A Biography of Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804)

Yorktown Interlude (July-October 1781)

Hamilton stayed with his wife at the Schuyler family residence in Albany after leaving headquarters. There he most likely contemplated his future, which now included a wife and the prospect of a family. The affairs of nation building were never far from his mind, however, and he returned to his musings on financial reform in a letter to Robert Morris, who had just been appointed Superintendent of Finance under the recently ratified Articles of Confederation.

Hamilton wrote to Morris in support of a strong "executive ministry," which would provide much-needed decisiveness in the governing body: "I am persuaded now it is the only resource we have to exricate ourselves from the distresses, which threaten the subversion of our cause." He pointed out the domestic and international implications of the official but still impotent congress, ("the people have lost all confidence . . . our friends in Europe are in the same disposition"), and, working out a favorite theme, ended his letter with a detailed plan for a national bank.

Then, no longer content to keep his ideas in the private realm, he began writing his first formal essays on American government. "The Continentalist," as he named his six-part series, was published in the New York Packet and the American Advertiser, and treated the public to their first taste of Hamiltonian politics.

While his essays were in process, Hamilton was in transit. Washington and Rochambeau were planning a decisive strike on the British; and Hamilton, ever hopeful of seeing action, rode off to Dobbs Ferry NY to rejoin the army. This time, Washington gave Hamilton his long-awaited command, that of the New York and Connecticut light infantry battalion, with orders to lead an assault on British redoubt number 10 at Yorktown. On October 14, Hamilton and his battalion did just that. The redoubts were taken, and Cornwallis surrendered his forces to Washington on October 19, 1781.

Hamilton took part in the surrender ceremonies, and then departed for Albany to rejoin his wife, who was due to have their first child, Philip, in January. On March 1, 1782, Hamilton resigned from active military duty.