Yorktown Campaign

Yorktown campaign, 1781, the closing military operations of the American Revolution. After his unsuccessful Carolina campaign General Cornwallis moved into Virginia to join British forces there. His lieutenant, Banastre Tarleton, engaged American forces under the marquis de Lafayette, Baron von Steuben, and Gen. Anthony Wayne in several minor actions as the British retreated down the York peninsula. Cornwallis fortified Yorktown and waited for reinforcements to come from Sir Henry Clinton in New York. While he was there, late in August, a French fleet under Admiral de Grasse arrived from the West Indies, blockaded Chesapeake Bay, and defeated (September) the British naval forces under Admiral Graves. Leaving a force to harry Clinton in New York, Gen. George Washington and General Rochambeau 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).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Yorktown Campaign: Selected full-text books and articles

FREE! The Yorktown Campaign and the Surrender of Cornwallis, 1781 By Henry P. Johnston Harper & Brothers, 1881 (Revised edition)
FREE! France in the American Revolution By James Breck Perkins Houghton Mifflin, 1911
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XX "The Yorktown Expedition" and Chap. XXI "Yorktown and De Grasse"
The End of North's Ministry: 1780-1782 By Ian R. Christie MacMillan, 1958
Librarian’s tip: Chap. III "Yorktown and the Crisis within the Ministry"
The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 By Robert Middlekauff Oxford University Press, 1985
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 22 "Yorktown and Paris"
The War for America: 1775-1783 By Piers Mackesy University of Nebraska Press, 1993
Librarian’s tip: "The March to Yorktown" begins on p. 407, and "The News of Yorktown" begins on p. 433
FREE! The Revolutionary War and the Military Policy of the United States By Francis Vinton Greene Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VIII "Yorktown"
A Respectable Army: The Military Origins of the Republic, 1763-1789 By James Kirby Martin; Mark Edward Lender Harlan Davidson, 2006
Librarian’s tip: "The Yorktown Campaign" begins on p. 173
Triumph of Freedom, 1775-1783 By John C. Miller Boston, Little, Brown, 1948
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XXVIII "Yorktown"
FREE! Soldiers and Sailors of France in the American War for Independence (1776-1783) By Captain Joachim Merlant; Mary Bushnell Coleman C. Scribner's Sons, 1920
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of the Yorktown campaign begins on p. 150
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