SEIZURE OF REDOUBTS 9 AND 10, YORKTOWN 1781

Photograph of Yorktown Redoubts 9 and 10 that were seized on the night of 14 October, 1781, by French and American infantry. The above 1981 photo shows Redoubt 9 in the foreground, displaying the regimental flag of the Gâtinais [Gatinois] Regiment. On occasion the redoubt displays the colors of the Royal Deux-Ponts in place of that of the Gâtinais. To the right, the American Flag, indicates the relative location of what remians of redoubt 10 in the distant background. Both redoubts today are reconstructions, as over time many events wore down the original field fortifications. Redoubt 10, located on a small cliff on the right bank of the York River has suffered serious water erosian over the years.

PAGE DIRECTORY
Summary of Action
Accounts of French Assault
American Military Historian's Text
Partial Extractions
Observations and Comments


SUMMARY OF ACTION
Following taken from: The War of the Revolution, Vol II, by Christopher Ward (New York, 1952), p.892. A succinct overview by a prominent American historian. Webpage editor's comments are in angle brackets.


So far the fight [Allied 1781 siege of Yorktown] had been carried on by the artillery alone; but now the infantry had its part. The two British redoubts close to the river on the east side of the town prevented the carrying of the second parallel to the river's edge, and so they had to be taken. On the night of the 14th the task was given to two corps – the American light infantry to attack the redoubt on the right by the river bank, the French chasseurs and grenadiers the one on the left, about a quarter of a mile from it. The Gatinois and Royal Deux-Ponts regiments furnished 400 men under Colonel Deux-Ponts. The American force was made up of men drawn from Lieutenant Colonel de Gimat's battalion of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island troops, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton's New York and Connecticut men, and Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens's from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut men, 400 in all, with an added corps of sappers and miners, Hamilton in general command. Substantial reserves were provided for both detachments.
At eight o'clock the French advanced in columns by platoons, 58 chasseurs, carrying scaling ladders and fascines to fill the ditches in the van. Three or four hundred feet from their objective, they were challenged by a Hessian sentinel with, "Wer da?" – Who goes there? No reply was made, and the enemy opened fire. A strong abatis had to be forced, and a number of men fell before the pioneers cut through it. Then the chasseurs dashed upon the redoubt and began mounting the parapet under a heavy fire from the garrison of 120 British and Hessians under Lieutenant McPherson. A charge by the defenders was met by a volley from the French and a countercharge. The Hessians threw down their arms, the French shouting "Vive le Roi!" The fort was won in less than half an hour of fighting. The attackers lost 15 killed and 77 wounded; the enemy, 18 killed and 50 sound or wounded men taken prisoners.
The American attack on the other redoubt was begun at the same time This work, the smaller of the two, was held by 70 men under Major Campbell. The Americans advanced with unloaded muskets and fixed bayonets. Led by a forlorn hope of 20 men of the 4th Connecticut under Lieutenant John Mansfield, they crashed through the abatis without waiting for the sappers to cut it away, crossed the ditch, and swarmed the parapets in spite of the bayonets of the garrison. In ten minutes they overcame all resistance, with a loss of 9 killed and 31 wounded, including Gimat and several other officers.
Immediately upon the taking of the two redoubts fatigue parties set work extending the second parallel. By morning they had pushed it cc include the captured works. The next day Cornwallis wrote to Clinton: "My situtation now become very critical;..."

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PRIMARY PARTICIPANT'S ACCOUNT OF FRENCH ASSAULT
This is taken from pp.142-148 of My Campaigns in America, (Boston, 1868), the journal of the colonel ‘en second' de Régiment de Deux-Ponts, Guillaume, le vicomte de Deux-Ponts, as translated from the French into English and edited by Samuel Abbott Green. Guillaume was placed in direct command of the French assault which included parts of various French regiments, and was under the overall command of the Baron de Vioménil . Though he served under his older brother, Christian, le comte de Forbach de Deux-Ponts, Guillaume [William] was usually in direct charge of tactical operations for that unit. The following quoted text has some small editing and spelling adjustments to the original published work.


