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Yorktown

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Yorktown

In a dramatic turnaround of luck that may mark the end of fighting in the American colonies, Lord Charles Cornwallis today signed orders surrendering his British Army to a combined French and American force outside the Virginia tobacco harbor of Yorktown. Charles O’Hara, Cornwallis’ second-in-command, attempted to give Cornwallis’ sword to French general Comte de Rochambeau. But Rochambeau directed O’Hara to American General George Washington, who coolly guided the British officer to Washington’s own second in command, Major General Benjamin Lincoln.

As a result, a three-week old siege that had begun with the unexpected union of French and American armies uniting on the Chesapeake Bay ended. With just a short window of opportunity to pin Cornwallis in Virginia, Washington and Rochambeau raced southward from New York to connect up with the French fleet under Admiral Comte de Grasse in Chesapeake Bay. They arrived just in time to ambush the British, who were expecting aid that never came from either General Henry Clinton or the British fleet.

Off shore, the French fleet successfully blocked help from Cornwallis.

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