Battle of Yorktown Analysis

Topics: Siege of Yorktown, American Revolutionary War, George Washington Pages: 6 (2195 words) Published: June 21, 2011
Battle of Yorktown
During the American Revolution, the Americans and French (Franco-American coalition) fought the British at the Battle of Yorktown also known as “The Siege of Yorktown”. The Americans and the French fielded a combined force of roughly 16,000 soldiers to defeat the British force estimated at 7,000 soldiers. American General George Washington and French Lieutenant General de Rochambeau led the American and French soldiers. The British commanding officer was Major General Lord Cornwallis. The battle occurred from September 28 thru October 19, 1781. Cornwallis lost his dominance in the Carolinas and decided to march his army north to Virginia and seize Yorktown and Gloucester along the York River. What led to the Battle of Yorktown? The beginning is not as clear as many would like to think. General Cornwallis was campaigning for the majority of the American Revolution in the southern states. He ravaged many of the southern states with his army in order to move toward achieving his main goal of the campaign; disrupting the supply lines that Washington was using and isolating the Franco-American forces. However, in Virginia, Marquis de Lafayette a young Frenchmen who led the American and French troops did not decisively engage the British. Lafayette had roughly 3,000 soldiers to defend Virginia while the British had around 7,000. During this time, Cornwallis received orders from the British Commander-in-Chief, Sir Henry Clinton, to take up a position in the Virginia peninsula where Yorktown was located. The goal was to set up a naval post to receive supplies and reinforcements from the Royal Navy. It was unknown at this time that Cornwallis was setting himself up for failure in Yorktown. The initial movement made by Washington started on September 26, 1781. Washington’s arsenal included artillery, tools that were helpful in fortified positions, and troops of special assault teams that assembled into specified formations intended to lead attacks. Washington commanded an estimated 16,000 men to include French and Americans. Cornwallis who at this time had already established himself in Yorktown and Gloucester had no knowledge of Washington's movements. Cornwallis established an outer and inner line of entrenchments. Detached from the entrenchments were defensive emplacements and fortifications in an outer perimeter defensive setting. The inner line connected trenches, fortifications, and artillery batteries. The combat powers at Cornwallis disposal were 65 field pieces to include 18-lb. guns removed from his ships. In the Gloucester side, a fortified defensive line intended to stop a northern frontal assault was established. This defensive line included four defensive emplacements to include three batteries. In Gloucester, Cornwallis had about 700 men defending the line. Cornwallis also had the sailors and ships from the Royal Navy that were defeated. On September 28, the Franco-American forces left in the hours of limited visibility to come within one mile away from Cornwallis’s defense line. This was the beginning of the siege. The siege began with the French entering in through the left and the Americans the right. With the advance of the Franco-American forces, the British troops began to withdraw. Some of Washington’s forces conducted recons of the British sectors. The results of the recon concluded that the use of indirect fire would submit the British. Cornwallis at this time received word from his superior that reinforcements and a fleet of soldiers were on their way to contribute to the battle. Therefore, Cornwallis decided to abandon some of his outpost in the outer line of defense and strengthen his inner line and fortifications. General Washington capitalized on Cornwallis’s decision and sent some of his troops to occupy the abandoned defense line. The beginning of the bombardment began when Saint-Simon fired the first round around 3:00 P.M. The bombardment helped...
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