Modern day Gen. Bonaparte
Napoleon watches the fire of Moscow in 1812
October 19, 1781: The British surrender at Yorktown.
The Siege of Yorktown, which began on September 28, 1781, was one of the last major battles of the American War of Independence and a decisive victory for the American side. Several weeks earlier, French admiral François-Joseph Paul, comte de Grasse, defeated a British fleet at the Battle of the Chesapeake, cutting off supplies or relief to a now-trapped Lord Charles Cornwallis. Cornwallis, shortly after the battle, sent a message to his superiors: “If you cannot relieve me very soon, you must be prepared to hear the worst”.
The worst did come, when a combined force of French and American soldiers, totalling at around 21,000, marched from Williamsburg to Yorktown, Virginia and began shelling British lines. After over a week of heavy fire and the successful capture of two British fortifications, Redoubts #9 and 10, by Alexander Hamilton, Lord Cornwallis surrendered. On October 19, the articles of capitulation were signed by Cornwallis, Washington, Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur (Comte de Rochambeau), and the Comte de Barras in place of Admiral de Grasse; they declared the entirety of the British forces (over 7,000 troops) prisoners of war. Cornwallis declined to meet Washington on the day of surrender, claiming to be ill, and sent another officer to present his sword to the victorious commanders. Washington, in turn, refused the sword and had his second-in-command accept it in his stead.
Although the war did not formally end until 1783, the British Prime Minister, Lord North, is said to have exclaimed “Oh God, it’s all over!” upon hearing of the defeat at Yorktown.