What Was the Significance of the Battle of Yorktown?

The Battle of Yorktown in 1781 was the last major land battle of the American Revolutionary War. A significant victory for George Washington’s colonial army, it disheartened the British, encouraged the Americans and French, and prompted negotiations to end the war.

When General George Washington found out that British General Charles Cornwallis and his army were camped in Yorktown, Virginia, awaiting supplies, he marched south with an army of almost 9,000 Americans and 8,000 Frenchmen. At the same time, Rear Admiral Comte de Grasse sailed north from the Caribbean with a French fleet, blockading the British navy from resupplying Cornwallis. The American and French force besieged Yorktown, constantly bombarding the British with artillery fire and digging trenches closer and closer to the encircled army. The British held out for three weeks before surrendering to Washington. Cornwallis claimed illness and refused to attend the ceremony.

British losses were much higher in the battle than those of the Americans and French. Additionally, more than 7,000 British soldiers were captured. As a result of the defeat, popular support for the war in Great Britain eroded. Peace negotiations began the following year, and on Sept. 3, 1783, the signing of the Treaty of Paris formally brought an end to the Revolutionary War and established the United States as a free and independent country.