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French Flyover is Prelude to the Upcoming Yorktown Victory Celebration


A French Air Force aerobatic team soars over the Yorktown Victory Monument in a colorful salute to this year’s Yorktown Victory Celebration. NPS photo by Mike Lynaugh Photography.

These are exciting times at the Yorktown Battlefield unit of tidewater Virginia’s Colonial National Historical Park. The 228th anniversary celebration of the British surrender to American forces at Yorktown is slated for this coming Friday-Saturday-Sunday, October 17-19.

By way of prelude, a flyover by a French Air Force aerobatic team on October 8 produced the crowd-pleasing red-white-and-blue salute shown in the accompanying photo. As every American school kid learns, the Articles of Capitulation that the British signed on October 19, 1781, not only ended the Battle of Yorktown, but also ended British hopes for putting down the American rebellion. Since a French naval blockade and infantry support played a major role in sealing the Yorktown victory, French participation in the celebration is richly deserved and warmly received as symbolic of a Franco-American friendship that dates back more than two centuries. Having a French dignitary take part in the main commemorative event is an annual tradition.

This year’s Yorktown Victory Celebration will offer three days of encampments and living history presentations, interpretive programs, exhibits, and various other commemorative activities and festivities. The actual anniversary of the Yorktown victory -- Monday, October 19 -- will feature the traditional Yorktown Day parade in historic Yorktown and a formal commemorative ceremony (called Patriotic Exercises) at the battlefield’s Yorktown Victory Monument. Yorktown Battlefield visitors will also be able to watch tactical skills demonstrations and participate in a ranger program that includes a guided battlefield tour.

For additional details and a full schedule of events, visit this site.

Postscript: Patriotic observances have been held in Yorktown every year since the British surrender. An important innovation occurred in 1922 when the Daughters of the American Revolution staged a wreath-laying ceremony that became a standard feature of the Patriotic Exercises. The laying of the wreath at the Yorktown Victory Monument, which is done in memory of all who fought and died during the siege of Yorktown, concludes the ceremony.


Observances have been held every year since the surrender? Wow. I had no idead. Did this take place during the American Civil War too?

As far as I can determine, the earliest celebrations were very small and very low key. The first formal Yorktown victory celebration, with thousands participating, was in 1824. Yorktown Day has been celebrated for over a century now, and the Yorktown Day Association has been in charge of organizing the event for the past 60 years. I have no idea what became of the victory celebration during the Civil War. Maybe a Civil War buff could help us there.

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