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1781 Annual Register

Historic Battles of Yorktown and Guildford Court House

 Benedict Arnold's British Reward for Treason and Capture, Trial and Hanging of Major Andre

Benedict Arnold attack on New London and Groton, Connecticut

Captured Letters of Washington and Adams and Full Revolutionary War News

The Annual Register for the year 1781 covers important developments in the Revolutionary War which finally convinced the British public and Parliament that they could not "bring the American colonies to obedience." The most important battle of the war that convinced the British of that conclusion was the defeat of Lord Cornwallis at the Battle of Yorktown by the Continental Army under George Washington and the French Army under comte de Rochambeau. This volume provides extensive coverage of that battle and the events that led to that decisive battle (e.g., the Battle of Guildford Court House, Greensboro, North Carolina). It also covers the actions of the notorious traitor Benedict Arnold, who was rewarded with the rank of British Brigadier General, in his exploits in Virginia and his raid on New London and Groton, Connecticut. The capture, trial and hanging of Arnold's co-conspirator and spy, British Major Andre, are also covered in great detail.   Captured letters from George Washington and John Adams concerning the progress of the war and its finances are also provided in full text in the State Papers section.

The Battle of Yorktown warrants and gets full coverage, even some of the little details. For instance, the attack on the two redoubts, one of which was led by "Col. [Alexander] Hamilton, Washington's aid-de-camp" is described, as shown below left. The thought processes and actions of Lord Cornwallis that led to surrender are given a full account, including noting that "it would have been cruelty in the extreme to have sacrificed such gallant, and in every respect deserving troops, to a point of honour, which the improved state of civilization has wisely exploded..." Cornwallis wanted more favorable surrender terms, but British conduct in treating the surrendered American garrison in Charleston in 1780 resulted in the British getting no better terms than were previously accorded the Americans.


The account of the Battle of Yorktown ends with speculation on it effect, as shown below, and it was probably written by Edmund Burke, an opponent of the war who saw that this was the final event, for he says of Yorktown that it

 "was evident, that is must entirely change the nature of the war on the side of Great Britain; and it it could no longer be carried on offensively by land...Indeed the surrender at York-Town, may be considered as the closing scene of the whole continental war in America"

King George III did not agree with Burke's assessment and wanted to continue the war and even refused the resignation of his Prime Minister, Lord North, but the House of Commons vote on February 27, 1782 ultimately led to the collapse of the North government and the coming to power of Burke's allies who immediately commenced peace negotiations with America.

One of the most significant battles of 1781 that led directly to the battle of Yorktown is the Battle of Guildford Court House. A full page description of the end of the battle and part of the assessment of the performance of the British and American troops can be read by clicking on the thumbnail below which will pop up a high resolution photograph of a full page of the Annual Register account.

The end of the account of the battle notes that the British killed exceeded 500, a fourth of their total force (See below). Later upon hearing from the British administration and press the reports of the great victory, Charles James Fox, one of Edmund Burke's Whig allies, commented that, "Another such victory would destroy the British army."

The first mention of Benedict Arnold as a British General is shown below, which mentions his activities in Virginia "to make a diversion," probably to draw Washington's troops to the South because the British believed he was going to make an attempt on New York. The article shown below also notes the discontent in the Continental Army earlier in the year as a result of lack of pay and provision caused by the weak federal government formed by the Articles of Confederation ("the nature of their government did not admit of any coercive power, equal to its remedy.")

Benedict Arnold was sent on another diversion to draw Washington's army and the militia of New England as well as to penalize the American privateers feasting on British shipping in Long Island Sound. Arnold's raid on New London and Groton and the Battle of Fort Griswold are recounted in this volume and a web site carries the 1781 Annual Register's account in full.  In addition, a document which is signed by some of the brave Americans who defended Fort Griswold is available here.

There is much more in this volume, including interesting letters concerning war matters from George Washington and John Adams that were captured by the British. Rather than recount them all the list we made of the items that struck our fancy when we read it are listed on a separate web page that can be reviewed by clicking here.

Besides the single volumes available below, this volume is also available in a first edition in both the 1758 through 1791  and the 1778 though 1783 Revolutionary War leather set of Annual Registers.

1781 Fine Leather First Edition

This is a first edition of the 1781 Annual Register in a fine full leather binding executed by Green Dragon Bindery.

Price: $325

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or pay by other means described in the information and ordering page.

Matching bindings have also been implemented by Green Dragon Bindery for first editions of the 1783 Annual Register (with the peace treaty formally recognizing American independence) and the 1787 Annual Register (with the United States Constitution). They make a great set, as shown below and while all three volumes (1781, 1783 and 1787) are still available they can be purchased together at a $125 discount from the individual volume prices.


1781 Full Leather First Edition

This is a full leather first edition of the 1781 Annual Register in nice condition. There is some wear to the boards as shown and some cracks were the spine meets the boards, but the boards are firm and the text is very clean. There is an early ownership signature at the top of the title page (E. J. Stewart ?, as shown above) but no other markings

Price: SOLD

1781 Third Edition

This is a 3rd edition of the 1781 Annual Register published in 1800 and was the copy owned by the Union Club of Boston, as shown by the custom leather boards and stamp on the title pages. A brown tape overlay has been added to the spine and corners, as well as internal repairs to the inside back cover, to hold the boards on. The text block looks fine with no foxing.

Price: $110

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or pay by other means described in the information and ordering page.