The victory at Yorktown, which resulted in American independence, would have been impossible without the French defeat of a Royal Navy fleet in the Battle of the Chesapeake Capes. While observers often criticize British tactics in the 5 September 1782 clash, the real reason for the strategically catastrophic loss may have been greed.
Yorktown, Virginia, 19 October 1781: Drummers beating out a march led the ranks of British troops from their fortifications down the Hampton Road. For more than a mile, the route was lined on one side by American soldiers and on the other by French troops who watched with satisfaction as their defeated foes made their way to the field of surrender. The Yorktown campaign was drawing to a ceremonious close.
The brilliant Franco-American victory can be attributed in large part to General George Washington and Rear Admiral François-Joseph-Paul, comte de Grasse. Without missteps on the part of the Royal Navy, however, the allied commanders' campaign may well have foundered. And, ironically, the seeds of British General Lord Charles Cornwallis' defeat at Yorktown may rest in the Royal Navy's seizure of a most valuable prize: the Dutch island of St. Eustatius in the faraway Leeward Islands.