December 15th in American History: Celebrating the Victory at Yorktown in 1781

December 15th in American History: Celebrating the Victory at Yorktown in 1781

Dec 15, 2023

A performance inspired me to write.

For several weeks, I've been attending the Colonial Williamsburg (CW) performance titled A Christmas Remembered. When I woke up today it inspired another entry into the This Day In History category on the blog because it's December 15th: the day General Rochambeau hosted a celebration for the October 19th victory at Yorktown in 1781.

Thanks to actor historian Mark Schneider who portrays both the Marquis de Lafayette and Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, I'm able to visualize it. Using primary sources, Mark brought December 15th of 1781 to life for me.

While in Williamsburg, Rochambeau utilized the Peyton Randolph House as his headquarters. He was sent here by King Louis XVI to support and serve under General George Washington during the Revolutionary War. He set out with unopened orders in hand, and landed at Newport Rhode Island to begin his service to the cause of American Independency.

On December 15th, 1781 not only did he host a feast that served everything from Boulliabaisse to Vouvray, the wine of Kings, he rented both the Apollo and Daphne Rooms at the Raleigh Tavern for further dancing and celebration. The significance? The Raleigh is where many say American Independence truly began.

According to Mr. Schneider, celebrations of the Yorktown victory were enjoyed by French citizens, American patriots, and our allies everywhere, not just at these iconic sites.

RELATED: Read my post about the Raleigh Tavern here.

Disclaimer: As a blogger, I use affiliate links sometimes! I may receive commission from purchases I share; it does not change your price but sometimes you might get a discount.

Mark Schneider portraying Rochambeau in CW

Historical summary of December 15th- because as always, there are many things to note an any given day.

1791- Virginia became the 10th state of 14 to ratify the Bill of Rights, making them officially added to the United States Constitution through a majority. They were based on Virginia's Declaration of Rights, authored by George Mason. Read more about him, as well as Peyton Randolph, here.

1810- The first Irish-American magazine, titled "Shamrock," was published in the U.S.

1874- The first U.S. visit by a reigning king- King David Kalakau of Hawaii. He was the last king of Hawaii and was received by President Ulysses S. Grant. King Kalakaua was actually elected by the Legislature and it was a very controversial thing. A fascinating story for sure!

1881- James Schneider, the American silent film director who was known for the Keystone Cops shorts was born. Sharing his birthday are billionaire oil magnate J. Paul Getty and in 1945: Don Johnson, who made jackets and t-shirts a popular fashion choice during his Miami Vice years. IYKYK GenX!

1890- Sitting Bull was killed in South Dakota by Lakota police sent by the U.S. government. He was resisting arrest.

1939- Gone With the Wind premieres in Atlanta and later wins the Oscar for Best Picture.

1944- Famous bandleader Glenn Miller, at age 40, dies in a suspected plane crash. Also lost to America and the world on December 15th: Walt Disney in 1966 and actress Joan Fontaine of Rebecca fame in 2013. She lived to be 96.

1973- John Paul Getty III, J. Paul Getty's grandson who was kidnapped, was found. The story is here but also hit Hollywood in 2017 thanks to director Ridley Scott.

Closing it out.

Be sure to use the links above to get more information on any of the events I listed and share your December 15th events in the comments.

Today's closing words from history come in the form of a letter from Washington to Rochambeau. It's written almost one year before the celebration in Williamsburg. Prior to the decision to attack at Yorktown, New York was the target being considered.

From George Washington to Lieutenant General Rochambeau, 13 December 1780

To Lieutenant General Rochambeau

Head Quarters New Windsor 13th Decr 1780


I have to inform your Excellency, that I have received an account from New York, that another embarkation was preparing at that place. The detachment which appears to be about 2500 Men is to be commanded by Generals Knyphausen and Phillips. The destination was not publicly known, but supposed to be to the Southward. This information does not come to me thro’ a Channel on which I perfectly depend.1 Should I receive it through one on which I have more confidence, I shall not fail to communicate my intelligence to your Excellency.2 I have the honor to be with the highest Esteem Yr Excellency’s most obt Servt

Go: Washington

For the letter with citations and reference information, click here. You can read the follow-up letter, actually written on December 15th, 1780, here.

The Peyton Randolph House

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There is a huge practical disclaimer to the content on this blog, which is my way of sharing my excitement and basically journaling online.

1) I am not a historian nor an expert. I will let you know I’m relaying the information as I understand and interpret it. The employees of Colonial Williamsburg base their presentations, work, and responses on historical documents and mainly primary sources.

2) I will update for accuracy as history is constant learning. If you have a question about accuracy, please ask me! I will get the answer from the best source I can find.

3) Photo credit to me, Daphne Reznik, for all photos in this post, unless otherwise credited! All photos are personal photos taken in public access locations or with specific permission.