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This cave was believed be a hiding spot for British General Cornwallis during the Battle of Yorktown in the American Revolution. It is a small man-made cave thought to be first used as a gun placement to help protect the British camp from attack by French naval forces during the war.


Cornwallis cave is an almost entirely man-made cave and is quite small. It was constructed during the American Revolutionary War for Gen. Charles Cornwallis as a hideout during the siege of Yorktown. It is believed that it was used as a gun placement to help protect the British camp from being attacked by the French navy, which was assisting the American forces. It is believed to have been just a point of retreat for Cornwallis, and not his headquarters.

General Cornwallis is probably best known as the British general who surrendered to the American troops, effectively ending the war. Charles Cornwallis was born on New Year's Eve in 1738 to Charles Cornwallis, 1st Earl Cornwallis and Elizabeth Townshend. He received is early education at Eton and later went on to attend a military academy in Turin, Italy. When he returned from his studies, he immediately wanted to be a part of the French and Indian War. He spent most of the war in Germany. He stared out as a staff officer for Lord Granby but was soon appointed to the position of captain of the 85th Regiment of Foot. He was later promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 12th Foot in May 1761. In July 1761 Cornwallis was cited for his bravery as he and his men fought in the Battle of Villinghausen. After he felt as though he had proved himself a great soldier and commander her returned home in 1762 following his father’s death. 

Compelled by his sense of duty, Cornwallis served in the American Revolution. He was promoted to lieutenant general. After being defeated by Washington in Princeton there was tension between Cornwallis and his fellow officer, General Clinton. Over the next few years Cornwallis defeated Washington’s army at the Battles of Brandywine, Germantown and Fort Mercer. Cornwallis took a trip home to see his family and when he came back, he discovered that he had become second in command. Little did he know a few years later he would fight and later surrender in the last major battle of the American Revolution, the Battle of Yorktown, in 1781. The cave was used during this battle; towards the end it is believed that General Cornwallis used this cave to hide before making the decision to surrender.  

Cornwallis' Cave, Yorktown. Accessed October 17th 2019. http://www.visitingyorktown.com/cave.html.

Lambert, Rick. Cornwallis Cave Lord Cornwallis Cave, Accessed October 17th 2019. http://virginiacaves.org/images/other/CornwallisCave/CornwallisCave.pdf.

BIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES CORNWALLIS, The Yorktown Chronicles . Accessed October 17th 2019. https://www.historyisfun.org/sites/yorktown-chronicles/history/cornwallis.htm.