General Washington, meanwhile, was coordinating his scattered land and sea forces. With American infantry and artillery, French naval power and land forces, Washington surrounded the Redcoats and laid siege for twenty days. When the battle at Yorktown was fought, it would be the last of the war.
By October 17, 1781, Cornwallis sent a message to Washington:
I propose a cessation of hostilities for twenty-four hours, and that two officers may be appointed by each side, to meet at Mr. Moore's house, to settle terms for the surrender of the posts of York and Gloucester.
Washington agreed. (Follow this link to his original message.)
An ardent desire to spare the further effusion of Blood, will readily incline me to listen to such terms for the surrender of your Posts of York and Gloucester, as are admissible.
By the next day, October 18, 1781, Cornwallis was ready to talk about complete capitulation:
I agree to open a treaty of capitulation upon the basis of the garrisons of York and Gloucester...
Although the Treaty of Paris, formally ending the war, would not be signed for two more years, the fighting stopped. (Follow the links to view the original signatures, seals and treaty negotiating map.) The United Colonies would soon become the United States of America.
This was a great victory for Britain's colonies, but many people in the "mother country" were also relieved that the war was finally over. One of the reasons for damaging London riots - in June of 1780 - was resistance to the seemingly never-ending fight in America.
Uncontrollable mobs - interested only in destruction - burned homes, churches and prisons. A future English poet, caught-up in the frenzy, watched what happened when London's Newgate Prison was at the mercy of the mob. Later, that poet - William Blake - used those powerful images, burned into his brain at the age of 17, to write America (in 1793) and Europe (in 1794). His poems - like "A Poison Tree" - remain popular to this day.
People like the young Blake - and many others throughout Britain - must have rejoiced when they learned about the surrender at Yorktown.