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.
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.
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.
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.