The fear lest the fire of our batteries, but slightly elevated over the beads of the workmen, should produce some accident, caused the order to our artillery to be suspended. The enemy took advantage of this moment of silence to direct a very brisk fire against our works. The order to the artillery was then countermanded, and they gave again our batteries liberty to fire. Half an hour after our fire. began, that of the enemy diminished; and when we went into the trenches, it was reduced to what it was ordinarily.
On the 12th of October, the regiments of Bourbonnois and of Soisonnois relieved the trenches.
On the 13th, the regiments of Agenois and of Saintonge were detailed for duty in the trenches; the position of all the batteries of the second parallel is masked, and in two days they will be able to open. Two redoubts of the enemy interrupt completely the continuation of our second parallel, which ought of necessity to be continued to the York River. As long as these two works belong to the enemy, our parallel will be imperfect; and we all hope that they will be attacked at once.
On the 14th of October, the regiments of Gatinois and of Royal Deuxponts relieved the trenches; at the assembly of the regiment of Royal Deuxponts for duty in the trenches, the Baron de Viomesnil [Vioménil ] ordered me to come to him on our arrival at the beginning of the trenches. I carried out his orders; he separated the grenadiers and chasseurs of the two regiments of the trenches, and gave me the command of the battalion that he had just, formed, telling me that he thought he gave me by that a proof of his esteem and confidence. His words were not enigmatical to me; I was not mistaken as to the object for which he intended me. A moment afterwards he confirmed my opinion, telling we that I should make the attack on one of the redoubts which obstructed the continuation of our second parallel. He gave me orders to place my battalion under cover, and to wait until he should send for me to make with him a reconnoissance [sic, should be reconnaissance] of the redoubt. In the course of the afternoon, he took me, with the Baron de L'Estrade, lieutenant-colonel of the regiment of Gatinois, whom he had given to me as second in command, and two sergeants [Le Cornet and Foret] from the grenadiers and chasseurs of this regiment, men as brave as they were intelligent, and who were; charged particularly to reconnoitre with the strictest exactitude the road which we should have to follow during the night. We examined with the greatest care the object of the attack, and all the details. The General explained very clearly to us his plans. M. de L'Estrade, on account of his experience, and the perfect knowledge, which he has of the course to take under like circumstances, would, moreover, make up for the blunders which I night commit. The General ordered me at once to form my battalion, and to lead it to that part of the trenches nearest to which we ought to come out. I called together the captains of my battalion, and told them the duty with which we were Honored. I had no occasion to excite their courage, nor that of the troops whom I commanded; but it was my duty to let them know the wishes of the General, and the exact order in which we were to attack the enemy.
We then started to go into the trenches; we passed by many troops, either of the trenches, of workmen. or of the auxiliary grenadiers and chasseurs. Everybody wished me success and glory, and expressed regrets at not being able to go with me. That moment seemed to me very sweet, and was very elevating to the soul and animating to the courage. My brother [Christian, Marquis [or count?] de Deux-Ponts was the 'first colonel' of the Royal Deux-Pont Regiment], – especially, my brother, and I never shall forget it, – gave me marks of a tenderness which penetrated to the bottom of my Heart. I reached the place that the Baron de Viomesnil [Vioménil] had indicated to me; I there awaited nightfall; and shortly after dark, the General ordered me to leave the trenches, and to draw up my column in the order of attack. He informed me of the signal of six consecutive shells, fired from one of our batteries, at which I was to advance; and in this position I awaited the signal agreed upon.
The chasseurs of the regiment of Gatinois had the head of my column. They were in column by platoons; the first fifty carried fascines; of the other fifty there were only eight who carried ladders; after them came the grenadiers of Gatinois, ranged by files, then the grenadiers and chasseurs of the regiment of Royal Deuxponts, in column by sections. The whole was preceded by the two sergeants of the regiment of Gatinois, of whom I have already spoken, and by eight carpenters, four from the regiment of Gatinois, and four from the regiment of Royal Deuxponts. The chasseurs of the regiments of Bourbonnois and of Agenois, were a hundred paces to the rear of my battalion, and were intended to support me; and the second battalion of the regiment of Gatinois, commanded by the Count de Rostaing, completed my reserve. Before starting, I had ordered that no one should fire before reaching the crest of the parapet of the redoubt; and when established upon the parapet, that no one should jump into the works before receiving the orders to do so.
The attack of the French troops was combined with that which the American troops were making on my right, upon a redoubt which rested on the York River. This redoubt was of equal importance on account of the obstacle which it interposed to the continuation of the second parallel. The Marquis de Lafayette commanded this attack, which was to be made at the same time, and was to begin at the same signal as our attack.
The six shells were fired at last; and I advanced in the greatest silence; at a hundred and twenty or thirty paces, we were discovered; and the Hessian soldier who was stationed as a sentinel on the parapet, cried out " Werda"? [Who comes there?] [*] to which we did not reply, but hastened our steps. The enemy opened -fire the instant after the "Werda." We lost not a moment in reaching the abatis, which being strong and well preserved, at about twenty-five paces from the redoubt, cost us many men, and stopped us ' for some minutes, but was cleared away with brave determination; we threw ourselves into the ditch at once, and each one sought to break through the fraises, and. to mount the parapet. [**] We reached there at first in small numbers, and I gave the order to fire; the enemy kept up a sharp fire, and charged us at the point of the bayonet; but no one was driven back. The carpenters, who had worked hard on their part, had made some breaches in the palisades, which helped the main body of the troops in mounting. The parapet was becoming manned visibly.
Our fire was increasing, and making terrible havoc among the enemy, who had placed themselves behind a kind of intrenchment of barrels, where they were well massed, and where all our shots told. We succeeded at the moment when I wished to give the order to leap into the redoubt and charge upon the enemy with the bayonet; then they laid down their arms, and we leaped in with more tranquillity and less risk. I shouted immediately the cry of Vive le Roi, which was repeated by all the grenadiers and chasseurs who were in good condition, by all the troops in the trenches, and to which the enemy replied by a general discharge of artillery and musketry. [73] I never saw a sight more beautiful or more majestic. I did not stop to look at it; I had to give attention to the wounded, and directions to be observed towards the prisoners. At the same true, the Baron de Viomesnil [Vioménil] came to give me orders to be prepared for a vigorous defence, as it would be important for the enemy to attempt to retake this work. An active enemy would not have failed, and the Baron de Viomesnil [Vioménil] judged the English general by himself. I made my dispositions to the best of my ability; the enemy showered bullets upon us. I did not doubt that the idea of the Baron de Viomesnil [Vioménil] would be fulfilled. Finally, when all was over, a sentinel, charged with observing the movements without, called inc, and said that seine of the enemy were appearing. I raised my head above the parapet, and at the same time a ball, which ricochetted [sic. should be ricocheted] in the parapet, and passed very near my head, covered my face with sand and gravel. I suffered much, and was obliged to leave the place, and, to be conducted to the ambulance.
Fifty-six grenadiers and chasseurs of the regiment of Gatinois, twenty-one grenadiers and chasseurs of the Royal Deuxponts, [74] six chasseurs of the Agenois, and nine soldiers of the second battalion of the Gatinois, have been killed or wounded, in this attack, which lasted only seven minutes. Moreover, M. de Barthelot, captain of the regiment of Gatinois, was killed; M. de Sireuil, captain of the chasseurs of this regiment,*** had his leg broken, and M.de Sillegue, second lieutenant of chasseurs was shot through his thigh. The Chevalier de La Meth received two musket balls, one of which broke his, knee-pan, and the other pierced his thigh. [75] He volunteered for this attack, as also did the Count de Damas; I endeavored to prevent their doing so; but neither of them listened to the representations that would have kept them from glory. The Count de Vauban was also at my attack, and was charged by the Count de Rochambeau to be present in order to give him an account of the affair.[76]

