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Battle Of Yorktown

October 19, 1781

Cornwallis surrenders to Washington

Edward Percy Moran, Surrender of Cornwallis to Washington at Yorktown.  Oil on Canvas, ca. 1890 - 1910, signed lower left, 30 x 40 inches,  Click on picture for larger view.  - - Painting Courtesy of Seth Kaller


A Stanley L. Klos Education Project

Rebels With A Vision

Historical Documents of Freedom
By: Stanley L. Klos


Yorktown, Virginia founded in 1691, was a busy 18th-century tobacco port but the town is best remembered as the site of the Battle of Yorktown, which effectively ended the Revolutionary War. Nine 18th-century buildings survived the 1781 Battle of Yorktown and can still be seen.

In the late summer of 1781 when George Washington and Rochambeau heard of Lord Cornwallis' encampment in Yorktown they  raced southward from New York to link up with the French fleet under Admiral Comte de Grasse in Chesapeake Bay. Washington arrived just in time to bottle-up the British, who were anticipating reinforcements that never came from either General Henry Clinton or the British fleet.

Off shore, the French fleet effectively blocked aid from Cornwallis while Washington made life unbearable for the British troops with three weeks of shelling. Thomas Nelson a signer of the Declaration of Independence  was also engaged in the final siege of Yorktown.  Nelson being a true patriot, urged General Washington to fire on his own home, the Nelson House, where Cornwallis had his headquarters.

Lord Cornwallis' finally surrendered  on October 19, 1781 and this ended the disastrous British southern campaign.  The loyalist and Patriot forces in the south had fought a series of savage fights that left both sides bloodied. These engagements sent Cornwallis limping  into Yorktown  in late summer trailed by a force led by the Marquis de Lafayette a French Ally. Cornwallis attempted to surrender over 8,000 men to the French through his second-in-command, Charles O'Hara.    French General Comte de Rochambeau, however, directed O'Hara to George Washington, who steered the British officer to his own second in command, Major General Benjamin Lincoln. .The surrender occurred while  the British band played The World Turned Upside Down, a tune that underscored the strange turn of events.  This battle effectively ended the Revolutionary War with Great Britain.



Settled between his Excellency General WASHINGTON, Commander in Chief of the combined Forces of America and France; his Excellency the Count de ROCHAMBEAU, Lieut. General of the armies of the King of France, Great Cross of the Royal and Military Order of St. Louis, commanding the auxiliary Troops of His Most Christian Majesty in America; and his Excellency the Count de GRASSE, Lieut. General of the naval Armies of His Most Christian Majesty, Commander of the Order of St. Louis, commanding in chief the naval Army of France in the Chesapeake, on the one Part


The Right Hon. Earl CORNWALLIS, Lieut. General of his Britannic Majesty Forces, commanding the Garrisons of York and Gloucester; and THOMAS SYMONDS, Esq; commanding his Britannic Majesty naval Forces in York river in Virginia, on the other part.

ARTICLE I. The garrisons of York and Gloucester, including the officers and seamen of his Britannic Majesty ships, as well as other mariners, to surrender themselves prisoners of war to the combined forces of America and France. The land troops to remain prisoners to the United States: The navy to the naval army of his Most Christian Majesty. Granted.

ART. II. The artillery, arms, accoutrements, military chest, and public stores, of every denomination, shall be delivered unimpaired, to the heads of departments, appointed to receive them. Granted.

ARTICLE  III. At 12 o’clock this day the two redoubts on the let flank of York to be delivered, the one to a detachment of American Infantry, the other to a detachment of French Grenadiers --- The garrison of York will match out to a place to be appointed, in front of the posts, at two precisely, with shouldered arms, colors cased and drums beating a British or German march --- they are then to ground their arms and return to their encampment, where they will remain until they are dispatched to the place of their destination --- Two works on the Gloucester side, will be delivered at one to detachments of French and American troops appointed to possess them --- The garrison will march out at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the cavalry with their swords drawn, trumpets sounding, and the infantry in the manner prescribed for the garrison of York --- They are likewise to return to their encampment until they can be finally marched off. Granted.

