Facts About the Battle of Yorktown in the Revolutionary War
- Also Known As: The Battle of Yorktown is also known as the Siege of Yorktown.
- Date Started: The Battle of Yorktown started on September 28, 1781.
- Date Ended: The fighting ended on October 19, 1781.
- Location: The battle took place in Yorktown, Virginia.
- Campaign: The battle was part of the Yorktown Campaign.
- Who Won: The United States won the battle, with support from the French.
This painting by Eugène Lami depicts American forces attacking Redoubt No. 10 at Yorktown. Image Source: Wikipedia.
3 Facts About the Battle of Yorktown — How it Started
- After a bloody campaign in the southern colonies, Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis moved his army of 7,000 British and Hessian troops to fortifications he had constructed at Yorktown, Virginia in August of 1781.
- During the late summer of 1781 American General George Washington and French General Rochambeau decided to move their forces from New York to engage Cornwallis’ army at Yorktown.
- On August 20, 1781, the American and French forces quietly left New York and began moving south to Virginia.
10 Interesting Facts About the Battle of Yorktown
- When word of the advancing American and French armies reached General Cornwallis, he decided to stay at Yorktown, rather than move back south, because he expected General Sir Henry Clinton to sail from New York with reinforcements and supplies.
- On August 28, 1781, a French naval fleet commanded by Admiral François Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse blockaded the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay preventing Cornwallis to extract his army, or from receiving supplies or reinforcements by sea.
- On September 5, 1781, British naval forces failed to break the French blockade at the Battle of the Capes.
- On September 28, 1781, the American and French armies arrived before Yorktown, forming a semi-circle around the entrenchments and putting the British under siege.
- On October 9, the American and French armies had moved sufficiently close to Yorktown to begin an artillery bombardment of Cornwallis’ army.
- On October 17, 1781, running short on supplies and with no relief from General Clinton in sight, Cornwallis proposed surrendering to Washington.
- On October 18, 1781, representatives of the British, French, and American forces met to negotiate terms of surrender.
- On October 19, 1781, Washington delivered the surrender document to Cornwallis. Cornwallis signed and surrendered sometime before noon.
- On October 19, 1781, at 2 p.m., the British and Hessian defenders of Yorktown officially surrendered.
- The British bands are reputed to have played “The world turned upside down” as the troops marched out to surrender.
5 Facts About the Battle of Yorktown — The British Surrender
- General Cornwallis did not attend the surrender ceremonies, claiming he was ill.
- Brigadier General Charles O’Hara, representing Cornwallis at the surrender ceremonies, attempted to surrender Cornwallis’ sword to French General Rochambeau. Rochambeau refused and directed O’Hara to General Washington.
- As Cornwallis had sent his second in command to surrender, Washington directed O’Hara to surrender to the American second in command, General Benjamin Lincoln.
- Finally appreciating the gravity of the situation at Yorktown, General Clinton dispatched a relieving force, which arrived in the Chesapeake on October 24, 1781, too late to render any assistance to Cornwallis.
- Although sporadic and bitter fighting continued in the South for several months, the victory at Yorktown was the last major engagement of the American Revolution and effectively ended the conflict in the Americans’ favor.
Casualties and Statistics About the Battle of Yorktown
- Over 7,000 British and Hessian troops surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown.
- Frenchmen outnumbered Americans nearly three to one at the Battle of Yorktown.
- Washington had 11,000 men engaged in the battle, while the French had at least 29,000 soldiers and sailors.
- The total number of casualties at the Battle of Yorktown is estimated to be 857 killed, wounded, and captured.
Important Things to Know About the Battle of Yorktown and the Yorktown Battlefield Site
What happened in the Battle of Yorktown was a combined siege of British forces by land and sea by American and French forces. The British army, led by Charles Cornwall, was trapped on the peninsula at Yorktown, Virginia, and forced to surrender to George Washington. The victory secured American independence.
George Washington and the Continental Army won the Battle of Yorktown, with help from the French Army, led by Comte de Rochambeau, and the French Navy, led by Comte de Grasse. The Ameican victory was secured when forces led by Alexander Hamilton captured the British defensive position at Redoubt 10.
The British lost the Battle of Yorktown because they were trapped on the peninsula by a siege. The American and French forces bombarded British positions from land, while the French fleet blockaded the harbor, and prevented the British from escaping by sea, as they did after the Siege of Boston.
The Battle of Yorktown was so important because of the outcome. It marked the end of the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War and cemented the nation’s independence. It also affirmed Washington’s reputation as a great leader and eventual election as the first president of the United States.
—The French fleet blockaded the Chesapeake Bay
—Allied forces surrounded Yorktown
—British Navy failed to break the blockade
—George Washington fired the first shot in the bombardment of Yorktown;
—Allied forces led by Colonel Alexander Hamilton captured Redoubts 9 and 10;
Cornwallis surrendered at the Battle of Yorktown by sending Charles O’Hara to surrender his sword to Washington in his place. O’Hara tried to give the sword to Rochambeau, who refused it. Washington was superior in rank to O’Hara and instructed O’Hara to give the sword to Benjamin Lincoln, Washington’s second-in-command.
Yes, you can visit the Battle of Yorktown at the Yorktown Battlefield and Yorktown, Virginia. The Yorktown National Battlefield is operated by the Colonial National Historical Park. There is a Visitor Center, a museum with artifacts related to the battle, programs led by park rangers, and information for self-guided tours.
Yes, the Yorktown Battlefield is pet-friendly in most areas, including portions of the battlefield and trails. National Park Service Regulations do require that dogs must remain on a leash when out in the park. Unfortunately, pets are prohibited within the brick wall of the National Cemetery located in the park.