To have served under General Marquis de Lafayette

Gilbert du Motier Marquis de Lafayette, Wikimedia Commons

This is a story about my 5th great grandfather David Cashon and how he served as a soldier in the Revolutionary War. David was 18 years old when he enlisted to serve as a minuteman serving out of Chesterfield County, Virginia in 1775, and by the end of the war, he had the fortune of serving under General Marquis de Lafayette and also was at the Siege of Yorktown.

In 1832, David testified under oath about his time served in the war when he went before the Weakley County, Tennessee Courthouse to submit evidence of his enlistment to apply for a War Pension. This is a transcription from the pension application for my ancestor David Cashon describing his service in the Revolutionary War:

October 8, 1832, David Cashin, aged 74 years, made application before the justices of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions for Weakley County, Tennessee, for a pension under the Act of Congress passed June 7, 1832. Under oath he testified -

That in the year 1775 in Chesterfield County, Virginia, in his 18th year, he enlisted in Minute Company for 12 months. This company was separate from militia companies, and those enlisted were bound for the term of enlistment to be always in readiness on a minute’s warning to go into service.  During this enlistment in the year 1776 the company was called into service and continued for three or four months under Capt. Francis Goode and Lt. George Markham. The company marched from Chesterfield through Williamsburg and by Little York to Hampton, then by water to Portsmouth, Virginia, and remained there until its tour of duty expired. The members of the company then returned to the Militia Companies.

David Cashon listed on the West Tennessee Pension Roll 1832

David Cashon listed on the West Tennessee Pension Roll 1832

In 1778 or 1779 while still living in Chesterfield County, Virginia, he was called out, or drafted, as one of the Chesterfield County Militia. With 25 other enlisted men he was engaged for three weeks in guarding about 50 British prisoners at Chesterfield Courthouse. Robert Elam commanded the Company of Guards. He was also engaged for two weeks either before or after the guarding of the prisoners, in guarding a magazine about six miles from Chesterfield Courthouse.

January-February 1781 at the time the British first burned part of Richmond, he was again drafted in the Chesterfield Militia. Served one month. Rendezvoused opposite Richmond. Marched down the James River and discharged below Cabin Point. This service was under Capt. Haskins.

Applicant stated that at above time every man capable of bearing arms was called out.

April 1781 he was again drafted for no specific time “but as long as we were wanted out of the Militia of Chesterfield Co. against the British who had come and taken Petersburg in Virginia”. He went out under Capt. Haskins, Cols. Robertson and Betts (or Botts), and “during this time Gen. La Fayette took command of us”. Marched first to Petersburg, then to Richmond and at the end of eleven weeks were discharged in the month of June.

August 1781 was drafted again in to the Militia of Chesterfield County, for three months. Marched through Petersburg, from there crossed the James River, then through Old Williamsburg to Little York and was present at the taking of Cornwallis. In service on this draft two and a half months. He testified that he did not remember serving with any Continental officers “except Major Boice and Dick and General Muhlenburg and Lawson who were with us at Petersburg in April 1781 and took command until Lafayette took command at Richmond”. He stated that he never received a written discharge as it was not customary for the militia to get regular discharges.

David Cashon's return of weapons and equipment.

David Cashon’s return of weapons and equipment.

He asserted that he knew of no living witness by whom he might prove his service excepting Burwell Cashin and Thomas Cashon who were then living in Mecklenburg Co., N.C. whose affidavits are appended to his application as well as a receipt from the Commisary General, dated Oct. 29, 1781, showing return of three muskets and other military supplies.

Using historical documents and records of these events, I am going to highlight the timeline given in David’s account to give the reader a more thorough image of these events and to show what it would have been like during those times of the war until the final conclusion to the story with the Siege at Yorktown and the surrender of Lord Charles Cornwallis.

