Virginia State Seal Virginia Department of Historic Resources

099-0058 Yorktown Shipwrecks

Yorktown Shipwrecks
Photo credit: DHR, ca 1985

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For additional information, read the Nomination Form PDF

VLR Listing Date 02/20/1973

NRHP Listing Date 10/09/1973

NRHP Reference Number 73002069

In October 1781, when the British army of Lord Cornwallis was bottled up at Yorktown by the Allied Army and the French fleet was blockading the Chesapeake Bay, as many as twenty-six British vessels were scuttled off Yorktown. This prevented a landing by the French fleet. Cornwallis attempted to evacuate his troops across the York River, but a violent squall prevented their escape. A British flag of truce was flown the next day; and on October 19, 1781, the surrender was signed, ending the Revolutionary War. Investigations of the Yorktown Shipwrecks Maritime Archaeological Site by the Department of Historic Resources located nine ships dating to the wartime period. In 1982 a cofferdam was erected around one of the best preserved of the Yorktown Wrecks, a British supply ship, the Betsy. The systematic excavation of the Yorktown Shipwrecks site by DHR archaeologists was a precedent-setting demonstration of underwater archaeological techniques.


Abbreviations:
VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark


Updated: June 6, 2021