Siege of York, 1781. Map of York in Virginia, Including the Attacks and the Encampments of the Combined French and American Army
This manuscript map in pen-and-ink and watercolor was drawn in 1781 by Querenet de la Combe, a cartographer and lieutenant colonel in the French Royal Corps of Engineers in the army of the French commander, General Rochambeau, during the Revolutionary War. The British had captured New York in September 1776. In the summer of 1781, General George Washington, commander of the Continental Army, considered an attack on New York, but he and the Comte de Rochambeau instead feigned preparations for an attack on the city while stealthily moving their troops to Yorktown, Virginia. There the British under General Charles Cornwallis (1738–1805) were forced to surrender after what proved to be the climactic battle of the Revolutionary War. The map depicts the area at which General Cornwallis established his base of operations by constructing fortifications in York (known as Yorktown after the Revolutionary War) and the peninsula of Gloucester Point during the siege of Yorktown. It shows British lines of defense, American and French parallels, troop positions, military headquarters, hospitals, and fortifications on Gloucester Point. Moore House (marked M. Moor on the map), on the York River and accessible to both sides, is where the Articles of Capitulation were drafted after the battle on October 18. They were signed by both sides the next day. The map includes references describing British redoubts and a “Nota” with some explanation of the map’s colors. The map is oriented with north to the upper right. The scale is in toises, an old French unit measuring about 1.95 meters. The map is from the Rochambeau Collection at the Library of Congress, which consists of 40 manuscript maps, 26 printed maps, and a manuscript atlas that belonged to Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau (1725‒1807), commander in chief of the French expeditionary army (1780‒82) during the American Revolution. Some of the maps were used by Rochambeau during the war. Dating from 1717 to 1795, the maps cover much of eastern North America, from Newfoundland and Labrador in the north to Haiti in the south. The collection includes maps of cities, maps showing Revolutionary War battles and military campaigns, and early state maps from the 1790s.
Title in Original Language
Siege d'York, 1781. Plan d'York en Virginie avec les attaques et les campemens de l'Armée combinée de France et d'Amérique
Type of Item
1 map : color ; 44 x 63 centimeters
- Scale approximately 1:14,640
- John R. Sellers and Patricia Molen Van Ee, compilers, Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies, 1750-1789: A Guide to the Collections in the Library of Congress (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1981). http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015016327986.
- Jerome A. Greene, The Guns of Independence: The Siege of Yorktown, 1781 (New York: Savas Beatie, 2005).
Last updated: August 10, 2017