On January 4th, the traitor to the American cause, Benedict Arnold, landed a British army at Westover Plantations which was south of Richmond, the capital of Virginia. By the next day, he had captured and burned much of Richmond. David’s account begins, at this time of the war, with General Benedict Arnold’s burning of Richmond, Virginia on January 5th, 1781. David’s account states:

January-February 1781 at the time the British first burned part of Richmond, he was again drafted in the Chesterfield Militia. Served one month.

Rendezvoused opposite Richmond. Marched down the James River and discharged below Cabin Point. This service was under Capt. Haskins. Applicant stated that at above time every man capable of bearing arms was called out.

Benedict Arnold, Wikimedia Commons

In this section of David’s account of the burning of Richmond in January 1781, he states that he rendezvoused opposite Richmond which would be in the town of Manchester that sits on the other side of the river.

Arnold, after disembarking the army of approximately fifteen hundred soldiers, wanted to set off immediately to travel the twenty-five miles to Richmond in an attempt to surprise Thomas Jefferson, the Governor and Revolutionary Patriot, and capture him. Arnold’s soldiers wore green-coats and were called the ‘American Legion’, and they were made up of mercenaries and Continental Army deserters. Along with his infantry, he also had dragoons and some light artillery.

Arnold went with all haste to attack Richmond at about two o’clock in the afternoon and his main force arrived in Richmond at one o’clock in the afternoon on January 5th.

With this rapid advance, Governor Jefferson was warned with only a short amount of time to make arrangements, call out the militias, and also to make sure his family escaped to safety. Only two hundred Virginia Militia were able to be assembled and many of them were not armed.

The Virginia Militia tried to defend and were only able to get off one volley before Arnold’s forces were able to easily scatter them into the woods away from Richmond, and they began burning many private buildings and public storehouses that contained military supplies.

Jefferson, at first, tried to have all of the arms and other Military Stores records transported to the foundry which was five miles outside Richmond in Westham. When Jefferson learned that Arnold’s force was rapidly approaching, he attempted to have all of the records and arms moved again seven miles to the north, but he was too late and Arnold’s forces had already burned the foundry.

Arnold then tried to follow Jefferson and the Virginia leadership northwest past Westham, but Prussian Baron Friedrich Willhelm von Steuben was asked by Jefferson to  form ranks and prepare to contest Arnold’s passage, and upon seeing von Steuben’s forces in a defensive position and with some numbers, Arnold returned to Richmond, which burned throughout the night.

Battle Maps and Charts of the American Revolution by Henry Beebee Carrington Battle of Richmond pg 67

The ease at which Arnold captured and burned Richmond was seen as a failing, to some Virginians, of Thomas Jefferson because he was not militarily prepared for the attack upon the city. The militia was not called out in time to have the numbers to effectively defend the town, and also for not getting the military stores away in time before they were burned at the foundry.

It was said that many of the militia did not show up after the call because they believed they had already served their maximum amount of time.

Unfortunately, this did not help the town because only two hundred militia were able to be gathered in Manchester. However, Baron von Steuben was able to send a message to have one hundred and fifty continental soldiers from Petersburg move out towards Manchester at all haste.

Arnold moved out his forces from Richmond and burned many buildings and military stores south of Richmond at Chesterfield, and arrived at Westover the next day at noon. He then proceeded to march down the James River, looting and burning villages, and on January 19th, he arrived at Portsmouth to establish a base of operations.

General Muhlenberg, who was sent by General Washington to Virginia in 1780 to take command, proceeded to organize the forces in the area and effectively blockaded Arnold’s forces at Portsmouth.

Here is Thomas Jefferson’s account from a letter he wrote to General Washington on January 10th:

TO HIS EXCELLENCY General Washington.

Richmond, January 10, 1781.

Sir,

It may seem odd, considering the important events which have taken place in this State within the course of ten days, that I should not have transmitted an account of them to your Excellency; but such has been their extraordinary rapidity, and such the unremitted attention they have required from all concerned in government, that I do not recollect the portion of time which I could have taken to commit them to paper.

