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Reading Book Guide

The Guns of Independence: The Siege of Yorktown, 1781, by Jerome A. Greene

The siege of Yorktown in the fall of 1781 was the single most decisive engagement of the American Revolution. The campaign has all the drama any historian or student could want: the war's top generals and admirals pitted against one another, decisive naval engagements, cavalry fighting, siege warfare, nighttime bayonet attacks, and much more. The Guns of Independence offers a modern scholarly treatment of the entire campaign. We hope these thought-provoking questions lead to some lively book discussions.

  1. Explain the purposes and strategies of the allied campaign against the British in Virginia; what were the existing circumstances that allowed it to play out so successfully?
  2. Who were the principal commanders of the adversarial forces and what did they individually bring to the situation at hand?
  3. What was General Cornwallis's rationale for seizing Yorktown for a defensive stand?
  4. Describe Cornwallis's preparations in Yorktown and the surrounding countryside, including those in the York River and at Gloucester Point. How did General Washington dispose the French and American forces before the British army?
  5. Discuss the meaning and purpose of siege operations, and identify and explain some of the technologies and terminologies employed in the prosecution of a siege. How did this form of warfare differ from an otherwise standard battle? What other famous sieges occurred in American history?
  6. What pivotal role did the French navy play during the evolving land operations of the Yorktown campaign?
  7. Describe the attacks on Redoubts 9 and 10; what controversies and results came from these assaults? What was the military significance of the attack on these earthworks?
  8. What elements of Washington's leadership skills became evident during the course of his prosecution of the ten-day siege?
  9. Would the outcome have been the same without the aid of the French? Is America today indebted to the French for their support during the Yorktown campaign? Why?
  10. What impact did the Siege of Yorktown have on people living in the immediate area and region; what is the significance of the siege in American and world history?