Yorktown Surrender Ground

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The British Surrender at Yorktown

The surrender of the British at Yorktown began when a small drummer boy mounted the rampart of the British Horn Work beating out a parley signal at 10 am on 17 Oct 1781. The drummer boy was followed by an officer waving a white handkerchief. The officer was blindfolded and led to General Washington's tent where a two hour ceasefire was negotiated and four commissioners were select to negotiate the terms of the surrender. The negotiated terms were presented to General Washington who approved ten of the fourteen provisions on the morning of the 19th. The surrender ceremony was to take place that afternoon at two o'clock at a field behind the American lines.

The British marched out of Yorktown in a somber column with their colors furled and their muskets reversed. As the column reached the surrender ground it passed between the American Troops on one side of the road and the French troops on the other side. The British band played "The World Turned Upside Down" as the British troops came to the spot where they each laid down their arms. The British enlisted troops were to become prisoners of war and the British officers were to be paroled.

British General Charles O'Hara was selected by Lord Cornwallis to hand over his sword to General Washington. Lord Cornwallis did not attend the ceremony claiming illness. After some confusion Lord Cornwallis's sword was presented to General Washington's second in command, General Benjamin Lincoln, who in turn presented it to General George Washington. Also in attendance were the French heros General Marquis de Lafayette and General Comte de Rochambeau, Admiral de Grasse did not attend.

The famous painting above by John Trumbull depicts General Lincoln at the center mounted on the white horse extending his hand to General O'Hara to receive Lord Cornwallis's sword. George Washington is in the background on the brown horse because Lord Cornwallis chose not to attend. Lafayette is shown on the American side. The French officers are shown on the left.

Surrender Road

The Surrender Road and Field Today

The surrender road led from the British fortifications to the field shown in the above photo. Most of this route is now paved highway but the portion in from to the surrender field is still a dirt road as it was in 1781. The total distance from the British fortification to the surrender field is just a mile and a quarter.

Surrender Field

Surrender Pavilion

Captured British Mortar at the Surrender Pavilion
Capture Cannons on the Lower Level of the Surrender Pavilion
Yorktown Surrender Pavilion

Location: Yorktown, York County, Virginia.

Maps & Images

Lat: 37.2092257 Long: -76.5054953

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Visited: 13 May 2013

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