Saturday, July 29, 2017

Yorktown battlefield, museum make you appreciate the resolve of founding fathers

The majority of time we spent at Yorktown was devoted to following a guided tour whose "leader" was actually a voice on a recording. This is what I mean: We followed instructions and listened to stories related on a compact disc (CD) recording that we played on the car's CD player as we drove from one battlefield position to another.

As interesting as that was -- and I say that in all seriousness -- it wasn't a battlefield photo that sticks out in my mind from the trip to Yorktown. It was something a re-enactor said right before he twice demonstrated the functionality of the musket, the firearm used by soldiers in the Revolutionary War (see photo leading off the post).

Before firing the weapon, the man told us that a musket's maximum range was 100 yards, but that only at 50 yards or fewer was its accuracy even close to reliable. He punctuated that by saying that more often than not, a musket ball from a firearm at more than 50 yards missed its intended target ... but that didn't mean, he said, that the ammunition wouldn't hit something, or someone else.

In other words, it was not at all unusual for a soldier to be struck by a ball that had been aimed at someone else. Such was the fate of conflict in those days -- and in all wars in which imprecise firearms were used.

Yorktown has an elaborate welcome center and museum chock-full of illustrations and wonderful graphics, and video and audio presentations. There is re-created army campsite nearby (which is where the musket exhibition took place). And, as mentioned above, the battlefields.

The the siege of Yorktown, the climactic battle of the Revolutionary War, occurred in October 1781, and two Redoubts -- mounds fortified with logs with carved pointed ends to repel attackers (see photo at right) -- were the sites of the British army's last stand. The colonial army under George Washington's command assaulted one Redoubt, and a French army under Jean-Batiste Rochambeau's direction attacked the other, finally succeeding on Oct. 17. The British formally surrendered two days later.

As usual, click on any image to bring up a larger, sharper version. This is particularly useful if you access the blog using a mobile device. Click on the link in this sentence to view a full gallery of the images I made from my visit to Yorktown.

Photo geek stuff: I shot all of my photos with my Canon 6D and Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di PZD VC lens equipped with a B+W polarizing filter. I bracketed all compositions for three exposures to allow for melding in high-dynamic range (HDR) software in post-processing. Many of the images in this post were treated that way. 

Above: The Moore House, where British and American officers met to negotiate terms of surrender on Oct. 18, 1781. The site had been suggested by British commanding Gen. Charles Cornwallis for its relative neutral location -- away from heavy combat. Neither Washington nor Cornwallis was present for the negotiations, and Cornwallis, claiming illness, did not show up for the surrender ceremony the following day.  

When visitors enter a memorial (above) overlooking the field of surrender (below), they have an option to play an audio story of the surrender.

Above: British troops had marched in a line before standing in formation at this point. They then were directed to turn and enter the large field above for the official surrender ceremony on Oct. 19, 1781.

Above: Canons like this one are sprinkled throughout the battlefield. 

The musketeer with his weapon (above) and going through the motions of preparing it to discharge (below).  

Above and next six below: Examples of some of the splendid, colorful exhibits in the Yorktown museum. 

Above: Some growth in the battlefields, one of the artsy shots I chased during the day.

Above: We dodged rain a couple times during the day, including one or two short sprinkles while driving around the battlefield tour. The route takes you through a forested area, and I wish the post could re-create and share with you the wonderful post-rain dampness in the soil, grass and stream I smelled while making a dozen or pictures in the forest. 

Above and next three below: Exhausted at the end of a long day, we drove to Yorktown proper along the York River at dusk in search of a night meal. While there, I came across these compositions (and more -- check out the full gallery) along the river. 

Next up: Virginia Beach and Cape Henry, Va.

Previous posts in this East Coast swing series:

James Madison's Montpelier

George Washington's Mount Vernon

Barboursville Vineyards, Barboursville, Va.

Alexandria, Va.

Berkeley Plantation, Charles City, Va.

Virginia Capitol at Richmond, Va. 

First Colonial settlement at Jamestown, Va.

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