Thomas Sully, Portrait of General George Washington, 1842, Wikimedia Commons

On the 31st of December, a letter from a private gentleman to General Nelson came to my hands, notifying, that in the morning of the preceding day, twenty-seven sail of vessels had entered the Capes; and from the tenor of the letter, we had reason to expect, within a few hours, further intelligence; whether they were friends or foes, their force, and other circumstances. We immediately despatched General Nelson to the lower country, with powers to call on the militia in that quarter, or act otherwise as exigencies should require; but waited further intelligence, before we would call for militia from the middle or upper country. No further intelligence came till the 2nd instant, when the former was confirmed; it was ascertained they had advanced up James river to Wanasqueak bay. All arrangements were immediately taken for calling in a sufficient body of militia for opposition. In the night of the 3rd, we received advice that they were at anchor opposite Jamestown; we then supposed Williamsburg to be their object. The wind, however, which had hitherto been unfavorable, shifted fair, and the tide being also in their favor, they ascended the river to Kennons’ that evening, and, with the next tide, came up to Westover, having, on their way, taken possession of some works we had at Hood’s, by which two or three of their vessels received some damage, but which were of necessity abandoned by the small garrison of fifty men placed there, on the enemy’s landing to invest the works. Intelligence of their having quitted the station at Jamestown, from which we supposed they meant to land for Williamsburg, and of their having got in the evening to Kennon’s, reached us the next morning at five o’clock, and was the first indication of their meaning to penetrate towards this place or Petersburg. As the order for drawing miliatia here had been given but two days, no opposition was in readiness. Every effort was therefore necessary, to withdraw the arms and other military stores, records, &c. from this place. Every effort was, accordingly, exerted to convey them to the foundery five miles, and to a laboratory six miles, above this place, till about sunset of that day, when we learned the enemy had come to an anchor at Westover that morning. We then knew that this, and not Petersburg was their object, and began to carry across the river every thing remaining here, and to remove what had been transported to the foundery and laboratory to Westham, the nearest crossing, seven miles above this place, which operation was continued till they had approached very near. They marched from Westover, at two o’clock in the afternoon of the 4th, and entered Richmond at one o’clock in the afternoon of the 5th. A regiment of infantry and about thirty horse continued on, without halting, to the foundery. They burnt that, the boring mill, the magazine, and two other houses, and proceeded to Westharn; but nothing being in their power there, they retired to Richmond. The next morning they burned some buildings of public and private property, with what stores remained in them, destroyed a great quantity of private stores, and about twelve o’clock, retired towards Westover, where they encamped within the Neck, the next day.

Thomas Jefferson Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division LC-USZ62-8195

The loss sustained is not yet accurately known. As far as I have been able to discover, it consisted, at this place, of about three hundred muskets, some soldiers’ clothing to a small amount, some quarter-master’s stores, of which one hundred and twenty sides of leather was the principal article, part of the artificers’ tools, and three wagons. Besides which, five brass four-pounders, which we had sunk in the river, were discovered to them, raised and carried off. At the foundery, we lost the greater part of the papers belonging to the Auditor’s office, and of the books and papers of the Council office. About five or six tons of powder, as we conjecture, was thrown into the canal, of which there will be a considerable saving by re-manufacturing it. The roof of the foundery was burned, but the stacks of chimneys and furnaces not at all injured. The boring mill was consumed. Within less than forty-eight hours from the time of their landing, and nineteen from our knowing their destination, they had penetrated thirty-three miles, done the whole injury, and retired. Their numbers, from the best intelligence I have had, are about fifteen hundred infantry, and as to their cavalry, accounts vary from fifty to one hundred and twenty; and the whole commanded by the parricide Arnold. Our militia, dispersed over a large tract of country, can be called in but slowly. On the day the enemy advanced to this place, two hundred only were embodied. They were of this town and its neighborhood, and were too few to do any thing. At this time, they are assembled in pretty considerable numbers on the south side of James river, but are not yet brought to a point. On the north side are two or three small bodies, amounting in the whole to about nine hundred men. The enemy were, at four o’clock yesterday evening, still remaining in their encampment at Westover and Berkeley Neck. In the mean while, Baron Steuben, a zealous friend, has descended from the dignity of his proper command, to direct our smallest movements. His vigilance has in a great measure supplied the want of force in preventing the enemy from crossing the river, which might have been very fatal. He has been assiduously employed in preparing equipments for the militia, as they should assemble, in pointing them to a proper object, and in other offices of a good commander. Should they loiter a little longer, and he be able to have a sufficient force, I still flatter myself they will not escape with total impunity. To what place they will point their next exertions, we cannot even conjecture. The whole country on the tide waters and some distance from them, is equally open to similar insult. I have the honor to be, with every sentiment of respect,