ARTICLE  IV. Officers are to retain their side arms --- both officers and soldiers to keep their private property of every kind, and no part of their baggage or papers to be at any time subject to search or inspection --- The baggage and papers of officers and soldiers taken during the siege to be likewise preserved for them --- It is understood that any property obviously belonging to the inhabitants of these States, in the possession of the garrison, shall be subject to be reclaimed. Granted.

ARTICLE V. The soldiers to be kept in Virginia, Maryland or Pennsylvania, and as much by regiments as possible, and supplied with the same rations of provisions as are allowed to soldiers in the service of America: A field officer from each nation, viz. British, Anspach and Hessian, and other officers on parole, in proportion of one to fifty men, to be allowed to reside near their respective regiments, to visit them frequently and be witnesses of their treatment --- and that these officers may receive and deliver clothing and other necessaries for them, for which passports are to be granted when applied for. Granted.

ARTICLE  VI. The General --- Staff and other officers, not employed as mentioned in the above article, and who chose it, to be permitted to go on parole to Europe, to New York, or to any other American maritime ports at present in the possession of the British forces, at their own option; and proper vessels to be granted by the Count de Grasse, to carry them, under flags of truce, to New York within ten days from this date, if possible, and they to reside in a district to be agreed upon hereafter, till they embark. The officers of the civil department of the army and navy to be included in this article. Passports to go by land to be granted to those to whom vessels cannot be furnished. Granted.

ARTICLE VII. Officers to be allowed to keep soldiers as servants, according to the common practice of the army --- Servants, not soldiers, are not t be considered as prisoners, and are to be allowed to attend their masters. --- Granted. ART. VIII. The Bonetta sloop of war to be equipped and navigated by its present Captain and crew, and left entirely at the disposal of Lord Cornwallis, from the hour that the capitulation is signed, to receive an Aid de Camp to carry dispatches to Sir Henry Clinton, and such soldiers as he may think proper to send to New York, to be permitted to said without examination, when his dispatches are ready. --- His Lordship engaging on his part, that the ship shall be delivered to the order of the Count de Grasse, if she escapes the dangers of the seas --- that she shall not carry off any public stores --- any part of the crew that may be deficient on her return and the soldiers, passengers, to be accounted for on her delivery. Granted. ART. IX. The traders are to preserve their property, and to be allowed three months to dispose of or remove them --- and those traders are to be considered as prisoners of war.

ANSWER. The traders will be allowed to dispose of their effects --- the allied army having the right of pre-emption. The traders to be considered as prisoners of war on parole.

ARTICLE X. Natives or inhabitants of different parts of this country, at present in York and Gloucester, are not to be punished on account of having joined the British army.

ANSWER  This article cannot be assented to, being altogether of civil resort.

ARTICLE XI. Proper hospitals to be furnished for the sick and wounded - they are to be attended by their own surgeons on parole, and they are to be furnished with medicines and stores from the American hospitals.

ANSWER The hospital stores now in York and Gloucester shall be delivered for the use of the British sick and wounded. Passports will be granted for procuring them further supplies from New York, as occasion may require, and proper hospitals will be furnished for the reception of the sick and wounded of the two garrisons.

ARTICLE XII. Wagons to be furnished to carry the baggage of the offices attending the soldiers, and the surgeons when traveling on account of the sick, attending the hospitals, at the public expense.

ANSWER They will be furnished if possible.

ARTICLE XIII. The shipping and boats in the two harbors, with all their stores, guns, tackling and apparel shall be delivered up in their present state to an officer of the navy appointed to take possession of them, previously unloading the private property, part of which had been on board for security during the siege. Granted.

ARTICLE XIV. No article of the capitulation to be infringed, on pretext of reprisal, and if there be any doubtful expressions in it, they are to be interpreted according to the common meaning and acceptation of the words. Granted.

Done at York, in Virginia, this 19th day of October, 1781.





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