Siege of Yorktown and Final Battles
Continued From: Southern Campaign
After the Battle of Guilford Court House, Cornwallis realized that the patriots were relying on supplies from Virginia. Cornwallis marched his army northward to Virginia, leaving the Continental forces under Gen. Greene to gain the upper hand in South Carolina. February 20, 1781 Gen. Washington had placed the Marquis de Lafayette in command of the Continental army in Virginia.
In the spring of 1781, Henry Bedinger’s health was much improved from the debilitating conditions of his imprisonment by the British. He had been officially exchanged by the British in November 1780. Being released from the conditions of parole, Henry was no longer prohibited from engaging in military operations. George Michael, after carrying wagon loads of supplies to General Green in the Santee Hills of North Carolina, returned to Kentucky in late winter of 1780 or early 1781. He was at Strode's Station to defend the Station when Indians attacked the station on 1 March 1781. He returned to Virginia and in May 1781 both Henry and George Michael Bedinger raised men to serve in companies commanded by Col. William Darke. Col. Darke’s companies were to reinforce the Continental units in Virginia. All three Bedinger brothers were now in the Virginia campaign and were there through the Yorktown Siege.
Captain Henry Bedinger, adjutant of one of Col. Darke’s companies recorded in his journal May 14, 1781: “Set out from Winchester about Ten O’clock with 47 men, 5 Women, 1 Baggage wagon and Driver with instructions from Col. Darke to proceed to Fredericksburg & from thence to the place of General Rendezvous [which was to be Cumberland Old Court House, near Charlottesville].”[i]
Capt. Henry Bedinger’s health and physical condition were not up to par because of his lengthy imprisonment by the British. Worn out from long marches in rainy weather and chilled from wading in cold rivers, he had come down with a feverish cold. Unable to participate in all excursions and skirmishes of the corps, Capt. Henry Bedinger was placed in charge of military provisions at Cumberland Old Court House.[ii]
In mid-1781 after General Cornwallis and Colonel Banastre Tarleton with a force of 7,000 men, moved their campaigns to Virginia. The Virginia Continental forces were placed under the command of General Marquis de Lafayette by General Washington. Under the command of the General Lafayette, with a force of less than one-third that of his adversary, the Continentals conducted evasive skirmishes and surprise raids upon Tarleton's forces to hamper their raids and curtail their foraging of the Virginia countryside. To bolster his forces General Lafayette dispatched a letter addressed to Captain Henry Bedinger stating, "I am on my way towards the Enemy and request the Riflemen of your company, armed with their own rifles, and so many of them mounted...as possible may join me with all possible expedition."[iii]
Tarleton rode with a small force to Charlottesville, Virginia where the Virginia legislature was meeting. Most of the Virginia legislators fled safely, including Robert Rutherford, but Tarleton captured several members of the Virginia legislature. He almost captured Governor Thomas Jefferson as well, but had to content himself with several bottles of wine from Jefferson's estate at Monticello.[iv] Captain Henry Bedinger, learning of Tarleton's plan to raid the Continental's supply of provisions, took evasive action and managed to transport all the supplies to safety across the James River. When Tarleton left, Captain Bedinger brought the supplies back across the River.[v]
As related above, George Michael Bedinger had recruited a company for the regiment of Col. Darke in Berkeley County. In his deposition Bedinger says that in the month of May 1781, he took command of the Militia company under Col. William Darke and was engaged in military operations in Virginia where Gen. Cornwallis' troops were active in skirmishing and attacking strategic sources of the patriots. Bedinger's company was active through the period leading up to and at the the siege of Yorktown.
Henry Bedinger makes note in his journal on August 1, 1781 that his brother Daniel came into camp on his way from Goochland Court House where he was to join his company. His detail had been reduced from 40 to 18 by desertions and casualties. Again, on August 22nd Henry received a letter from Daniel, delivered by Capt. Samuel Finley, written at camp near Ruffin’s Ferry.[vi]
September 9, 1781 Henry Bedinger, in a letter to Abraham Morgan, wrote that twenty eight battleships of the French line arrived landing three thousand men at Jamestown. Also that His Excellency George Washington arrived in camp. He adds in his letter to Abraham Swearingen, who was in the business of supplying provisions to the army, that the fleet would be greatly wanting flour, and likewise beef and pork. He added: “I’m just now losing what little hair I had left when you saw me last, and expect by the time I shall arrive with you shall be Bald as an Eagle,…”[vii]
On the fourteenth day of September, 1781 the American Commander–in-chief, George Washington, reached the headquarters of General Lafayette in Williamsburg.[viii] Henry Bedinger in his journal records that Lt. Daniel Bedinger and two other officers and twelve privates came down with ague [chills] and fever at the headquarters camp in Williamsburg.
