After getting a ticket, head to the theater to see the 16-minute film. Knowing that the film is a minute too long, rangers wait to begin the tour of the battlefield until the film ends. In order to enjoy the tour outside visitors need to be able to stand for long periods and walk over uneven ground.
The tour begins in an area where benches are provided and also shade if it is a particularly sunny warm day. Our ranger Jenny was very knowledgeable about the subject of the battle and what happened both before and after. The first thing that needs to be understood is that Yorktown was a siege, not a regular battle. The British were trapped here and pounded with artillery for eight days and nights without ceasing.
To save his men, General Cornwallis has no option other than surrender. The British were outmanned two to one and in a hopeless position. The terms were negotiated by a team from both sides at which neither Washington nor Cornwallis was present. The house where the agreement was reached still exists but was closed when we visited in November.
While Yorktown was the last significant battle of the war, it was another two years before the Peace Treaty of Paris was signed and the United States became a free nation.
Back inside the Visitor Center, there is a small museum to visit. While it is not large, it does hold some real treasures. There are two tents that belonged to and were used by George Washington. The condition of these tents is outstanding considering their age. They were purchased at auction after Martha Washington’s death by her grandson and came into the possession of Robert E Lee and his wife since she is a descendant. The tents were stored in the Custis Lee Mansion at Arlington during the Civil War. One of the servants there knew their value and informed the Union Army who was occupying the house thus guaranteeing their safety and preservation. Today, they are on display for visitors to see and appreciate.
Visitors can also walk inside a boat that has been built into the visitor center. The battle which took place in the Chesapeake Bay was crucial to the success of the Battle of Yorktown.
A driving tour is offered that you can take around the battlefield site. The monument to the Battle of Yorktown is nearby as well just outside of downtown.
While not nearly as showy as the Yorktown Victory Center, what Yorktown Battlefield has is the authentic location and that makes for a very enjoyable visit.