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ONE hundred years ago, the eyes of a few commander believed him, the end would States along the Atlantic sea-board were have come before De Grasse with his fleet turned anxiously toward “Little York,” a anchored in the Chesapeake. He was no small town situated on the curve of York boy in the art of war, however, and at River just above where its white current length Cornwallis, wearied of trying to mingles with the green waters of Chesa- catch him, retired to York, and intrenching peake Bay. There was being fought the himself, awaited reënforcements from the death struggle between Great Britain and North. Just at this time, Providence diher revolutionary colonies,-between the rected the French admiral to the Virginia Old and the New.
coast, and the American general, finding Affairs had assumed a gloomy aspect himself suddenly possessed of a force such The army of the South had been defeated as he had never hoped for in his wildest and driven back into Virginia, barely escap- dreams, and knowing that he could count ing annihilation by forced marches, and by on the new reënforcements for only a few the successful passage of the deep rivers weeks, determined to put his fate to the which intersect the country through which touch, and win if possible by a coup de it retreated; Virginia, the backbone of the main. With this end in view, he withdrew Revolution, had been swept by two inva- from New York, and came down to Jersey siòns; and Cornwallis with his victorious as if to get near his ovens, a move which army was marching triumphantly through misled the British commander, who knew her borders, trying by every means he could that a good meal was a sufficient inducedevise to bring his only opponent, a young ment to carry the hungry American troops French officer, to an engagement. Had farther than that, and did not suspect the ul“the boy " proved as reckless as the British terior object until he learned that WashingVol. XX!I.-63.
(Copyright, 1881, by The Century Co. All rights reserved.)
ton was well on his way to Virginia. In the people of these United States are preparing last days of September, the colonial gen- to celebrate the centennial anniversary of eral arrived before York and threw the die. the great event which secured their indeBefore the end of three weeks, the British pendence. Once more the little sleepy Virtroops marched out with cased colors, ginia town, which has for a century lain as prisoners of war. The details of the sur- if under a spell, awakes with a start to find render included an act of poetic retribution. itself the center of interest. When General Lincoln had, not long before, Had the siege of Yorktown taken place a surrendered at Charleston to Cornwallis, thé dozen centuries ago, the assailants, instead British marquis appointed an inferior officer of hammering the fortifications down as to receive his sword; this affront General fast as they were repaired, might have been Washington now properly avenged by ap- : forced to wait until the grim ally, starvation, pointing General Lincoln to receive Corn-compelled the besieged to capitulate. Even wallis's sword.
at this day the place gives evidence of its When the British prime minister received | advantages as a fortified camp. High ramthe intelligence of the surrender, he threw parts and deep fosses, which might have up his hands, exclaiming: “My God! it is satisfied a Roman consul, surround it on all over!” And it was all over-America three sides, and on the fourth, a precipitous was free. A hundred years have passed by bluff above the deep, wide York which could since that time, and with natural pride the be defended by a handful. These fortifications bear witness to a later strife. Magru- | founder was Thomas Nelson, a young setder began them in those early days of 1861, tler from Penrith, on the border of Scotwhen each side thought the Civil War sport land,—and for that reason called “Scotch for a summer holiday; and later on, when Tom.” Scotch Tom's dwelling, known as the magnitude of the struggle was under- the “ Nelson House,” still stands, with its stood, McClellan strengthened them. To. lofty chimneys and solid walls—towering gether with the few antique brick buildings among the surrounding buildings; an endurwith massive walls and peaked roofs, which ing preëminence which would probably have have survived the assaults of three succes- gratified the pride which tradition says moved sive wars, and of that more insidious de- him to have the corner-stone passed through stroyer, Time, they give the place the the hands of his infant heir. The massive impressiveness of an old walled town. All door and small windows, with the solid new ways and things seem to have been shutters, look as if the house had been conheld at bay.
structed more with a view to defense than The town is about one hundred and to architectural grace. Within, everything seventy-five years old. It looks much is antique ; modern paint has recently, with older, but repeated wars have an aging doubtful success, if not propriety, attempted effect, and fish diet is not recuperative. Its to freshen up the old English wainscoting ;
but the old-time air of the place cannot up the broad wild lands to the westward, be banished. Memory grows busy as she and multiplying the slaves, doubled and walks through the lofty rooms and recalls quadrupled their possessions without care the scenes they have witnessed. Here, in or thought of the owners. Here have “ye olden tyme,” dwelt a race which grew been held receptions at which have gathto wealth and power noted even in that ered Grymeses, Digges, Lees, Carters, Ranage, when the mere lapse of years, opening dolphs, Burwells, Pages, Byrds, Spottswoods,
Harrisons, and all the head of one; an-
cular stone steps, where ing “ All glory to God," but the ascription now the dust of the street lies thick, blush- has disappeared. The weather and the vaning, laughing girls have tripped, followed dal have marred and wasted the carving; but by stately mammas over whose precious enough yet remains to show that on it some heads the old-time “canopies” were held noted sculptor had used his utmost skill. by careful young lovers, or lordly squires The coat of arms on the top shows the fleurs whose names were to become as imper- de lis as his crest, while the inscription ishable as the great Declaration they sub- and heraldic insignia declare the founder scribed. Coming down to a later period, of Yorktown to have been a “gentlea more historical interest attaches itself to man.” At his feet, beneath a less imposthe mansion. George Mason and Wash- ing tomb, lies Scotch Tom's oldest son, ington and Jefferson have slept here ; William Nelson, called “ President ” Nelson Cornwallis established his head-quarters from having been President of the King's here during the last days of the great Council, and at his feet, in turn, sleeps, in siege, when his first head-quarters, Secretary an unmarked grave, the President's oldest Nelson's house, had been shelled to pieces. son, General Thomas Nelson, the most illusLafayette, no longer the boyish adventurer trious of the race—signer of the Declaration with a mind wild with romantic dreams of Independence, War Governor of Virof the Cid, and chased like a fugitive by ginia, and one of the most brilliant of that his sovereign, but the honored and re- body of great men who stand, a splendid vered guest of a mighty nation, returning galaxy, in the firmament of history. “The in his old age to witness the great- old store," which for two generations yielded ness of the New World toward which his the Nelsons a vast harvest of golden guineas, valor had so much contributed, slept here stood on the open space now called “the and added another to the many associations common.” It survived the siege, but was which already surrounded the mansion. destroyed in the war of 1812. The custom
Scotch Tom, having built his house, died house, however, where their goods were and was buried. His tomb is one of the entered, still stands a score of yards off
, two antique monuments which, in spite of with moss-covered peaked roof, thick walls, war and weather, still remain notable relics and massive oaken doors and shutters. of old York. It stands in the uninclosed This is one of the most notable relics of common near the old church on the bluff, York, for it is said to have been the first not a stone's-throw from the center of the custom-house erected in America. In the town. On the four sides, cherubs' faces, colonial period, it was the fashionable renelaborately carved, look forth from clouds. dezvous of the gentlemen of the town and Once, a crown was being placed on the surrounding country.
There the young