The Battle of Yorktown

[William Faden], Plan of the SIEGE of YORK TOWN in Virginia. London, March 1st, 1787.
Engraving on heavy laid paper, 11 ½"h x 12 ¾"w plus wide margins, spot color

A desirable impression of this rare battle plan, on heavy paper with wide margins.

At the Battle of Yorktown a British army under General Cornwallis was besieged by a Franco-American force under Generals Washington and Rochambeau, reinforced by a French fleet controlling the entrance to Chesapeake Bay. The siege resulted in Cornwallis’ surrender on October 19, 1781 and effectively ended major hostilities in the American War for Independence.

Offered here is a scarce impression of a very fine British plan of the battle, printed on heavy paper with large margins and issued either separately or in William Faden’s Atlas of Battles of the American Revolution. The vast majority of impressions are printed on inferior paper, folded, and trimmed for binding in Banastre Tarleton’s 1787 Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Provinces of North America.

The quality of detail indicates that Faden’s engraving was derived from a manuscript by a gifted military engineer who either witnessed the events of the battle or visited the field soon thereafter.

“While on a small scale, this well-engraved map conveys considerable useful information. The ravines and creek beds that figured in the action are clearly indicated, as are details of the several parallels of the siege. Troop emplacements and the artillery park of the Franco-American forces are indicated, and the commanders’ names appear. A legend shows the colors used for British, French, and American troops. Lines of fire seaward from the shore batteries appear as do the sunken British vessels and town named ships of the line.” (Nebenzahl, Bibliography, #197)

The plan also shows “Moor’s House,” the location downriver from Yorktown where the surrender was negotiated. Like other British plans of the period, however, it does not indicate the “Field where the British laid down their arms” featured so prominently on American maps.

Nebenzahl, Bibliography of Printed Battle Plans of the American Revolution, #197 (Tarleton edition only). Phillips, List of Maps of America, p. 1135. Sellers and Van Ee, Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies 1750-1789, #1476. Verner, “Maps of the Yorktown Campaign 1780-1781,” #XVII, (in R.V. Tooley, ed., The Mapping of America), citing the Tarleton ed. only. Verner, The Printed Maps of Virginia 1590-1800 (unpublished typescript), #828. Wooldridge, Mapping Virginia, #162, illus. p. 179 (Tarleton ed. only).


Mild toning and soiling at edges, signs of binding at upper edge, tiny chip at lower right corner, else excellent