Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

October 19, 2007

226 Years Ago Today: American Liberty Is Secured

by Doug Mataconis

It was 226 years ago today that Lord Cornwallis formally surrendered to George Washington, ending the Seige of Yorktown and, effectively, the Revolutionary War itself:

The morning following the battle a formal surrender ceremony took place. Cornwallis refused to attend out of pure embarrassment, claiming illness. Although absent at the surrender ceremony, he observed to George Washington, “This is a great victory for you, but your brightest laurels will be writ upon the banks of the Delaware.” According to legend, the British forces marched to the fife tune of “The World Turned Upside Down“, though no real evidence of this exists. Cornwallis’ deputy at first attempted to surrender to the French General Rochambeau, but Rochambeau’s aide-de-camp, Mathieu Dumas, is reputed to have said, “Vous vous trompez, le général en chef de notre armée est à la droite.” [4] (“You are mistaken, the commander-in-chief of our army is to the right.”) and then took him to Washington. The lieutenant then attempted to surrender to Washington, who refused because it was not Cornwallis himself, and indicated that the subordinate should surrender to General Benjamin Lincoln, field commander of the American forces. Cornwallis’ lieutenant ceremonially offered his sword to Lincoln, which was accepted. All other British troops were required to surrender and trample their firearms in the custom of the time.

It took almost two more years for the war to formally end with the ratification of the Treaty of Paris but, with the victory at Yorktown, American independence was, for all purposes, secured.

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