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SENTRY JOURNAL » American History, American Revolution, Battle of Yorktown, French, George Washington, Lord Cornwallis, Surrender of Yorktown » October 19, 1781: Surrender at Yorktown

October 19, 1781: Surrender at Yorktown

It was 229 years ago today that the British surrendered to American and French forces at Yorktown, Virginia.  British forces numbered 6,000 and were under the leadership of Major General Lord Cornwallis.  George Washington led an American force of 8,800 colonials soldiers while a French force of 7,800 soldiers was led by Lieutenant General de Rochambeau.  It was the last major engagement of the Revolutionary War and marked the final nail in British rule over the colonies. 
Below is how the battle and surrender unfolded.

Losing his grip on the Carolinas, Cornwallis marched his army into Virginia and seized Yorktown and Gloucester, towns on each side of the York River.

With the arrival of the French fleet of Admiral De Grasse, General Washington was able to march south from New York with the joint American and French army to attack Cornwallis.

The Americans and French marched out of Williamsburg and arrived before Yorktown on 28th September 1781, forming a semi-circle around the entrenchments and putting the British under siege. Cornwallis expecting Major General Clinton to sail from New York with a relieving force had decided to remain in Yorktown rather than march south to the Carolinas or attempt to reach New York. His first move was the inexplicable one of abandoning a line of four redoubts that dominated the British positions. The Americans immediately occupied the empty redoubts.

The Americans began formal siege operations on the eastern side of Yorktown on 30th September and on 9th October were sufficiently close to began an artillery bombardment.

On 14th October the Americans and French stormed two redoubts in front of their trenches and the position of the British in Yorktown became untenable.

The British carried out a sortie on the 16th in which several guns in the two redoubts were spiked. On the same day Cornwallis attempted to pass the Guards, the 23rd and the Light Infantry across the York River to Gloucester but was thwarted by a storm.
With no sign of Clinton’s relief and with inadequate supplies of artillery ammunition and food, on 19th October 1781 Cornwallis’ army marched out of Yorktown and surrendered.

6,000 British surrendered to the Americans and French with 10 stands of German and British colours, 240 pieces of artillery, small arms, ammunition and equipment.

The casualties during the siege had been 500 British, 80 Americans and 200 French.

Below is a great video of the surrender of Yorktown.  It’s about eight minutes long.

We must never forget our history.  It is a constant reminder of who we are and where we came from.

Liberty forever, freedom for all!


Filed under: American History, American Revolution, Battle of Yorktown, French, George Washington, Lord Cornwallis, Surrender of Yorktown

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  • October 19, 2010 at 7:01 AM

    Man I love George Washington. Anyone who hasn't read an honest biography of our greatest of founding fathers seriously does not know what they are missing.

  • Infidel de Manahatta October 19, 2010 at 8:35 AM

    And this was actually the last time I had any use for the French.

  • Bunkerville October 19, 2010 at 1:25 PM

    I caught Bill Bennett this morning. He played the tune they used during the surrender. Super-always good to remember our history, and those who gave so much so we could be free.

  • John Carey October 19, 2010 at 5:32 PM

    He was indeed one of the great ones Fleece. He was a perfect fit for the time. My favorite founder is Thomas Jefferson. Thanks for the comments.

  • John Carey October 19, 2010 at 6:03 PM

    I'm with you on that Infidel.

  • John Carey October 19, 2010 at 6:05 PM

    Some say that the British played the tune "The world turned upside down." Thanks for the comments bunker!

  • Right Hand Man October 19, 2010 at 6:42 PM

    As much as I love to make fun of the French, I am forever grateful to them and the troops that won our independence. Let's face it, without them we'd have been British subjects for quite a while…who knows what would have happened to this world. Furthermore, without the French Revolution, our own might not have been made plausible in the heads of the revolutionaries. There is no doubt that many were emboldened by the acts of the French, not to mention the fact that Britain's focus was detached.

    The French are different today, no doubt…but so are we. Not many French understand the importance of independence today, but not many Americans even know why they gave us that lady in the New York Harbor, or why a chain lies at her feet.

  • Matt October 19, 2010 at 10:16 PM

    That is a good message, and a good post, John. Back then, people stood up to tyranny, and now, we're doing it again, albeit in a different manner.

  • John Carey October 19, 2010 at 10:22 PM

    We are indeed Matt. We have much to fix in this country. It will take time but we will get there.