your Excellency’s most obedient, and most humble servant,

Th: Jefferson.

After Arnold’s forces were held at Portsmouth, Jefferson tried to turn the tables on Benedict Arnold and formulated a plan with General Muhlenberg to send out a small force to attempt to capture Arnold and would offer a five thousand guineas reward to any of the men that succeeded. Here is the letter that Jefferson sent to General Muhlenberg:

To J. P. G. Muhlenberg

Richmond, Jan. 31, 1781

General Muhlenberg, Wikimedia Commons

SIR, — Acquainted as you are with the treasons of Arnold, I need say nothing for your information, or to give you a proper sentiment of them. You will readily suppose that it is above all things desirable to drag him from those under whose wing he is now sheltered. On his march to and from this place am certain it might have been done with facility by men of enterprise & firmness. I think it may still be done though perhaps not quite so easily. Having peculiar confidence in the men from the Western side of the Mountains, I meant as soon as they should come down to get the enterprise proposed to a chosen number of them, such whose courage & whose fidelity would be above all doubt. Your perfect knowlege of those men personally, and my confidence in your discretion, induce me to ask you to pick from among them proper characters, in such number as you think best, to reveal to them our desire, & engage them to undertake to seize and bring off this greatest of all traitors. Whether this may be best effected by their going in as friends & awaiting their opportunity, or otherwise is left to themselves. The smaller the number the better; so that they be sufficient to manage him. Every necessary caution must be used on their part, to prevent a discovery of their design by the enemy, as should they be taken, the laws of war will justify against them the most rigorous sentence. I will undertake if they are successful in bringing him off alive, that they shall receive five thousand guineas reward among them. And to men formed for such an enterprise it must be a great incitement to know that their names will be recorded with glory in history with those of Vanwert, Paulding & Williams. The enclosed order from Baron Steuben will authorize you to call for & dispose of any force you may think necessary, to place in readiness for covering the enterprise & securing the retreat of the party. Mr. Newton the bearer of this, & to whom its contents are communicated in confidence, will provide men of trust to go as guides. These may be associated in the enterprise or not, as you please; but let that point be previously settled that no difficulties may arise as to the parties entitled to participate of the reward. You know how necessary profound secrecy is in this business, even if it be not undertaken.

After getting a message stating that General Washington was sending Major-General Lafayette with twelve hundred New England Continental troops to help Virginia with Arnold’s invasion, Jefferson wrote a letter to the Major-General:

Lafayette Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division LC-DIG-pga-03677

To Major-General Marquis De LaFayette

Richmond, March 10th, 1781

SIR, — Intending that this shall await your arrival in this State I with great joy welcome you on that event. I am induced to from the very great esteem your personal character and the Hopes I entertain of your relieving us from our enemy within this State. Could any circumstances have rendered your presence more desirable or more necessary it is the unfortunate one which obliges me to enclose you the enclosed papers.

