Rochambeau and Cornwallis on Opposing Sides
in Two Major Battles – Minden and Yorktown

In 1781 French general Count Rochambeau and British general Lord Cornwallis commanded opposing forces during the final major conflict of the American Revolution at Yorktown.  It was the second time the two men were participants in the same decisive battle.  On August 1, 1759, an allied British-German force achieved a famous victory over the French army at the Battle of Minden in Germany.  Rochambeau commanded a regiment that formed part of the French forces defeated there, while Cornwallis, a 19-year-old who had joined the army less than two years earlier, was a staff officer attached to the British forces who won at Minden.

The Battle of Minden has another curious connection to the American Revolution.  General  George Sackville, one of the commanders of the British troops at Minden, disgraced himself during the battle by refusing to attack when ordered to do so.  Subsequently he was court-martialed and thrown out of the army.  Sackville chose politics as his second career and by the time of the American Revolution had become part of Lord North’s cabinet.  In his role as Secretary of State for the American Department, Lord George Germain, as he was then known, was responsible for many of the unwise military decisions that led ultimately to the French and American victory at Yorktown.

Cornwallis and Rochambeau fought on opposing side at two major battles – Minden in 1759 and Yorktown in 1781.

Cornwallis and Rochambeau were on opposing side at two major battles – Minden in 1759 and Yorktown in 1781. The portrait of Cornwallis (left), by Daniel Gardner, is in the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation collection and is on exhibit at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.

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