Battle of Yorktown summary Causes and consequences

Battle of Yorktown

The fact of war that took place in 1781, during which troops from the United States and France defeated besieged British forces in the city of Yorktown. In this article we will provide you the summary of Battle of Yorktown.

Date September 26 to October 19, 1781.
Place Yorktown, Virginia, United States.
Belligerents Great Britain vs. United States and France
Outcome Victory of the United States and France.

The Battle of Yorktown was one of the last armed confrontations of the War for Independence of the United States . It took place between September 26 and October 19, 1781 in  Yorktown, Virginia, United States.

In this battle the following sides faced:

  • The Continental Army : made up of some 5,000 Americans commanded by George Washington. They were assisted by a contingent of 1,000 French volunteers under the command of the Marquis de La Fayette and a regular French army made up of about 5,000 men under the command of Count Rochambeau. The land forts were supported by a French fleet made up of 29 warships manned by some 3,000 men.
  • The British Army : made up of 7,000 men from the British Empire , joined by 1,000 German allies from Brandenburg and Hesse-Kassel, all under the command of Lord Cornwallis.

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The Battle of Yorktown began on September 26, 1781 with the attack by the Americans and their French allies on the bastions and fortifications erected by the British on the outskirts of the city of Yorktown. Unable to resist the attack, the British forces fell back and were besieged inside the city.

Meanwhile, the French Caribbean fleet defeated the Royal Navy in naval combat off the Chesapeake Bay . After the withdrawal of the British ships that were not sunk, the French blocked the port of Yorktown , preventing the besieged troops from receiving reinforcements, weapons and supplies by sea.

The participation of the French Caribbean fleet was possible thanks to the signing of the Grasse-Saavedra Agreement , which stipulated that a Spanish fleet would defend the ports of the Antilles while the French provided aid to the United States.

After three weeks of intense fighting, the battle ended with the surrender of the British and the triumph of the independentistas and their French allies.

The British defeat forced the government of Prime Minister Frederick North to begin negotiations that ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which, in 1783, recognized the Independence of the United States .

Causes and consequences of the Battle of Yorktown


Among the causes of the Battle of Yorktown, the following stand out:

  • The declaration of the Independence of the United States of America , proclaimed in the city of Philadelphia, on July 4, 1776.
  • The decision of the British government not to recognize that independence and to regain the thirteen rebellious colonies by force.
  • The support provided by the government of France to the United States with the double objective of weakening Great Britain and recovering the territories lost during the 7 Years’ War .
  • The collaboration of the government of Spain, which agreed to protect the French ports of the Caribbean, while the French fleet besieged the city of Yorktown by sea. The Spanish also handed over weapons, supplies and money to pay the soldiers who made up the independence army.

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The most important consequences of the Battle of Yorktown were the following:

  • The beginning of negotiations between British and American delegates that culminated in the signing of the Treaty of Paris  in 1783. In this treaty, the British government recognized the Independence of the United States of America.
  • The culmination of the first decolonization process of the American continent, which served as a model and source of inspiration for the independentist Creoles of the Spanish-American colonies.
  • The political organization of the United States , which was reflected in the sanction of the Constitution of 1787 and in the establishment of a national, sovereign and independent government.
  • The temporary weakening of Great Britain , which after the loss of the United States turned its attention to Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Protagonists of the Battle of Yorktown

The main protagonists of the Battle of Yorktown were the following:

  • Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau (1725-1807) : commander of the French army who assisted the United States during the War of Independence.
  • George Washington  (1732-1799) : Commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the War for Independence and the country’s first president between 1789 and 1799. Americans regard him as one of the fathers of the country.
  • Lord Charles Cornwallis (1738-1805): English military man, commander of the British army defeated at the Battle of Yorktown. He feigned illness so as not to have to participate in the act of surrendering his troops to the French and the Americans.
  • Marquis de La Fayette (1757-1834) : French military and politician who supported the fight of the United States against Great Britain. He had an outstanding participation in the French Revolution of 1789 and in the Revolutions of 1830.

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