WESTFIELD, NJ — Historical interpreters representing French generals are scheduled march through Westfield Sunday to commemorate the 240th anniversary of the Revolutionary War March to Yorktown, Virginia.
The march is to be in keeping with Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle’s 2020 proclamation that every Aug. 29 be known as “March to Yorktown Day in Westfield,” organizers said.
That proclamation recognizes that on August 29, 1781, Continental soldiers including the 1st Rhode Island Regiment comprised of a number of Native Americans and African Americans passed through Westfield on the way to Princeton to meet with the French army before the combined forces continued on to Yorktown to besiege the position of British General Lord Cornwallis.
“I’m always thrilled to see different components of Westfield’s amazing history brought to life for the benefit of the community,” said Mayor Brindle in a statement. “As a native of Yorktown, Virginia, this march is a piece of American history that is particularly familiar to me, and it’s wonderful to see its connection to Westfield commemorated by the dedicated volunteers of the Washington- Rochambeau Revolutionary Route.”
The march had a combined army of about 2,500 Americans and 4,700 French plus 1,000 servants and a few hundred wagoners pulled by horses and carrying supplies along with 4-pound guns and artillery, which was pulled by oxen, according to the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route — New Jersey group. The allied forces along with some women and children traveled nearly 700 miles on land and on water to Yorktown. The surrender of Cornwallis on October 19, 1781, after several weeks of siege warfare assured the independence of the United States.
“What I admire about Westfield’s role in the march to Yorktown story is that the 1st Rhode Island Regiment passed through Westfield and that the American General, Benjamin Lincoln, who accepted the British general’s surrender sword in Yorktown on behalf of Commander General George Washington, also marched his column of soldiers through town,” said Julie Diddell, who chairs the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route — New Jersey group in the statement.
“This is a point of pride for residents of Westfield and an opportunity to learn the not often told account of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment which counted many African Americans and Native Americans in its ranks and of about the unsung hero, General Lincoln,” Diddell said.
Jay Hershey, president of the West Fields Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution said, “Westfield’s March to Yorktown Day is a great event that celebrates an important part of our town’s history. The West Fields Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution is proud to participate and help sponsor the occasion.”
If you go
The event will begin at Mindowaskin Park, Westfield at 11 a.m. (rain or shine) with a remarks and then proceed with a symbolic “march” through the downtown of Westfield ending at the corner of North Avenue and Prospect Street. The public is invited to attend the ceremony and observe the march. U.S. and French flag waving are encouraged.