Footnotes:

* The English officers taken in the redoubt have told me since, that the moment we were discovered was seized by the English commander, named MacPherson, and by thirty men, to save themselves ignominiously. [author, Guillaume's note.] [Return to main text.]

** That was not an easy thing to do. I could not have succeeded without aid. I had fallen hack into the ditch after a first attempt. M. de Sillegue, a young officer of the Chasseurs of Gatinois, who was ahead of me, saw my difficulty, and gave me his arm to assist me in getting up. He received at nearly the same time a musket shot in the thigh. [author's note.] [Return to main text.]

*** M. de Sireuil died forty days after, from. the effects of his wound. [author's note.] [Return to main text.]

73. "The French chasseurs and grenadiers met with more difficulties and greater loss; but they entered with fixed bayonets, and made themselves masters of the redoubt. The Count de Deuxponts, the Count Charles de Damas, and several other French officers of distinction were amongst the foremost of the assailants." History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781, p. 386. [trans/editor's note] [Return to main text.]

74. General Washington gave "to the regiments of Agenois [Gatinois?] and Deuxponts the two pieces of brass ordnance captured by them, as a testimony of their gallantry in storming the enemy's redoubt on the night of the 14th instant," which gift was afterwards confirmed by a resolve of Congress. Memoir of General John Lamb. Albany, 1850, p. 387. [trans/editor's note] [Return to main text.]

75. "I had just been relieved by the Chevalier de Lameth. He marched at the head of the column, leading the sappers, who cleared away the abatis, and cut down the palisades. He was the first to mount the parapet of the redoubt, and received point blank the first discharge of the Hessian infantry which occupied it. Balls passed through both his knees, and he fell into the ditch." – Souvenirs du lieut.-général M. Dumas, i. 85. [trans/editor's note] [Return to main text.]

