Siege of Yorktown (1781)
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The Siege of Yorktown, also known as the Battle of Yorktown, the surrender at Yorktown, or the German battle (from the presence of Germans in all three armies), beginning on September 28, 1781, and ending on October 19, 1781, at
Yorktown, Virginia Yorktown is a census-designated place (CDP) in York County, Virginia, York County, Virginia. It is the county seat of York County, one of the eight original shires formed in Colony of Virginia, colonial Virginia in 1682. Yorktown's population was ...
, was a decisive victory by a combined force of the American
Continental Army The Continental Army was the army of the United Colonies (the Thirteen Colonies) in the American Revolution, Revolutionary-era United States. It was formed by the Second Continental Congress after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary Wa ...
troops led by General
George Washington George Washington (February 22, 1732, 1799) was an American military officer, statesman, and Founding Fathers of the United States, Founding Father who served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Appointed by the ...
and
Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette (6 September 1757 – 20 May 1834), known in the United States as Lafayette (, ), was a French aristocrat, freemasonry, freemason and military officer who fought in the Ameri ...
, and
French Army History Early history The first permanent army, paid with regular wages, instead of feudal levies, was established under Charles VII of France, Charles VII in the 1420 to 1430s. The Kings of France needed reliable troops during and after the ...
troops led by
Comte de Rochambeau Marshal Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, 1 July 1725 – 10 May 1807, was a French nobleman and general whose army played the decisive role in helping the United States defeat the British army at Yorktown in 1781 during the ...
over
British Army The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western ...
troops commanded by British peer and Lieutenant General
Charles Cornwallis Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis, (31 December 1738 – 5 October 1805), styled Viscount Brome between 1753 and 1762 and known as the Earl Cornwallis between 1762 and 1792, was a British Army The British Army is the princ ...
. The culmination of the
Yorktown campaign The Yorktown campaign, also known as the Virginia campaign, was a series of military maneuvers and battles during the American Revolutionary War that culminated in the siege of Yorktown in October 1781. The result of the campaign was the surren ...
, the siege proved to be the last major land battle of the
American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (April 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783), also known as the Revolutionary War or American War of Independence, was a major war of the American Revolution. Widely considered as the war that secured the independence of t ...
in the North American region, as the surrender by Cornwallis, and the capture of both him and his army, prompted the British government to negotiate an end to the conflict. In 1780, about 5,500 French soldiers landed in
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to help their American allies fight the British troops controlling
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. Following the arrival of dispatches from France that included the possibility of support from the French
West Indies The West Indies is a Subregion#North America, subregion of North America, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea that includes 13 independent island country, island countries and 18 dependent territory, ...
fleet of the Comte de Grasse, disagreements arose between Washington and Rochambeau on whether to ask de Grasse for assistance in besieging New York or in military operations against a British army in Virginia. On the advice of Rochambeau, de Grasse informed them of his intent to sail to the
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, where Cornwallis had taken command of the army. Cornwallis, at first given confusing orders by his superior officer, Henry Clinton, was eventually ordered to build a defensible deep-water port, which he began to do in Yorktown. Cornwallis' movements in Virginia were shadowed by a Continental Army force led by the Marquis de Lafayette. The French and American armies united north of
New York City New York, often called New York City or NYC, is the List of United States cities by population, most populous city in the United States. With a 2020 population of 8,804,190 distributed over , New York City is also the L ...
during the summer of 1781. When word of de Grasse's decision arrived, both armies began moving south toward
Virginia Virginia, officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States, Southeastern regions of the United States, between the East Coast of the United Stat ...
, engaging in tactics of deception to lead the British to believe a siege of New York was planned. De Grasse sailed from the West Indies and arrived at the Chesapeake Bay at the end of August, bringing additional troops and creating a naval blockade of Yorktown. He was transporting 500,000 silver pesos collected from the citizens of Havana, Cuba, to fund supplies for the siege and payroll for the Continental Army. While in
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, de Grasse met with Francisco Saavedra de Sangronis, an agent of Carlos III of Spain. De Grasse had planned to leave several of his warships in Santo Domingo. Saavedra promised the assistance of the Spanish navy to protect the French merchant fleet, enabling de Grasse to sail north with all of his warships. In the beginning of September, he defeated a British fleet led by Sir Thomas Graves that came to relieve Cornwallis at the
Battle of the Chesapeake The Battle of the Chesapeake, also known as the Battle of the Virginia Capes or simply the Battle of the Capes, was a crucial naval battle in the American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (April 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783 ...
. As a result of this victory, de Grasse blocked any reinforcement or escape by sea for Cornwallis and also disembarked the heavy siege guns required by the allied land forces. By late September, Washington and Rochambeau arrived, and the army and naval forces completely surrounded Cornwallis. After initial preparations, the Americans and French built their first parallel and began the bombardment. With the British defense weakened, on October 14, 1781, Washington sent two columns to attack the last major remaining British outer defenses. A French column under Wilhelm of the Palatinate-Zweibrücken took
Redoubt A redoubt (historically redout) is a Fortification, fort or fort system usually consisting of an enclosed defensive emplacement outside a larger fort, usually relying on Earthworks (engineering), earthworks, although some are constructed of ston ...
No. 9 and an American column under
Alexander Hamilton Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755 or 1757July 12, 1804) was an American military officer, statesman, and Founding Fathers of the United States, Founding Father who served as the first United States secretary of the treasury from 1789 to ...
took Redoubt No. 10. With these defenses taken, the allies were able to finish their second parallel. With the Franco-American artillery closer and its bombardment more intense than ever, the British position began to deteriorate rapidly. Cornwallis asked for capitulation terms on October 17. After two days of negotiation, the surrender ceremony occurred on October 19; Cornwallis was absent from the ceremony. With the capture of more than 7,000 British soldiers, negotiations between the United States and
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began, resulting in the Treaty of Paris of 1783. The battlegrounds are preserved and interpreted today as part of Colonial National Historical Park.


