The Battle of Yorktown was the last great battle of the American Revolutionary War. It is where the British Army surrendered and the British government began to consider a peace treaty.
Build up to the Battle
General Nathanael Greene had taken over command of the American Continental Army in the South. Prior to General Greene's command, the war in the South had not been going very well, but Greene put in some new tactics that enabled American victories and caused the British Army to retreat to the East Coast.
Routes taken on march to Yorktown - Click to see larger view
At the same time that the British Army under General Charles Cornwallis was retreating to Yorktown, General George Washington was marching his army down from the north. The French Navy, having defeated the British Navy, started to move to the coast near Yorktown as well.
The Siege of Yorktown
The British Army was now surrounded at Yorktown. They were greatly outnumbered by the French and American troops. For eleven days the American forces bombarded the British. Finally Cornwallis sent out the white flag for surrender. He originally made a lot of demands to George Washington for his surrender, but Washington didn't agree. When the American troops started to prepare for another attack, Cornwallis agreed to Washington's terms and the battle was over.
On October 19, 1781 General Cornwallis signed the British surrender. The document was called the Articles of Capitulation.
Surrender of Cornwallis Source: U.S. Federal Government
British Done Fighting
Around 8,000 British troops surrendered in Yorktown. Although this wasn't all of the army, it was a big enough force to cause the British to start thinking they were going to lose the war. Losing this battle made them start to think about peace and that it wasn't worth the cost of the war to keep the colonies. This opened the door for the Treaty of Paris.
Interesting Facts about the Battle of Yorktown
General Cornwallis said he was sick and didn't show up to the surrender. He sent General Charles O'Hara to surrender his sword.
The British tried to surrender to the French, but they made the British surrender to the Americans.
In this battle between the French, Americans, and the British, nearly one third of the soldiers were Germans. There were thousands on each side.
The French forces were led by the Comte de Rochambeau. Some of the American forces were led by Marquis de La Fayette, a French officer who became a Major General in the American army.
The British Prime Minister, Lord Frederick North, resigned after the British defeat and surrender at Yorktown.
The battle lasted around 20 days. The American and French had around 18,000 troops, significantly outnumbering the 8,000 troops of the British.
The British leader, General Cornwallis, was expecting to get reinforcements from the British Navy. When the French defeated the British Navy and prevented them from sending help, Cornwallis knew he was going to lose the battle.