American Revolution Museum at Yorktown
In the spring of 1781, British General Cornwallis led his army into Virginia. Opposing him was the smaller American force led by the Marquis de Lafayette. This is where the last important conflict of the American Revolution was fought.
George Washington, in conference with the French General Rochambeau, decided that a combined land and naval battle in Virginia was now possible, as the French fleet was sailing north to the Chesapeake Bay. Washington then quietly moved the bulk of French and American troops from New York to Yorktown.
On September 5, the French fleet intercepted the British fleet outside the Virginia Capes and forced it to retire. Washington and Rochambeau arrived at Yorktown in late September and laid siege to the town. The British surrendered on October 19, 1781, virtually ending the Revolution.
To gain an understanding of events that led to America’s war for independence and the development of the new nation, start your tour at the Yorktown Victory Center, a museum of the American Revolution operated by the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.
The Yorktown Victory Center is undergoing a transformation with an imposing new facility, expanded gallery exhibits and enhanced outdoor interpretive programming, and will be renamed American Revolution Museum at Yorktown in late 2016. The museum continues to welcome visitors daily during construction.
Indoors, theater films dramatize the final military campaign of the Revolution and explore the American ideal of liberty. A timeline corridor provides a visual journey from the 13 British colonies in the 1750s to westward expansion of the new United States in the 1790s. The museum’s living-history program offers visitors the opportunity to experience Revolutionary-era life firsthand in re-creations of a Continental Army encampment and farm.
In the encampment, historical interpreters explain medical and surgical practices and the role of the quartermaster in managing supplies. Soldiers demonstrate how to fire a musket and recruit and train “volunteers” for positions on an artillery crew, then fire a very loud artillery piece.
At a Revolution-era farm, complete with a house, kitchen and tobacco barn, visitors can help the costumed historical interpreters tend seasonal crops and vegetables and lend a hand with daily chores, such as cooking, laundering and preparing flax for cloth. Special events and programs include Liberty Celebration in July, Yorktown Victory Celebration in October, Foods & Feasts of Colonial Virginia in November and A Colonial Christmas in December.
American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, located at 200 Water Street, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and until 6 p.m. from June 15 through August 15. You should allow two hours for your visit. 2016 admission is $9.75 for adults and $5.50 for ages 6–12. Children under 6 are admitted free.
A value-priced combination ticket is available with Jamestown Settlement, a museum of 17th-century Virginia. Call 888-593-4682 toll free or 757-253-4838 for more information or visit www.historyisfun.org.
Immerse yourself in this charming riverfront village filled with years of history, and enjoy lodging in a hotel or bed and breakfast nestled among the village streets and paths or overlooking the York River. Here you can experience many 18th-century homes, visit the location where the surrender terms for the Battle of Yorktown were negotiated and the home of the commander of the Virginia militia with its walls still bearing the scars of cannonballs fired upon the village in 1781. Explore the battlefields, fortifications and historic buildings where American independence was won. Be sure to see the monument commissioned by the Continental Congress in 1781 and completed in 1884 to commemorate the victory at Yorktown and to memorialize those who lost their lives for freedom.
Picturesque streets are the backdrop for art galleries and specialty shops. Visit the museums offering hands-on programs and exhibits. Stroll along the scenic riverwalk, and relax on the sandy beach at river’s edge. Take a ride on our free trolley, then march to the beat of The Fifes and Drums of York Town. Relax and enjoy the riverfront and its charming 18th-century ambiance, and reflect on the events that led to the creation of a new nation. Dine at one of our quaint restaurants, many with a beautiful view of the York River.
When the sun goes down, don’t miss a sunset sail on the York River aboard the Schooner Alliance (April–November) or a pirate adventure cruise with the kids (May–September). A visit to Yorktown is a must-see for anyone who wishes to fully understand the story of our nation’s birth. Americans won their independence here during the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War on October 19, 1781, when British troops surrendered to General George Washington and his French allies. Yorktown played a very important role in American history.
Today, Yorktown is joined by the scenic Colonial Parkway to Williamsburg and Jamestown and is located just 12 miles east of Williamsburg. It remains much as it was during the waning days of the Revolution. Although Yorktown is best known as the site where America won its independence, you can be sure that no battles are being fought here today, which leaves Yorktown a charming and peaceful riverside village.
Whether it’s reliving the chronicles of America’s struggle for independence, touring the historic homes and battlefields, visiting our museums, taking a leisurely riverwalk stroll, a trolley tour, watching a Fifes and Drums parade, enjoying the many unique shopping and dining experiences or just relaxing by the river, Yorktown has something for everyone. Plan to stay overnight or longer at a hotel, bed and breakfast, inn or guest cottage overlooking the water or up the hill in the village. Yorktown is a year-round destination for history, shopping, outdoor recreation, fine dining and special events.
For information about seasonal special events in Historic Yorktown, see the Calendar of Events page or visit www.visityorktown.org
Jamestown is where America was born. Williamsburg is where our nation’s ideals matured. And Yorktown is where America became of age. Visit Yorktown Battlefield and take yourself back in time where history was made.
A tour of the Battlefield begins at the National Park Service Visitor Center (Colonial National Historical Park), where the battle on land and at sea is presented through a series of multimedia exhibits. You can walk through a full-sized replica of the quarterdeck of a British warship; view the movement of troops through a special lighted map display; and browse through a beautiful collection of Revolutionary War artifacts, including the tents used by General George Washington to plan the siege. A 15-minute film, The Siege at Yorktown, discusses the importance of the battle, and an exhibit focuses on the 1781 Siege of Yorktown, the Battle of the Capes and British General Cornwallis’ campaign tables used during the siege.
Through careful examination of 18th-century military maps and archaeological excavations, the National Park Service has reconstructed a nearly complete picture of General Washington’s siege. Earth works and siege lines mark the positions of British and American troops during the battle. Tours of the Battlefield are conducted from the Visitor Center by park rangers. Park brochures, maps and audio tours are also available for a self-guided driving tour of the battlefield and encampment areas as well as a walking tour of the Town of York.
The National Park Service maintains the restored 18th-century homes of Augustine Moore, where the negotiations were conducted for the surrender of the British army, and Thomas Nelson, Jr., one of Virginia’s signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Be sure to ask about these when you visit the National Park Service Visitor Center, or call 757-898-2410 for dates and hours.