I trust that your future Acquaintance with the Executive of the State will evince to you that among their faults is not to be counted a want of dispostion to second the views of the Commander against our common Enemy. We are too much interested in the present scene & have too much at stake to leave a doubt on that Head. Mild Laws, a People not used to prompt obedience, a want of provisions of War & means of procuring them render our orders often ineffectual, oblige us to temporise & when we cannot accomplish an object in one way to attempt it in another. Your knowledge of these circumstances with a temper to accommodate them ensure me your coöperation in the best way we can, when we shall be able to pursue the way we would wish.

I still hope you will find our preparations not far short of the Information I took the Liberty of giving you in my letter of the 8th instant. I shall be very happy to receive your first Applications for whatever may be necessary for the public service and to convince you of our disposition to promote it as far as the Abilities of the State and Powers of the Executive will enable us.

David, being a minuteman, served in the defense of Richmond for one month before he was sent home to be ready again at a minutes notice, and as it turned out, he was called out again in April under Captain Haskins to defend Petersburg:

April 1781 he was again drafted for no specific time “but as long as we were wanted out of the Militia of Chesterfield Co. against the British who had come and taken Petersburg in Virginia”. He went out under Capt. Haskins, Cols. Robertson and Betts (or Botts), and “during this time Gen. La Fayette took command of us”. Marched first to Petersburg, then to Richmond and at the end of eleven weeks were discharged in the month of June.

With Arnold’s small force under siege at Portsmouth, General Clinton sent General Phillips with two thousand troops to the rescue. After landing at Portsmouth and assuming command, Phillips and Arnold marched their armies up the James River towards Richmond on April 18th.

Battle Maps and Charts of the American Revolution by Henry Beebee Carrington Battle of Petersburg pg 67

General von Steuben, who was in charge of the American forces until General Lafayette arrived, was waiting for them at Blandford with General Muhlenberg, outside Petersburg, when they arrived on April 25th, and with one hundred militiamen against twenty-five hundred British troops, Steuben was able to hold out for several hours before they were pushed across the Pocahontas Bridge on the Appomattox River.

These militia forces were able to destroy the bridge, buying them some time as they fell back to the Chesterfield County Courthouse, which was Steuben’s headquarters. Even though they lost the town, the militia proved they were up to the task by holding out as long as they did, which bought them the much needed time to reach Richmond.

On April 27th, Phillips reached Chesterfield and burned the Courthouse that was used to marshal much of the militia in the area, and Arnold attacked Osborne’s Landing, fifteen miles south from Richmond, where he encountered a small Virginia fleet that was in dock and sank nine merchant vessels.

To the American’s good fortune, General Lafayette arrived with his small force on the evening of April 29th, to take over from General von Steuben and to defend Richmond. Although he was outnumbered, Lafayette attempted to confuse Phillips and Arnold by spreading out his forces in a long front to make it appear he had many more soldiers than he really had.

When Phillips and Arnold arrived at Manchester on April 30th and seeing that Lafayette had already occupied the high ground, Phillips, believing that he was fighting a much larger force, decided to withdraw back towards Portsmouth, burning and looting on the way back. While marching back, Phillips received a letter from Lord Cornwallis telling him to join with his army at Petersburg, and upon reading the letter, he turned the army around and entered Petersburg again on May 9th.

To the misfortune of the British, Phillips fell ill at Petersburg and died from fever on May 13th leaving Arnold in charge once again.

On May 20th, Lord Cornwallis arrived and took command from Arnold at Petersburg, and he marched out to meet up at Westover with two thousand reinforcements that were sent by General Clinton in New York. By the 26th, he was just three miles from Richmond. Cornwallis had approximately eight thousand troops and outnumbered Lafayette by three to one.

