British General Lord Cornwallis, finding himself hopelessly surrounded at Yorktown, Virginia has no choice but to surrender his 8,000 British seamen and soldiers to a bigger American-Franco force which basically signifies the end of the American Revolution.
Cornwallis was thought of as one of the better British generals that were part of the American Revolution. From 1776-1780, he was able to force out of New Jersey General George Washington’s Patriot’s as well as an important victory at Camden, South Carolina over the Patriot army led by General Horation Gates. However, his attempt to invade North Carolina proved unsuccessful and in 1781, led his battered and tired troops in the direction of the Virginia coast towards New York City in order to hold the seaborne lines of communication with General Henry Clinton’s large British army. Cornwallis led a series of attacks on plantations and towns in Virginia until deciding in August to settle in the tidewater town of Yorktown. Immediately, the British began to fortify the town as well as across the York River adjacent promontory of Gloucester Point.
Meanwhile, Washington told the Marquis de Lafayette to use his American army that consisted of roughly 5,000 men in Virginia to deny escape for Cornwallis from Yorktown by land. During this time, Count de Rochambeau led his French army that had 4,000 men and joined Washington’s 2,500 soldiers in New York. Rochambeau and Washington decided to attack Cornwallis with the added power of the big French fleet led by Count de Grasse; August 21st was the day that they crossed the Hudson River south in order to march to Yorktown. It was early in September when the combined force made it to the head of Chesapeake Bay; they had covered 200 miles in a total of 15 days.
Although Cornwallis was expecting reinforcements from the British fleet that was under the command of Admiral Thomas Graves, he was unsuccessful at the Battle of Virginia Capes to defeat the French navy on September 5th as well as delivering any extra personnel. From September 14th- 28th, de Grasse transported the allied forces to Virginia in order to meet up with Lafayette and finally encircled Cornwallis at Yorktown. De Grasse was able to add another 3,000 French troops transported by his fleet and within the first two weeks in October, the 14,000 American-Franco forces had overcome Cornwallis’s fortified British positions with assistance of de Grasse’s warships. Although the British fleet tried to send 7,000 troops to assist Cornwallis, it was too little too late.
General Cornwallis surrendered 7,087 men and officers, 900 seamen, 30 transport ships, 144 cannons, a frigate and 15 galleys on October 19th, 1781. Second-in-command General Charles O’Hara presented Cornwallis’ sword to the French and American commanders at the surrender ceremony because Cornwallis did not attend due to illness. The British bands played “The World Turned Upside Down” as the Hessian and British troops marched out to surrender. Even though fighting still raged on in other theaters and on the high seas, the win at Yorktown halted fighting in the American colonies. What followed in 1782 was the start to peace negotiations that led to the signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3rd of 1783; this formally recognized the U.S. as an independent and free nation after eight years of war.