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1781, March Date, Wednesday, Oct. 11, March Day 117

Greetings all Friends and Patriots...

The entire world has changed since I last wtote to you, just a week ago. I would have written you sooner, but we have been very busy here. And there is so much to share with you as we French, and Americans, start to put the hold on Ole' Corny, here in the Town of York.

It seems, about some 5 days ago now, that we were ready to start putting a siege operation into effect against the British Garrison, at York. It was that day that we starting to dig the trenches. Aye, and a right good dig it has been. Tis perhaps the first time that diggin' of a trench might cause a man joy, but tis true, it did, indeed. Dare'st I say that we might have whistled up a tune to help the exertions along. That was on the 6th of October, as dark settled, that we starting the shoveling, one shovel at a time...dig the trench, build the redoubt, dig the trench, build the redoubt.

We are some 500 to 600 yards from the British lines now, with the trenching, a parallel line to the British defense works, starting to stretch across the land. So many men, at work, with joyful, but terrible anticipation. There is the occasional shot from the British of course, enough to remind us to keep oour heads down. But at this distance, tis not mauch damage to be done by the stray and errant musket ball. More just a reminder that this may, and will, be very dangerous, very soon....

Another joyful note also sounded that same day when word of the Allied Wagon train's arrival here. We started to see the Wagon train on the evening of the 6th, with most of it arriving on the next day, the 7th of October. Ah, the stores and equipment so needed to succor the men and conduct the siege operation are now in place, and being distributed to all. A spirit of almost joy, or glee, has indeed infected the entire Army. The smile and determination on the faces of the men, the dirt and grime of the work, have elevated the spirit of all of us. The redoubts get taller, the trenches get deeper, by the hour. Dig the trench, build the redoubt...

It seems the British didn't even know that the siege had begun, until daybreak of the 7th. It reminded us of when, so many years ago now, in 76, that some of us had dug in the cannon from Fort Ticonderoga, secured by the son-of-a-bitch Arnold, at Boston. We dug in that entire cannon line, overnight, about a month after Gen. Knox had conducted the cannon train, from Ticonderoga to Cambridge.... what a tek that was! Oh, the stories.... That action made the British retire from Boston on March 17th of that year, after waking up to see the cannon surroundeing the fleet at Boston Harbor. Ah the joy of good memories.

The men are all atalk about actions like that, that lift our spirits.. Tis funny how the days of the calendar seem to work.... my journal now seems to tell me that Cormwallis started his retreat , after his defeat at Guilford Courthouse, in the Carolinas, toward this hole we have him in now, 5 years and day after the British pulled out, or should I say, evacuated Boston. Ah, the hopeful glory of it all.....

We see that the British are fully aware of what seems to be happening, and the coming days shall certainly make them more aware. We can hardly contain ourselves and the Officers are much full of work to keep the men from just scrambling down upon the Brits. Our excitement seems to almost get the beter of us at times, but tis not the time to be foolish or going off on some fools errand. Best to listen to the Officers, keep our heads down, and do the work of war.... dig the trench, built the redoubt, eat, work, sleep......

Huzzah, the glory of the first cannon shot. HUZZAH, HUZZAH, HUZZAHHHHH! The men are cheering, as the French Cannon, on our left, the British right, finally let the ball aloose into the sky and into the British lines. We are told that the first shot is touched off by General Washington, from the battery of the Comte Saint-Simon. This happened in mid-afternoon, on the 9th of Oct., at about three of the clock, and the entire Army came alive with a'cheer, and much raucous shouting and fist waving. The joy of the men, the entire unbelieveability of the momnent, has rendered us but slaves to an emotional build-up, to tears of joy, frustration and relief. Perhaps now the English Lion will feel the wrath of it's actions...... that was two days ago, and we continue to kep the cannonade alive as bes we can. the din of the cannons, constantly firing, has us numb....

By the next day, Oct. 10th, just yesterday, if my mind is still working, the cannon now firing into the British works number some 46 pieces, going day and night. It seems we have infklicted much damage to the British works as their rate of return fire seems to be but only, perhaps, six rounds an hour. A feeble effort so far, have we been that good with our own shot? We the French are superb gunners, and the fleet guns, manned by the sailors, are particularly accurate, it sems. Must be much easier to fire from a stationary ground gun than from a gun twitching in the high seas, aboard a man-of-war, methinks....

Also, yesterday, about noon, a flag of truce appeared from the British works... we know not what was said, but the decison has been made to continue the bombardment. We were able to destroy some 3 or 4 British ships, via the cannon fire, as well, on this day.

Today, or should I say, this evening, shortly after dusk, we started digging again, more the work of war, dig the trench, build the redoubt. Methinks that a second line of trenching, much closer to the British works, is now underway. I am finally having a moment of rest so that I might get this missive to you before I am back on the line. A good night's sleep, almost impossible with the thunder of the guns is much needed. I am so weary that it shall not make any difference how loud the cannonade is......

It looks as if we are digging in preparation for an assault on the British Redoubts, Nos. 9 and 10 on the southeast side of York. Perhaps, when they are secured, t'will allow us complete the second, and closer parallel to the British defense works. Tis how it works, you see, we move on the diagonal trenching to get closer to the British line. Then when we are closer, and satisfied, we dig the parallel trench. Moving in the diagonal keeps us safe from the British fire, until we are close enought to consider the parallel trench....... the work of war, dig the trench, build the redoubt. As we dig the trench, we put the earth toward the enemy side to help protect us from sniper fire, and the errant or well aimed musket ball.....

We now seem to have a good listing of the British enemy within York. It has taken some time for us to get this information, as you might imagine.....

With Gen. Cornwallis Commanding,
the headquarters staff seems to be of the 17th Light Dragoons and British Marines

British Artillery
The Roayl Regiment of Artillery, with much help from the sailors of scuttled ships also manning the guns

British Infantry Brigade, under the Command of Gen. O'Hara
Brigade of Foots Guards

Light Infantry Brigade of Two battalions...Commanded by Col. Abercrombie...
1st Battalion of Light Companies, from the British 4th, 15th, 17th, 23rd, 27th, 33rd, and 38th Foot
2nd Battalion from the 37th, 40th, 43rd, 45th, 49th, 55th, 63rd, and 71st Foot, and the 82nd Foot

1st Infantry Brigade, commanded by Col. Yorke 0f 22nd Foot
Made up of units of the 17th, 23rd, 33rd & 71st Foot (2nd Batalion)
2nd Infantry Brigade, commanded by Col. dundas of the 80th Foot
made up of unitsof the 43rd, 76th and 80th Foot

German Infantry
Anspatch-Bayreuth Contingent
Commanding, Col. Voigt, included the 1st and 2nd Regimetn and an Artillery Company Hesse-Kassel Contingent
Commanding Col. von Fuchs, included the Erb Prinz, von Bose Regts., a Jaeger Company and an Artillery Company

Loyalists Companies
Queen's Rangers
British Legion
North Carolina Volunteers
Pioneers and other

Tis the best of the listing that we can secure at the moment, given the hard circumstances here. Will write again soonest..... pray for us.

I Remain,
At Your Service,
Richard Swartwout
For, 'AMtY'
www.marchtoyorktown.com