76. The following account of this affair is taken from the Boston Evening Post, November 17, 1781. [trans/editor's note]

"Copy of the report of his Excellency the Count de Rochambeau:
"On the night between the 14th and 15th instant, the trench was mounted by the regiments of Gatinois and Royal Deuxponts, commanded by the Baron de Viomesnil [Vioménil], to which were added our companies of auxiliary grenadiers. We had resolved to attack as soon as dark, the two redoubts on the left of the enemy, that were detached from their other works. The Marquis de la Fayette undertook that on our right, with the American troops; the Baron de Viomesnil [Vioménil] that on the left, with the French. Four hundred grenadiers, commanded by the Count William Deuxponts and M. de L'Estrade, lieut. colonel of Gatinois, opened the attack; they were supported by the regiment of Gatinois. The Marquis de la Fayette, and the Baron Viomesnil [Vioménil] made so vigorous and strong disposition of their troops, that they carried two redoubts sword in hand, and killed, wounded, or took the greater part of those who defended them. The number of prisoners amounts to seventy-three, one major and five other officers included.
"The troops, both American and French, have shown the most distinguished courage. The Count William Deuxponts was slightly wounded by a cannon ball; he is not in the least danger. The Chevalier de la Methe, Adjutant Quarter-Master-General, has been severely wounded in both knees by two different musket bails. M. de Sireuil, captain of the chasseurs of the regiment of Aginois, and two other officers of the same regiment have been wounded. Tis the third time that M. de Sireuil, though very young, has been wounded; unluckily, this time, the wound is very dangerous. We have had ten men killed or wounded. The troops are full of the highest praises of the Baron de Viomesnil [Vioménil], who likewise is exceedingly pleased with their courage and firmness.
"I have ordered two days' pay to be distributed to the four companies of grenadiers and chasseurs of the regiment of Gatinois and Royal Deuxponts, besides a considerable reward to the ax-bearers and carpenters, who open the way for the troops through the abattis and pallisadoes."
[Return to main text.]

Another officer of the Royal Deux-Ponts regiment provided an equally important account of the French assault on redoubt 9. Jean-Baptiste Antoine de Verger (1762-1851) constructed a very informative journal of his experiences in American. The section that covers the 14 October assault on Redoubt 9 is presented on a separate webpage, which has a return link to this webpage. Go to webpage: Verger's Account of 14 October 1781 attack on Redoubt 9 at Yorktown.

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AMERICAN MILITARY HISTORIAN'S TEXT
This is taken from The Virginia Campaign and the Blockade and Siege of Yorktown 1781 by Col H.L. Landers, Historical Section, US Army War College. Published in 1931 as Joint Congerssional-Senate Document by the GPO; pp.197-199. "PART XVIII: THE CAPTURE OF REDOUBTS 9 AND 10"


