The last ma­jor land bat­tle took place on the Vir­ginia coast


The Strat­egy Corn­wal­lis. man in was charge De­spite Gen­eral of far the Charles fewer South­ern Loy­al­ists flock­ing to the Bri­tish cause than hoped, he led around 10,000 men, most be­hind the bar­ri­cades of Sa­van­nah and Charleston, and de­mol­ished a force nearly dou­ble the size of his own at the Bat­tle of Cam­den on 16 Au­gust 1780.

Wash­ing­ton needed a com­man­der in the south to match Corn­wal­lis, and he found one in Nathanael Greene. While the Bri­tish strove for one de­ci­sive vic­tory, he un­der­stood how the war could be won: “We fight, we get beat, rise and fight again. We never have to win a bat­tle to win the war. The side that ul­ti­mately gets sup­port of the peo­ple will pre­vail.”

Un­der Greene’s aus­pices, the mili­tia in­flicted a crush­ing de­feat on 1,000 Loy­al­ists at the Bat­tle of Kings Moun­tain on 7 Oc­to­ber, and the Pa­tri­ots fol­lowed it in early 1781 when a splin­ter force led by Daniel Mor­gan swept aside the no­to­ri­ous Bri­tish Legion and its com­man­der, Banas­tre ‘Bloody Ban’ Tar­leton, at Cow­pens. Through at­tri­tion, Greene wore down Corn­wal­lis’s men and re­claimed much of the Carolinas. Corn­wal­lis be­lieved the best way to de­feat him was to cut his sup­ply lines and ended up in York­town, on the Vir­ginia coast.

A French fleet sailed from the West Indies to Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, where they held off a Bri­tish at­tack and se­cured the seas around York­town. Corn­wal­lis was cut off. Wash­ing­ton, who had been con­tem­plat­ing an at­tack on New York, hastily marched south with French com­man­derin-chief Rocham­beau, whilst the Mar­quis de Lafayette kept the Bri­tish pinned down.

By the end of Septem­ber 1781, the com­bined force had laid siege to York­town. Fol­low­ing weeks of bom­bard­ment by French siege guns, pal­try sup­plies and a failed evac­u­a­tion at­tempt, Corn­wal­lis was forced to sur­ren­der on 19 Oc­to­ber, with nearly 8,000 men taken pris­oner.

At the of­fi­cial cer­e­mony, the Bri­tish fifes played the tune The World Turned Up­side Down and as Corn­wal­lis claimed to be ill, the task fell on his se­cond in com­mand to of­fer his sword, which he did to Rocham­beau be­fore be­ing pointed in the di­rec­tion of Wash­ing­ton. The peace treaty would not be signed un­til 3 Septem­ber 1783, but the war was all but over. A nation had been born in rev­o­lu­tion and civil war, and won – a nation that went from 56 men in Philadel­phia to the global su­per­power of to­day, 250 years later.

ABOVE: The Con­ti­nen­tals broke the siege of York­town by storm­ing two re­doubts de­fend­ing the town BE­LOW: Pa­triot com­man­der Nathanael Greene ( right) and Bri­tish Gen­eral Charles Corn­wal­lis ( left) played a cat-and-mouse game across the Carolinas

The 1783 Treaty of Paris recog­nised the 13 colonies as free and sov­er­eign states in­de­pen­dent of Bri­tain

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