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An unexpected and glorious victory

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Date published: 5/24/2003

By Gwen Woolf

Part 11 of a series

(Adapted from "Fielding Lewis and the Washington Family," Chapter 41: "A Glorious Victory")

IN FREDERICKSBURG, the month of June con- tinued to be a time of heavy demands on Gen. George Weedon and the district quartermaster, Richard Young, even though the confrontation had moved southwest.

Dr. Charles Mortimer, who had been rendering voluntary service to the sick and wounded since the previous August, was indisposed and no longer able to carry on the responsibility. He also advised Weedon that there was urgent need for medicine and for a house and a surgeon. Weedon appointed John Julian to be director of the public hospital and instructed him to find a house to remove the sick with "pestilential disorders."

The orders to Quartermaster Young for service began from the time of the Marquis de Lafayette's arrival from Alexandria in April with 1,500 men--"as many wagons as possible"--and never ceased during his jousting with Lord Cornwallis, the British commander: "a good riding horse"; "two dozen pistol cartridges"; a hat ("I am almost without"); sealing wax and wafers; camp kettles, canteens and axes.

Young collected tens of thousands of pounds of hay and fodder and thousands of bushels of corn and oats from the district residents. Stables and pasturage facilities in the town were heavily used. On June 17, Weedon ordered 10 wagons impressed, loaded, and sent to Lafayette.

Lafayette with 4,000 men was following Cornwallis, the British commander, who had returned to Richmond and then moved on to Williamsburg. Cornwallis' month of damaging raids had been a delaying tactic while he awaited orders from Gen. Henry Clinton in New York. It had proved devastatingly successful.

Clinton had disapproved of Cornwallis' improvised strategy, and there were poor relations between the two. Now, Cornwallis received a series of orders from Clinton, each countermanding the last.

Clinton had not intended the southern campaign to be the principal focus of the war in America. He advised Cornwallis to send 3,000 troops back to New York and to find an easily defensible site from which to keep the Virginians off balance.

Clinton ordered Cornwallis to either Hampton or Yorktown. Cornwallis and his men arrived at Gloucester Point opposite Yorktown on Aug. 1.

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