Governor Jefferson, who had set up the temporary capital at Charlottesville, dispatched a letter to General Washington informing him of Virginia’s dangerous development:

Thomas Jefferson Wikimedia Commons

To George Washington

Charlottesville, May 28th, 1781

SIR, — I make no doubt you will have heard, before this shall have the honour of being presented to your Excellency, of the junction of Ld Cornwallis with the force at Petersburg under Arnold, who had succeeded to the command on the death of Majr. Genl Phillips. I am now advised that they have evacuated Petersburg, joined at Westover a reinforcement of 2000 men just arrived from New york, crossed James River, and on the 26th instant, were three miles advanced on their way towards Richmond; at which place Majr Genl the Marquis Fayette, lay with three thousand men Regulars and militia: these being the whole number we could arm, until the arrival of the 1100 arms from Rhode Island, which are about this time at the place where our Public stores are deposited. The whole force of the Enemy within this State, from the best intelligence I have been able to get, is I think about 7000 men, infantry and cavalry, including, also, the small garrison left at Portsmouth: a number of privateers, which are constantly ravaging the Shores of our rivers, prevent us from receiving any aid from the Counties lying on navigable waters; and powerful operations meditated against our Western frontier, by a joint force of British, and Indian Savages, have as your Excellency before knew, obliged us to embody, between two and three thousand men in that quarter. Your Excellency will judge from this State of things, and from what you know of our country, what it may probably suffer during the present campaign. Should the Enemy be able to produce no opportunity of annihilating the Marquis’s army a small proportion of their force may yet restrain his movements effectually while the greater part employed in detachment to waste an unarmed country and lead the minds of the people to acquiesce under those events which they see no human power prepared to ward off. We are too far removed from the other scenes of war to say whether the main force of the Enemy be within this State. But I suppose they cannot anywhere spare so great an army for the operations of the field. Were it possible for this circumstance to justify in your Excellency a determination to lend us your personal aid, it is evident from the universal voice, that the presence of their beloved Countryman, whose talents have so long been successfully employed, in establishing the freedom of kindred States, to whose person they have still flattered themselves they retained some right and have ever looked up as their dernier resort in distress. That your appearance among them I say would restore full confidence of salvation, and would render them equal to whatever is not impossible. I cannot undertake to foresee and obviate the difficulties which lie in the way of such a resolution: The whole subject is before you of which I see only detached parts; and your judgment will be formed on a view of the whole. Should the danger of this State and its consequence to the Union be such as to render it best for the whole that you should repair to its assistance the difficulty would be how to keep men out of the field. I have undertaken to hint this matter to your Excellency not only on my own sense of its importance to us but at the solicitations of many members of weight in our Legislature which has not yet Assembled to speak their own desires.

A few days will bring to me that relief which the constitution has prepared for those oppressed with the labours of my office and a long declared resolution of relinquishing it to abler hands has prepared my way for retirement to a private station: still as an individual I should feel the comfortable effects of your presence, and have (what I thought could not have been) an additional motive for that gratitude, esteem, & respect with which I have the honour to be, your Excellency’s most obedient humble servant.

Lafayette had all of the arms and ammunition depots in Richmond moved out and hidden in the hills to keep them from being taken by the British, and because he knew he could not win a pitched battle with Cornwallis, he decided to use his forces speed of movement to outmaneuver the much larger and much slower army.

Moving north and leaving an empty Richmond for the British, Lafayette stayed just out of reach of Cornwallis and set his snipers to hit the British vanguard whenever they came into view and then falling back again without being seen. This wild goose chase that Lafayette employed against Lord Cornwallis was a guerrilla style of fighting, and nothing like the European style of fighting that the British were trained, but it was very effective at demoralizing the British, and bought time for Lafayette while also allowing him to protect his troops.

