‘The day Yorktown comes alive’

Published 3:09 pm Monday, November 4, 2019

By Cathy Welch


It was another picturesque and patriotic celebration of Yorktown Day on Oct. 19.

Yorktown Day commemorates the Oct. 19, 1781, surrender by Lord Cornwallis’ British and German troops to Gen. George Washington’s Allied American and French troops in Yorktown. This is considered the day America won its independence.

This year’s 238th anniversary celebration begins with patriotic exercises and memorial wreath-laying ceremonies at The Battlefield’s French Cemetery, Gov. Thomas Nelson Jr.’s grave at Grace Episcopal Church, and at The French Memorial to honor French war veterans.

The Yorktown Day Parade, sponsored by The National Park Service, followed on Main Street with 39 units, including representatives from the Yorktown Day Association groups; representatives from all military branches; Yorktown Women’s Club; Fife and Drums of Yorktown and their Alumni Association; Veterans of Foreign Wars, Grafton; Friends of the Peninsula French club; The Virginia Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Association; York/Poquoson Girl Scouts; bands and ROTC units from Bethel, Bruton, Grafton, Tabb and York high schools; Virginia Society Order of Founders and Patriots of America; and the USS Yorktown (CG-48) Association.

Following the parade, the “Parade of Flags” was held at the Monument to Alliance and Victory featuring the Color Guard of the 3rd United States Infantry (The Old Guard) and the Continental Color Guard from Fort Myer and flags from the organizations that make up Yorktown Day Association.

Guests heard greetings from Francois Penguilly, Consul General of France in Washington, D.C.; and David Bernhardt, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The keynote address was given by J. Michael Moore, curator, Lee Hall Mansion and Endview Plantation.

Other special activities offered included the British Royal Artillery Program’s live firings of a replica British cannon, similar to field cannons used by the British at Yorktown. The 3rd Infantry Old Guard Fifes and Drums performed at Yorktown Battlefield Visitor Center. Living History Associates provided programs focusing on the military aspects at the Siege of Yorktown.

Bonnie Karwac, York County Historical Museum president, member of Comte de Grasse Chapter DAR, Colonial Dames 17th century, Yorktown Preservation Society and vice president of the Yorktown Day Association, was all over historic Yorktown that day.

This year she oversaw World War II re-enactors marching in the parade on behalf of the Museum and the Yorktown Association and then later at a Vietnam veterans’ pinning program sponsored by the USS Yorktown (CG-48) Association. The York County Historical Museum featured a special exhibit from the association, as well.

Wandering through everything Yorktown Day 2019 had to offer, visitors may have had a chance to meet Rose Marie Isgrigg, a direct descendent of George Washington, dressed in period costume and visiting from Albany, Ohio.

“I am hoping to pose for a photograph with the George Washington re-enactor who is here today,” she said.

Thomas Nelson Jr., a direct descendent of the Thomas Nelson Jr. signer of the Declaration of Independence, was visiting as well.

Local resident and artist Kathy Wahl calls it, “The day Yorktown comes alive.”

The Yorktown Day Association, formed in 1949, consists of a field of players including: National Society Children of the American Revolution; American Friends of Lafayette; French Liaison; The Society of the Sons of the Revolution in Virginia; Yorktown Foundation; Comte de Grasse Chapter of National Society Daughters of the American Revolution; York County Historical Museum; Yorktown Preservation Society; National Society Daughters of the American Colonists; Virginia Society, Sons of the American Revolution; Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Virginia; National Society Daughters of Founders and Patriots of America; York County Board of Supervisors; and Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation. Mrs. Donald F. Reynolds is president of the Yorktown Day Association.

Yorktown Day is co-sponsored by the Yorktown Day Association and the National Park Service, Colonial National Historical Park, with park superintendent, Kym Hall.