On this day in 1781, St. George Tucker began keeping a meticulous diary of the Siege of Yorktown. His opening line declared that “the present Campaign will probably be more important than any other since the commencement of the American War.” He was right. The siege ended a month later with the surrender of the British general Lord Cornwallis, effectively ending the war and winning independence for the colonies.
Tucker at the time was assigned to the staff of General Thomas Nelson as a French interpreter. Born in Bermuda into a wealthy shipping business, he later became one of the most influential legal scholars of the Early Republic. He wrote the first major treatise on American law; succeeded his mentor, George Wythe, as professor of law at the College of William and Mary; and authored, in 1796, A Dissertation on Slavery, a plan for ending slavery.
IMAGE: Surrender of Lord Corwallis by John Trumbull (1820)