The Early History of Yorktown, Virginia

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This article is sponsored by the abuse attorneys from Yorktown. We encourage residents and visitors to learn more about the history of the area and explore the many sites where it's depicted.

History of Yorktown

Yorktown is a census-designated place (CDP) and the county seat of York County, Virginia. Established in 1691 by Thomas Ballard and Joseph Ring, it was named after the ancient city of York in Yorkshire, Northern England. The port settlement on the York River enabled English colonists to export tobacco to Europe. In 1696, it became the county seat.

By 1750, the town had grown significantly with a population of close to 2,000 people and approximately around 300 buildings. During the American Revolutionary War, it served as a base for British General Charles Cornwallis in the 1781 siege. The town was captured by the Union after the Siege and Battle of Yorktown in the 1862 Peninsula Campaign of the American Civil War. General George B. McClellan's Union Army of the Potomac used it as a base to launch an attack on Richmond.

After the state's capital was relocated to Richmond from Williamsburg, the population of the town and other communities around it dropped. More residents moved out of the area when the tobacco industry was changed to producing mixed crops. As of the 2010 census, there is a total of 195 people residing in Yorktown.

Learn about the Beginnings of Tappahannock, VA.

Yorktown Battlefield

The Yorktown Battlefield is within the Colonial National Historic Park. Located in Yorktown, it is operated by the National Park Service. The battlefield was the site of the last major battle in the American Revolutionary War. Visitors have the opportunity to explore where General George Washington and allied forces besieged General Charles Lord Cornwallis's British Army in the fall of 1781.

Also on the site is the Nelson House. A fine example of early Georgian architecture in Virginia, it was constructed around 1730 by Thomas Nelson, Jr.'s grandfather. The house was used as Cornwallis's headquarters during the last battle. Another establishment in the park is the Moore House. Built around 1725, it was where negotiations for Cornwallis's surrender took place. Today, the historic sites, houses and parks have been added to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

American Revolution Museum at Yorktown

The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown is a history museum on Water Street. Opened daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., visitors can learn about the early colonial life in America and everything leading up to the American Revolutionary War. The museum features immersive environments and films, and period artifacts in its indoor galleries. The outdoor area, which is opened from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., is a recreated Continental Army encampment. Watch live demonstrations of the firing of flintlock muskets, medical treatment, camp life, and cooking. A Revolution-era farm is also located in the outdoor area. This is where you can explore a house, kitchen, gardens, tobacco barn and crops of an 18th-century family.

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