Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 937 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
YORKTOWN, a town and the county-seat of York county, Virginia, U.S.A., on the York river Io m. from its mouth, and about 6o m. E.S.E. of Richmond. Pop. (191o) 136. It is served by the Baltimore, Chesapeake & Richmond steamship line, and about 61 m. distant is Lee Hall, a station on the Chesapeake & Ohio railway. Large deposits of marl near the town are used for the manufacture of cement. In the main street is the oldest custom-house in the United States, and the house of Thomas Nelson (1938-1789), a signer of the Declaration of Independence. In commemoration of the surrender of Lord Cornwallis in October 1781, there is a monument of Maine granite (too ft. 6 in. high) designed by R. M. Hunt and J. Q. A. Ward; its corner-stone was laid in 1881 during the centennial celebration of the surrender, and it was completed in 1883. Yorktown was founded in 1691, as a port of entry for York county. It became the county-seat in 1696, and although it never had more than about 200 houses its trade was considerable until it was ruined by the War of Independence. In that war the final victory of the Americans and their French allies took place at Yorktown. Baffled by General Nathanael Greene in his campaign in the Carolinas, his diminished force (fewer than 1400) sadly in need of reinforcement, and persuaded that the more southern colonies could not be held until Virginia had been reduced, Lord Cornwallis marched out of Wilmington, N. Carolina, April 25th, 1781, arrived at Petersburg, Virginia, on May loth, and there with the troops which had been under William Phillips and Benedict Arnold and with further reinforcements from New York raised his army to more than 7000 men. Facing him in Richmond was Lafayette, whom Washington had sent earlier in the year with a small force of light infantry to check Arnold, and who had now been placed in command of all the American troops in Virginia. Cornwallis's first attempt was to prevent the union of Lafayette and General Anthony Wayne. Failing in this, he retired down the James in the hope, it is thought, of receiving further reinforcements from General Henry Clinton. Clinton, who had not approved Cornwallis's plan against Virginia, at first ordered him to send a portion of his troops to aid in the defence of New York; but as other reinforcements came to New York, and as the home government approved Cornwallis's plan, Clinton resolved to establish a permanent base in the Chesapeake and directed Cornwallis to fortify a post for the protection of the British navy. Cornwallis seized Yorktown and Gloucester early in August and immediately began to fortify them. While Cornwallis was marching from N. Carolina to Virginia, Washington learned that a large French fleet under Count de Grasse was to come up from the West Indies in the summer and for a brief period co-operate with the American and French Yorktown armies. At a conference (May 21st) at Wethersfield, campaign, Connecticut, with the French commanders, Washington cam 171 favoured a plan for a joint attack on New York when De Grasse should arrive. An attack on the British ih Virginia was, however, considered, and the minutes of the conference with some suggestions from Rochambeau having been sent to De Grasse, he announced in a letter received the 14th of August that he should sail for the Chesapeake for united action against Cornwallis. About the same time Washington learned from Lafayette that Cornwallis was fortifying Yorktown. Sir Samuel Hood with 14 ships-of-the-line arrived at the Chesapeake from the West Indies three days ahead of De Grasse, and proceeding to New York warned Admiral Thomas Graves of the danger. Graves took command of the combined fleet, 19 ships-of-the-line, and on the 31st of August sailed for the Chesapeake in the hope of preventing the union of the French fleet from Newport, under Count de Barras, with that under De Grasse. He arrived at the Chesapeake ahead of De Barras, but after an encounter with De Grasse alone (September 5th), who had 24 ships-of-the-line, hewas obliged to return to New York to refit, and the French were left in control of the coast. Leaving only about 4000 men to guard the forts on the Hudson, Washington set out for Virginia with the remainder of his army immediately after learning of De Grasse's plan, and the French land forces followed. The French fleet transported the allied army from the head of the Chesapeake to the vicinity of Williamsburg, and on the 28th of September it marched to Yorktown. Receiving, on the same day, a despatch from Clinton promising relief, and fearing the enemy might out-flank him, Cornwallis abandoned his outposts during the following night and withdrew to his inner defences, consisting of sever, redoubts and six batteries connected by intrenchments, besides batteries along the river bank. The allies, 16,000 strong, took possession of the abandoned posts and closed in on the town in a semicircle extending from Wormley Creek below it to about a mile above it, the Americans holding the right and the French the left. On the night of October 5th–6th the allies opened the first parallel about 600 yds. from the British works, and extending from a deep ravine on the N.W. to the river bank on the S.E., a distance of nearly 2 m. Six days later the second parallel was begun within 300 yds. of the British lines, and it was practically completed on the night of the 14th and 15th, when two British redoubts were carried by assault, one by the Americans led by Alexander Hamilton and one by the French led by Lieut.