Siege of Yorktown
Also called the Battle of Yorktown, German Battle among other names, the siege of Yorktown is a war which took place in Yorktown, Virginia between the British Army and an allied force comprised of Colonial American and French troops in 1781. Under the command of George Washington and French General, Comte de Rochambeau, the allied troops launched an attack on British forces led by Lord Cornwallis on October. Within just a few days of the battle, British forces comprising about 9,000 forces were forced to lay down arms, marking the end of the American Revolution.
Overview of the Siege of Yorktown
One year before the siege of Yorktown, the French government had sent a strong army under the command of Lord Rochambeu to Newport. The army stayed there for the next year protecting the vessels they had used to travel from being captured by a stronger fleet of British forces that had once been spotted across the harbor. At the same time, there were other French fleets in the West Indies.
In the hope of re-equipping his torn army, Cornwallis headed to the Yorktown peninsula in June1781. The British army fortified the city and Gloucester on orders of Clinton who wanted the troops to provide a safe harbor for the British fleet positioned at Chesapeake. However, they were not aware of plans by George Washington to lay an ambush on Yorktown.
In summer, French and American forces had come to an agreement to combine their troops in preparation for an attack on Britain. The united force made up of the French and Americans made their first move by surrounding Yorktown, Virginia.
In late September, an estimated 17,600 soldier comprising American and French troops were taking vigil at Williamsburg. In Yorktown, about 8,300 soldiers held a blockade. The British forces were made up of a small fraction of German forces hired to help in the war.
Realizing the looming defeat, Cornwallis sent Clinton a note asking for reinforcement, upon which the latter responded by stating that a British fleet comprising of 5,000 men would be sent to Yorktown from New York.
In readiness for the war, Cornwallis and his men erected defensive positions around Yorktown. At the same time, the American and French forces began marching to Yorktown, where they dug trenches for launching an attack.
By October 9th, the combined forces had positioned themselves for the siege and began firing continuously at the British defenses. Until October 11th, Clinton’s dispatch had not arrived in Yorktown to support Cornwallis’ falling blockade.
The war dragged on for the next few days whereby the French and American forces kept mounting pressure on Lord Cornwallis and his men. By October 17th, the British army had been reduced to tatters from the intensive firing by the combined forces and were forced to surrender.
The defeat of the British came as a shock to London, and although they still had troops in North America, their resolve was to end the conflict with America. In 1782, the British Parliament passed a resolution to end the revolution against the United States of America. Later that year, commissioners from Great Britain and the United States signed provisional articles of peace. This led to the signing of the final treaty acknowledging the independence of America in September 1783.
Significance of the Siege of Yorktown
The siege of Yorktown came at the height of the American Revolution, and was of great importance to both forces involved. To the British, the siege was a revelation of the losses they had suffered from war. The war had dragged on for too long with huge losses and casualties. Replacing the battered Cornwall’s army was an impossibility. At the time of defeat, the British government was also involved in military actions in Ireland, India and the West Indies. In light of all these, Great Britain resolved to sign a peace deal with the United States, ending the American Revolution.
To the Americans, victory in the siege of Yorktown was a celebration since it saw them break away from the bondage of Great Britain, and become independent.
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