The American War of Independence raged for years with victories and defeats on both sides. But the knockout blow came as the British Army was besieged at Yorktown. Yorktown is one of the battle sites that Americans can feel proud and patriotic about - unlike battlefields like the devasting Battle of Gettsyburg around 80 years later. Gettysburg is a site that conjures up more soul searching and contemplation.

Virginia is one of the oldest former colonies and has the first permanent English settlement in North America. While visiting Yorktown, be sure to visit the colonial site and replica of Jamestown as well. Here one can really get a sense of the earliest days of what would become the United States.


What To Know About The Battle of Yorktown

The Battle of Yorktown resulted in the surrender of the British Army and a decisive victory by the American Continental Army with the aid of the French. The Americans were led by General George Washington while the British were led by Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis.

  • Armies: British Against The American Continental Army and French Allies
  • Germans: There Were Germans Serving In All Three Armies
  • Duration: September 28 To October 19, 1781
  • Surrender: Over 7,000 British Soldiers Were Captured With Cornwallis
  • Treaty of Paris Of 1783: The British Recognized The United States

The loss of the British Army caused the British to sue for peace resulting in the recognition of the independence of the United States with the signing of the Treaty of Paris of 1783. Over 7,000 British soldiers were captured together with Cornwallis.

Revolution soon spread to France and the monarchy was famously overthrown with the French revolution of 1789 by 1798 relations between the Americans and their former French allies had soured to the point of there being the so-called "Quasi-War" 1798 and 1800 between the two countries.

Related: This Is What It Was Like To Be A Puritan During Colonial Times In New England

What To Know About Visiting Yorktown Today

Today the site of the Battle of Yorktown is a part of the Colonial National Historical Park and part of the Historic Triangle of Virginia (that also includes Williamsburg and Jamestown).

  • Part Of: The Colonial National Historical Park

Explore the site of the final large battle of the War of Independence and how a new country was born. As one visits today, one will see 1862 fortifications from the American Civil War as well.

As of the time of writing (April 2022) the Moore House, The Nelson House, The Cemetery Lodge, and the Poor Potter are closed. But the grounds are open to the public. The Battlefield Tour Roads are open until sunset.

Related: This Is What It Was Like To Eat In Colonial America (And In The Country's First Bakeshops)

The Yorktown Visitor Center Is Immersive To Stay One's Visit

One's visit to the battlefield begins at the Yorktown Visitor Center. Here visitors can obtain a park brochure with maps and info about the park so that visitors can be orientated. Learn about the various interpretive programs offered by the National Park Service throughout the day.

The Yorktown Battlefield Visitor Center and the Eastern National Store are open every day from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

  • Open: Daily
  • Hours: 9.00 am to 5.00 pm (visitor center)

Start the day with a 15-minute orientation film called "The Siege of Yorktown." This film starts at the hour and at every half hour.

  • Orientation Film: See The 15 Minute "The Siege of Yorktown" At the Visitor Center

Browse through the museum exhibits and even see the campaign table used by the British General Cornwallis during the siege. See the Continental campaign tents and dress and pose in soldiers' uniforms from the respective armies.

The Yorktown Visitor Center is part of the Colonial National Historical Park, so will need an admission ticket for that.

  • Adult: $15.00 For The Colonial National Historical Park
  • Child: Aged 15 and Under - Free

The museum includes a shop where visitors can buy historical books to learn more about the war in which America won its independence together with the background of the colonial period.

After browsing through the informative visitor center, begin one's self-guided tour of Yorktown and Yorktown Battlefield.

Ranger Led Programs

If one is planning to go with the family, then check out the National Park Service's Junior Ranger Program. Their programs are designed so that families can learn together and are developed for children up to the age of 12.

  • Tip: Check With The Ranger Interpretive Programs And Historic House Hours

Each Junior Ranger Program takes around 2 hours to finish and the little rangers are given a Certificate of Merit and a badge.

There are plenty of other NPS ranger-led tours and attractions - see their calendar and plan one's trip around them. After visiting this region of Virginia, learn more about the colonial history of the United States in Massachusetts and see the Boston Historic Trail.

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