1781 Virginia campaigns, Wikimedia Commons

Cornwallis chased Lafayette farther and farther north, away from Richmond, and when Lafayette crossed the Rapidan River at Ely’s Ford, Cornwallis sent out two raiding parties. One under Colonel Simcoe to destroy the American magazines at the mouth of the Rivanna, and the second, using Tarleton’s cavalry that was beaten at the Battle of Cowpens, was sent to try to capture Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia Leadership in Charlottesville. Colonel Simcoe succeeded in destroying the American magazines, but a warning was sent to Jefferson and they were able to escape just in time. Tarleton tried to follow them into the mountains but when he saw militia forming to defend the mountain passes, he decided that dispersing the State Legislator would do and decided not to press his luck, and returned to Cornwallis.

Word came to Lafayette that reinforcements were on there way from the northern army that would be commanded by General Wayne. They arrived between the 8th and the 10th of June, and in the book, The American Revolution in the Southern Colonies, by David Lee Russell, he states that with the arrival of Wayne’s reinforcements, “Now Lafayette commanded a rather formidable army. Wayne’s Brigade of Pennsylvania Continentals consisted of three regiments of approximately 1000 men under Colonels Richard Butler, Walter Stewart and Richard Humpton, and Proctor’s Fourth Continental Artillery, made up of nine officers and 90 men. On June 13 another 600 riflemen commanded by Brigadier General William Campbell of the Virginia Militia joined with Lafayette. Another 425 Virginia Continentals under veteran Colonel Christian Febiger arrived. With Lafayette were 2100 men of the three brigades of the Virginia Militia under generals Campbell, Edward Stevens and Robert Lawson. With the Second Artillery and 120 dragoons, Lafayette’s army totaled over 4500 men.”

First Marquis of Cornwallis, Wikimedia Commons

It was at this time that Cornwallis received a message from General Clinton informing him to take his army to the coast to await transport back to New York, because General Clinton was sure that George Washington was planning to attack New York. Seeing that Cornwallis was moving away towards the coast, Lafayette set off to follow at a safe distance.

In the month of June, Lafayette followed Cornwallis’ army back towards Richmond and to the coast near Portsmouth, and on August 1st, Cornwallis stationed his army at Yorktown to await the British Navy, and the British immediately began fortifying the town, along with the adjacent promontory of Gloucester Point across the York River.

Lafayette placed his army away from the town to guard for any breakout that Cornwallis may attempt and sent messages to General Washington informing him about Yorktown.

David was sent home late in June after eleven weeks of service, but when Cornwallis posted his army at Yorktown, he was called out again to join Lafayette’s army that was guarding the town:

August 1781 was drafted again in to the Militia of Chesterfield County, for three months. Marched through Petersburg, from there crossed the James River, then through Old Williamsburg to Little York and was present at the taking of Cornwallis. In service on this draft two and a half months. He testified that he did not remember serving with any Continental officers “except Major Boice and Dick and General Muhlenburg and Lawson who were with us at Petersburg in April 1781 and took command until Lafayette took command at Richmond”. He stated that he never received a written discharge as it was not customary for the militia to get regular discharges.

Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau, Marechal De France (1725-1807) Wikimedia Commons

On August 14th, Washington and the French General Rochambeau learned that French Admiral Count de Grasse had a large battle fleet and army of three thousand troops, and he was sailing for the Chesapeake Bay. They were told by Admiral de Grasse that the French fleet would be available for only a short time before the storm season, so they decided the best course of action was to sail the fleet to blockade Yorktown, and on August 19th, they secretly began to move their armies south to lay siege to the town and surround Cornwallis. Washington’s army had twenty-five hundred troops and Rochambeau had four thousand.

The British Navy, under Admiral Thomas Graves, sailed out to stop de Grasse from blockading the town and on September 5th, the two navies met off the coast of Yorktown in what has become known as the Battle of the Virginia Capes. The French Navy defeated the British fleet in a decisive victory, removing any doubts that Cornwallis was indeed trapped at Yorktown, while the battered British fleet struggled back to New York.

On September 14th, Washington and Rochambeau arrived in Williamsburg where they met Lafayette to plan the encirclement of Yorktown, and they were able to accomplish this on September 28th.

