The Battle of Yorktown, which took place from September 28 to October 19, 1781, was a decisive confrontation during the American Revolutionary War. It unfolded in Yorktown, Virginia, and involved the combined forces of the Continental Army, led by General George Washington, and the French Army, commanded by General Comte de Rochambeau. The opposing British army, under General Lord Cornwallis, found itself surrounded and outnumbered by the American and French troops, leading to its ultimate surrender.
The battle began with the successful siege of Yorktown, as the American and French forces strategically encircled the British army and bombarded their positions. British attempts to break free from the siege were thwarted, and Cornwallis’s situation grew increasingly dire. Recognizing the futility of continuing the fight, Cornwallis surrendered on October 19, 1781. The British defeat at Yorktown was a pivotal moment in the war, as it effectively ended major military operations in North America and led to negotiations for peace. The battle showcased the strength of the alliance between the American and French forces and served as a catalyst for the recognition of American independence by the British, leading to the eventual Treaty of Paris in 1783.
Diaries and Memoirs
Martin, Joseph Plumb. A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier: Some of the Adventures, Dangers, and Sufferings of Joseph Plumb Martin. New York: Signet Classics, 2010.
Minutes of Occurrences respecting the Siege and Capture of York in Virginia, extracted from the Journal of Colonel Jonathan Trumbull, Secretary to the General, 1781,” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 14 (1875-76): 322
Other Primary Sources
Mayers, Robert A. The War Man: The True Story of a Citizen-Soldier Who Fought from Quebec to Yorktown. Yardley: Westholme, 2009.
Bonsal, Stephen. When the French Were Here – A Narrative of the Yorktown Campaign. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1945.
Carpenter, Stanley D. M. Southern Gambit: Cornwallis and the British March to Yorktown. Campaigns and Commanders, volume 65. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2019.
Davis, Burke. The Campaign That Won America – The Story of Yorktown. Eastern Acorn Press, 1989.
Fleming, Thomas J. Beat the Last Drum – The Siege of Yorktown, 1781. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1963.
Greene, Jerome A. The Guns of Independence: The Siege of Yorktown, 1781. 1st paperback ed. New York: Savas Beatie, 2009.
Lauberdière, Louis François Bertrand Dupont d’Aubevoye, and Norman Desmarais. The Road to Yorktown: The French Campaigns in the American Revolution, 1780-1783. First edition. California: Savas Beatie, 2021.
Lumpkin, Henry. From Savannah to Yorktown: The American Revolution in the South. Lincoln: toExcel, 2000.
Nelson, James L. George Washington’s Great Gamble: And the Sea Battle That Won the American Revolution. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010.
Philbrick, Nathaniel. In the Hurricane’s Eye: The Genius of George Washington and the Victory at Yorktown. New York, New York: Viking, 2018.
Yorktown Maps and Siege Lines
The Conflict after Yorktown
Glickstein, Don. After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for American Independence, 2015. https://allthingsliberty.com/2015/11/after-yorktown-the-final-struggle-for-american-independence/.
Yorktown Battlefield Photos
British Surrender From a French Perspective
Hanging at a special exhibit at the Museum of American History, Smithsonian
British Surrender From an American Perspective
For a listing of the people in the picture, see an Architect of the Capitol site.