"French Revolutionary War Cannons At Yorktown Battlefield. Yorktown, Virginia. On October 19, 1781, a British army under General Charles Lord 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."