George Washington Defeats Cornwallis by Violent Storm of Wind and Rain

There are four other paintings in the Capitol Rotunda, all of which have a Christian significance.

As we look at the story behind the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, we will see how God again used the weather to assist the Colonials in their fight for freedom.

In October of 1781, British General Cornwallis had his troops stationed at Yorktown, Virginia. While Cornwallis waited for reinforcements, Washington marched his troops from New York to Yorktown. Unknown to Washington or Cornwallis, a French fleet under Admiral De Grasse arrived just in time to defeat the British fleet sent to relieve General Cornwallis at Yorktown.

Without reinforcements, Cornwallis was barely holding out against the siege of the American and French forces. As a last resort, he decided to attempt to retreat across the York River. At 10:00 pm on the night of October 17, sixteen large boats were loaded with troops and embarked for Gloucester.

After the first few boats had landed, a great turn of events occurred. In the official dispatch to his superior, Cornwallis wrote: 'But at this critical moment the weather from being moderate and calm changed to a violent storm of wind and rain and drove all the boats, some of them with troops on board, down the river.'

Due to this miraculous weather change, Cornwallis was unable to complete his intended retreat and found his force divided when Washington's batteries opened at day break.

When the boats finally returned he ordered them to bring back the troops that had passed during the night. Later that day, he surrendered his forces to General Washington. This essentially marked the end of the war.

General Washington and our Congress recognized the Providence of God in the Battle of Yorktown. The journals of Congress record this entry: 'Resolved a Congress will, at 2:00 pm this day, make a procession to the Dutch Lutheran Church and return thanks to Almighty God for crowning the Allied arms of the United States and France with success by the surrender of the Earl of Cornwallis.'

And in his congratulatory order to the Allied army on the day of the surrender, General Washington concluded: 'The General congratulates the army upon the glorious events of yesterday. Divine service is to be performed tomorrow in the several brigades and divisions. The Commander-in-Chief recommends that the troops not on duty should universally attend, with that seriousness of deportment and gratitude of heart which the recognition of such reiterated and astonishing interpositions of Providence demand of us.'

COPYRIGHT (c) 1977 Cambridge Theological Seminary

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