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American Revolution

Battle of Yorktown

History >> American Revolution

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.

George Washington, Rochambeau, and Lafayette Planning for the Battle
by Auguste Couder

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.

US Army attacking a British Redoubt
Storming of Redoubt #10 by H. Charles McBarron Jr.
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 He originally made a lot of demands to George Washington for his surrender, but Washington didn't agree.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 at Yorktown
Surrender of Lord Cornwallis by John Trumbull
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
Small Map of the Routes to the Battle
Routes taken by Washington, Rochambeau, and Cornwallis
Source: National Park Service
Activities Learn more about the Revolutionary War:

Works Cited

History >> American Revolution

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