Bombarding Yorktown

The Yorktown siege was primarily an artillery battle. The allies bombarded the British with cannon, like the one on the right, mortars, and howitzers. During the eight-day siege, they fired an average of 1,700 cannon balls and bombs per day: over one a minute. Cornwallis had anticipated the possibility of a siege, but he was surprised by the ferocity of the Allied attack he had to endure.

Cannon from Siege of Yorktown, 1700s

Cannon from Siege of Yorktown, 1700s

The French provided much of the artillery, guns, and ammunition used in the Yorktown siege, including this piece. These additions drastically increased Allied firepower. 
Loan from Christopher Bryant

Engineering the Siege

Implementing the Yorktown siege under British fire required knowledge and experience the American army did not have. The Comte de Rochambeau’s French engineers directed the organization and labor of the thousands of men the operation involved. The diagram to the right summarizes its complexity.

Yorktown battlefield map, drawing by Sebastian Bauman, 1782

Yorktown battlefield map, drawing by Sebastian Bauman, 1782

Courtesy of Library of Congress

George Washington’s Yorktown Siege Map, 1781

George Washington’s Yorktown Siege Map, 1781

This original map of the Siege of Yorktown, drawn for George Washington soon after the battle, documents his view of the conflict. Allied troops moved from the outer trench line to the inner as they gradually increased pressure on General Charles Cornwallis’s forces.
Loan from Nicholas Taubman

British Brown Bess Muskets with Socket Bayonets, around 1740

British Brown Bess Muskets with Socket Bayonets, around 1740

At Yorktown, Britain’s greatest defeat during the war, British soldiers surrendered thousands of smoothbore muskets like these.  
Gift of Ralph G. Packard and U.S. Naval Gun Factory