“Lord Cornwallis's Surrender”


"Come all you brave Americans, The truth to you I'll tell, 'Tis of a sad misfortune To Britain late befell." Cornwallis and his British troops, cut off by Washington on land and de Grasse by sea, are forced to surrender


The Revolutionary War in the north did not go well for Britain. Although their only severe defeat was at Saratoga, they were unable to capture and subdue the countryside.

The British command therefore decided to concentrate on the south in 1780. In that year, Charles Cornwallis (the second-in-command in America and the most aggressive of the British generals) was to invade the Carolinas and Virginia.

The results were typical of the Revolutionary War: Cornwallis won most of his engagements against the Colonials, but never managed to pin them down and suffered occasional losses at the hands of a rebellious countryside.

Then came disaster. Cornwallis was facing Washington at Yorktown with only a fraction of the British colonial army. Suddenly a French fleet led by Admiral de Grasse, which had been expected to attack New York, instead appeared outside Yorktown. De Grasse could not hope to hold off the British fleet forever, but he held on long enough. Cornwallis, surrounded and cut off from supplies, had to surrender.

It was the effective end of the Revolutionary War. The peace would not be signed until 1783, but the British no longer had the troops to fight the rebels, and were unwilling to send more.

Among the other revolutionary figures mentioned in this song are:

Burgoyne -- John Burgoyne, who surrendered at Saratoga (see "The Fate of John Burgoyne").

Hessians -- German mercenaries employed by the British. They were generally despised -- though the British government's decision to use mercenaries was rather logical when you think about it; the British did not want to send disaffected Irish soldiers, or Scottish soldiers who might prove loyal to the Stuarts -- and if they used English soldiers, they might well desert in the Americas, where the people spoke English and there were many economic opportunities (see Stanley Weintraub, _Iron Tears: America's Battle for Freedom, Britain's Quagmire: 1775-1783_, Free Press, 2005, pp. 42-44)

Greene -- Nathaniel Greene, who commanded a detached force in the Carolinas against Cornwallis. He was the best officer the Americans had at harassing the enemy. - RBW

Historical references

  • Oct 19, 1781 - Cornwallis surrenders his forces at Yorktown to General Washington

Cross references


  • LOCSinging, as108040, "Lord Cornwallis's Surrender," unknown, 19C


  1. Scott-BoA, pp. 88-90, "Lord Cornwallis's Surrender" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. BI, SBoA088


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 19C (broadside, LOCSinging as108040)
Found in: US