Yorktown Battlefield

Quick Facts

Yorktown Battlefield

Virginia

(757) 898-2410

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Yorktown is the site of the final major battle of the American Revolutionary War. On October 19, 1781, a British army under General Cornwallis was forced to surrender to General Washington's combined American and French army. Upon hearing of their defeat, British Prime Minister Frederick Lord North is reputed to have said, "Oh God, it's all over." And it was. The victory secured independence for the United States and significantly changed the course of world history.

In August, 1862, David Judd of the 33rd New York Infantry wrote upon passing through Yorktown: "Near to the fortifications [Confederate] was a Union Cemetery, containing the graves of 300 Union soldiers, each of which was adorned by a neat head-board, designating the name and regiment of the soldier." By the end of the Civil War in 1865, the total of Union soldiers buried in the "Union Cemetery" exceeded 600. The following year, the Yorktown Cemetery formally became a National Cemetery and Union dead from 50 sites within a 50 mile radius of Yorktown were re-interred in the newly landscaped cemetery. Today, the Yorktown National Cemetery, which is closed to burials, contains the remains of 2,183 soldiers, ten of which are Confederate. Only 747 of the dead are identified. Many of the dead are from the 1862 Peninsula Campaign and other battles around Richmond, though some died during the period Yorktown served as a Union garrison from 1862-1864.

Map of Yorktown

Latitude, Longitude: 0.000000, 0.000000

READ MORE

Activities

  • Bird Watching

    The seasons bring with them an ever changing avian landscape of sights and sounds. The park is host to a wide variety of birds--park records list 222 species. You might see a bald eagle, great blue heron, egrets, osprey or Canada geese. A variety of waterfowl, hawks, robins, cardinals, wrens, warblers, rails, woodpeckers, owls and vultures can be observed in the park. During early mornings and late afternoon take the time to listen for a wide assortment of bird calls. Don't be surprised to see a bald eagle fly by or an heron dive into the surrounding waters and grab a fish!

  • Bicycling

    Bicyclists are welcome to use Yorktown's two tour routes. The seven mile Battlefield Tour marked by red arrow signs begins at the visitor center parking lot. The nine mile Encampment Tour, marked by yellow arrow signs, begins at Surrender Field. Both routes utilize park tour roads and heavily traveled state highways; however, the Encampment Tour has minimal interaction with highways and is, therefore, less heavily traveled. All streets in Yorktown are open to vehicles, except Main Street, which is normally closed to vehicular traffic spring through fall. If traveling across the Tobacco Road footbridge, bicyclists are required to dismount and walk across the bridge for safety reasons. Maps of the tour roads and town can be obtained at the National Park Service visitor center. A trail accessible via the 9-mile Encampment Tour Road connects to the Newport News park trail system for additional biking.

    Another option is the Colonial Parkway, a 23-mile roadway connects Yorktown and Historic Jamestowne. The Parkway starts at the visitor center parking lot in Yorktown, follows the York River, heads west to Williamsburg (where there are exits, turns south to follow the James River), and ends up in the visitor center parking lot at Historic Jamestowne. Contact the park for regulations and safety tips regarding bicycles on the Parkway.

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    There are two self-guided auto tours that will allow you to enjoy and learn the history of the Siege of Yorktown at your own pace.

    A 7-mile Battlefield Tour Road, which takes about one hour, will give you a first-hand look at where the events of the siege took place. See both original and reconstructed earthworks and siege lines built and used by troops of both sides. Stand on the very site where the allied troops took British Redoubts 9 and 10 during a surprise night attack on October 14th, a decisive event which helped turn the tide toward an Allied victory. Overlook Surrender Field, where the British troops laid down their arms, surrendering 8,300 troops and effectively ending the American Revolution. An audio tour of the 7-mile Battlefield Auto Tour Road is available for purchase in the shop at the visitor center. The cost of the audio tour is $4.95 for CD. It takes one hour and 15 minutes to complete.

    A second, 9-mile Encampment Tour Road, which takes about one-half hour, reveals the locations of the allied encampments during the siege, including Washington's Headquarters.

    While touring the battlefield, you can also include stops at the British Royal Welch Fusilier's Redoubt; the French Memorial; Yorktown National Cemetery (Civil War era); the Yorktown Victory Monument, erected in 1881 in honor of the 1781 French and American victory; and Historic Yorktown, which was fortified and defended by the British during the siege.

    A brochure with additional information, maps, and directions for the auto tour roads is provided at the Yorktown Visitor Center with payment of the entrance fee.

  • Hiking

    A trail accessible via the 9-mile Encampment Tour Road connects to the Newport News park trail system for additional hiking and jogging.

  • Historic Sites

    Various ranger-guided tours and programs are available, including tours of the battlefield and the town of York, artillery demonstrations, and living history programs about soldier life during the American Revolution. There are also special programs geared toward young children.

    At the visitor center, a 15-minute orientation film, entitled "The Siege at Yorktown," shows on the hour and half hour. Also located in the visitor center are museum exhibits focusing on the 1781 Siege of Yorktown, the Battle of the Capes, and the campaign table used by British General Lord Cornwallis during the siege. The park's museum collection also includes a display of portions of General Washington's Campaign Tents.

    The museum sales shop has an excellent selection of books and reproduction items which focus on America's Colonial Period and the American Revolution.

  • Wildlife Watching

    Common species of mammals in the park include white-tailed deer, red and gray fox, beaver, raccoons, otter, muskrat, rabbits, groundhogs, bats, moles and voles. Check out park fields in the early morning or late afternoon to see herds of deer. Park wildlife also includes turtles, lizards, skink and snakes, as well as frogs and salamanders.

Seasonality/Weather

Tidewater Virginia generally has a warm climate. Average winter daytime temperatures peak at 10 C (50 F) with night time lows of 3 C (25-20 F). Chilling winds coming off the rivers can produce wind chill temperatures much lower. Summer temperatures range from daytime highs of 30 C (85-90 F) down to 20 C (60 F) at night. Area is generally humid, especially during the summer months. Layered clothing is recommended in early spring, late fall and winter. Good walking shoes for year round comfort. Insect repellent recommended in spring and summer for mayflies, mosquitoes chiggers, and ticks.

Directions

Driving

The park is located a short distance from Interstate 64 (I-64). Eastbound from the Richmond area via I-64, exit 242B for Yorktown, to the Colonial Parkway. Follow the parkway to its end. West bound Interstate 64 from the Virginia Beach/Norfolk/Hampton area for Yorktown should take Route 105 East (Fort Eustis Boulevard east), exit 250B to Route 17 (George Washington Memorial Highway). Turn left (North) onto Route 17. Follow the signs to the Yorktown Battlefield.

In Park: personal vehicles, bicycles (on paved surfaces only) and on foot. The Colonial Parkway (23 miles) connects the Yorktown and Jamestown units of the park.

Flying

From Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (20 minutes from Yorktown), Norfolk International Airport (one hour east) and Richmond International Airport (one hour west) provide commercial air service.

Public Transportation

The Historic Triangle Shuttle provides free bus service to Historic Jamestowne and Yorktown Battlefield from the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center every half hour during the summer between between March 22 through October 31, 2010

AMTRAK has stations in Newport News and Williamsburg. Greyhound has commercial bus service to Newport News and Williamsburg. Rental cars and taxi service are available from all of these locations.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(757) 898-2410

Links