14 October 1781 Yorktown Redoubt Actions' Numbers


While there is considerable agreement as to the beginning strengths of the units engaged in the 14 October 1781 allied assaults against the British redoubts 9 and 10 at Yorktown, some of the casualty figures remained unresolved. As a point of departure, the chart below presents the numbers as reported in Howard Peckham's The Toll of Independence, Engagements & Battle Casualties of the American Revolution (Chicago, 1947) p.91. This work is one of the few attempts to apply a rigorous examination of all material and put the data before a small committee to resolve - admittedly the results are sometimes 'best estimates'.

For this page, the numbers are colored to indicate where there remains some controversy. The black bold figures have Peckham in agreement with authors Morrissey and Boatner. The red bold figures reflect differences. [Morrissey and Boatner sources are cited on the webpage "Seizure of Redoubts 9 and 10, Yorktown 1781" which this page supports – link given at bottom of this page. ]


STRENGTHS K W C Ref Notes
REDOUBT 10
defenders 45 22?

1.

attackers 400 9 25

2.

REDOUBT 9
defenders 120 18 50

3.

attackers 400 15 77

Following are brief 'engagement' descriptions that accompany Peckham's figures:

"Col. William Deux-Ponts led 400 French troops in capture of Redoubt 9 from 120 British and Hessians under Lt. Col. Duncan McPherson. The French suffered 15 K and 77 W; the enemy had 18 K and 50 C." [Number of British wounded are not addressed, 52 are assumed to have escaped -- evidently including their British commander.]

"At the same time as the above action, Lt. Col. Alexander Hamilton led 400 Continentals in the capture of Redoubt 10 from 45 British, half of whom [22?] were taken prisoner."

REFERENCE NOTES to the above chart. These are not part of Peckham's data:

1. Peckham has 45 strength of Br and Germans [Hessians] and "half of whom were taken prisoner." He is vague on the British casualties. Some American authors suggest that no defenders escaped at Redoubt 10.

2. Morrissey has 70 strength for defenders of Redoubt 10, and has 9 K and 31 W&C, rest [30?] escaped.

Morrissey's differs with the ‘25' American wounded given in Peckham's work. Morrissey refers to 6 additional officers to support the total American wounded as ‘31'. Neither Peckham nor Morrissey cite specific sources for their figures. However, reading more in depth narrative histories one will find references to Lt Col Hamilton's report, and herein lies a possible explanation.
Henry P. Johnston's The Yorktown Campaign and the Surrender of Cornwallis (1881)] gives the casualties as 9 K and 25 W [p.147] even though he instructs his readers to see in his Appendix [XVIII, p.193] Hamilton's report, which in chart form, gives a total of 9 killed and 31 wounded. The chart's layout requires careful examination, as the figures for killed and wounded are tallied by different ranks: ‘Rank and File' are totaled as ‘25', to the left of that are columns that tally officers' casualties by different ranks; these show and additional ‘6' wounded. One is left to believe that Johnston may have failed to note the columns to the left of the 'rank and file' column when executing his narrative. Later authors who consult Johnston are left with the choice of using Johnston's narrative figure or the total figures shown in Hamilton's chart as displayed in Johnston's appendix. Note that the figure of ‘31' as the total American wounded is used by Christopher Ward in his popular The War of the Revolution, Vol II (1952) p. 892.
But a small discrepancy remains as to what is the correct display of Hamilton's figures. Another secondary source gives a slightly different version than does Johnston. Harold C. Syrett's The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol II (1961), p.682, shows Hamilton's chart with 1 wounded Subaltern, whereas the chart in Johnston's work shows none. Otherwise 'Hamilton's chart' in Syrett's work has the total American casualties as 9 killed and 32 wounded – a difference [from the chart shown in Johnston's work] of one in the wounded category. The author of this page does not have access to the original Hamilton report. However, Hamilton was present during the action and in command of the American assault. His report, rendered soon after the event, is explicit in recording ‘killed' from ‘wounded' and serves as good an official primary source for the American casualties at Redoubt 10 as can be expected.

3.Assuming that all able body defenders would have escaped, it might be further assumed that the 50 [a figure accepted by many secondary sources] 'captured' defenders at Redoubt 9 were also 'wounded'.

4. Balch gives figures for for the French casualties suffered at Redoubt 9 which are quite out of line of those reported by later scholars; however, his numbers on the British remain close to the others:

"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."

5. No authors provide explicit primary sources for their numbers of French casualties. Vicomte de Forbach, Guillaume de Deux-Ponts, could be considered a 'primary source' as being a 'direct observer' [and undquestioned participant in the assault] for the French troops under his tactical command. However, his written account was not an immediate 'after action report', and does not distinguish [with the exception of some officers] between killed and wounded directly related to the action.

