The Battle of Yorktown

By: Liz Boehning

Sept. 28, 1781

The Battle of Yorktown was the last major battle of the Revolutionary War in the American colonies. The battle began on September 28, 1781 when George Washington ordered the French naval fleet, French troops led by Comte de Rochambeau and troops led by Marquis de Lafayette to surround Charles Cornwallis' troops in Yorktown. The British were greatly outnumbered with only about 7,000 men compared to the combined French and American troops of about 16,000. At the beginning of the battle, the British tried to hold off the attack by using their cannons. The American and French troops easily fought that off. On October 6, the French and American troops began to dig the first parallel. Two days later, they began their barrage. Thousands of guns and about 15 cannons bombarded the British troops. Throughout the night, Washington and Rochambeau's troops fired upon them.


On October 14, the American and French parallels were about 150 yards away from the British. At this point, Washington knew it was time to attack. He decided to have the French troops create a fake attack on one of the British redoubts. Shortly after their fake attack, Washington planned for the American troops to attack one of their stronger redoubts and the French troops to attack another. The Patriot soldiers fought through British redoubts with little damage. Knowing they were running out supplies and men, Cornwallis tried to devise a plan of escape. He wanted to get all of his troops across the York River to Gloucester Point. The French Navy easily crushed his plan.

Finally, Cornwallis realized that he was trapped. The only option was to surrender. On October 19, 1781, Cornwallis sent a soldier with a white flag and a drummer to show his surrender. Washington had managed to capture about 8,000 British soldiers. This was a huge accomplishment for the Patriots. They had just beat the best army in the world. After this battle, the two sides started making negotiations. Two years later, the final agreement was made. Known as the Treaty of Paris, the negotiation forced Britain to recognize America's independence. The fight was completely over, and we had won!

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