Siege of Yorktown
In a letter written in 1834, George Michael describes his companies’ approach to Yorktown, before the siege, when the British were established there in force. “… You are under a mistake in relation to my being present on the 12th of October when Cornwallis was captured. I am confident very few officers or men in our army rendered more essential services than I think I did at or before the siege of York, and when I think of it I hope I shall ever, while I have life and reason, most humbly, devoutly, and heartily thank and adore the supreme Author of all Goodness and Mercy, who then and so often since has saved me from impending dangers.
“And altho’ it is with reluctance I am induced to speak or write even to a brother of my own services, I cannot here, in justice to myself and those who were with me, omit stating to you, as well as I can now recollect after the lapse of 53 years, that I was present at the siege of York, & was with the first party that dared in hope to go near our enemies in Yorktown: viz., Cornwallis’s Army.
“A short time before Yorktown was besieged, and when our army lay near Williamsburg, Colonel Darke marched a detachment of, I think, less than one thousand, mostly militia , who were then or afterwards called The Forlorn Hope, as it was then generally thought that on our arrival at the suburbs of the town the British troops, horse and foot, would immediately Sally out upon us and cut us off as we had no other troops to help or aid us near.
“When we got in sight of he enemy and were expecting an Immediate attack, from their cavalry, I acting as Adjutant, or could say Major, and as the men had marched in platoons and open columns, marched them up into close solid columns, faced outwards, front rank kneeling, but arms firm; fixed bayonets, leaning out at an angle of near forty-five degrees. This maneuver having been performed briskly and promptly, it is believed that the enemy thought us well disciplined if not regular troops, & that we were only an advance party, & that the U. S. Army were close at hand.
“They did not attack us, except at a distance so great that they could not do us much injury, but suffered us to go back without much firing ... I never yet have been able to account for such a motion. I think it was the Colonel’s usual fire and rashness, & that General Washington perhaps had a desire to know what the enemy would do on such an occasion and acceded to it. It was , in my opinion, an extraordinary, and I think an unnecessary temerity. We had much to lose, and I have never been able to see what great advantage could have been expected of it.
“When the whole of our army marched and besieged York I was also with them until after the militias time had experienced, & would have stayed longer but was in bad health, & troops were flocking in from all quarters. The sick were hauled home in wagons. I think I was hauled part of the way home in a waggon, if not all the way. Col. Darke, when I came away, said that within a few days he expected the British Army would surrender, regretted that I could not see it ...”[ix]
In early October Henry Bedinger was laying off ground for huts for winter quarters when his brother George Michael arrived on his return from Yorktown. Henry described Michael as being “somewhat indisposed”. On his way, Michael had stopped at Gen. Washington’s headquarters in Williamsburg. A few days later, before on 14 October 1781, Michael, carrying letters from Henry to his mother and Capt. Shepherd, Michael set out for Shepherdstown by way of Richmond, where he was to settle the accounts of his Company.
On October 15 Henry records in his journal that the British ships at the entrance of Chesapeake Bay were met in battle by the French ships under De Grasse. The British fleet was badly battered and turned back to New York leaving Cornwallis to his fate in Yorktown.[x]
The surrender of British troops under Gen. Cornwallis at Yorktown signaled the ultimate victory of the Continental Army over the British. However, the armed conflict between the Colonies and Britain would continue. The British were still ensconced in Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia. The British were on the frontier of Virginia (now Kentucky) and with Loyalists and Indian allies were engaged in armed attacks and sieges of American settlements on the frontier.
Henry writes in his journal, dated November 15, 1781, of his safe arrival in "Shepherd's Town, where I arrived that Evenng to Give Joy to my Friends & Sattisfaction to my Self after a Journey of 193 Miles from Cumberland Old Ct. House, where I left my Brother Daniel and Many Friends."
Henry, in the spring of 1783, raised another company at Shepherdstown before the treaty that officially ended the war and was near marching them off from Shepherdstown, when he received orders calling off the operation.[xi]
British Evacuate Savannah and Charleston
Daniel was at the siege of Yorktown and witnessed the surrender of the British [xi]. Daniel Bedinger was commissioned May 7, 1782 Lieutenant in the 4th Regiment Virginia Line [xii] and was assigned to Lieut. Colonel Thomas Posey’s detachment of the 7th Virginia Regiment whose regiment under General Anthony Wayne was marched south to bolster Gen. Greene’s forces. By 1782, Gen. Greene had regained the entire southland except for British strongholds at Savannah and Charleston.
