The British surrendering their Arms to Gen: Washington after their defeat at York Town in Virginia October 1781
Origin: America, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Acc. No. 1976-63,2
Copper plate: "The British Surrendering Arms to George Washington After Their Defeat at Yorktown in Virginia October 1781"
Label:This copper plate was engraved by the firm of Tanner Vallance, Kearny, & Company of Philadelphia in 1819, but the engraving it was used to print, “The Siege of York; or, The British Surrendering their Arms to General Washington, After their Defeat at Yorktown, In the Month of October, 1781”, was not published until 1823. (see 1986-122 for the final print).This plate is based on the design of an artist named John Francis Renault who began advertising a print to commemorate the battle of Yorktown in 1803. Though there is no evidence to substantiate the claim, Renault stated on the print that he was present at the battle and served as the secretary to the Comte de Grasse.The mysterious artist spent nearly 20 years acquiring subscriptions for the print until he was implicated by several newspapers in Virginia and North Carolina as a fraud. Renault finally settled on Benjamin Tanner to serve as the engraver for his ambitious work.
The firm of Tanner, Vallence, Kearny, & Company dissolved in 1819, after the plate's completion. One of the partners, Benjamin Tanner (1775-1848) took the plate and finally published the print in 1823 along with a map of the Yorktown battlefield purported to be an original design by Renault (see 2017-242). The map was actually a copy of a 1782 map by Major Sebastian Bauman with decorative embellishments by Renault and Tanner. The timing of the print's publication can be attributed to the Marquis de Lafayette's 1823-1824 tour of America and the death of Renault five months prior.
Renault's prospectus for the print is as follows:
"Depicts three large groups of the principal Generals that were present at the surrender. In the first group, on the right side of the plate, General Washington, General Rochambeau, General Lincoln, Colonel Hamilton, a farmer contemplating the scene; and Billy holding the reins of General Washington's horse. In the second group, are depicted other American generals and French officers, General Knox, Secretary Nelson, Duke de Lauzun and Marquis de la Fayette. The third group, on the left side of the plate, is descriptive of the British surrendering their arms, depicting Lord Cornwallis, General O'Hara, Commodore Simmon, Lieut. Colonel Ralph Albercrombie Tarleton, with two fingers cut off, Lieut. Colonel Dundas, Lord Shewton, etc. Lord Cornwallis appears presenting his sword to the first general he meets, but General Washington is pointed out to him by Marquis de la Fayette, as the sole person to whom he can surrender his sword. On the left of the plate, behind the British generals, is represented the genius of America, traversing the sky, who, in his course met the chariot of Pride, Envy and Folly, whom he blasts with thunder and annihilates. On the right of the plate is depicted a monument in honour of those who sacrificed their lives and fortunes to secure Liberty and Independence. The monument is composed of two columns, one partially obscured by a tree and the other column surmounted by a figure of Minerva representing Liberty. Between the columns is an urn which is inscribed with the names of Generals. Around the urn are represented three goddesses, symbolic of: Peace, who holds an olive branch; Justice, with scales and sword; and Plenty with a cornucopia. A tree on each side of the plate frames the entire scene." (This description is excerpted from a copy of a print prospectus in the object file).
Provenance:Plates were owned by Mrs. Ann Hardy of Newport, Rhode Island. She offered them to the Virginia Independence Bicentennial Commission in 1973. Colonial Williamsburg purchased them from the VIBC.
Mark(s):Inscription: "To the defenders of American Independence: this print is most respectfully inscribed by their fellow citizen."