-Colonel G. de Deux-Ponts. In the morning of the 16th Cornwallis ordered Lieut.-Colonel Abercrombie to make an assault on two French batteries. I-Ie carried them and spiked eleven guns, but they were recovered and the guns were ready for service again twelve hours later. On the night of the 16th and 17th Cornwallis attempted to escape with his army to Gloucester on the opposite side of the river, but a storm ruined what little chance of success there was in this venture. In grave danger of an assault from the allies, Cornwallis offered to surrender on the 17th; two days later his whole army, consisting of 7073 officers and men, was surrendered, and American Independence was practically assured. The British loss during the siege was about 156 killed and 326 wounded; the American and French losses were 85 killed and 199 wounded. In 1862 the Confederate defences about Yorktown were besieged for a month (April 4-May 3) by the Army of the Potomac under General AVClellan. There was no intention on the part of the Confederate commander-in-chief, Joseph Johnston, to do more than gain time by holding Yorktown and the line of the Warwick river as long as possible without serious fighting, and without imperilling the line of retreat en Richmond; and when after many delays M`Clellan was in a position to assault with full assistance from his heavy siege guns, the Confederates fell back on Williamsburg. See T. N. Page, " Old Yorktown," in Scribner's Magazine (October, 1881) ; H. P. Johnston, The Yorktown Campaign and tke Surrender of Cornwallis (New York, 1881) ; A. S. Webb, The Peninsular Campaign (New York, 1882); and J. C. Ropes, Story of the Civil War, vol. ii. YORUBAS; YORUBALAND. The Yoruba, a group of Negro tribes, have given their name to an extensive area in West Africa, in the hinterland of Lagos. The Yoruba are of true Negro stock, in many respects typical of the race, but among them are found persons with lighter skins and features recalling the Hamitic or Semitic peoples. This arises, in all probability, from an infiltration of Berber and Arab blood through the Fula (q.v.). The Yoruba themselves have traditions of an Oriental origin. They are divided into many tribes, among the best known being the Oyo=Yoruba proper, the Egba, Jebu, Ife and Ibadan. They are sometimes called by the French Nago, and are known to the Sierra Leonis, many of whom are of Yoruba descent, as Aku. A considerable proportion of the American negroes are also said to he of Yoruba origin. For a long period the Yoruba were raided by the Dahomeyans and other coast tribes, to sell as slaves to the white traders. They are both an urban and agricultural people. Pottery, weaving, tanning, dyeing, and forging are among their industries. The houses of chiefs, often containing fifty rooms, are well built, and decorated with carvings representing symbolic devices, fabulous animals and scenes of war or the chase. The Yoruba have considerable administrative ability. Their system of government places the power in a council of elders pre-sided over by a chief who owes his position to a combination of the principles of heredity and election.' The ruling chief must ' R. E. Dennett states that the government is based on the rule of four great chiefs who respectively represent the phases of family life, namely, (I) the deified head of the family, called Geisha; (2) the always be taken rrom the members of one of two families, the succession in many cases passing from one to the other family alternately. Primogeniture is not necessarily considered. Before the introduction of letters the Yoruba are said to have employed knotted strings for recording events. Their language, which has been reduced to writing and carefully studied, has penetrated as far E. as Kano in the Hausa country. The best known dialectic varieties are those of Egba, Jebu, Ondo, Ife, Illorin and Oyo (Yoruba proper, called also Nago) ; but the discrepancies are slight. The most marked feature, a strong tendency towards monosyllabism—produced by phonetic decay—has given rise to the principle of intonation, required to distinguish words originally different but reduced by corruption to the condition of