George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 17 October 1781]

17th. The French opened another Battery of four 24s. & two 16s. and a Morter Battery of 10 Morters and two Hawitzers. The American grand Battery consisting of 12 twenty fours and Eighteen prs.—4 Morters and two Hawitzers.

About ten Oclock the Enemy beat a parley and Lord Cornwallis proposed a cessation of Hostilities for 24 hours, that Commissioners might meet at the house of a Mr. Moore (in the rear of our first parallel) to settle terms for the surrender of the Posts of York and Gloucester.1 To this he was answered, that a desire to spare the further effusion of Blood would readily incline me to treat of the surrender of the above Posts but previous to the meeting of Commissioners I wished to have his proposals in writing and for this purpose would grant a cessation of hostilities two hours—Within which time he sent out A letter with such proposals (tho’ some of them were inadmissable) as led me to believe that there would be no great difficulty in fixing the terms.2 Accordingly hostilities were suspended for the Night & I proposed my own terms to which if he agreed Commissioners were to meet to digest them into form.

1Cornwallis’s letter, 17 Oct. 1781, is in DLC:GW.

GW is referring to the Moore House, 1½ miles below Yorktown on Temple Farm. At this time the house was owned by Augustine Moore (d. 1788), a leading York County landowner. See also LOSSING description begins Benson J. Lossing. The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution; or, Illustrations, by Pen and Pencil, of the History, Biography, Scenery, Relics, and Traditions of the War for Independence. 2 vols. New York, 1851–52. description ends , 2:530.

2Cornwallis’s letter, 17 Oct. 1781, is in DLC:GW. In his reply, GW agreed that the garrisons of Yorktown and Gloucester should be considered prisoners of war but Cornwallis’s suggestion that the British and German troops should be returned to Europe was clearly inadmissible; instead the troops would be marched to whatever section of the country was best prepared to receive them. British shipping in the area was to be delivered to an officer of the navy and all British armament except officers’ small arms was to be surrendered (GW to Cornwallis, 18 Oct. 1781, P.R.O. 30/11/74, ff. 124–25). Cornwallis’s reply to GW, 18 Oct. 1781, agreeing to most of the proposed terms is in DNA:PCC, Item 152.

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