National Geographic : 1988 Jun
The Siege of Yorktown-1781 S EA POWER was crucial to the British; the rebels con trolled the hinterland.After six years of winning battles but not the war, London sent an army to the South, believ ing that Loyalists there would come to its aid. But the Caro linas would not be subdued, and Cornwallis retreatedto Virginia. In August 1781, with 8,300 regulars and as many as 2, 000 escaped slaves who believed British victory would mean freedom, he began defensive earthworks around Yorktown and Gloucester Point (below). France- England's long timefoe -had dispatched warships toward Virginia. Gen. George Washington and the French commander, Comte de Rochambeau, were marchingsouth from the Hudson Valley. The vise was tightening. Alerted, a British fleet sailedfrom New York with reinforcements. This French battleplan September 28: An allied army -" -, ' egan tOf'urroundYorktow, .. with the French to bte west, " . V" ,. Americans t6.the edt. The siege :;;,l Svamil rf i&nstwiirtense that- . (right) maps the French blockade across the mouth of the Chesapeake and the Battle of the Capes. When the Britishfleet arrivedoff the Virginia Capes on September 5, itfound 26 French war ships anchored "promiscu ously" in three straggling lines. Instead of attacking immediately, Rear Adm. Thomas Graves-trueto the rules of 18th-century war fare- waited while the Frenchformed their battle line. Thefleets cannonaded each otherfor two hours until sunset without a decisive out come. After five days Graves - outgunned and unnerved withdrew to New York. The more than 60 British vessels at Yorktown now took defensive positions. American and French regiments number ing 17,600 men surrounded Cornwallis'sarmy, and the siege began. On October 19 the British surrendered. The Revolution was won.