Prelude


Franco-American cooperation

On December 20, 1780,
Benedict Arnold Benedict Arnold (#Brandt, Brandt (1994), p. 4June 14, 1801) was an American military officer who served during the American Revolutionary War, Revolutionary War. He fought with distinction for the American Continental Army and rose to the r ...
sailed from New York with 1,500 British troops to
Portsmouth, Virginia Portsmouth is an Independent city (United States), independent city in southeast Virginia and across the Elizabeth River (Virginia), Elizabeth River from Norfolk, Virginia, Norfolk. As of the 2020 United States Census, 2020 census, the populatio ...
. He first raided Richmond, defeating the defending militia, from January 5–7 before falling back to Portsmouth.Lengel p. 328 Admiral Destouches, who arrived in
Newport, Rhode Island Newport is an American seaside city on Aquidneck Island in Newport County, Rhode Island. It is located in Narragansett Bay, approximately southeast of Providence, Rhode Island, Providence, south of Fall River, Massachusetts, south of Boston, ...
, in July 1780 with a fleet transporting 5,500 soldiers, was encouraged by Washington and French Lieutenant General Rochambeau to move his fleet south, and launch a joint land-naval attack on Arnold's troops. The
Marquis de Lafayette Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette (6 September 1757 – 20 May 1834), known in the United States as Lafayette (, ), was a French aristocrat, freemasonry, freemason and military officer who fought in the Ameri ...
was sent south with 1,200 men to help with the assault.Lengel p. 329 However, Destouches was reluctant to dispatch many ships, and in February sent only three. After they proved ineffective, he took a larger force of 8 ships in March 1781, and fought a tactically inconclusive battle with the British fleet of Marriot Arbuthnot at the mouth of the
Chesapeake Bay The Chesapeake Bay ( ) is the largest estuary in the United States. The Bay is located in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic region and is primarily separated from the Atlantic Ocean by the Delmarva Peninsula (including the parts: the ...
. Destouches withdrew due to the damage sustained to his fleet, leaving Arbuthnot and the British fleet in control of the bay's mouth. On March 26, Arnold was joined by 2,300 troops under command of Major General William Phillips, who took command of the combined forces. Phillips resumed raiding, defeating the militia at Blandford, then burning the tobacco warehouses at Petersburg on April 25. Richmond was about to suffer the same fate, but Lafayette arrived. The British, not wanting to engage in a major battle, withdrew to Petersburg on May 10. On May 20,
Charles Cornwallis Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis, (31 December 1738 – 5 October 1805), styled Viscount Brome between 1753 and 1762 and known as the Earl Cornwallis between 1762 and 1792, was a British Army The British Army is the princ ...
arrived at Petersburg with 1,500 men after suffering heavy casualties at the
Battle of Guilford Courthouse The Battle of Guilford Court House was on March 15, 1781, during the American Revolutionary War, at a site that is now in Greensboro, North Carolina, Greensboro, the seat of Guilford County, North Carolina. A 2,100-man British force under the co ...
. He immediately assumed command, as Phillips had recently died of a fever. Cornwallis had not received permission to abandon the Carolinas from his superior, Henry Clinton, but he believed that Virginia would be easier to capture, feeling that it would approve of an invading British army. With the arrival of Cornwallis and more reinforcements from New York, the British Army numbered 7,200 men.Lengel p. 330 Cornwallis wanted to push Lafayette, whose force now numbered 3,000 men with the arrival of Virginia militia. On May 24, he set out after Lafayette, who withdrew from Richmond, and linked forces with those under the command of Baron von Steuben and
Anthony Wayne Anthony Wayne (January 1, 1745 – December 15, 1796) was an American soldier, officer, statesman, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He adopted a military career at the outset of the American Revolutionary War, where his mil ...
. Cornwallis did not pursue Lafayette. Instead, he sent raiders into central Virginia, where they attacked depots and supply convoys, before being recalled on June 20. Cornwallis then headed for Williamsburg, and Lafayette's force of now 4,500 followed him. General Clinton, in a confusing series of orders, ordered Cornwallis first to Portsmouth and then Yorktown, where he was instructed to build fortifications for a deep water port. On July 6, the French and American armies met at White Plains, north of New York City. Although Rochambeau had almost 40 years of warfare experience, he never challenged Washington's authority, telling Washington he had come to serve, not to command. Washington and Rochambeau discussed where to launch a joint attack.Lengel p. 332 Washington believed an attack on New York was the best option, since the Americans and French now outnumbered the British defenders 3 to 1. Rochambeau disagreed, arguing the fleet in the
West Indies The West Indies is a Subregion#North America, subregion of North America, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea that includes 13 independent island country, island countries and 18 dependent territory, ...
under Admiral de Grasse was going to sail to the American coast, where easier options than attacking New York could be attempted. In early July, Washington suggested an attack be made at the northern part of
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, but his officers and Rochambeau all disagreed.Lengel p. 333 Washington continued to probe the New York area until August 14, when he received a letter from de Grasse stating he was headed for Virginia with 28 warships and 3,200 soldiers, but could only remain there until October 14. De Grasse encouraged Washington to move south so they could launch a joint operation. Washington abandoned his plan to take New York, and began to prepare his army for the march south to Virginia.Lengel p. 335


