Colonial National Historical Park | TOUR STOP C: SECOND ALLIED SIEGE LINE

Cannon aims at British defenses from the second siege line

Cannon aims at British defenses from the second siege line

YORKTOWN BATTLEFIELD TOUR


See the Yorktown Battlefield Tour home page for a tour map.


After the first siege line was completed on October 9, 1781, and artillery batteries and redoubts had been set up so the Americans and French could begin the bombardment of the English fortifications at Yorktown, construction on a second siege line began. This was dug on October 11th and 12th and was approximately 360 yards from the British, a distance considered to be point-blank range for artillery of the day.

Like the first siege line, the second ran all the way to the York River in the east. However, because of two British forts still in operation as part of their outer defenses, the siege line could not be completed to the river (the forts were very close to the river themselves). A shortened line would give the British the opportunity to go on the offensive and maneuver around the American right flank, engaging allied forces from behind. Of course this never happened, as the constant bombardment by the French and American artillery kept the British pinned down. Regardless, the Americans were determined to complete the line, so an attack on the forts was planned and carried out on October 14th.

The parking area for Tour Stop C is the same as for the Yorktown National Cemetery, a cemetery set up during the Civil War to bury Union dead. It was designated as a National Cemetery in 1866. Only 747 men out of 2,183 are identified. The cemetery has nothing to do with the American Revolution, but feel free to visit it. A directory of graves is posted near the entrance. Not all burials are from the Civil War era.

The graves are odd in that they are no upright tombstones. When I first looked over the cemetery wall and onto the grounds, I thought the place was empty. I have no idea why this type of grave marker is used, other than it sure makes mowing the grass easier (which may well be the reason for such markers).

Yorktown National Cemetery

Yorktown National Cemetery

Grave of unknown soldiers at Yorktown National Cemetery

Grave of unknown soldiers at Yorktown National Cemetery

Civil War-era grave at Yorktown National Cemetery

Civil War-era grave at Yorktown National Cemetery

Post-Civil War grave at Yorktown National Cemetery

Post-Civil War grave at Yorktown National Cemetery

The earthworks of the second siege line are located on the left side of the parking area. Like those at the Grand French Battery tour stop, these are reconstructions of the originals, which were either leveled or eroded away over the years. The reconstructions were, however, built upon the original locations.

A half-mile dirt path loops through the length of the reconstructed line. Walk all the way to the end of the path on your way out, bypassing a set of stairs that leads into the earthworks. At the end of the path are four cannon.

Path runs along the second siege line earthworks

Path runs along the second siege line earthworks

Good view of the trenches and earthworks of the second siege line

Good view of the trenches and earthworks of the second siege line

Cannon along the second siege line

Cannon along the second siege line

There is also a cemetery at the end of the siege line, but it is not connected to Yorktown National Cemetery. The graves are mainly from the 1980s, but some are from the 2000s, including a recent 2015 grave. As at the National Cemetery, most of the markers are flush with the earth, though there are a few that are upright. The Shiloh Baptist Church was in the area before moving in 1974, but since most of the graves are from 1980 and later, I have my doubts about this being the church’s cemetery (though that’s still my best guess).

Cemetery at Tour Stop C

Cemetery at Tour Stop C

Graves from the 1990s

Graves from the 1990s

On the way back take the steps that lead into the trenches. This route gives you a good idea of what it was like to be positioned among the earthworks. You can also see just how far away the British were. The Hornwork bastion seen at Stop A is clearly in view. The British still weren’t really close, but they were plenty close enough for artillery to reach effectively.

Maze of trenches among the earthworks

Maze of trenches among the earthworks

It took me a half hour to explore the area at Stop C, which included a visit to the National Cemetery. This is by far the most involving of the first three stops on the Yorktown Battlefield Tour, though some of the subsequent stops have a lot to explore as well.

As you drive to Stop D on Ballard Street, you are driving through an area known as No Man’s Land. Plans for a third and final siege line through this area were made, but the British surrendered before it was necessary.


Next Stop: Redoubts 9 and 10 | Previous Stop: Grand French Battery


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Last updated on April 6, 2020
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