The plans prepared by the Commander in Chief of the allied armies for the attack on the two British redoubts, generally referred to as numbers 9 and 10, provided that the American Light Infantry under the Marquis de Lafayette should attack No. 10, situated on the edge of the bluff overlooking the river; and that a detachment of French grenadiers and chasseurs under Major General the Baron Viomesnil [Vioménil] should attack No. 9, located less than 200 yards from the right of where the second parallel ended.
Lafayette designated the battalion of Lieutenant Colonel Gimat, supported by Lieutenant Colonel Hamilton's battalion, to make the assault on No. 10. A party of 80 men under Lieutenant Colonel Laurens was given the mission of turning the redoubt to prevent the escape of any of its defenders. The entire assaulting party was commanded by Lieut. Col. Alexander Hamilton. The troops advanced in two columns, Gimat's battalion in the lead of the column on the right, followed by Hamilton's battalion, under Major Fish. The detachment under Laurens formed the left column. Ahead of the right column was a vanguard of 20 men and a detachment of sappers and miners. All of Hamilton's troops marched to the assault with unloaded arms, in compliance with Lafayette's orders.
Gimat's battalion — encouraged by the decisive and animated example of their leader, advanced with an order and resolution superior to every obstacle. They were well seconded by Major Fish, with the battalion under his command, who, when the front of the column reached the abattis, unlocking his corps to the left as he had been directed, advanced with such celerity, as to arrive in time to participate in the assault. Not one gun was fired by the Americans, and the gallantry of the troops was such that time was not given the sappers in the van, guard to cut openings in the abatis.
As it would have been attended with delay and loss to wait for the removal of the abbatis and pallisades, the ardour of the troops was indulged in passing over them.
The troops selected to assault redoubt No. 9 were 400 grenadiers and chasseurs from the regiments of Gatinais and Royal Deux-Ponts, under the Viscount de Deux-Ponts of the latter regiment. In the course of the afternoon Viomesnil, Deux-Ponts, and the Baron de L'Estrade, lieutenant colonel of the Gatinais, reconnoitered the road which they were to follow during the night, and carefully arranged all the details for the attack. Shortly after nightfall Deux-Ponts left the cover of the trenches and formed his column in the order of attack.
The chasseurs of the regiment of Gatinais, formed in column by platoons, were at the head of the column. The first 50 men carried fascines; of the other 50 men in this group, 8 carried ladders. After them came the grenadiers of the regiment, ranged by files. Next were the grenadiers and chasseurs, of the regiment of Royal Deux-Ponts, formed in column by sections. The chasseurs of the regiments of Bourbonnais and Agénois were a hundred paces to the rear in support, and a battalion of Gatinais under the Count de Rostaing constituted the reserve. Before starting orders were given that no one should fire until the crest of the parapet of the redoubt was reached.
When the moment to advance arrived the signal battery fired six shells and the troops marched to the assault. Soon the line of abatis was reached, at about 25 paces from the redoubt. Here delay, occurred while passages were being cut, then "we threw ourselves into the ditch at once," Deux-Ponts says, "and each one sought to break through the fraises, and to mount the parapet." The defenders made a brief resistance lasting six or seven minutes, and just at the moment when Deux-Ponts —
wished to give the order to leap into the redoubt and charge upon the enemy with the bayonet; then they laid down their arms, and we leaped in with more tranquillity and less risk. I shouted out over the field the cry of "Vive le Roi," which was repeated by all the grenadiers and chasseurs, * * * by all the troops in the trenches, and to which the enemy replied by a general discharge of artillery and musketry; I never saw a sight more beautiful or more majestic.
The American loss in this action was 44 killed and wounded. The British killed and wounded in redoubt No. 10 did not exceed eight. All others were captured. Hamilton said in his report of the action:
Incapable of imitating examples of barbarity, and forgetting recent provocations, the soldiery spared every man that ceased to resist. The loss amongst the French amounted to about 100 killed and wounded.
By daylight on the morning of the 15th the second parallel was completed to the river and connected with the first parallel by a communicating trench. The two captured redoubts were included in the line of the second parallel.
A few hours after the redoubts were lost Cornwallis wrote to Clinton:
Experience has shewn that our fresh earthen works do not resift their powerful artillery, so that we shall soon be exposed to an assault in ruined works, in a bad position, and with weakened numbers. The safety of the place is, therefore, so precarious, that I cannot recommend that the fleet and army should run great risque in endeavouring to save us.

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PARTIAL EXTRACTIONS
Presented here are partial extractions from two other major studies of the Yorktown siege. The reason is to minimize repetition, but to include themes related to the assaults on the redoubts not fully addressed in the previous quoted material.

Following is from Mark Mayo Boatner's Encyclopedia of the American Revolution (Bicentennial Edition, NY, 1974) pp.1244-1245. Partial extractions from section "ASSAULT OF REDOUBTS 9 AND 10".


As a preliminary step in the reduction of these two positions [British redoubts 9 and 10], French engineers directed construction of an epaulement on the' eastern end of the second parallel as close to the redoubts as this work could be accomplished. Digging started at dusk on the 11th. All possible allied artillery was brought to bear on the two redoubts, and about 2 o'clock the afternoon of the 14th Washington was told that an assault was now feasible.
Since Redoubt No. 10, close to the York River, was in Lafayette's sector he was given responsibility for its capture. He selected Gimat, his former A.D.C. and now a battalion commander, to lead the operation. Alexander Hamilton claimed the honor on grounds of seniority, however, and Washington ruled in his favor. Hamilton's 400-man assault column comprised Gimat's, Hamilton's, and half of Laurens' Bn.