Guillaume de Deux-Ponts gives "killed and wounded" by regiment as follows:
56 grenadiers and chasseurs of the Gâtinais
21 grenadiers and chasseurs of the Royal Deux-Ponts
6 chasseurs of the Agenois
9 soldiers of the second battalion of Gâtinais
92 total equates to the total ‘French' K&W reported by Peckham and Morrissey.

Vicomte de Forbach, Guillaume de Deux-Ponts, goes on to identify by name, the officers (which are included in his foregoing figures):
M. de Berthelot, captain in the Gâtinais KILLED
Three other French officers WOUNDED. Other contemporary sources report one of the wounded officers, de Sireuil, would die forty days later from his battle wounds.

6. Jean-Baptiste Antoine de Verger, another officer of the Royal Deux-Ponts regiment who was at Yorktown, reported in his journal, (begun little more than a month after the assault): "We captured 3 officers and 40 men, after counting 18 dead. Another 120, under a lieutenant colonel, escaped. During the attack our loss in officers and men was about 80 killed or wounded" As with the Guillaume de Deux-Ponts' similar statement, the total appears to apply to all casualties in among the French regiments that participated in the assault. Verger qualifies his figure with "about"; whereas the vicomte is more specific. Verger's estimated number for the escaped British is not accepted by most scholars, but his number of British killed [and presumably counted] is often used.

7. It should be noted that another source of data from an individual who was at Yorktown, and who should have been well informed, is the Journal of the French commissary, Claude Blanchard. He reported 30 French killed and 60 wounded, of whom three were officers in the Gâtinais and another from the French Army staff. The total of '90' casualties is close to the '92' figure given in the latest studies [Peckham and Morrissey]. However, Blanchard's '30' killed is almost double that of recent scholars, and seems excessive when compared to a detailed examination of French archival records conducted by Warrington Dawson and published in 1936 [see further on this below].

8. The only document that attempts to specifically name each fatality (rank and file, as well as officers) is Les 2112 Français Morts Aux États-Unis de 1777 à 1783 en combattant pour l'independance americaine, by Warrington Dawson (Paris 1936). This work is a compilation based both on 'official records' and family archives and arranged by regiments or ships. Reportedly, the 'official records' presently at the French archives exist on microfilm, which is not in the best of condition. Dawson's data records deaths, and in most cases the specific date and location. Generally, Dawson's data does not explain the reasons for the deaths. However, in some cases Dawson does explicitly state that an individual was killed [‘tué' as opposed to the usual ‘mort'] as is the case for many who are recored as 'killed' on 14 October 1781 at Yorktown. Dawson's data records many deaths in the months following 14 October 1781 that occured in Williamsburg and Yorktown. It is known that wounded from the 14 October action were teated at medical facilities at both places. In only a very few cases, are the 'deaths' connected to the 14 October action. This leaves consierable room for judgment in attempting to determine the mortally wounded and is no help in assessing the merely wounded from the 14 October assault.

Dawson's data records a total of 16 Gâtinais who unquestionably died as a result of the 14 October 1781 assault on British Redoubt 9 at Yorktown -- 14 killed "killed" our-right during the attack, another one died the same day of wounds received, and another died 20 December 1781 [at Williamsburg] from wounds received during the action. Their names are listed later in this page. Dawson's data lists, by name Gâtinais, those who probably died at Yorktown [vraisemblablement à la base de Yorktown] during the following months -- 3 in the month of October, and 36 in all, through the end of 1781. Deaths are reported into the early months of 1781. Attributing the post 14 October deaths to the 14 October 1781 action remains a guessing game, but there is little question that the Gâtinais paid a hight price without even counting the wounded who lived.
Dawson's data does not reflect any member of the Royal Deux-Ponts being killed [‘tué'], or dying from wounds received, during the 14 October1781attack. However, the data has 5 of this regiment die at Williamsburg during October following the 14th and another 13 into January 1782. An assumption could be made that most of these may have died due to wounds received at the 14 October assault on Redoubt 9, but an exact count remains elusive.
The disparity between the casualties experienced between the two regiments should not be surprising given that elements of the Gâtinais regiment formed the advance echelons of the assault.