Gen. Wayne led his soldiers to Savannah. On May 21, 1782, the British under Colonel Brown marched out of Savannah in strong force to confront rapidly advancing Wayne. The latter got between Brown and Savannah, attacked him at midnight, and routed the whole party. The Americans lost five killed and two wounded. On June 24 a part of Wayne's army, lying about 5 miles from Savannah, was fiercely attacked by a body of Creek Indians, who first drove the troops and took two pieces of artillery; but they were soon utterly routed by a spirited charge. The brief battle was fought hand-to-hand with swords, bayonets, and tomahawks, and fourteen Indians and two white men were killed. The royalists coming out of Savannah to assist the Indians were driven back. On July 11, 1782, the British troops evacuated Savannah, after an occupation of three years and a half. Gen. Wayne took possession of the city, and of the province of Georgia. [xiii]
The remaining British stronghold in the south was the city of Charleston which had been taken the British under Gen. Sir Henry Clinton May 12, 1780. The British took 5,600 captives, including 2,500 Continental soldiers and the bulk of the 4th Virginia Regiment, resulting in one of the worst American defeats of the war. A preliminary peace treaty is signed in Paris November 30, 1782. Terms include recognition of American independence and the boundaries of the United States, along with British withdrawal from America. The British Army marched out of Charleston, ending the occupation, Dec. 14, 1782. Charlestown had been occupied by the British for thirty months and two days when they finally left. Major General Alexander Leslie agreed not to destroy the city if the Patriots would allow his troops to depart safely. Upon the firing of the morning cannon the British, their allies, their Loyalists, and 5,000 slaves moved out of the forward works, while the Continentals of Major General Anthony Wayne moved in - keeping a respectful distance. We perceive that Lt. Daniel Bedinger serving under Gen. Wayne was at Fort Johnson on James Island to witness the departure of the British.[xiii]
Battle of Blue Licks
Although the main British army under Lord Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown in October 1781, virtually ending the war in the east, fighting on the western frontier continued. Aided by the British garrison at Fort Detroit, Indians north of the Ohio River redoubled their efforts to drive the American settlers out of western Virginia (now Kentucky and West Virginia).
In August 1782, about 50 Loyalists, supported by 300 Indians, crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky. They meant to surprise and destroy the settlement of Bryan Station, but the settlers discovered them and took shelter within their stockade. The force laid siege to Bryan Station on August 15, 1782, killing all of the settlers' livestock and destroying their crops, but withdrew after two days when they learned that Kentucky militiamen were on the way.
The Virginia militia of about 180 men arrived at Bryan Station on August 18 led by Col. John Todd assisted by Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Boone. Benjamin Logan, colonel of the Virginia militia, was gathering men and had not yet arrived. The militiamen could pursue the raiders immediately, to keep them from escaping, or they could wait for Logan to arrive with reinforcements. Daniel Boone advised waiting for Logan, who was only a day away, but others urged immediate action, pointing out that the enemy force had a 40-mile lead on them. Boone felt compelled to go along. The Kentuckians set out on horseback over an old buffalo trail before making camp at sunset.
On the morning of August 19, the Kentuckians reached the Licking River, near a spring and salt lick known as the Lower Blue Licks. A few Indian scouts were seen watching them from across the river. Behind the scouts was a hill around which the river looped. Todd called a council and asked Daniel Boone, the most experienced woodsman, what he thought. Boone said he had been growing increasingly suspicious because of the obvious trail the Indians left. He felt the Indians were trying to lead them into an ambush. Against the counsel of Col. John Todd, Daniel Boone and other officers to await reinforcements, the militiamen charged across the river and attacked the Indian and Loyalist force. Being heavily outnumbered, the American force was badly defeated. [xiv], [xv], [xvi]
Capt. George Michael was in Kentucky at this time and has oft been reported as taking part in the Battle of Blue Licks. However, Capt. Bedinger was not in the battle. Bedinger, who established his home at Lower Blue Licks after the war, is quoted by his grandson as telling him that he arrived the day after the battle, with the militia contingent headed by Benjamin Logan, and had the grim task of retrieving the bodies of his comrades.
Treaty of Peace
In the spring of 1783, in anticipation of further open hostilities, Capt. Henry Bedinger raised another company at Shepherdstown. Henry was near marching them off from Shepherdstown, when he received orders calling off the operation.[xvii]
The British and Americans signed preliminary Articles of Peace November 30, 1782 and the Treaty of Paris September 3, 1783.