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Hamilton's attack [attack on redoubt 10] had taken place simultaneously [with that of the French attack on redoubt 9], and the Americans were fired on shortly after the Hessian sentinel challenged the French column, some 200 yards away. Lt. John Mansfield led his forlorn hope of 20 men from the 4th Conn. into the redoubt and was supported immediately by the leading battalion under Gimat. Hamilton's Bn., led by Nicholas Fish, attacked on Gimat's left almost simultaneously, and the two companies under Laurens (80 men) hit the enemy's rear and cut off their escape. The attack was a brilliant success which cost the Americans only nine killed and 25 wounded. (Johnston, op. cit. [Henry P. Johnston, The Yorktown Campaign and The Surrender of Cornwallis 1781, 1881] , 147) Although Redoubt 10 was not as strong a fortification as No. 9, and was defended by only 45 men whereas No. 9 had a garrison of 120 (Freeman, op. cit., 371), the American success had a lesson for the French veterans: the former had scrambled through the abatis, ditch, and fraises and into the redoubt without waiting for the pioneers to clear gaps, whereas the French took heavy casualties, "perhaps because they were formalists and, being trained soldiers, insisted upon sending their axmen ahead to clear the way," as Bonsal explains it. (Op. cit.[Stephen Bonsal, When The French Were Here, 1945], 163-64).
Lafayette had been annoyed a few hours before the attack by Viomesnil's intimation that the Americans might not be up to executing their part of the coordinated attack. When the Americans had captured their redoubt and were evacuating their prisoners some minutes before the French had taken theirs, Lafayette could not resist the opportunity to needle his own countrymen – he sent a staff officer to ask Deux-Ponts if he wanted any assistance! (Bonsal, op. cit., 163) The French did not need any help, but they had lost 15 kill and 77 wounded. In the two redoubts the enemy had six officers and 67 men captured (Freeman, op. cit., 371); 18 were killed and 50 captured in Redoul No. 9, according to Johnston. (Op. cit 143)
Cornwallis did not counterattack, but he massed all possible guns against the captured works. The allies moved working parties out immediately to throw up a protective wall of dirt at the back of the redoubts and to incorporate them into the already completed portion of the second parallel.

Following is from Thomas Balch's The French in America During the War of Independence of the United States, 1777-1783 (Philadelphia, 1891-1895). Partial extractions from "CHAPTER XXI" pp.196-203.


On the 12th, the generals, accompanied by a few officers of their staff, among whom was Dumas, repaired to a battery that was situated at the attacking point of the French beyond a ravine which separated it from the redoubt that was farthest from the river. The Baron de Vioménil showed great impatience. He maintained that the cannon of the battery in which they were had sufficiently damaged the redoubt, and that the attack was delayed unnecessarily, since the fire of the enemy seemed to have ceased. "You are mistaken," Rochambeau said to him ; "but by reconnoitering the fort from a nearer point we may be assured of it." He ordered the firing to cease, forbade his aids-de-camp to follow him, and allowed only his son, the Viscount de Rochambeau, to accompany him. He went out of the trenches, slowly descended into the ravine by making a circuit, and then, ascending the opposite slope, went as near the redoubt as the abatis that surrounded it. After having examined it thoroughly, he returned to the battery without the enemy having disturbed him by a single shot. "Well," said he, "the abatis and the palisades are still in good condition. We must redouble our fire to break them and destroy the top of the parapet; we shall see to-morrow whether the pear is ripe." This act of coolness and courage moderated the Baron de Vioménil's ardor. [207] [Brackets refer to Balch's Notes located at the end of this narrative.]
The attack on the redoubts was appointed for the night of the 14th. The Baron de Vioménil was the major-general on duty and de Custine the brigadier. There were in the trenches two battalions of Gâtines, two others of DeuxPonts, and, in addition, some auxiliaries drawn from the grenadiers of Saintonge and the chasseurs of Bourbonnais, Agenais and Soissonnais.
In the morning, de Vioménil separated the grenadiers and chasseurs from the two regiments in the trenches and formed them into a battalion, the command of which he gave to Guillaume de Deux-Ponts, and at the same time told him that he thought he thereby gave him a proof of his confidence. These words were very pleasing to de DeuxPonts, who had no doubt of what was expected of him. In the afternoon de Vioménil came for de Deux-fonts and led him away with the Baron de l'Estrade, lieutenant-colonel of the regiment of Gâtinais, whom he gave to Deux-Pouts for his second in command, and two sergeants of the grenadiers and chasseurs of the same regiment, Le Cornet and Foret. These last two, as brave as they were intelligent, according to Guillaume de Deux-Ponts' account, were especially charged to reconnoitre with great exactness the road that the attacking force was to follow during the night. They were to march at the head of the axe-men. De Deux-Ponts then returned to form his battalion, and led it to the point of the trenches that was nearest to that from which it was to start.
At this moment Rochambeau came to the trench, and, addressing the soldiers of Gâtinais, he said to them: "My children, if I have need of you this night, I hope that you have not forgotten that we have served together in that brave regiment of Spotless Auvergne (Auvergne sans tache), an honor-able surname which it has deserved from the time of its creation." They answered him that if the restoration of their name was promised them, they would allow themselves to be killed to the last man. Rochambeau promised it to them, and they kept their word, as we shall see. The king, on the report that Rochambeau made to him of this affair, wrote with his own hand, "Good for Royal Auvergne." [See webpage editor's note at the end of this section, following Balch's notes.]
The Baron de Vioménil directed the attack; but the immediate command of it was given to Guillaume de Deux-Ponts. The chasseurs of Gâtinais, commanded by the Baron de l'Estrade, were at the head of the column. They were divided into platoons. In the front ranks were the two sergeants, Foret and Le Cornet, with eight carpenters, preceding a hundred men, some of whom carried fagots and others ladders or axes. Charles de Lameth, who had just given up service in the trenches to Dumas, joined the first troop, as also de Damas. The grenadiers of Gâtinais came next, drawn up in files, under the command of de l'Estrade, and then the grenadiers and chasseurs of Deux-Ponts in a column divided into sections. The chasseurs of the regiments of Bourbonnais and Agenais followed, a hundred paces in the rear of the battalion that was commanded by Guillaume de Deux-Ponts. [208] The second battalion of the regiment of Gâtinais, commanded by the Count de Rostaing, completed the reserve. De Vauban, whom Rochambeau had detailed to bring him an account of what should happen, kept himself near to de Deux-Ponts. The latter gave orders not to fire until they had reached the parapet, and forbade any one to leap into the entrenchments before he was ordered to do so. After these last instructions, they waited for the appointed signal for commencing their march.

