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October 19, 1781: British Surrender at Yorktown

 

After the battle of Monmouth in 1778, the time of large scale battles in the north during the American Revolution came to an end.  The subsequent years were frustrating for Washington as he struggled against a collapsing American economy to keep his army from starving, unable to build up the military power necessary to put New York under siege.  The situation altered in 1781. The French navy achieved temporary control of the waters off Virginia, and Washington secretly marched with 8,000 Continentals and 5,000 French from New York to attack the army of General Cornwallis in Virginia.  Besieged at Yorktown, Cornwallis surrendered his 7,000 men on October 19, 1781.  The War would drag on another two years until the British withdrew from New York under the terms of the Treaty of Paris, but after Yorktown everyone on both sides knew that American independence, against the odds, had been achieved.  Here is the text of Washington’s letter to Congress announcing the victory:

 

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