The British American Revolutionary War General Cornwallis (Charles Cornwallis) is famous for being defeated at the Battle of Yorktown; the battle which basically ended the American Revolution. On this page you will find a list of kid-friendly and interesting facts about General Cornwallis including why he surrendered at Yorktown, what battles he fought in, and how the loss at Yorktown effected his military career.
Pre-Revolutionary War Facts about General Cornwallis
He was born on December 31st of 1738.
In 1760 he became a member of the House of Commons (the lower house of the British Parliament). In 1762, upon the death of his father, he became a member of the House of Lords (the upper house of the British Parliament).
While a member of the House of Lords (the upper house of the British Parliament) he was sympathetic towards the American colonist; in fact he voted against the hated Stamp Act of 1765.
He joined the British army in 1757 and participated in numerous battles during the Seven Years War. These battles included the Battle of Minden, Battle of Villinghausen, Battle of Wilhelmsthal, and the Battle of Lutterberg.
Revolutionary War Facts about General Cornwallis
When the American Revolution began in 1775 Cornwallis re-entered the military and was immediately promoted to major general.
Early in the American Revolutionary War General Cornwallis was a very successful military commander. He played an important part in driving the colonial army out of New York; which almost ended the war and pursuing the retreating Americans through New Jersey.
When George Washington led a successful surprise attack at the Battle of Trenton on December 26th of 1776 Cornwallis had to cancel plans for a trip back to England. General William Howe, sent Cornwallis along with 8,000 British soldiers to attack the Americans.
On January 3rd of 1777 General Cornwallis's British troops were defeated by General George Washington's forces at the Battle of Princeton near Princeton New Jersey.
On September 11th of 1777 Charles Cornwallis along with General William Howe attacked the American forces near Chadds Ford, in Delaware County, Pennsylvania at the Battle of Brandywine. The greatly outnumbered Americans are forced to retreat to Philadelphia Pennsylvania.
He was promoted to lieutenant general in 1778 and served as second in command of the British Army, under Sir Henry Clinton.
In 1780 Cornwallis participated in the siege of Charleston, South Carolina. In May of 1780 the city finally fell to the British.
On August 16th of 1780 Cornwallis participated in the major British victory at the Battle of Camden in South Carolina; his troops routed the Americans led by General Horatio Gates.
In 1780, after the Battle of Camden, General Cornwallis led an invasion into North Carolina.
On March 15th of 1781 he defeated the American army commanded by Major General Nathanael Greene at the Battle of Guilford Court House in North Carolina. This victory came at a huge cost in casualties that weakened the British Army.
With increased help from the French on the side of the Americans things did not go well for Cornwallis in 1781. He abandoned his offensive and moved his forces to the seaside town of Yorktown Virginia where he hoped to either receive reinforcements or to be evacuated.
Yorktown was soon besieged by American and French troops while the French navy simultaneously blocked any British ships from rescuing or reinforcing Cornwallis's army. Cornwallis was forced to surrender on October 17th of 1781; thus basically ending the American Revolutionary War.
General Cornwallis sent his subordinate General Charles O'Hara to the surrender ceremony of the British forces at Yorktown; claiming to be ill.
Conclusion - General Cornwallis
General Cornwallis's embarrassing and decisive defeat at Yorktown did not ruin his military career as one might expect. He went on to several other military post in the years following Yorktown; including being appointed as the governor-general and commander in chief of the British colony of India in 1786.