March to Virginia

On August 19, the " celebrated march" to Yorktown led by Washington and Rochambeau began. 7,000 soldiers (4,000 French and 3,000 American) began the march in
Newport, Rhode Island Newport is an American seaside city on Aquidneck Island in Newport County, Rhode Island. It is located in Narragansett Bay, approximately southeast of Providence, Rhode Island, Providence, south of Fall River, Massachusetts, south of Boston, ...
, while the rest remained behind to protect the
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. Washington wanted to maintain complete secrecy of their destination. To ensure this, he sent out fake dispatches that reached Clinton revealing that the Franco-American army was going to launch an attack on New York, and that Cornwallis was not in danger. The French and American armies marched through Philadelphia from September 2 to 4, where the American soldiers announced they would not leave Maryland until they received one month's pay in coin, rather than in the worthless Continental paper currency. "Count de Rochabeau very readily agreed at
Chester Chester is a cathedral city and the county town of Cheshire, England. It is located on the River Dee, Wales, River Dee, close to the England–Wales border, English–Welsh border. With a population of 79,645 in 2011,"2011 Census results: Peop ...
to supply at the Head of Elk twenty thousand hard dollars", half of his supply of gold Spanish coins. This would be the last time the men would be paid. This strengthened French and American relations. On September 5, Washington learned of the arrival of de Grasse's fleet off the Virginia Capes. De Grasse debarked his French troops to join Lafayette, and then sent his empty transports to pick up the American troops. Washington made a visit to his home,
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, on his way to Yorktown.Lengel p. 336 In August, Admiral Sir Thomas Graves led a fleet from New York to attack de Grasse's fleet. Graves did not realize how large the French fleet was, and neither did Cornwallis. The British fleet was defeated by de Grasse's fleet in the
Battle of the Chesapeake The Battle of the Chesapeake, also known as the Battle of the Virginia Capes or simply the Battle of the Capes, was a crucial naval battle in the American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (April 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783 ...
on September 5, and forced to fall back to New York. On September 14, Washington arrived in
Williamsburg, Virginia Williamsburg is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia Virginia, officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States, Southeast ...
.


