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Yorktown campaign,1781, the closing military operations of the American Revolution. After his unsuccessful Carolina campaignCarolina campaign,
1780–81, of the American Revolution. After Sir Henry Clinton had captured Charleston, he returned to New York, leaving a British force under Cornwallis to subordinate the Carolinas to British control.
..... Click the link for more information. General CornwallisCornwallis, Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess
, 1738–1805, English general and statesman. He was commissioned an ensign in the British army in 1756 and saw service in Europe in the Seven Years War.
..... Click the link for more information. moved into Virginia to join British forces there. His lieutenant, Banastre TarletonTarleton, Sir Banastre
, 1754–1833, British army officer in the American Revolution. He arrived (1775) in America with General Cornwallis and was a member of the patrol that captured Gen. Charles Lee at Basking Ridge, N.J.
..... Click the link for more information. , engaged American forces under the marquis de LafayetteLafayette, or La Fayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de
, 1757–1834, French general and political leader. He was born of a distinguished family and early entered the army.
..... Click the link for more information. , Baron von SteubenSteuben, Friedrich Wilhelm, Baron von
, 1730–94, Prussian army officer, general in the American Revolution, b. Magdeburg. He served in the Seven Years War and was a general staff officer. In 1762 he became an aide to Frederick the Great.
..... Click the link for more information. , and Gen. Anthony WayneWayne, Anthony,
1745–96, American Revolutionary general, b. Chester co., Pa. Impetuous and hot-headed, Wayne was sometimes known as "mad Anthony," but he was an able general. Early Career
Not inclined toward academic studies, Wayne became a surveyor in 1763.
..... Click the link for more information. in several minor actions as the British retreated down the York peninsula. Cornwallis fortified Yorktown and waited for reinforcements to come from Sir Henry ClintonClinton, Sir Henry,
1738?–1795, British general in the American Revolution, b. Newfoundland; son of George Clinton (1686?–1761). He was an officer in the New York militia and then in the Coldstream Guards.
..... Click the link for more information. in New York. While he was there, late in August, a French fleet under Admiral de GrasseGrasse, François Joseph Paul, comte de
, 1722–88, French admiral. In 1781, in command of a French fleet sent to cooperate with the Continental forces in the American Revolution, he defeated a British naval force under Admiral Hood and captured Tobago.
..... Click the link for more information. arrived from the West Indies, blockaded Chesapeake Bay, and defeated (September) the British naval forces under Admiral GravesGraves, Thomas Graves, Baron,
1725?–1802, British admiral. During the American Revolution his fleet was routed (1781) by the comte de Grasse at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, a defeat that led directly to Lord Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown (see Yorktown campaign).
..... Click the link for more information. . Leaving a force to harry Clinton in New York, Gen. George Washington and General RochambeauRochambeau, Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de
, 1725–1807, marshal of France. He took part in the wars of King Louis XV and had been promoted to lieutenant general by 1780, when King Louis XVI sent him, with some 6,000 regulars, to aid General Washington in the
..... Click the link for more information. rushed south, with many French troops. Cornwallis, unaware of Washington's advance, remained more or less idle, and malaria became an increasing problem among his forces. Lafayette and Steuben distinguished themselves as commanders of the holding troops and did so even more after the reinforcements arrived. By mid-September an overwhelming Franco-American force had gathered. Cornwallis tried to escape, but his attempts failed. On Oct. 17, 1781, he asked for surrender terms, which he accepted Oct. 19, 1781.
See H. P. Johnston, The Yorktown Campaign (1881, repr. 1971); T. J. Fleming, Beat the Last Drum (1963); B. Davis, The Campaign That Won America (1970); N. Philbrick, The Hurricane's Eye (2018).