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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
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Description by Henry Clinton of the actions of Charles Cornwallis, Marquis Cornwallis in North and South Carolina
Clinton, Henry, Sir, 1738?-1795
1783
Volume 15, Pages 239-241

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EXTRACTS FROM CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN LORD CORNWALLIS AND SIR HENRY CLINTON.
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1780.
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SIR HENRY CLINTON'S “OBSERVATIONS.”

No person can be more ready than I am to admit the difficulties Lord Cornwallis had to struggle with; and I shall always acknowledge that I expected success (notwithstanding) from his Lordship's abilities. I left his Lordship in the Carolinas, with every power, civil and military, which I could give him, to carry on such operations as he should judge most likely to complete their reduction. Where I had hopes of success I studiously sought to approve without reserve. And, as long as I imagined his Lordship to be in sufficient force, and in other respects prepared and competent to give the experiment of supporting our friends in North Carolina a fair and solid trial, I certainly approved. But after the unfortunate day of Cowpens, which diminished his Lordship's acting army nearly one-fourth, and after he thought proper to destroy a great part of his waggons, provant trains, &c., (whereby he was reduced, I fear, to something too like a Tartar move,) had it been possible for him to have consulted me, he would have found that, could I have even consented to his persisting in his march into that province, that consent must have totally rested upon the high opinion I entertained of his Lordship's exertions, and not on any other flattering prospect I had of success.

Major Ferguson's misfortune was one of those untoward circumstances which Lord Cornwallis says occurred during the four months succeeding the battle of Camden. His Lordship, immediately after the complete victory he there obtained, ordered our friends in North Carolina to arm and intercept the beaten army of General Gates, promising them at the same time that he would march directly to the borders of that province in their support. About this time Major Ferguson was detached to a distance from his Lordship with a body of militia, (without being supported by

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regular troops,) under an idea that he could make them fight, notwithstanding his Lordship had informed me, some little time before, that it was contrary to the experience of the army, as well as of Major Ferguson himself. The consequence was that the Major and his whole corps were unfortunately massacred. Lord Cornwallis was, immediately upon hearing of this event, obliged to quit the borders of North Carolina, and leave our friends there at the mercy of an inveterate enemy, whose power became irresistable by this necessary retreat. This fatal catastrophe, moreover, lost his Lordship the whole militia of Ninety-Six, amounting to four thousand men, and even threw South Carolina into a state of confusion and rebellion.

How nearly the force I left with Lord Cornwallis in the Southern district, and what I afterwards sent to him, might have been adequate or not to the success expected from it, I shall not now examine. It is all I could possibly spare. But for the satisfaction of the public I shall give, at the end of the Appendix, a view of the force first left with his Lordship, of what was sent him afterwards, and of what was finally under his Lordship's orders throughout the whole extent of his command, to contrast with which I shall add also another view of the force left under my own immediate orders at New York at different periods, giving, at the same time, as near a calculation as I can make from the intelligence received of the number of regular troops which the enemy had opposed to each of us. I beg leave likewise to mention that before I sailed from Charlestown I offered to Lord Cornwallis all he wished, all he wanted, of every sort, and that his Lordship expressed himself to be perfectly satisfied with the troops he had, and wished for no more, as will appear from the letters annexed. What the exact strength of the corps under his Lordship's immediate command may have been at any given period I cannot ascertain, as I had no regular returns of them; but his Lordship did not make any complaint to me of the smallness of his force when he commenced his move into North Carolina, and I always thought it to be fully as large as I rated it at.

I cannot judge of the assurances of co-operation which Lord Cornwallis may have received from our friends in North Carolina but from his report; and his Lordship best knows whether he

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received any after the effects of Major Ferguson's misfortune were known. But his Lordship cannot forget that our friends, who had risen by his order, were left exposed to ruin by retreat, and numbers of them actually massacred. I am therefore at a loss to guess what may have been his Lordship's reasons for being surprised that they failed to join him after the victory at Guilford, as such efforts of loyalty could scarcely be expected of them after their past sufferings, when they saw his Lordship's army so greatly reduced after the action, and so scantily supplied with provisions, which, without doubt, was very far short of that solid support which they had been encouraged to expect from his Lordship's promises. And indeed his Lordship might have supposed that these were their sentiments from what followed, as described by himself: “Many of them rode into camp, shook me by the hand, said they were glad to see us, and to hear that we had beat Greene, and then rode home again,” no doubt with aching hearts, from the melancholy scene his Lordship's camp, encumbered with a long train of sick and wounded, exhibited to their view.