• Yorktown Battlefield

    Yorktown Battlefield

    Part of Colonial National Historical Park Virginia

British Units at Yorktown

1st and 2d Light Infantry: These troops were created by General Clinton in New York and were referred to by Clinton as "the elite of my army." There was one company from each of the regiments present at Yorktown plus one company from the 82d Regiment. They had come to Virginia under General Phillips and had been incorporated into Cornwallis's army when he arrived at Petersburg in May 1781. At Yorktown they were under the command of Lt. Colonel Robert Abercrombie and Major Thomas Armstrong and respectively numbered 464 and 357 men.

Brigade of Guards: Prior to the American Revolution, the British army contained 70 regiments of infantry. These infantry regiments were divided into two groups: Household regiments and regiments of the line. The Household Regiments ordinarily served as bodyguards to the king at London and Westminster. The infantry units of the Household Regiments consisted if the 1st, or Grenadier Guards; the 2d, or Coldstream Guards; and the 3d, or Scots Guards. They totaled 64 companies. At the outbreak of the Revolution, the Brigade of Guards was formed by selecting fifteen men from each of these companies. This unit was directly commanded by General O'Hara (second in command under Cornwallis). At the time of Yorktown, there were 398 men who were present and fit for duty.

17th Regiment of Foot: There were 147 men from this unit who participated in the battle. This regiment was formed in 1688, receiving its designation as the 17th in 1751. It was also known as the Leicestershire Regiment. At Yorktown they were under the command of Colonel Henry Johnson. After the American Revolution it served in Nova Scotia. Today it is known as the 4th Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment.

23rd Regiment of Foot: This unit had its origins in 1688. It 1727 it was deginated the Royal Welch Fusiliers. Then, in 1751, it also received the designation of 23d Foot. The regiment was 140 strong at Yorktown and were under the command of Captain Anthorpe. Today the regiment is known as the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

33rd Regiment of Foot: Formed in 1702, this regiment was designated the 33d in 1751. Today it is known as the West Riding Regiment (Duke of Wellington's). Lt. Colonel John Yorke was in charge of the 182 men from the 33rd Regiment as well as being responsible for the brigade consisting of the 17th, 23rd, 33d and 71st Regiments.

43rd Regiment of Foot: The unit was organized in 1741 and received it's numerical designation in 1751. At Yorktown, 210 men were present from this regiment and were commanded by Major George Hewett. It was originally known as The Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry but today is better known as the 1st Battalion, The Royal Green Jackets.

71st Regiment of Foot - 2d Battalion: Although not all of the 71st Regiment was present at Yorktown, there were still 188 men. This group was formed in 1775 in Glasgow, Scotland, as a result of the American Revolution. It was known as the Highland Light Infantry. It was under the command of Colonel Duncan McPherson and disbanded after the war in 1783.

76th Regiment of Foot: The 76th Regiment was formed in Scotland in 1777. Three hundred and forty five men were present at the battle and were known as Lord MacDonald's Highlanders. Major Francis Needham was the commander of this group which was disbanded in 1784.

80th Regiment of Foot: Also known as the Royal Edinburgh Volunteers, these men were organized in 1778 or 1779. There were 509 present at Yorktown, including some men who held the fortifications in Gloucester. They were disbanded in 1784.

Royal Artillery: The Royal Artillery was orginally called the Train of Artillery until the name was changed in 1716. Captain George Rochfort commanded the 171 men or gunners during the battle. He was assisted by Captain-Lieutenant Edward Fage.

British Legion: Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton raised these provincial troops in New York in 1778. One hundred and eighty eight were present at the battle.

Queens Rangers: This cavalry group was organized in Connecticut in 1776. Colonel John Graves Simcoe was the commander of the 320 men who fought at Yorktown. Many southern Loyalists joined this unit. This unit is today known as the Queen's York Rangers.

Although these were the major British units which were engaged at Yorktown, it must be realized that this was not the extent of the crown forces. There were numerous guides, pioneers and militia from North Carolina. When they were combined with the "Hessian" troops from Germany, the force force was approximately 5,583 men who were fit and ready for duty; Cornwallis entire force numbered 8,300.

Compiled for Colonial National Historical Park in April 1988 from The British Defenses at Yorktown - 1781 by Erwin N. Thompson, September 1976



Did You Know?

Civil War Earthworks around Yorktown

Yorktown played a role in not only the American Revolution but also during the Civil War. In 1862 it was the site of the first siege operations of the Civil War. In May 1862 Confederates abandoned Yorktown and Union troops occupied it for the remainder of the war.