9 and a half fathoms; the seabed consisting of mud. I anchored the ship and waited for daylight. I logged in at the point NW of Cape Henry to SSE at a distance of 2/3rds of a league.”
Translation of this excerpt from the official Hermione Log, courtesy of Lightbeam Studio.
Glen Hoptman, Founder of Lightbeam Studio, who is not only one of our group’s Strategic Partners but whose group now working on “The Tides of Revolution: The Hermione Game.” (Click on link, and scroll down for a brief preview of this educational and interactive game.)
For American history buffs, followers of Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America, please keep current by visiting www.hermione2015.com