(This is an article I wrote for this month's community magazine here at Sun City Carolina Lakes. Many of our residents are from the north and hardly realize the important role of the south in the American Revolution. History has become more interesting for a lot of us.)
… of the midnight ride of Paul Revere? No! You shall hear of the end of it all and that it was on this day, October 19, 1781, 235 years ago, that the British General Charles Cornwallis officially surrendered his troops to General George Washington at Yorktown, Virginia, effectively ending the Revolutionary War.
“On the eighteenth of April in Seventy-five”, the British were planning to attack on the colonists in Massachusetts, but it wasn’t known how they would proceed. It finally was “two if by sea,” and Revere rode out to warn the people in Lexington and Concord and other Middlesex towns. Paul Revere’s Ride was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow some eighty-five years later. This poem, along with the one that relates the story “the shot heard round the world”, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Concord Hymn, written in 1837, added to a vague recollection of the Boston Tea Party and the burdensome taxes imposed on the colonists, and they often constitute the only idea many adults have of our Revolutionary War history.
Though “the shot heard round the world” was hardly that, the first shot at Concord marked the beginning of our formal break with the mother country.
To many of us, especially those from the northeast states, all we remember of the Revolution are those first battles and, perhaps, George Washington crossing the Delaware. But if it wasn’t for the south, the Carolinas and Virginia, we’d all be British.
Though the primary action of the opening years of the war was in the north, at the same time the persistent southern forces were handling British actions in Charleston and eastern Florida, and nagging at the British and Loyalists whenever they could. The North began to get help from the French, and in the last major battle there they defeated the British at Saratoga in 1777. Still the British remained a large presence in the north, harrying and engaging the forces in a series of smaller battles.
The same year as Saratoga, the southerners did lose Savannah, their biggest city, to the British. Then Charleston went, and the Americans retreated in defeat to the Carolinas. There they met the British in several engagements: one of them was the Battle of the Waxhaws. For about a year it didn’t look good for the American cause, but then the tide turned and they won at Kings Mountain and Cowpens.
The British kept at it, winning some battles, but at great cost to themselves. King George III, who even thought of abdicating, lost control of Parliament to the factions within his own country who were disgusted with the loss of live and the expenditures, and sued for peace with the Americans. Finally the American southern, northern, and naval forces came together in Yorktown to defeat the British and accept their surrender. And that, in a nutshell, was that.