The siege


Initial movements

On September 26, transports with artillery, siege tools, and some French infantry and
shock troops Shock troops or assault troops are formations created to lead an military attack, attack. They are often better trained and equipped than other infantry, and expected to take heavy casualties even in successful operations. "Shock troop" is a cal ...
from Head of Elk, the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay, arrived, giving Washington command of an army of 7,800 Frenchmen, 3,100 militia, and 8,000 Continentals. Early on September 28, Washington led the army out of Williamsburg to surround Yorktown. The French took the positions on the left while the Americans took the position of honor on the right. Cornwallis had a chain of seven
redoubt A redoubt (historically redout) is a Fortification, fort or fort system usually consisting of an enclosed defensive emplacement outside a larger fort, usually relying on Earthworks (engineering), earthworks, although some are constructed of ston ...
s and batteries linked by earthworks along with batteries that covered the narrows of the York River at Gloucester Point. That day, Washington reconnoitered the British defenses, and decided that they could be bombarded into submission. The Americans and the French spent the night of the 28th sleeping out in the open, while work parties built bridges over the marsh. Some of the American soldiers hunted down wild hogs to eat. On September 29, Washington moved the army closer to Yorktown, and British gunners opened fire on the infantry.Davis p. 195 Throughout the day, several British cannon fired on the Americans, but there were few casualties. Fire was also exchanged between American riflemen and Hessian Jägers. Cornwallis pulled back from all of his outer defenses, except for the
Fusilier Fusilier is a name given to various kinds of soldiers; its meaning depends on the historical context. While fusilier is derived from the 17th-century French language, French word ''fusil'' – meaning a type of flintlock musket – the term has ...
's redoubt on the west side of the town and redoubts 9 and 10 in the east. Cornwallis had his forces occupy the earthworks immediately surrounding the town because he had received a letter from Clinton that promised relief force of 5,000 men within a week and he wished to tighten his lines. The Americans and the French occupied the abandoned defenses and began to establish their batteries there.Lengelp. 337 With the British outer defenses in their hands, allied engineers began to lay out positions for the artillery. The men improved their works and deepened their trenches.Davis p. 199 The British also worked on improving their defenses. On September 30, the French attacked the British Fusiliers redoubt.Davis p. 202 The skirmish lasted two hours, in which the French were repulsed, suffering several casualties. On October 1, the allies learned from British deserters that, to preserve their food, the British had slaughtered hundreds of horses and thrown them on the beach. In the American camp, thousands of trees were cut down to provide wood for earthworks. Preparations for the parallel also began. As the allies began to put their artillery into place, the British kept up a steady fire to disrupt them. British fire increased on the 2nd and the allies suffered moderate casualties. General Washington continued to make visits to the front, despite concern shown by several of his officers over the increasing enemy fire.Davis p. 205 On the night of October 2, the British opened a storm of fire to cover up the movement of the British cavalry to Gloucester where they were to escort infantrymen on a foraging party. On the 3rd, the foraging party, led by
Banastre Tarleton Sir Banastre Tarleton, 1st Baronet, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, GCB (21 August 175415 January 1833) was a Kingdom of Great Britain, British general officer, general and politician. He is best known as the lieutenant colonel lead ...
, went out but collided with Lauzun's Legion, and John Mercer's Virginia militia, led by the
Marquis de Choisy Claude Gabriel, Marquis de Choissey (french: :fr:Claude Gabriel de Choisy, Claude Gabriel de Choisy) was a French general who served in Poland in the 1770s, and then in North America during the American Revolutionary War. De Choissey was at the S ...
. The British cavalry quickly retreated behind their defensive lines, losing 50 men. By October 5, Washington was almost ready to open the first parallel.Davis p. 208 That night the
sappers A sapper, also called a pioneer (military), pioneer or combat engineer, is a combatant or soldier who performs a variety of military engineering duties, such as breaching fortifications, demolitions, bridge-building, laying or clearing minefie ...
and miners worked, putting strips of pine on the wet sand to mark the path of the trenches. The main/ initial movements of this battle were walking and riding horses.


