Historical Events in 1781

Pennsylvania Line Mutiny

Jan 1 1,500 soldiers of the 6th Pennsylvania Regiment under General Anthony Wayne's command rebel against the Continental Army's winter camp in Morristown, New Jersey as part of the Pennsylvania (Continentals; Regiment) Mutiny of 1781.

  • Jan 4 Andre Méchain discovers M80 (globular cluster in Scorpio)

British Burn Richmond

Jan 5 British naval expedition led by Benedict Arnold burns Richmond, Virginia

  • Jan 6 Battle of Jersey: Major Francis Peirson and his men defeat invading French troops
  • Jan 17 Battle of Cowpens: American revolutionary forces led by Brigadier General Daniel Morgan defeat the British under Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton in a decisive double envelopment near the town of Cowpens, a turning point in the American reconquest of South Carolina
  • Jan 20 1st edition of Pieter It Hoens "Post of Neder-Rhijn" published
  • Jan 23 Niccolò Piccinni's tragédie lyrique opera "Iphigénie en Tauride" (Iphigeneia in Tauris) first performed by Académie royale de musique at the Paris Opéra

Music Premiere

Jan 29 Wolfgang Mozart's dramatic opera "Idomeneo" premieres at the Cuvilliés Theatre in Munich, Germany

  • Feb 3 Dutch West Indies island of St Eustatia taken by British


Feb 17 French astronomer Charles Messier catalogs M83 (spiral galaxy in Hydra)

Articles of Confederation

Mar 1 Continental Congress officially adopts the Articles of Confederation, the first constitution of the United States of America after ratification by the 13th state, Maryland

Scientific Discovery

Mar 13 William Herschel sees what he thinks is a "comet" but is actually the discovery of the planet Uranus

Battle of Guilford Court House

Mar 15 Battle of Guilford Court House; British troops under Cornwallis defeat American forces but their heavy losses led to ceding of territory and a strategic loss

  • Mar 18 French astronomer Charles Messier rediscovers global cluster M92
  • Apr 8 Premiere of Mozart's violin sonata K379
  • Apr 29 French fleet occupies Tobago during American War of Independence
  • Apr 29 French fleet stops the Britain from seizing the Cape of Good Hope
  • May 26 Bank of North America incorporates in Philadelphia

Event of Interest

Jun 3 Jack Jouett rides to warn Thomas Jefferson of British attack

  • Jul 11 Thomas Hutchins designated Geographer of US
  • Aug 5 Battle of Dogger Bank (Fourth Anglo-Dutch War): a British strategic victory, although both sides claimed to have won

Event of Interest

Aug 20 George Washington begins to move his troops south to fight Cornwallis

  • Aug 21 Jury in Sheffield, Massachusetts, grants two slaves Bett (later Elizabeth Freeman) and Bron their freedom after Freeman brings the case to court [1]
  • Sep 4 Los Angeles is founded by 44 Spanish speaking mestizos in the Bahia de las Fumas (Bay of Smokes)

Battle of the Chesapeake

Sep 5 American Revolutionary War: French fleet of 24 ships under Comte de Grasse defeat British forces under Admiral Graves at the Battle of the Chesapeake [Battle of the Virginia Capes] and trap Cornwallis

  • Sep 6 The Battle of Groton Heights takes place, resulting a British victory.
  • Sep 25 -26] Joan Derks scatters "On the People of Netherlands" pamphlets

Historic Siege

Sep 28 9,000 American and 7,000 French troops begin the siege of Yorktown

Battle of Interest

Oct 9 Americans under George Washington and the French under Comte de Rochambeau begin bombardment of Yorktown, the last battle of American Revolutionary War

Event of Interest

Oct 19 British forces under General Charles Cornwallis sign terms of surrender to George Washington and Comte de Rochambeau at Yorktown at 2 pm, ending the US Revolutionary War

  • Oct 19 Edict of Toleration issued by Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, providing limited freedom of worship for non-Roman Catholic Christians
  • Nov 5 John Hanson elected first "President of US in Congress assembled"
  • Nov 13 British troops occupy Negapatam, Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
  • Nov 29 Crew of slave ship Zong murder about 142 African slaves by dumping them into the sea, to claim insurance
  • Dec 28 Comte de Rochambeau and Nicolas Luckner are the last generals to be made Marshal of France by Louis XVI before the Revolution
  • Dec 31 Bank of North America, 1st US bank opens