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During the seven minutes that sufficed to take this redoubt, the French lost forty-six men killed and sixty-two wounded, amongst whom were six officers: Charles de Lameth, Guillaume de Deux-fonts, de Sireuil, captain in the regiment of Gâtinais, de Sillègue and de Lutzon. De Berthelot, captain in second in the regiment of Gâtinais, was killed.
As soon as Dumas was told of the wound of his friend, Charles de Lameth, he hastened to him at the ambulance. At first the surgeons declared that he could not be saved without the amputation of both thighs, but the chief surgeon, Robillard, rather than reduce a young officer of so much promise to a cripple, was unwilling to perform the amputation, and trusted to nature for the cure of such serious wounds. Success crowned his confidence. Charles de Lameth quickly recovered, and two months afterwards returned to France.
De Sireuil died of his wound forty days afterwards.
The enemy also lost heavily. Eighteen of their dead were counted remaining in the redoubts. Forty soldiers and three officers were taken prisoners. The hundred and seventy other men escaped, carrying their wounded off with them.
The redoubt opposite the American army was taken still more quickly, and we may say that in this respect the allied armies were eager rivals. This rivalry on the part of the leaders even caused some jealousy. On the eve of the attack the Baron de Vioménil was so unceremonious as to show to La Fayette the little confidence that he had in the American troops for the proposed attack, and too openly displayed his contempt for these unseasoned militia. La Fayette, a little piqued, said to him: " We are young soldiers, it is true; but our tactics on such an occasion are to unload our guns and go straight ahead with the bayonet." He did as he had said. He gave the command of the American troops to Colonel Hamilton, and took Colonels Laurens and de Gimat under his command. The ardor of the troops was so great that they did not give the sappers time to clear the way by cutting down the abatis. Colonel Barber's battalion, which was at the head of the column intended to support the attack, having been detached to help the advance guard, arrived just as the besiegers were beginning to take possession of the fortifications. According to La Fayette's own account the Americans did not fire a gun, but only used the bayonet. De Gimat was wounded by his side. The rest of the column, under Generals Muhlenberg and Hazen, advanced with perfect discipline and wonderful steadiness. The battalion of Colonel Vose deployed on the left. The remainder of the division and the rear-guard successively took their positions, under the fire of the enemy, without replying, in perfect order and silence? [210]

[Balch's Notes:]

207. On the 12th of October, 1781, there were in the hospital of Williamsburg, four hundred sick or wounded and thirteen officers, with an entire want of supplies. Assistance was needed not only for the ambulance, but also for de Choisy, who was on the side of Gloucester. Blanchard displayed in the discharge of his office great activity and praiseworthy zeal; but he confessed that if the number of the wounded had been greater, it would have been impossible to have paid them the necessary attention.

208. It should be noticed that Guillaume de Deux-Ponts, although he was only a lieutenant-colonel, was always intrusted with more important posts than the marquis, his brother, who was colonel of the same regiment.

209. Deux-Ponts.

210. Mémoires of La Fayette.

211. After the night of the great attack (the 14th and 15th of October, 1781), the number of sick in the ambulance was about five hundred, including twenty officers. (Blanchard).

[Webpage Editor's Note:]

It is apparent from material in the French archives – particularly Baron de Vioménil's papers kept at Le Creusot museum – that Rochambeau was in the French hospital on 10 October and not yet physically ready to directly command the tactical operations on 14 and 15 October. For that reason, Baron de Vioménil was not only directing the assault on Redoubt 9, but was actually in command of the entire French army at the time. The description of Rochambeau visiting the Gatinais trench before the evening attack most likely refers to a brief visit for the purpose of exalting his old regiment that wanted the return of their former title of the ‘Auvergne'.

