The British Surrender at Yorktown, 1781
In the summer of 1781, after six years of war, the American Army was struggling. The British occupied New York
City. A second British army lead by General Lord Cornwallis ravaged the South - capturing Charleston, Richmond, and apparently was heading for the Chesapeake Bay. Mutiny plagued the American army in New York and New
There was a glimmer of hope, however. The French, allied with the Americans since 1778, had landed six thousand
troops in Rhode Island while the French fleet gathered in the Caribbean preparing to do battle with the British. General George Washington and the French
commander, Comte de Rochambeau, met in May 1781 to plan their strategy. Washington wanted to attack the British
in New York City. Rochambeau, fearful of attacking such a well fortified position and lacking confidence in the Continental Army's abilities, recommended marching south to battle Cornwallis in Virginia.
Washington finally acquiesced to the French position and on August 22, the two armies began their march from White Plains, New York to Virginia arriving in early September. As the combined American and French armies
marched south, a battle between the French and British fleets in the Chesapeake Bay sealed the fate of General Cornwallis and his British troops at Yorktown. In the period from September 5 - 9, the French surprised
the British fleet at the mouth of the Chesapeake forcing the British navy to retreat to New York, leaving General Cornwallis stranded.
After a five-day bombardment, the combined American and French forces attacked and
overwhelmed Cornwallis's fortified position on the night of October 14. The British commander was left with no choice but to surrender, which he did on October 19. News of the surrender reached England on
November 25 sending shock waves through the British government. Although King George III wanted to continue the battle, the surrender forced Prime Minister Lord North to resign in March 1782. His replacement began
the peace process that culminated in the signing of the Treaty of Paris in September 1783 granting independence to the American colonies.