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The Papers of George Washington
8 September–20 November 1781Revolutionary War Series, Volume 34
George Washington. Edited by Washington Papers Editors
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The British surrender at Yorktown on 19 Oct. was a glorious moment for the allied forces under the command of Gen. George Washington and French lieutenant generals Rochambeau and de Grasse. Yet anxieties accompanied each stage of the allied operations, and subordinates noticed Washington's distress. Following a failure of a British relief force to arrive from New York, Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis finally requested surrender negotiations, and a testy exchange with Washington preceded the discussions that resulted in articles of capitulation. The end of the siege of Yorktown accelerated efforts to gather enslaved laborers who had fled to the British and return them to their owners. Disease had killed many already. Harshly treated, the survivors did not feel the joy that swept across the United States as news of the British surrender spread. For Washington, the joy of victory soon was tempered when his stepson, John Parke Custis, died from fever on 5 November. Comforting Martha Washington at Mount Vernon delayed his leaving for Philadelphia to consult with Congress, where more needed to be done to achieve independence and secure the revolutionary cause.

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