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OBSERVATIONS and COMMENTS
The foregoing accounts suggest the need for noting some observations that need clarification and/or suggest further examination.


  • While the command of the assault ‘task force' made up of elements from various French regiments was given to the second in command of the Royal Deux-Ponts, it was the Gâtinais [or Gatinois] regiment that contributed the troops for the advance attacking echelons and, as a consequence, incurred distinctively the major casualties during the 14 October seizure of the British redoubt 9.
  • The chain of command for the French assault and location of the officers may appear confusing with so many descriptions referring to the action with different perspectives and emphasizing separate officers' roles. The overall command of the assault was with the Baron de Vioménil l – who was General Rochambeau's second and was standing in for Rochambeau, who was ill at the time. The command of the tactical formation was with the Vicomte de Forbach [Guillaume de Deux-Ponts], who was second in command of the Royal Deux-Ponts Regiment. The Vicomte's responsibility placed him physically at the front of the column of Gâtinais grenadiers and chasseurs – to be followed by the column of Royal Deux-Ponts grenadiers and chasseurs, with a second formation of Gâtinais in reserve. Also at the front of the entire attacking French formation, along with the Vicomte de Forbach, was Charles Roqueplan Baron de Lestrade, second in command of the Gâtinais Regiment. These two lieutenant colonels were side by side in the assault upon Redoubt 9. Another officer participant is the Chevalier de Lameth, from Rochambeau's own staff. He was out front with the sappers clearing away the abatis and hacking openings in the palisades. His reward for being first to mount the parapet of the enemy's redoubt was to be seriously wounded in both knees.
  • References to Guillaume de Deux-Ponts can be confusing. Many texts refer to him as the ‘Count of Deux-Ponts' and Anglicize his first name as ‘William' or use the Germanic ‘Wilhelm'. The The Duke Christian IV (1722-1775) of Zweibrücken, one of many German-speaking principalities in Western Eruope, had made a morganic marriage which denied his children, Christian (born 18 June 1754) and younger brother, Wilhelm, the right to inherit a title to the duchy of Pfalz-Zweibrücken. Duke Christian sought, and was granted in 1756, from the French king, Louis XV, a title to convey to his sons. This title was for the county of Forbach, a domain of France. One of the terms for this was that the French king was permitted to raise troops for a French regiment in Duke Christian's domain. Therefore, the Duke's sons held French titles: comte de Forbach and vicomte de Forbach. The sons held the positions of Colonel and Lt. Colonel, respectively, in the French Royal Deux-Pont Regiment.The Regiment was officially known as the ‘Royal Deux-Ponts' [‘deux-ponts' = ‘two bridges = ‘zweibrücken']. All official directives, records and reports of the deployment of this unit in the American War for Independence were in French, and were deposited in French military archives. Hence, the use in this website of ‘Guillaume' for the Vicomte de Forbach de Deux-Ponts. This was the practice of even English documents in 1781.
  • Interestingly, while the Rhode Island Regiment was significantly in one of the advance formations in the American attack on redoubt 10, historians' narratives and general art depictions of the event generally fail [until very recently] to refer to the presence of African Americans. This is strange, as the estimates of some contemporary European witnesses state that the Rhode Island Regiment was 3/4 black.
  • Though not extreme, the figures as to strength and casualties of the forces involved in the Yorktown redoubt assaults do vary. It is understood, that such data is not generally accurately reported by observers and participants, and can be further distorted in secondary accounts. A particular challenge is to examine the figures reported and claimed by various sources on the casualties suffered by the French Regiments – especially the Gâtinais and Royal Deux-Ponts. An attempt at this examination is at webpage ‘14 October 1781 Yorktown Redoubt Action Numbers'.
  • The first two items cited above should be considered as one inspects the images used in many print publications to illustrate the assaults on the British redoubts at Yorktown, the night of 14 October 1781. See page on Images of the assaults on British redoubts, Yorktown 1781.
  • A revisionist and non credible version of the French assault of Redoubt 9 has unfortunately been carelessly promoted in a recent [2005] book on the Yorktown siege. This issue is addressed at special webpage: Private Flohr's Invention. .
  • St. George Tucker, a Lt Col in the American militia who was present at the Yorktown Siege, included in his journal an account of the evening assault of 14 October 1783. His account has been praised by a former Colonial National Historic Park historian as being the report by one who "... did not accept rumors of the events which he did not witness personally, but made a determined effort to ascertain the truth." See extract from St. George Tucker's Journal.

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Page created 23 October 2004; revised 23 August 2010.