On This Day (October 19th)

On this day in 1781, The Siege of Yorktown, also known as the Battle of Yorktown, the Surrender at Yorktown, German Battle or the Siege of Little York, marks the decisive victory by a combined force of American Continental and French Army troops over an entire a British Army commanded by British peer and Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis. The land war with Britain was over.

Essentially outwitted and hopelessly surrounded by Washington’s 6,500 Continentals and French marching from the north, Lafayette’s 5,000 Continentals moving from the west and a superior French fleet holding the Chesapeake, the effete Cornwallis was compelled to terms under a white hankie. He surrendered 7,087 officers and enlisted men in Yorktown and another 840 sailors from the British fleet in the York River; the Americans also took 214 artillery pieces, thousands of muskets,15 galleys, a frigate, 30 transport ships and countless wagons and horses.

Pleading illness, Cornwallis did not attend the surrender ceremony, but his second-in-command, General Charles O’Hara, carried Cornwallis’ sword to the American and French commanders. As the British and Hessian troops marched out to surrender, the British band reportedly played the song “The World Turned Upside Down.”

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