What Major Event in American History Happened in October of 1781?

In October of 1781, a major event in American history occurred – the Battle of Yorktown. This battle was a significant turning point in the American Revolutionary War, as it ultimately led to the surrender of British forces and marked the end of major military operations in North America.

The Road to Yorktown

The road to Yorktown began in 1777 when British forces under General William Howe captured Philadelphia. However, the British were unable to capitalize on their victory and suffered significant losses at the Battle of Saratoga later that year. This defeat led to France’s entry into the war on the side of the Americans.

Despite this setback, the British continued their efforts to pacify rebellious colonies. In 1780, they launched a new campaign in the southern states and won several key battles, including Camden and Guilford Courthouse.

The Siege of Yorktown

By August of 1781, General Charles Cornwallis had established a base at Yorktown, Virginia. He believed that this location would be an ideal base for further operations in Virginia and North Carolina.

However, French and American forces under General George Washington converged on Yorktown from two directions. On September 28th, they began a siege that lasted for three weeks.

During this time, both sides suffered heavy losses. The Americans and French used artillery to bombard British positions while also launching ground assaults against key fortifications.

The Surrender

On October 19th, Cornwallis sent out a message indicating that he wished to surrender his forces. The terms of surrender were negotiated over several days and were signed on October 19th.

The surrender was a significant blow to British morale and marked a turning point in the war. Although there were still minor skirmishes for several months afterward, major military operations in North America had effectively come to an end.

  • The Battle of Yorktown was significant because it:
  • Marked the end of major military operations in North America
  • Was a significant blow to British morale
  • Helped secure French support for the American cause
  • Ultimately led to the Treaty of Paris in 1783, which recognized American independence


The Battle of Yorktown was a significant event in American history and marked the end of a long and difficult struggle for independence. The efforts of French and American forces at Yorktown helped secure American independence and set the stage for the formation of a new nation. Today, we remember this battle as a key moment in our shared history and as a testament to the bravery and determination of those who fought for our freedom.