While we have no list of the specific wounded troops in the 14 October 1781 attack on Redoubt 9 at Yorktown, we can list those 16 Gatinais who unquestionably gave their lives in this brief, but much praised action at the siege:

  • De Berthelot, Augustin Clément de Villeneuve.
  • De Sireuil, Jean-Jarlan (died 20 December 1781 at Williamsburg from his wounds).
  • Stoudert, Claude.
  • Vachère, André.
  • Bedel, Jacques.
  • Dezé, André.
  • Gilles Pierre, dit Courageux.
  • Giraud, Joseph.
  • Gouya, Antoine.
  • Houba, Rémy, dit La Terreur.
  • Julien, Claude, dit Francoeur.
  • La Coste, Jean.
  • Mauchalin, Philibert.
  • Sorbetz, Barthélemy.
  • Tousset, Jean.
  • Vextain, Emmanuel (died 14 October 1781 at Yorktown from his wounds).

As to the wounded, only 3 French officers are named in the various reports written by individuals soon after the action. One is De Sireuil, who died at a later date from his wounds, is mentioned above. Two wounded officers who survived are: Jean François de Sillegue of the Gatinais, and le comte de Lameth a staff officer who obtained special permission from Rochambeau to participate in the assault.


WEBPAGE AUTHOR's COMMENT: Redoubt 9 Casualties.

If assessing historic battle casualties were only as simple as the narrative histories suggest? The taking of redoubt 9 by a professional army at Yorktown on 14 October 1781 is a case in point. The numbers of attackers and various reported casualties were relatively small in the broad range of combat actions. The post action conditions were quite suitable for reporting accurate figures. Yet there remains some doubts, not as to order of magnitude, but as to precise figures. The attackers at redoubt 9 were all French regiments, though the Royal Deux-Ponts had a large number of troops from German speaking communities inside and outside [mainly the duchy of Zweibrücken, from which the regiment's French name is taken] of France at the time. Ideally, the casualty figures should be reflected in the official French military records called the ‘controles'.

This writer has not directly inspected the controles that now reside on microfilm in the military archives of Service Historique de l'Armée, (formerly boulevard Saint-Germain, in Paris, now at Château de Vincennes, outside of Paris). [Royal Deux-Ponts' records Archives de la Guerre or SHAT reference code is "1Yc869".] Some individuals have printed copies of these and have examined their copies of the ‘controles' to contribute to the structure of this page. The ‘controles' remain a problem as so few have directly examined these records, and reading the hand written script takes some skill. In addition, the entries are not all uniform, even from regiment to regiment, in the completeness of the information they provide. Nearly all the records give the date that an individual departs the regiment. For the most part death [‘mort'] of an active duty person is recorded as such. However, killed [tué] is not consistently stated and related to a specific combat action.
Some regiments, such as the Royal Deux-Ponts, do not differentiate between 'tué' and 'mort' at all. Otherwise, some entries have individuals dying on 14 October 1781, but the deaths could have been on either side of the ocean unless one has evidence that the individual was in Rochambeau's expedition. At least in the Royal Deux-Ponts it is indicated whether a man was sent to/assigned to the depot and/or auxiliary company that remained in France. By default, one could argue, that all others did sail to America with Rochambeau. Even then, the death may not have been related to combat. However, a fair presumption can be that members of the Royal Deux-Ponts reported as dying on 14 October were likely killed in the assault upon Redoubt 9 at Yorktown on 14 October 1781. These are identified in the controles as: grenadiers Jean Schmitt and George Dauber; and chasseur Jacob Permann.
As stated previously in this webpage, Warrington Dawson's 1936 study, Les 2112 Français Morts Aux États-Unis de 1777 à 1783 en combattant pour l'independance americaine, appears to be the only extensive – if not exhaustive – examination. Dawson's work is the result of cross examination with other sources [also identified above]. Dawson's explained his methods best in his first, 1931 publication, which was not as complete as was his later 1936 work. In his 1931 work, begun when he was studying Williamsburg reconstruction, Dawson explains how he was assisted by Général Paul Azan, Chief of the Service historique de l'Armée (1928-1933). With such high level assistance, Dawson was able to access many other records, such as the ‘etat-civil'* records at the Service Historique de l'Armée (which was not yet at Vincennes). These records were more precise than the regiments controles because they were directly written from the hospitals reports. Dawson also contacted families to obtain more precise information behind causes of deaths. There is not another such study of the French military who died while serving in American during the American War for Independence. And it would be most unusual if such a study could be repeated.

[* Etat-civil are the official records of birth, marriage, death, held by the churches before the French Revolution. Dawson may have examined some copies that were in the military archives, or he might have been consulted the local archives where they still are, or he may have had access to copies in the possession of families.]

The review of the casualty figures on this page provides an important basis in dealing with a revisionist and non credible version of the French assault of Redoubt 9 that has unfortunately been carelessly promoted in a 2005 book on the Yorktown siege. This issue is addressed at special webpage: Private Flohr's Invention.


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Page initially drafted 21 November 2004, revised revised 8 May 2007.