Visit Yorktown and discover a place known for both its waterfront charm and its famous battles. Stroll through the boutique shops and grab a delicious bite to eat at one of the restaurants at Historic Yorktown’s Riverwalk Landing; then wander along the York River’s sandy beach. As you walk up the hill toward Main Street’s art galleries and antique shops—pausing to admire the town’s 18th century architecture— it may be hard to imagine that fierce fighting ever took place nearby.
But Yorktown was critical in both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. At Yorktown Battlefield, part of the National Park Service’s Colonial National Historical Park, you can see where George Washington secured America’s independence in 1781. The Yorktown Victory Monument is here, as well as a Civil War-era National Cemetery. Nearby at the Yorktown Victory Center living history museum, you can experience the American Revolution first-hand through film extensive galleries and re-creations of a 1780's farm and a Continental Army encampment. Costumed historical interpreters may even recruit you to join a cannon crew or help tend the crops.
Visitors also enjoy strolling the quaint streets and riding the free trolley. The sounds and precision marching of The Fifes and Drums of York Town set the stage with patriotic music complementing the other historical attractions. Patriot Tours & Provisions offer guided Segway PT tour through historic Yorktown or rent a bicycle for a self-guided tour. Kites, beach provisions, snacks and various sundries are available.
Yorktown Battlefield - Winning America’s Independence
Discover what it took for the United States to be independent as you explore the site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. Here at Yorktown, in the fall of 1781, General George Washington, with allied American and French forces, besieged General Charles Lord Cornwallis’s British army. On October 19, Cornwallis surrendered, effectively ending the war and ensuring independence.
Lamb’s Artillery Firing Demonstration
American and French artillery was a key element that led to Allied victory at Yorktown in 1781. Utilizing siege cannon, seasoned American gunners and professional French artillerists fired over 15,000 rounds into British lines during the nine day bombardment. Their effectiveness, accuracy and destructiveness helped convince Britain's Lord Cornwallis to surrender.
One of the American artillery units at Yorktown was the Second Regiment of the Continental Artillery, commanded by Colonel John Lamb. Today, a volunteer living history gun crew, representing Colonel Lamb’s artillery regiment, conducts periodic firing demonstrations with a reproduction 18-pounder siege gun, commemorating the merit and distinction which Lamb’s artillery displayed during the siege of Yorktown.
Yorktown National Cemetery
The Yorktown National Cemetery was officially established in 1866, however interment of Civil War soldiers began during Federal occupation in 1862.
This site was selected in 1866 as a good cemetery location in the general vicinity of various Civil War battlefields and scenes of action related particularly to the Peninsula Campaign of 1862 when General George B. McClellan was moving toward Richmond, the Confederate capital. The cemetery lay adjacent to the spot on the the 1781 Battlefield where the British had surrendered to General Washington.
There are 1,596 marked graves in the cemetery. Of the total of 2,204 burials, 747 are of known persons and 1,436 unknown. Those buried here were for the most part Union Army soldiers, although 10 Confederate soldiers and three wives are also identified.
Riverwalk Landing, located along the York River, offers a collection of retail shops and dining with a water view along the pedestrian walkway. Waterfront restaurants offer seafood and other fine cuisine with a relaxing view of the York River. Or visitors can grab an ice cream cone and stroll by the river or sit on the beach.
Riverwalk Restaurant: Overlooking the scenic York River, the restaurant’s casual setting lends itself to a relaxed dining experience: be it in the large windows looking out to summertime activities on the water or the stone fireplace burning in the cooler seasons.
The Watermen’s Museum tells the story of Virginia’s working watermen and women. For generations, these watermen have earned their living harvesting the rivers and tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay for its abundant seafood year round.
Yorktown Sailing Charters:
Set Sail for Adventure aboard the 105’ Schooner Alliance! You will return to the by-gone days of old sailing ships. The knowledgeable crew will harmonize past with present as you sail down the York River past the battlefield where our country won its independence and view the Victory Monument. You may see dolphins or osprey, working watermen, or perhaps cruise past a naval warship or submarine! You can lend a hand at setting sail, enjoy a beverage or snack from the ships’ galley, or just listen to the sound of the wind as we glide along. The Schooner Serenity is also offering pirate cruises.
Four centuries ago Captain John Smith explored these waters around Yorktown aboard a small sailing vessel while trading with the Powhatan Indians. Join him in spirit when you set sail aboard the Alliance.
| Yorktown Victory Center:
Next to the battlefield where allied American and French forces won the decisive battle of the American Revolution in 1781, the Yorktown Victory Center chronicles the entire Revolutionary period, from colonial unrest to the formation of the new nation.
At this museum of the American Revolution, indoor exhibition galleries portray the Declaration of Independence as a revolutionary document that attracted international attention, recount the war’s impact on 10 ordinary men and women who left a record of their experiences, highlight the roles of different nationalities at the Siege of Yorktown, and explore the story of the Betsy and other British ships lost in the York River during the siege. Exhibits also describe how people from many different cultures shaped a new society and the development of a new government with the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Outdoors, visitors can explore a re-created Continental Army encampment, where historical interpreters describe and depict daily life of American soldiers at the end of the war. A re-created 1780s farm, complete with a house, kitchen, tobacco barn, crop fields, and herb and vegetable garden, shows how many Americans lived during the Revolutionary era.
Work is now under way on a new facility, new exhibition galleries and enhanced outdoor interpretive areas. The Yorktown Victory Center will remain open to visitors throughout construction. When the project is complete in late 2016, the site will be known as the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.
Travel back in time to the American Revolution at
a re-created Continental Army encampment at the Yorktown Victory Center.