American Military History Through Stamps (1775-1913)

British Surrender at Yorktown

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The 13-cent Surrender of Cornwallis souvenir sheet of five stamps was issued May 29, 1976.

The French and American armies began their march south from White Plains, New York, to Yorktown, Virginia, on August 22, 1781. The French surprised the British fleet at the mouth of the Chesapeake on September 5-9, forcing the British navy to retreat to New York, leaving Cornwallis stranded at Yorktown, Virginia. The American and French forces overwhelmed Cornwallis’s fortified position on the night of October 14. Cornwallis surrendered on October 19, sending shock waves through the British government and forcing Prime Minister Lord North to resign. His replacement started the peace process that ended with the Treaty of Paris in September 1783.

The souvenir sheet shown at left was based on a painting by John Trumbull and issued in 1976. American General Benjamin Lincoln appears in the center of the scene mounted on a white horse. French officers appear standing and mounted beneath the white banner of the royal Bourbon family. On the right are American officers beneath the stars and stripes, including Lafayette and Colonel Jonathan Trumbull, the brother of the painter. General Washington stayed in the background because Lord Cornwallis himself was not present for the surrender.