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The Battle of Yorktown, also known as the Siege of Yorktown, was a joint land and sea campaign by the French and the American troops resulting in the surrender of a major British army led by General Charles Cornwallis. The battle lasted from September 28 to October 19, 1781. The battle was the last major land battle of the American Revolutionary War in North America.
See the fact file below for more information on the Battle of Yorktown or alternatively, you can download our 24-page Battle of Yorktown worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE BATTLE
- In 1780, 5,500 French soldiers led by Comte de Rochambeau landed in Newport, Rhode Island to assist their American allies fight the British troops who occupied New York City.
- The British army were led on two fronts: General Henry Clinton in New York City and General Charles Cornwallis in South Carolina.
- The American Continental Army forces were led by General George Washington and Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette.
- Disagreements emerged between Washington and Rochambeau after the French troops arrived, mostly about the possibility of support from the French West Indies fleet of the Comte de Grasse.
- With the arrival of more French troops, Washington and Rochambeau initially positioned the Continental Army in New York and planned an attack on General Clinton’s army.
- Comte de Grasse motivated Washington to move south so they could launch a joint attack.
- Washington concocted a new plan and began to prepare the Franco-American army to head to Virginia.
- On August 19, 1781, the march began with 4,000 French and 3,000 American soldiers from Newport, Rhode Island.
- Part of the plan was keeping their destination a secret so as to blindside their opponent.
- Fake news reached Clinton revealing that the Franco-American army was going to launch a joint operation on New York.
- Not realizing how big the French army was, Admiral Sir Thomas Graves led a British fleet from New York to attack them.
- On September 5, the British fleet was defeated by the French in the infamous Battle of the Chesapeake.
- General Cornwallis and his men built a defense of 10 small forts called redoubts with artillery and connecting trenches in Yorktown.
- Cornwallis requested aid from Clinton, who promised to send a fleet of 5,000 British soldiers to add to Cornwallis’ 8,000 British men.
- Meanwhile General Washington ordered Marquis de Lafayette to block Cornwallis’s possible escape from Yorktown by land.
- In the meantime Washington’s 2,500 American men in New York were joined by 4,000 French soldiers under the Comte de Rochambeau.
- The joint Franco-American forces started digging their own trenches 800 yards from the British fleet and planned an artillery assault on the British.
- While Cornwallis waited in vain for British reinforcements, Comte de Grasse’s fleet transported Washington’s troops to Williamsburg, Virginia. There they joined forces in the siege of Yorktown.
THE BATTLE OF YORKTOWN
- On September 28, 1781, General Washington led the Franco-American army consisting of 17,000 men out of Williamsburg to surround Yorktown and begin the siege now known as the Battle of Yorktown.
- The French were positioned on the left flank while the Americans were positioned on the right flank.
- On October 9, Washington fired the first gun and began his bombardment.
- For about a week, the allied troops fired all day and night which prevented the British fleet from repairing their defenses.
- On October 11, Washington ordered the American fleet to dig a second parallel 400 yards closer to the British lines.
- For the new parallel to extend to the river, the British Redoubts number 9 and 10 that were in the way had to be taken by force.
- General Cornwallis was unaware that a new parallel was being dug.
- By the morning of the 12th, the Franco-American troops were in position on the new line.
- On the evening of October 14, the allied troops launched their attack.
- The attack on Redoubt #10 was undertaken by 400 infantrymen under the command of Alexander Hamilton.
- In storming the redoubts, Washington ordered the use of bayonets.
- The British were met by the Americans with brutal hand-to-hand combat and were overwhelmed.
- The American fleet suffered only 34 casualties leading to an epic victory.
- On the other hand, the French successfully seized Redoubt #9.
- Surrounded on three sides by the opponent’s artillery, the British army’s position grew increasingly indefensible.
- Cornwallis’ troops were not only surrounded, they were running low on food and supplies.
- On October 15, 1781 Cornwallis launched a last-chance counterattack, which failed badly.
- Two days later, Cornwallis began negotiations to surrender his army consisting of around 8,000 soldiers.
- On October 19, the entire British fleet surrendered.
- Cornwallis did not attend the formal surrender ceremony claiming he was ill, although some reports say he was humiliated.
- General Charles O’Hara, the second in command, surrendered on behalf of the British army.
Battle of Yorktown Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Battle of Yorktown across 24 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Battle of Yorktown worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Battle of Yorktown, also known as the Siege of Yorktown, which was a joint land and sea campaign by the French and the American troops resulting in the surrender of a major British army led by General Charles Cornwallis. The battle lasted from September 28 to October 19, 1781. The battle was the last major land battle of the American Revolutionary War in North America.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Battle of Yorktown Facts
- Question & Answer
- Key Events
- About Yorktown
- True or False
- Decoding Names
- Continental Leaders
- Team Them Up
- Important Dates
- Alternate Ending
- Planning a Battle
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Link will appear as Battle of Yorktown Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, May 4, 2021
Use With Any Curriculum
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