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Battle of Yorktown in Primary Sources

Page history last edited by americas 8 years, 4 months ago

Freedom Week: Battle of Yorktown


 Prior Knowledge: Watch the video to learn how

 the Battle of Yorktown ended military operations

during the American Revolution 




Select two of the following primary sources and complete the analysis form to evaluate the significance of the Battle of Yorktown in securing American Independence.






“Military Recruitment Poster”

Recruiment poster from the American Revolution


“The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis”

The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis (at Yorktown, Virginia, on October 19, 1781), oil on canvas by John Trumbull, completed in 1820; in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Washington, D.C.


“Yorktown Campaign”

Map detailing the military campaign at Yorktown

Washington Reports the Yorktown Surrender, 1781

I have the honor to inform Congress that a reduction of the British army, under the command of Lord Cornwallis, is most happily effected. The unremitted ardor, which actuated every officer and soldier in the combined army on this occasion, has principally led to this important event at an earlier period than my most sanguine hopes had induced me to expect.

The singular spirit of emulation, which animated the whole army from the first commencement of our operations, has filled my mind with the highest pleasure and satisfaction, and had given me the happiest presages of success.

On the 17th instant, a letter was received from Lord Cornwallis, proposing a meeting of commissioners to consult on terms for the surrender of the posts of York and Gloucester. This letter (the first which had passed between us) opened a correspondence, a copy of which I do myself the honor to enclose; that correspondence was followed by the definitive capitulation, which was agreed to and signed on the 19th, a copy of which is also herewith transmitted and which, I hope, will meet the approbation of Congress.

I should be wanting in the feelings of gratitude, did I not mention on this occasion, with the warmest sense of acknowledgment, the very cheerful and able assistance which I have received in the course of our operation from his Excellency the Count de Rochambeau and all his officers of every rank in their respective capacities. Nothing could equal the zeal of our allies, but the emulating spirit of the American officers, whose ardor would not suffer their exertions to be exceeded.

The very uncommon degree of duty and fatigue, which the nature of the service required from the officers and engineers and artillery of both armies, obliges me particularly to mention the obligations I am under to the commanding and other officers of those corps.

I wish it was in my power to express to Congress how much I feel myself indebted to the Count de Grasse and the officers of the fleet under his command, for the distinguished aid and support which has been afforded by them, between whom and the army the most happy concurrence of sentiments and views has subsisted, and from whom every possible cooperation has been experienced, which the most harmonious intercourse could afford.

-George Washington 

George Washington toTimothy Pickering, October 30, 1781, and November 5, 1781 

George Washington wrote this manuscript just after his final defeat of the British at Yorktown. The manuscript includes two letters from Washington to Timothy Pickering dated October 30, 1781, and November 5, 1781. The letters are both in the hand of aide-de-camp Jonathan Trumbull Jr. and signed by Washington. In these letters, General Washington authorizes the payment of the Southern army troops using funds from a British military war chest. Pickering is instructed to give a total of 350 pounds to Colonel Edward Carrington for this purpose. Carrington signs for receipt of this money on November 6, 1781.







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