Attack on Yorktown Redoubts 14 October 1781
from St. George Tucker's Journal.
This is an interesting account of the assault on the Yorktown redoubts on the night of 14 October 1781. While the writer did not participate in the assault, he was present in the area and his report demonstrated a very conscientious effort to be correct and thorough in what he records. This narrative is taken from: "St. George Tucker's Journal of the Siege of Yorktown, 1781" as transcribed and annotated by Edward M. Riley, in The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Ser., Vol. 5, No. 3 (July, 1948), 375-395. The partial extraction presented here is from part of p.388 and all of p.389.
Mr. Parker was a Park Historian, Colonial National Historic Park, Yorktown. It is assumed that the transcription and added notes are by Mr. Parker. Mr. Parker's introductory notes state:
"Of all the diaries and journals kept by the participants in the Siege of Yorktown, that of St. George Tucker undoubtedly gives the best account of this decisive campaign. The scrupulous and meticulous accuracy of the author, and his detailed knowledge of the terrain upon which the battle was fought make this journal of exceptional value to anyone interested in the Yorktown Campaign of 1781. ... His inquiring mind and attention to detail... more than compensatated for his lack of experience." p.375
Mr. Parker goes on to credit Tucker with a discipline that is unfortunately not practiced by so many authors of recent books and articles on the events at Yorktown and other aspects of the war: "Unlike the majority of his contemporaries, he [Tucker] did not accept rumors of the events which he did not witness personally, but made a determined effort to ascertain the truth."
In October 1783, St. George Tucker was a Lt Col in the American militia and part of Lawson's Brigade. The original manuscript of his journal is in the Tucker-Coleman manuscript collection of Colonial Williamsburg.

Monday 15th. Last Night the French Troops at a Quarter before seven, under command of Baron Viominit [28[ attack'd the Enemy's Rebout on York River at the upper End of the Town across the Creek and carried it–at half after seven the continental Troops under Marquis la Fayette attack'd the Reboubt from which we had been so much annoy'd in the Morning with Shells [29] -- at the same time another party under Mulenburg attack'd the Reboubt on the River which form'd the left of the Enemy's whole Works, being opposit our Battery on the Right of the first parallel. The latter was carried in four Minutes, the former in seven -- the French suceeded [30] in about ten if I may judge from the Firing -- Being overwhelm'd for want of Sleep I left the Trenches where I was a spectator of the Scene as soon as it was known that we had succeeded, and it being now early in the morning I know nothing of the particulars of the several Actions of which I shall make Enquiries after Breakfast --
I have above given a very unjust Account of the proceeding of last night; a proof how difficult it is to gain accurate Intelligence in Camp -- What I have represented as an Attack on the Enemies Redoubt on their Right, was but a Feint made by the French in the Quarter under the Comand of the Marquis de St. Simon to draw their Attention from the Left where the real Attack was made on the two Recoubts I have described, was this differences, that the Americans attackt the Reboubt next the River [31] and the French the other [32]. The Success was as before represented -- We lost about thirty Men kill'd and wounded -- the French thirty one -- The British had eighteen Men killd in the Reboubt attack'd by the French but I can not learn how many in the other -- Our second Parallel is now compleated running across from the Batteries we were erecting near the Secry's House to the two Reboubts which were taken last night -- A Line of Communication parallel to the River [33] is drawn between the Lines running from the left of our Principal Battery on the first Line to the Reboubt on the River on the second -- This redoubt appears to me of great Importance as it seems to comand the Communications from York to Gloster point -- It also appears to command some of their Works -- The other Redt. Being an hundred & eighty yards distant only from one of the Enemies Batteries appear likewise to be of very great Consequence. It is said some of our Batteries on the second parallel will open this Evening; I think this probable as I observed all the platforms in the French Batteries in the first Line are taken up -- Coll. Gimat, Coll. Barber and Major Barber were wounded in the Attack last night, tho' but slightly -- the latter reciev'd a Contusion on his left Side. Not a single Gun was fired either by the French or Americans during the Attack -- Major Campbell of the seventy firsts, 5 [34] other commissioned officers & sixty [35] four 64 privates were made Prisoners -- many of the British in these Rebouts made their Excape, some sliding down the steep, or rather perpendicular Bank to the river shore. 1 Majr. 3. Capt. 2 Subs. Prisoners.


28. Major General Baron de Viomenil, second-in-command of the Frency Army. [Return to main text.]
29. Originally written "Bombs" [Return to main text.]
30. Interpolation [Return to main text.]
31. Redoubt No. 10 [Return to main text.]
32. Redoubt No. 9 [Return to main text.]
33. Interpolation [Return to main text.]
34. Originally "three" [Return to main text.]
35. Originally "fifty" [Return to main text.]

Lt Col Tucker seems to have been close to other figures for American casualties [30 k&w] to those numbers discussed in the special webpage that reviews these numbers, [See 14 October 1781 Yorktown Reboubt Actions' Numbers.]. Tucker had a problem assessing the British casualties at Redoubt 10, as do other sources. Tucker's figure of 18 British killed at Redoubt is close to other reports. Tucker's figure of only 31 French k&w is quite small compared to others who report totals of 80 to 90 plus others give. However, it is understandable that Tucker would not have had good access to the number of French wounded. Of particular interest in Tucker's account is no mention of a fratricide occurring during the French assault. He appears alert enough to have learned of such had it occurred, and he certainly would not have had reason to cover up such an incident.

Page created 10 August 2006.