One of the soldiers that came with Washington’s army, Sergeant Joseph Plume Martin, kept a diary and wrote about his thoughts on the siege, “We prepared to move down and pay our old acquaintance, the British, at Yorktown, a visit. I doubt not but their wish was not to have so many of us come at once as their accommodations were rather scanty. They thought ‘the fewer the better cheer’. We thought, ‘the more the merrier’. We had come a long way to see them and were unwilling to be put off with excuses.”

On one evening, Cornwallis attempted to disrupt the French blockade by sending seven fire ships down the James River, and even though it caused a great commotion, they caused little damage to the French ships.

As the weeks passed in the siege, the American’s cannons were getting closer and closer as the encirclement of trenches tightened. This was one of the few times they had the advantage of firepower over the British and they took full advantage of the situation. Washington was not ready to attempt an attack against the British fortifications because of the danger to the troops, so he planned an attack on two of the British redoubts they had labeled nine and ten, that were defending the town, on the night of October 14th.

Plan of the Battle of Yorktown, Wikimedia Commons

The French would attack redoubt number nine with four hundred soldiers, and Lafayette and a young officer named Alexander Hamilton, with four hundred soldiers as well, would lead the American’s attack on redoubt number ten. This was to be a bayonet charge and they were not given ammunition, so their charge had to be effective to succeed.

The attacks were successful with the Americans taking their redoubt in just thirty minutes and the French attack won their objective not too much longer than the Americans did. By the next morning, the cannons were placed closer to the walls of the town, putting Cornwallis in a very difficult position to be able to maintain the integrity of his position and also of his army.

Knowing that he was in an untenable situation with no hope of escape or rescue, General Cornwallis surrendered on October 19th. When the British and Hessian troops marched out to the field to surrender their weapons, the British band played the song, ‘The World Turned Upside Down‘.

Lord Cornwallis had suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the French and the Americans, and because of this victory, the war would soon be over.

Surrender of Lord Cornwallis by John Trumbull Wikimedia Commons

Soon afterwards, David Cashon was allowed to return home, and after he returned home on October 29th, he returned three muskets and his other military supplies to his headquarters. The war was over for him and it was truly a happy time to be an American.

In 1824, David Cashon was able to use the Land Grant promised to him and the other veterans of the Revolutionary War in the Weakley County, Tennessee area of the Jackson Purchase, near the Kentucky border. The town of Dukedom, Kentucky was created soon after, and it is from this area that my family settled and spread throughout Western Kentucky and Western Tennessee. To have served under General Lafayette must have been truly an honor, and it must also have been a wonderful tale to tell the grandchildren by the fire on cold, winter nights.

 

David Cashon US Pensioners 1832 Document

David Cashon US Pensioners 1832 Document

The Battle of the Virginia Capes proved to be one of the most important occurrences that helped the Americans win the Revolutionary War.

Check out my Cashon Family History Page on this blog showing my line to David Cashon.

 

10 thoughts on “To have served under General Marquis de Lafayette

  1. This is a wonderful story. I felt as if I were “watching” two different “movies”: one of David Cashin sitting in a court room as an older gentleman, the other, I am transported to the story of the taking of Richmond in the Revolutionary War.

  2. I am delighted to have run across your story. David Cashon is my ancestor also. My branch came to North Texas sometime before 1900. My sisters and I went to Cashon reunion in Ky 18′or so years ago. Look forward to following your musings. Jane Cashon Willard. Celina Tx

  3. HI! I have recently found out that Mr. David Cashon is an ancestor! I would love to learn more about him and the Cashon family. I really enjoyed the above post. And I would also love to know if the book referenced on your family history page is available.
    -Daphne Cashion

    • Hi Daphne, It is very nice meeting you. Thank you for reading my story about our family. I sent you a reply to your message on Ancestry.com about my book. Look forward to hearing from you.
      John

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