About 15 miles to the east of the original Jamestown colony in Virginia (the first permanent British establishment in the "New World") sits the port of Yorktown -- and its deep water access to the York River, Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. This is ironic because, in the space of about 30 minutes, one can drive the Colonial Parkway through the National Park Service's Colonial National Historical Park across nearly 200 years of British rule in America.
The Siege of Yorktown (Autumn 1781) was the perfect storm of:
- strategic miscues (General Charles Cornwallis was sent to Yorktown to secure a deep-water port, but he wanted to "split" the colonies in the middle to shatter their cohesion)
- operational brilliance (particularly Washington's deceptive maneuver from Dobbs Ferry, New York to the Virginia Peninsula, freezing Clinton's forces in New York to defend against Washington's already-departed army)
- French naval success (Admiral de Grasse's stalemate against Admiral Graves in the Battle of the Capes allowed Compte de Barras to create a naval blockade in the Hampton Roads)
- and lucky weather (storms prevented the pinned-down Cornwallis from evacuating across the York River to Gloucester Point)
The result was the capture of nearly 2/3s of all British forces in America, and a loss of interest by the U.K. government in the then-six year old war. Prime Minister Lord North began the proceedings that would result in the Treaty of Paris -- and would become the first head of government ever ousted by a vote of "no confidence" in March 1782.
The Yorktown Battlefield is one of the best preserved in the National Park Service, with the interior lines and redoubts available for close-up investigation as well as an outstanding audio-guided driving tour. Anyone who visits Colonial Williamsburg or Tidewater Virginia should plan to spend an afternoon at Yorktown.