Sunday, July 09, 2017

The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis

Artist John Trumbull served in the Revolutionary War as an aide to George Washington.  After the war he pursued a career as an artist.  In 1785 he began sketching out ideas for a series of large scale paintings to commemorate the major events of the American Revolution.  In 1791 he went to Yorktown, Virginia to sketch the site of the British surrender to General George Washington.

Some twenty five years later, Congress commissioned Trumble to paint four large paintings to be hung in the U.S. Capitol rotunda, one of these, The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis was completed in 1820, and depicts the surrender of Lt. General Charles, the Earl Cornwallis at Yorktown on October 19, 1781.  Trumbull received $8,000 for the painting (which would be approximately $200,000 in today’s money).

George Washington did not think that Yorktown would be the last battle of the Revolutionary War, and felt that it was his duty to keep the Continental Army together until a final peace treaty was signed.  Despite the devastating loss at Yorktown, loyalist militias continued to fight throughout the back country.

Peace talks began in April 1782.  A preliminary treaty finally came on November 30, 1782, more than a year after Yorktown. The final treaty was signed on September 3, 1783, and ratified by the Continental Congress early in 1784.

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