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Robert Treat Paine Papers, Volume 4

From David Cobb
Cobb, David RTP
Head Quarters near York Virginia, Octr. 28th. 1781 1 My Dear Sir,

My not writing you heretofore has not been owing to a want of an affectionate remembrance of you & your Family, but to a proper oppertunity & a certain mode of conveyance.

You must be informed before this, of the interesting Event that has taken place in this Quarter, which I should have informed you of at the 173 time, but the dispatches for Congress were sent so suddenly, that I had only a moment just to inform Governor Hancock. As Lord Cornwallis2 surrendered, at least, seven days sooner than we expected, I will give you some of the perticulars of our Operations; on the 8th. inst., after great exertions & fatigue in bringing up our heavy Artillery & Stores, we opened our first Batteries upon his Lordship; these required finishing; and putting our first Parallel in a proper state of defence, detained us ’till the evening of the 14th., when two of the enemy’s advanced Redoubts, thro’ which we intended runing our second parallel, were stormed & carryed, and our second parallel, together with all its communications, were compleated by morning; most of the two following days were employed in erecting Batteries on our advanced parallel; soon after they were compleated & we had opened sixty peices of Artillery. His Lordship, on the morning of the 17th., sent a flag, which was the first that had passed, with proposals for the surrendery of the Posts of York & Gloucester—Hostilities ceased—after an interchange of Flags, by which the principles of the surrendery were explained. Commissioners were appointed on the 18th to settle the Articles, & on the 19th at 2 o’clock, A.M. recte P.M., the British Army marched out & grounded their Arms. Most joyfull day!— Most of the Officers are paroled for Europe, and their Troops marched, three days after their captivity, for their lodgement at Winchester in this State. The British Army, including Officers, is above 7000, & a thousand naval prisoners. We have taken 2000 suits of cloaths, 75 pieces of Brass Artillery & 141 Iron, together with a quantity of powder & other military Stores, not forgitting the Military Chest with 2000£ Sterling in it, & 9000 stands of Arms, about 60 sail of vessels including a Frigate & Sloop War, all which belong to the French; a 40 Gun Ship was burned by us, in the Siege. This is the greatest blow our Enemies have received during the War, more perticularly as it has happened in that part of the Continent they tho’t themselves perfectly secure of, & must, with a continuance of our exertions, soon put us in possession of our wished for Peace. Arrangements are now forming for the future disposal of the Troops, and I suppose those Troops that belong Northward will soon march for their old position on the Hudson. His Excellency will return with them. General Greene will be reinforced; and Count Rochambeau3 with his Army will perhaps remain in this State. Count de Grasse4 with the first Fleet in the World will, if the British dare face him, give them another floging, and then persue the Orders of his Master. I can’t write you any more. 175 Give my Love to Mrs. Paine & Family & remembrance to all Friends—don’t forgit honest Joe. You will probably hear from me again when I come a little nearer to you—at present I am out of the World. My best wishes attend you, and

believe me ever Your sincere Friend David Cobb

Let Mrs. Cobb know, if I don’t write her by this conveyance, that I love her still & am well.

RC ; addressed: “The Honble. Robert Treat Paine Esqr. Attorney Genll. of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Boston”; endorsed.


RTP noted in his diary for Oct. 26: “News came that Cornwallis had Surrendred to Genl. Washington, on 17th. Instant.” He recorded the public celebrations on Nov. 5: “Rejoicing for the Capture of Genl. Lord Cornwallis & all his Army on the 19th. ulto. Prayers & Anthems in South Meeting Old Brick & Old North: at noon met in Council Chamber, dind with Govr. Hancock & Officers of French & American Army Council & Civil Officers, at Marston’s by Invitn. of Govr. Evng. to Govr. House. Fireworks, so windy it was not safe to fire the Pile erected for a Bonfire.”


Gen. Charles Cornwallis (1738–1805) was a career soldier in the British army and arrived in America in 1776 at the head of seven regiments. He was active in numerous battles in New Jersey and Virginia and is remembered as “a good commissary general, if a flawed strategist” but chiefly as the British commander who surrendered at Yorktown in 1781. He later served as the first governor-general of India and lord lieutenant of Ireland (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography).


Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau (1725–1807) was a career officer with the French army. When King Louis XVI decided to militarily support the American army, he chose Rochambeau to lead the expeditionary force which would serve under Washington. The combined armies of Washington and Rochambeau arrived in Virginia in Sept. 1781 and began the siege of Yorktown, which effectively ended the war. Rochambeau returned to France in 1783. He was imprisoned for six months during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror but survived to die in retirement at his country estate (American National Biography).


François-Joseph-Paul, Comte de Grasse (1722–1788) was admiral of the French convoy of some 150 vessels, which arrived in the Caribbean in late Apr. 1781 and put into port in July to find a request from General Rochambeau for military and naval assistance. By the end of Aug., the fleet reached Chesapeake Bay and engaged the British navy off the Virginia Capes. The French fleet then enforced the siege of Yorktown and thus was highly influential in the eventual surrender. After Yorktown, de Grasse returned to the West Indies but suffered a massive defeat there by the British navy in 1782 and was forced into retirement (American National Biography).