Yorktown existed as a town beginning in 1691, or 80 years before it became famous. It was named “York” after the city in England (a trend in the area; witness “Portsmouth,” “Norfolk,” and “Hampton”), but it could just as well be called “Cornwallis’s Mistake.”
This post isn’t about the particulars of the battle that served as the de facto end of the Revolutionary War. You can find out all those details at the National Park Service sites that dot the town. You can visit the redoubts, the Moore House (where the surrender was signed – Cornwallis didn’t attend because he was “sick”), and two attractive museums, the Yorktown Victory Center and the Yorktown Battlefield and Visitor Center.
The town of Yorktown is a quiet little community set alongside the York River. A trip could entail visiting 18th century homes, exploring the town’s quaint shops, strolling the new Riverwalk, even sitting on the little beach beside the river. Yorktown is one town in the Colonial Triangle, connected to Williamsburg (Great American Things, July 23, 2009) and Jamestown via the 23-mile-long Colonial Parkway.
Yorktown has a special sentimental value to me because it’s where my father grew up. My grandfather was a laborer on the Colonial Parkway, gratefully getting work from the WPA during the Depression. My father worked for the National Park Service, giving tours of the Moore House to visitors. Though the family moved to nearby Newport News after World War II, my father always had a special place in his heart for Yorktown. As do I…