homophones. Besides the tines, of which there are three,—high, low and middle,—Yoruba has also developed a degree of vocalic harmony, in which the vowels of the affixes are assimilated to that of the root. Inflexion, as in Bantu, is effected chiefly by prefixes; and there is a remarkable power of word-formation by the fusion of several relational elements in a single compound term. The Bible and several other books have been translated into Yoruba, which as a medium of general intercourse in West Africa ranks in importance next to Hausa and Mandingan. The Yoruba religion is that usually known as fetishism. The Yoruoa country extends from Benin on the E. to Dahomey on the W. (where it somewhat overlaps the French frontier), being bounded N. by Borgu and S. by the coastlands of Lagos. It covers about 25,000 sq. m. Most of it is included in the British protectorate of Southern Nigeria. The land is moderately elevated and a large, part of it is densely forested. It is well watered; the rivers belong mainly to the coast systems, though some drain to the Niger. The history of Yorubaland, as known to Europeans, does not go back beyond the close of the 17th century. At that time it was a powerful empire, and had indirectly come—through its connexion with Benin and Dahomey —to some extent under European influence. There was also a much slighter Moslem influence. One tradition brought the founder of the nation from Bornu. The Yoruba appear to have inhabited their present country at least as early as A.D. 1000. In the 18th century the Yoruba were constantly engaged in warfare with their Dahomeyan neighbours, and in 1738 they captured Kana, the sacred city of the kings of Dahomey. From 1747 to the time of King Gezo (1818) the Dahomeyans paid tribute to Yoruba. It was not until the early years of the 19th century that the Yoruba came as far S. as the sea, when they founded a colony at Lagos. About 1825 the province of Illorin, already permeated by Moslem influences from the north, declared itself independent of the Yoruba, and shortly afterwards Yorubaland was overrun by Fula invaders. From this time (1830-35) the Yoruba empire—there had been six confederate kingdoms—was broken up into a number of comparatively weak states, who warred with one another, with the Dahomeyans and with their Moslem neighbours. The advent of the British at first led to further complications and fighting, but gradually the various tribes gained confidence in the colonial government and sought its services as peacemaker. A treaty placing their country under British protection was signed by the Egba in January 1893, and the subsequent extension of British control over the other portions of Yorubaland met with no opposition. Though divided into semi-independent states, the Yoruba retain a feeble sense of common nationality. The direct representative of the old Yoruba power is the alafin or king of Oyo occupying the N. and central parts of the whole region. Round this central state, which has lost much of its importance, are grouped the kingdoms of Illorin, Ijesa, Ife and Ondo in the E., Mahin and Jebu in the S. and Egba in the W. The ruler of each of these states has a title characteristic of his office. Thus the chief of If e bears the title of oni (a term indicating spiritual supremacy)-. To the oni of Ife or the alafin of Oyo all the other great chiefs announce their succession. The oni, says Sir William MacGregor, is regarded as the fountain of honour, and without his consent no chief can assume the privilege of wearing a crown. The most important of the Yoruba fatherhood; (3) motherhood; (4) sonship. The chief representing motherhood is brother to the mother, and in the developed state has become the Balogun or war lord. states is Egba, the ruling chief of which is the alake of Abeokuta (see ABEOKUTA). Yorubaland is a country of comparatively large cities. The alafin resides at Oyo, on a headstream of the Oshun, a place which has succeeded the older capitals, Bohu and Katunga, lying farther N. and destroyed during the wars with the Fula. Oyo is exceeded in size by several other places in Yorubaland, where the inhabitants have grouped themselves together for mutual protection in walled towns. Thus have sprung up the important towns of Abeokuta on the Ogun, due N. of Lagos; Ibadan on a branch of the Omi, 30 M. S. of Oyo; and Illorin, capital of the Illorin state, besides several other towns with a population of some 40,000. See A. Dalzell, The History of Dahomey (London, 1793) ; A. B Ellis, The Yoruba-speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast of West Africa (London, 1894) ; R. E. Dennett, Nigerian Studies, or the Religions and Political System of the Yoruba (London, 191o); C. F. Harford-Batte{sby, Niger and Yoruba Routes (London, 1895-96) ; and LAGOS and NIGERIA.
End of Article: YORKTOWN
YOSAI [Kikuchi] (1781-1878)

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.