Bombardment

After nightfall on October 6, troops moved out in stormy weather to dig the first parallel: the heavily overcast sky negated the waning full moon and shielded the massive digging operation from the eyes of British sentries. Washington ceremoniously struck several blows with his pickaxe to begin the trench. The trench was to be long, running from the head of Yorktown to the York River.Davis p. 215 Half of the trench was to be commanded by the French, the other half by the Americans. On the northernmost end of the French line, a support trench was dug so that they could bombard the British ships in the river. The French were ordered to distract the British with a false attack, but the British were told of the plan by a French deserter and the British artillery fire turned on the French from the Fusiliers redoubt.Davis p. 216 On October 7, the British saw the new allied trench just out of musket-range. Over the next two days, the allies completed the gun placements and dragged the artillery into line. The British fire began to weaken when they saw the large number of guns the allies had.Davis p. 217 By October 9, all of the French and American guns were in place. Among the American guns there were three twenty-four pounders, three eighteen pounders, two eight-inch (203 mm) howitzers and six mortars, totaling fourteen guns. At 3:00 pm, the French guns opened the barrage and drove the British frigate across the York River, where she was scuttled to prevent capture. At 5:00 pm, the Americans opened fire. Washington fired the first gun; legend has it that this shot smashed into a table where British officers were eating. The Franco-American guns began to tear apart the British defenses.Davis p. 218 Washington ordered that the guns fire all night so that the British could not make repairs. All of the British guns on the left were soon silenced. The British soldiers began to pitch their tents in their trenches and soldiers began to desert in large numbers.Davis p. 219 Some British ships were also damaged by cannonballs that flew across the town into the harbor. On October 10, the Americans spotted a large house in Yorktown. Believing that Cornwallis might be stationed there, they aimed at it and quickly destroyed it. Cornwallis sank more than a dozen of his ships in the harbor. The French began to fire at the British ships and scored a hit on the British , which caught fire, and in turn set two or three other ships on fire. Cornwallis received word from Clinton that the British fleet was to depart on October 12, however Cornwallis responded by saying that he would not be able to hold out for long.Davis p. 224 On the night of October 11, Washington ordered that the Americans dig a second parallel. It was closer to the British lines, but could not be extended to the river because the British number 9 and 10 redoubts were in the way. During the night, the British fire continued to land in the old line; Cornwallis did not suspect that a new parallel was being dug. By morning of the 12th, the allied troops were in position on the new line.


Assault on the redoubts

By October 14, the trenches were within of
redoubt A redoubt (historically redout) is a Fortification, fort or fort system usually consisting of an enclosed defensive emplacement outside a larger fort, usually relying on Earthworks (engineering), earthworks, although some are constructed of ston ...
s No. 9 and No. 10.Lengel p. 338 Washington ordered that all guns within range begin blasting the redoubts to weaken them for an assault that evening.Davis p. 225 Washington planned to use the cover of a moonless night to gain the element of surprise. To reinforce the darkness, he added silence, ordering that no soldier should load his musket until reaching the fortifications; the advance would be made with only "cold steel." Redoubt 10 was near the river and held only 70 men, while redoubt 9 was a quarter-mile inland, and was held by 120 British and Germans. Both redoubts were heavily fortified with rows of abatis surrounding them, along with muddy ditches that surrounded the redoubts at about . Washington devised a plan in which the French would launch a diversionary attack on the Fusiliers redoubt, and then a half an hour later, the French would assault redoubt 9 and the Americans redoubt 10.Lengel p. 339 Redoubt 9 would be assaulted by 400 French regular soldiers of the Royal Deux-Ponts Regiment under the command of the Count of Deux-Ponts and redoubt 10 would be assaulted by 400
light infantry Light infantry refers to certain types of lightly equipped infantry throughout history. They have a more mobile or fluid function than other types of infantry, such as heavy infantry or line infantry. Historically, light infantry often fought ...
troops under the command of
Alexander Hamilton Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755 or 1757July 12, 1804) was an American military officer, statesman, and Founding Fathers of the United States, Founding Father who served as the first United States secretary of the treasury from 1789 to ...
. There was a brief dispute as to who should lead the attack on Redoubt No. 10. Lafayette named his aide, Jean-Joseph Sourbader de Gimat, who commanded a battalion of Continental light infantry. However, Hamilton protested, saying that he was the senior officer. Washington concurred with Hamilton and gave him command of the attack.Davis p. 225. At 6:30 pm, gunfire announced the diversionary attack on the Fusiliers redoubt.Lengel p. 340 At other places in the line, movements were made as if preparing for an assault on Yorktown itself, which caused the British to panic. With bayonets fixed, the Americans marched towards Redoubt No. 10. Hamilton sent Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens around to the rear of the redoubt to prevent the British from escaping.Davis p. 227 The Americans reached the redoubt and began chopping through the British wooden defenses with their axes. A British sentry called a challenge, and then fired at the Americans. The Americans responded by charging with their bayonets towards the redoubt. They hacked through the abatis, crossed a ditch and climbed the
parapet A parapet is a barrier that is an extension of the wall at the edge of a roof, terrace, balcony, walkway or other structure. The word comes ultimately from the Italian ''parapetto'' (''parare'' 'to cover/defend' and ''petto'' 'chest/breast') ...
into the redoubt.Davis p. 228 The Americans forced their way into the redoubt, falling into giant shell holes created by the preparatory bombardment. The British fire was heavy, but the Americans overwhelmed them. Someone in the front shouted, "Rush on boys! The fort's ours!" The British threw hand grenades at the Americans with little effect. Men in the trench stood on the shoulders of their comrades to climb into the redoubt. The bayonet fight cleared the British from the redoubt and almost the entire garrison was captured, including the commander of the redoubt, Major Campbell.Davis p. 229 In the assault, the Americans lost 9 dead and 25 wounded. The French assault began at the same time, but they were halted by the abatis, which was undamaged by the artillery fire. The French began to hack at the abatis and a Hessian sentry came out and asked who was there. When there was no response, the sentry opened fire as did other Hessians on the parapet.Davis p. 230 The French soldiers fired back, and then charged the redoubt. The Germans charged the Frenchmen climbing over the walls but the French fired a volley, driving them back. The Hessians then took a defensive position behind some barrels but threw down their arms and surrendered when the French prepared a bayonet charge. With the capture of redoubts 9 and 10, Washington was able to have his artillery shell the town from three directions and the allies moved some of their artillery into the redoubts.Lengel p. 341 On October 15, Cornwallis turned all of his guns onto the nearest allied position. He then ordered a storming party of 350 British troops under the command of Colonel Robert Abercromby to attack the allied lines and spike the American and French cannon (i.e., plug the
touch hole A touch hole, also called a vent, is a small hole at the rear (breech) portion of the barrel A barrel or cask is a hollow cylindrical container with a bulging center, longer than it is wide. They are traditionally made of wood W ...
with an iron spike). The allies were sleeping and unprepared. As the British charged Abercromby shouted "Push on my brave boys, and skin the bastards!" The British party spiked several cannons in the parallel and then spiked the guns on an unfinished redoubt.Davis p. 235 A French party came and drove them out of the allied lines and back to Yorktown. The British had been able to spike six guns, but by the morning they were all repaired. The bombardment resumed with the American and French troops engaged in competition to see who could do the most damage to the enemy defenses. On the morning of October 16, more allied guns were in line and the fire intensified. In desperation, Cornwallis attempted to evacuate his troops across the York River to Gloucester Point. At Gloucester Point, the troops might be able to break through the allied lines and escape into Virginia and then march to New York. One wave of boats made it across, but a squall hit when they returned to take more soldiers, making the evacuation impossible.


