Little Bits of History

New Beginnings

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 19, 2014
Surrender of Lord Cornwallis

Surrender of Lord Cornwallis

October 19, 1781: The Siege of Yorktown ends. This was a defining battle of the American Revolutionary War which lasted from September 28 until this day, ending with a victory for the combined troops of the Continental Army, led by George Washington, and the French Army troops led by the Comte de Rochambeau. The British were under the command of Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis. This was the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. The capture of Cornwallis and the surrender of his troops led the British government to negotiate an end to the war.

As the fighting continued, advancing Continental troops with their allies were outnumbering British troops and their allies about two to one. They were able to contain Cornwallis and his ability to retreat and regroup was halted at York River. On the morning of October 17, a British officer waved a white flag in surrender. The bombardment ceased and the officer was led behind enemy lines and negotiations began at the Moore House on the next day. The negotiators included Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Dundas and Major Alexander Ross for the British, Lieutenant Colonel Laurens for the Americans, and the Marquis de Noailles for the French. In order to retain the favor of the French, Washington gave them equal say in the negotiations.

The capitulation was signed on this day; signatories included Washington, Rochambeau, the Comte de Barras (for the French Navy), Cornwallis, and Lieutenant Thomas Symonds (British Navy). Cornwallis’s troops were considered prisoners of war and were given a promise of good treatment. Officers were permitted to return home after taking parole. At 2 PM, all was in place and the British asked for the traditional Honors of War which included marching with flags waving and muskets shouldered while playing an enemy tune as a signal of tribute to the victors. This was denied just as the defeated men in Charleston had been denied this right earlier.

The Americans captured 8,000 troops, 214 artillery pieces, thousands of muskets, 24 transport ships, and other spoils of war. Cornwallis refused to meet formally with Washington, claiming illness and refused to come to the ceremonies. Brigadier general Charles O’Hara came in Cornwallis’s stead and offered the sword of surrender to Rochambeau. Rochambeau demurred to Washington. O’Hara then offered the sword to Washington who also refused to take the sword but signaled instead to his second in command. Benjamin Lincoln, the defeated Major General at Charleston, finally took the sword from the humiliated O’Hara. The British marched out, laid down their arms between the French and American armies and those on the other side of the river also surrendered at the same time.

I have no other view than to promote the public good, and am unambitious of honors not founded in the approbation of my Country.

Laws made by common consent must not be trampled on by individuals.

I beg you be persuaded that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.

Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness. – all from  George Washington

Also on this day: Streptomycin – In 1943, Streptomycin was first isolated.
Not Soccer – Not Rugby – In 1873, the rules for American football were first codified.
Stella or A Deal You Can’t Refuse – In 1944, Marlon Brando made his Broadway debut.
Disco – In 1959, the Scotch-Club opened.


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