Daniel Bedinger was selected to membership in the Society of the Cincinnati; his certification bears the signature of George Washington and the date of Mount Vernon, March 1, 1787. Henry Bedinger received the same honor bestowed by George Washington upon selected officers of the Revolution. The Society was composed of officers selected by Gen. Washington who served for the duration of the war. George Michael Bedinger had enlisted for several terms of limited duration because he felt the need to be in Shepherdstown at times to provide aid for his mother and siblings and to be there to aid his brother Daniel when he was recovering from British imprisonment; he made trips to New York where Henry was held prisoner of the British to bring money for his care.
[i] Dandridge, Danske, 1910, Historic Shepherdstown, The Michie Company, Printers, Charlottesville, Virginia, 389 p., pp. 216-217.
[ii] Levin, Alexandra Lee, 1995, For A Brave America the Bedinger Brothers in War and Peace, 1775-1843, Shamrock Hollow, John Day, Oregon, 215 p., p. 53.
[iii] Swearingen-Bedinger Papers, 1759-1948, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan, finding aid created by Shannon Wait, June 2011
iv] Clary, David A., 2007, Adopted Son: Washington, Lafayette, and the Friendship that Saved the Revolution, Bantam Books, New York, 306 p.
[v] Dandridge, Danske, 1909, George Michael Bedinger, A Kentucky Pioneer: The Michie Company, Printers, Charlottesville, Virginia, 232 p., p. 83.
[vi] Dandridge, Danske, 1909, George Michael Bedinger, A Kentucky Pioneer: The Michie Company, Printers, Charlottesville, Virginia, 232 p., pp. 83-84.
[vii] Bedinger, Henry, Letter to Cap. Abram Shepherd, September 9, 1781, in Magazine of the Jefferson County Historical Society, vol. 1, 1935, p. 49.
[viii] Carrington, Henry B., 1881, Battles of the American Revolution 1775-1781,
Promontory Press, New York, 712 p.
[ix] Dandridge, Danske, 1909, George Michael Bedinger, A Kentucky Pioneer: The Michie Company, Printers, Charlottesville, Virginia, 232 p., pp. 79-82.
[x] Dandridge, Danske, 1909, George Michael Bedinger, A Kentucky Pioneer: The Michie Company, Printers, Charlottesville, Virginia, 232 p., p. 84. and Levin, Alexandra Lee, 1995, For A Brave America the Bedinger Brothers in War and Peace, 1775-1843, Shamrock Hollow, John Day, Oregon, 215 p., p. 53.
[xi] Danske Dandridge, unpublished manuscript, in Bedinger and Dandridge Family Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.
[xii] Southern Campaigns American Revolution Pension Statements and Rosters, http://revwarapps.org/w8138.pdf
[xiii] Henry Bedinger's Statement of Daniel Bedinger's service given January 31, 1839,by Capt. Henry Bedinger, 5th Regiment Revolutionary Army in Southern Campaigns American Revolution Pension Statements and Rosters.
[xiv] "Daniel Boone and the defeat at Blue Licks", published by the Boone Society, Minneapolis, 2005, by Neal Hammon. http://genealogytrails.com/main/military/battleofbluelick.html. George Michael Bedinger is listed among the participants in the battle in this publication. However, in searching the references given in this publication, I have found no documentation to substantiate his presence at the Battle of Blue Licks.
[xv] George Michael Bedinger is reported by Collins in his History of Kentucky (full reference given below) to have fought in the battle, however no primary documentation of his presence at the battle is known to this writer. The definitive statement accepted by this writer is given in the biography "The Late Hon. George Michael Bedinger" written by George William Ranson in 1881 for the Carlyle, Kentucky Mercury it which it is stated, "In 1782 occurred the slaughter of the ill-fated force at Lower Blue Licks. Bedinger was not at that point at the time. He was with Ben. Logan's Command which arrived at that place a day or two after the battle and discharged the melancholy duty of burying their fallen friends and comrades."
[xvi] Collins, Lewis, 1847, History of Kentucky, Published by Lewis Collins, Maysville, KY; and J. A. & U. P. James, Cincinnati, 560 p., p 485.
[xvii] Dandridge, Danske, 1909, George Michael Bedinger, A Kentucky Pioneer: The Michie Company, Printers, Charlottesville, Virginia, 232 p., p. 85.
Page Revised 10 June 2015, 2 September, 2015, and 10 October, 2015.
Page Revised 3 Aug, 2017.
Continued: Go to Reunion at Stephenson's Spring