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Chapter Seventeen. “High Time For Peace”: George Washington and the Close of the American Revolution

William M. Fowler, Jr.

Subject History » Military History

Place Americas » Northern America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics American War of Independence

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444331035.2012.00019.x


At 10 o'clock on the morning of October 17, 1781, the guns at Yorktown fell silent. A drummer boy appeared on top of the British breastwork and beat the parley. A few moments later a British officer appeared and was escorted blindfolded to allied headquarters. Lord Cornwallis the British commander asked for a 24 hour truce to consider terms of surrender. General Washington offered him two hours. Cornwallis asked for his army to be afforded the “honors of war.” Washington refused. The next day commissioners met to discuss the details of surrender. Shortly after midnight the surrender was signed. At two o'clock that afternoon, October 19, 1781 the defeated soldiers filed out of their entrenchments and marched between lines of American and French troops. At their head was General Charles O'Hara. General Cornwallis was “indisposed” and unable to attend. At first the British regiments ignored the American Continentals and acknowledged the French as if they were the victors. To remind them who was responsible for their fate, General the Marquis de Lafayette ordered the Continental drum and fife to strike up “Yankee Doodle” ( Ward (1952) 886–896). Later that day Washington wrote to the President of Congress Thomas McKean “Sir: I have the honor to inform Congress, that a Reduction of the British Army under the command of Lord Cornwallis is most happily effected” (WGW, 23:241). A few weeks ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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