Battle of Yorktown, 1781



Battle of Yorktown


American General George Washington led 18,900 American and French troops in the Siege of Yorktown against General, Lord Charles Cornwallis and 9,000 British and German troops at Yorktown, Virginia.  This battle culminated in the surrender of the British Army and ultimately led to the end of the war and American independence from England.



After the French Admiral de Grasse defeated British Admiral Graves in the naval Battle of the Chesapeake, British General Cornwallis found himself surrounded in Yorktown, Virginia without an escape by sea.  American General Washington and French General Rochambeau bombarded the British lines from 28 September-14 October and then attacked the remaining outer defenses.  After more fighting, the British surrendered on 19 October 1781.

Battle of Chesapeake



Yorktown, Virginia, United States

Yorktown, Virginia



Led by

Major General, Lord Charles Cornwallis (Commanding)

Gen. Cornwallis

Brigadier General Charles O’Hara (Second in Command, surrendered Cornwallis’ sword)

Colonel Banastre Tarleton (later, 1st Baronet, GCB)

Lieutenant Colonel, Sir Robert Abercromby (later, Commander-in-Chief India, 1793-1797)

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Dundas (prisoner of war; later, Governor of Guadeloupe, 1794)

Lieutenant Colonel John Yorke

Colonel August von Voigt

Lieutenant Colonel Matthew von Fuchs

Supported by

Admiral Thomas Graves (later, 1st Baron Graves)

Captain Thomas Symonds, Royal Navy (Sr. Naval Officer at Yorktown, signed surrender along with Cornwallis)



Led by

Gen. Washington

General George Washington, Commander-in-Chief

Major General Benjamin Lincoln (Second in Command, accepted Cornwallis’ sword from O’Hara; later, first Secretary of War of the United States, 1781-1783)

Lieutenant General Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau

Major General Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette

General Anthony Wayne

Major General Frederick William, Freiherr (baron) von Steuben

Major General John Sullivan

Brigadier General Henry Knox (later, first Secretary of War of the United States after ratification of the Constitution)

General Thomas Nelson, Jr.

Major General François Marie, Comte d’Aboville

Brigadier General Claude Gabriel, Marquis de Choissey

Brigadier General Moses Hazen

Captain Alexander Hamilton (later, first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, 1801-1809)

Supported by

Admiral François Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse

Admiral Jacques-Melchior Saint-Laurent, Comte de Barras


Gen. O’Hara surrenders Cornwallis’ sword


A major victory for the Americans that resulted in the surrender of the British Army.



The British suffered 142 killed, 326 wounded, and 7,685 taken prisoner.  The Americans and French had a grand total of 88 killed and 301 wounded.  The surrender of the British Army at Yorktown brought an end to the war and led to the signing of the Treaty of Paris wherein England recognized the independence of the United States.


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