Battle of Yorktown

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The Battle of Yorktown, although it did not end the war, was the last major battle of the war.

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War in the South

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British General Clinton along with another general, Lord Cornwallis sailed from New York with a fleet of 90 ships and 850 soldiers to take control of the south. The British had several major victories.

After winning the Battle of Savannah in December 1778, the British troops moved on Charleston, South Carolina. Although Washington sent more troops to support Charleston, the American army was eventually force to surrender. Following the victory, Clinton returned to New York leaving General Cornwallis in command.

A second southern army of Americans was formed under General Gates. In August 1780, Gates led an attack against Cornwallis at Camden, South Carolina. When the British charged, the poorly trained militia retreated leaving the regular soldiers greatly outnumbered. General Gates then retreated. The Americans suffered heavy losses as the British won another battle.

General Nathanael Greene replaced General Gates in October 1780. Rather than an all-out attack on Cornwallis, Greene used hit-and-run tactics to inflict damage on the British. This guerilla warfare managed to drive the British towards the coast and back into Yorktown.


Surrender of General Cornwallis

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Battle of Yorktown
The surrender of General, Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown
(Source: Library of Congress)
By the summer of 1781, the American troops managed to force Corwallis and his army to Yorktown, Virginia. The French naval fleet was on its way to Chesapeake Bay to support the American soldiers surrounding Yorktown.

On September 5, 1771, the French fleet attacked the British navy in Chesapeake Bay. After defeating the British Navy, French Admiral de Grass positioned his fleet and began bombarding the forts with Cornwallis and his troops.

Cornwallis was trapped between the American army and the French navy. By mid-October, Cornwallis was running out of food and ammunition. On October 19, 1781, General Cornwallis and 8,000 British troops surrendered.

Although this was only one quarter of the British troops in America, the surrender has a devastating affect on the British government, who were now concerned they were losing the war.

They were now motivated to negotiate the end of the war, and the Treaty of Paris.


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