The Virginia Campaign of 1781

November 20-24, 2019

A BGES Revolutionary War Field University Program

The Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. A. D. 1781
Courtesy Library of Congress

Our third and final Revolutionary War program this year expands the tactical dance between Maj. Gen. Marquis de Lafayette and Lt. Gen. Sir Charles Cornwallis in Virginia in 1781. Cornwallis had come north from Wilmington to support the British trophy general, Benedict Arnold, who was in his first command since betraying his country. Operating from Portsmouth, Washington wanted him badly, and he sent Lafayette and Maj. Gen. Anthony Wayne to entrap him. While General Clinton withdrew Arnold from the theater, the arrival of Cornwallis near Petersburg drew Lafayette’s attention. This program goes to three specific areas with a day in each. Richmond is the colonial capital of Virginia, and we will discuss Patrick Henry, colonial government, and actions along the James River axis. Our second day will follow Cornwallis’ pursuit of Lafayette to the North Anna River and his raid to try and capture the fugitive Virginia government led by Gov. Thomas Jefferson. Here you will meet men like Banastre Tarleton of Waxhaws and Cowpens infamy, Ranger commander John Graves Simcoe, and the highly regarded Prussian general Frederich von Steuben. The final day will bring the culmination of the campaign on the Virginia Peninsula with the ambush at Green Spring Plantation and the siege and surrender at Yorktown. This is a wonderfully important tour and insight into the final American/French victory.



A Charlottesville, Virginia-based author, historian, and cartographer, Rick Britton has published over 200 articles and essays-the vast majority on the history of Virginia. He is is the author of the award-winning Jefferson: A Monticello Sampler, and 2015’s Virginia Vignettes: Famous Characters & Events in Central Virginia History. He also teaches classes on the history of central Virginia, conducts battlefield tours, lectures frequently on a wide range of Virginia history topics, and illustrates maps for history books and websites. (To see a sampling of Rick’s maps, go to the Mount Vernon website ( and select “Revolutionary War.”)