British surrender

The fire on Yorktown from the allies was heavier than ever as new artillery pieces joined the line. Cornwallis talked with his officers that day and they agreed that their situation was hopeless. On the morning of October 17, a drummer appeared, followed by an officer waving a white handkerchief.Lengel p. 342 The bombardment ceased, and the officer was blindfolded and led behind the French and American lines. Negotiations began at the Moore House on October 18 between Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Dundas and Major Alexander Ross (who represented the British) and Lieutenant Colonel Laurens (who represented the Americans) and Marquis de Noailles (who represented the French). To make sure that nothing fell apart between the French and Americans at the last minute, Washington ordered that the French be given an equal share in every step of the surrender process. At 2:00 pm the allied army entered the British positions, with the French on the left and the Americans on the right. The British had asked for the traditional honors of war, which would allow the army to march out with flags flying, bayonets fixed, and the band playing an American or French tune as a tribute to the victors. However, Washington firmly refused to grant the British the honors that they had denied the defeated American army the year before at the
siege of Charleston The siege of Charleston was a major engagement and major British victory in the American Revolutionary War, fought in the environs of Charles Town, South Carolina, Charles Town (today Charleston), the capital of South Carolina, between March 29 ...
. Consequently, the British and Hessian troops marched with flags furled and muskets shouldered, while the band was forced to play "a British or German march." American history books recount the legend that the British band played " The World Turn'd Upside Down", but the story may be apocryphal. Cornwallis refused to attend the surrender ceremony, making it up that he had an illness. Instead, Brigadier General
Charles O'Hara General Charles O'Hara (1740 – 25 February 1802) was a British Army officer who served in the Seven Years' War, the American Revolutionary War, American War of Independence, and the French Revolutionary War and later served as governor of ...
led the British army onto the field. O'Hara first attempted to surrender to Rochambeau, who shook his head and pointed to Washington. O'Hara then offered his sword to Washington, who also refused and motioned to
Benjamin Lincoln Benjamin Lincoln (January 24, 1733 (Old Style and New Style dates, O.S. January 13, 1733) – May 9, 1810) was an American army officer. He served as a Major general (United States), major general in the Continental Army during the American Revo ...
, his second-in-command. The surrender finally took place when Lincoln accepted the sword of Cornwallis' deputy. The British soldiers marched out and laid down their arms in between the French and American armies, while many civilians watched. At this time, the troops on the other side of the river in Gloucester also surrendered. The British soldiers had been issued new uniforms hours before the surrender and until prevented by General O'Hara some threw down their muskets with the apparent intention of smashing them. Others wept or appeared to be drunk. In all, 8,000 soldiers, 214 artillery pieces, thousands of muskets, 24 transport ships, wagons, and horses were captured.Lengel p. 343


Effect of disease

Malaria Malaria is a Mosquito-borne disease, mosquito-borne infectious disease that affects humans and other animals. Malaria causes Signs and symptoms, symptoms that typically include fever, fatigue (medical), tiredness, vomiting, and headaches. In se ...
was endemic in the marshlands of eastern Virginia during the time, and Cornwallis's army suffered greatly from the disease; he estimated during the surrender that half of his army was unable to fight as a result. The Continental Army enjoyed an advantage, in that most of their members had grown up with malaria, and hence had acquired resistance to the disease. As malaria has a month-long incubation period, most of the French soldiers had not begun to exhibit symptoms before the surrender.


Articles of capitulation

The articles of capitulation, outlining the terms and conditions of surrender for officers, soldiers, military supplies, and personal property, were signed on October 19, 1781. Signatories included Washington, Rochambeau, the Comte de Barras (on behalf of the French Navy), Cornwallis, and Captain Thomas Symonds (the senior Royal Navy officer present). Cornwallis' British men were declared prisoners of war, promised good treatment in American camps, and officers were permitted to return home after taking their parole.
provincials, and Cornwallis failed to make any effort to press the matter. "The outcry against the Tenth Article was vociferous and immediate, as Americans on both sides of the Atlantic proclaimed their sense of betrayal."


Aftermath

Following the surrender, the American and French officers entertained the British officers to dinner. The British officers were "overwhelmed" by the civility their erstwhile foes extended to them, with some French officers offering "profuse" sympathies for the defeat, as one British officer, Captain Samuel Graham, commented. Equally, the French aide to Rochambeau, Cromot du Bourg, noted the coolness of the British officers, particularly O'Hara, considering the defeat they had endured. Five days after the battle ended, on October 24, 1781, the British fleet sent by Clinton to rescue the British army arrived. The fleet picked up several provincials who had escaped on October 18, and they informed Admiral Thomas Graves that they believed Cornwallis had surrendered. Graves picked up several more provincials along the coast, and they confirmed this fact. Graves sighted the French Fleet, but chose to leave because he was outnumbered by nine ships, and thus he sent the fleet back to New York. On October 25, Washington issued an order which stipulated that all
fugitive slaves In the United States, fugitive slaves or runaway slaves were terms used in the 18th and 19th century to describe people who fled slavery in the United States, slavery. The term also refers to the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, Fugitive Slave ...
who had joined the British were to be rounded up by the Continental Army and placed under the supervision of armed guards in fortified positions on both sides of the York River. There, they were to remain until "arrangements could be made to return them to their enslavers." Historian Gregory J. W. Urwin describes Washington's action as " onvertinghis faithful Continentals—the men credited with winning American independence—into an army of
slave catcher In the United States a slave catcher was a person employed to track down and return escaped slaves to their enslavers. The first slave catchers in the Americas The Americas, which are sometimes collectively called America, are a landma ...
s." After the British surrender, Washington sent Tench Tilghman to report the victory to Congress. After a difficult journey, he arrived in Philadelphia, which celebrated for several days. The British Prime Minister, Lord North, is reported to have exclaimed "Oh God, it's all over" when told of the defeat. Three months after the battle, a motion to end "further prosecution of offensive warfare on the continent of North America" - effectively a no confidence motion - passed in the
British House of Commons The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the upper house, the House of Lords, it meets in the Palace of Westminster in London, England. The House of Commons is an elected body consisting of 650 mem ...
. Lord North and his government resigned. Washington moved his army to New Windsor, New York where they remained stationed until the Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783, formally ending the war. Although the peace treaty did not happen for two years following the end of the battle, the Yorktown campaign proved to be decisive; there was no significant battle or campaign on the North American mainland after the Battle of Yorktown and in March 1782, "the British Parliament had agreed to cease hostilities."


Legacy

On October 19, 1881, an elaborate ceremony took place to honor the battle's centennial. U.S. naval vessels floated on Chesapeake Bay, and special markers highlighted where Washington and Lafayette's siege guns were placed. President
Chester Arthur Chester Alan Arthur (October 5, 1829 – November 18, 1886) was an American lawyer and politician who served as the 21st president of the United States from 1881 to 1885. He previously served as the 20th U.S. vice president, vice president un ...
, sworn in only thirty days before, following
James Garfield James Abram Garfield (November 19, 1831 – September 19, 1881) was the 20th president of the United States, serving from March 4, 1881 until Assassination of James A. Garfield, his death six months latertwo months after he was shot by an as ...
's
death Death is the Irreversible process, irreversible cessation of all biological process, biological functions that sustain an organism. For organisms with a brain, death can also be defined as the irreversible cessation of functioning of the whol ...
, made his first public speech as president. Also present were descendants of Lafayette, Rochambeau, de Grasse, and Steuben. To close the ceremony, Arthur gave an order to salute the British flag. There is a belief that General Cornwallis's sword, surrendered by Charles O'Hara after the battle, is to this day on display at the
White House The White House is the official residence and workplace of the president of the United States. It is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington, D.C., NW in Washington, D.C., and has been the residence of every U.S. preside ...
. However, U.S. National Park Service historian Jerome Green, in his 2005 history of the siege, ''The Guns of Independence'', concurs with the 1881 centennial account by Johnston, noting simply that when Brigadier General O'Hara presented the sword to Major General Lincoln, he held it for a moment and immediately returned it to O'Hara. The siege of Yorktown is also known in some German historiographies as "die deutsche Schlacht" ("the German battle"), because Germans played significant roles in all three armies, accounting for roughly one third of all forces involved. According to one estimate more than 2,500 German soldiers served at Yorktown with each of the British and French armies, and more than 3,000 German-Americans were in Washington's army. Four Army National Guard units ( 113th Inf, 116th Inf, 175th Inf and 198th Sig Bn) and one active Regular Army Field Artillery battalion (1–5th FA) are derived from American units that participated in the Battle of Yorktown. There are thirty current U.S. Army units with lineages that go back to the colonial era.


Yorktown Victory Monument

Five days after the British surrendered, Congress passed a resolution agreeing to erect a structure dedicated to commemorating those who participated in the battle. Construction of the monument was delayed, however, as the Confederation government had several other financial obligations that were considered to be of a more urgent nature. In 1834, the citizens of Yorktown asked Congress for the monument to be constructed, and then followed up once again in 1836, but still no action was taken. The desirability of the project was recognized in 1876 "when a memorial from the Common Council of Fredericksburg, Virginia was before Congress." The project was postponed once again until the battle's centennial sparked renewed enthusiasm in the resolution and prompted the government to begin building the monument in 1881 amid national support. The crowning figure was set on August 12, 1884; the structure was officially reported in a communication as complete on January 5, 1885, and currently resides within Colonial National Historical Park. The artists commissioned by the Secretary of War for the monument project included Mr. R. M. Hunt (Chairman) and Mr. J. Q. A. Ward (Architect) of New York and Mr. Henry Van Brunt (Sculptor) of Boston.


Yorktown sesquicentennial and bicentennial celebrations

A four-day celebration to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the siege took place in Yorktown on October 16–19, 1931. It was presided over by the Governor of Virginia John Garland Pollard and attended by then President
Herbert Hoover Herbert Clark Hoover (August 10, 1874 – October 20, 1964) was an American politician who served as the 31st president of the United States from 1929 to 1933 and a member of the Republican Party (United States), Republican Party, holding o ...
along with French representatives. The event included the official dedication of the Colonial National Historical Park, which also includes Historic Jamestown.Bland, Schuyler Otis,
The Yorktown Sesquicentennial, Proceedings of the United States Yorktown Sesquicentennial Commission, in connection with the Celebration of the Siege of Yorktown, 1781
'', United States Government Printing Office, Washington, 1932, Retrieved on April 17, 2018.
President
Ronald Reagan Ronald Wilson Reagan ( ; February 6, 1911June 5, 2004) was an American politician, actor, and union leader who served as the 40th president of the United States from 1981 to 1989. He also served as the 33rd governor of California from 1967 ...
visited Yorktown in 1981 for the bicentennial celebration.


See also

* List of American Revolutionary War battles * List of George Washington articles *, for a list of U.S. Navy ships named after the battle


Notes


References


Citations


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* * * * * See search
Articles of capitulation


External links



*1931 Army War Colleg

of the siege republished by the
United States Army Center of Military History The United States Army Center of Military History (CMH) is a directorate within the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command. The Institute of Heraldry remains within the Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Arm ...

Siege of Yorktown at Xenophon Group Military History Database
* ttp://www.revolutionarywaranimated.com/YorktownAnimation.html Animated History of The Siege of Yorktownbr>The Role of the Spanish and Cubans in the Siege of Yorktown

The Yorktown Campaign (George Washington's Mount Vernon)Yorktown: Now or Never (George Washington's Mount Vernon)Alexander Hamilton's report
to Lafayette following the assault on Redoubt 10. {{DEFAULTSORT:Siege Of Yorktown 1781 in Virginia Yorktown Conflicts in 1781 Yorktown Yorktown York County in the American Civil War