powered by google
Documenting the American South Logo
Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Advanced Search Options
Letter from Charles Cornwallis, Marquis Cornwallis to George Sackville Germain, Viscount Sackville
Cornwallis, Charles Cornwallis, Marquis, 1738-1805
September 19, 1780
Volume 15, Pages 278-282

EARL CORNWALLIS TO LORD GEORGE GERMAIN.

Camp at Waxhaw, September 19th, 1780.

My Lord:

I had the honor to inform Your Lordship, in my letter of the 21st of August, that I had dispatched proper people into North Carolina, to exhort our friends in that Province to take Arms, to seize

-------------------- page 279 --------------------
Military Stores and Magazines of the Enemy, and to intercept all stragglers of the routed Army.

Some parties of our friends, who had embodied themselves near the Pedee, disarmed several of the Enemy's Stragglers; but the leading persons of the Loyalists were so undecided in their Councils that they lost the critical time of availing themselves of our Success, and even suffered General Gates to pass to Hillsborough with a Guard of six Men only. They continue, however, to give me the strongest assurances of support when His Majesty's Troops shall have penetrated into the interior parts of the Province. The patience and fortitude with which they endure the most cruel torments, and suffer the most violent oppressions that a Country ever laboured under, convince me that they are sincere, at least as far as their affection to the Cause of Great Britain.

The number of prisoners taken in the Actions of the 16th & 18th of last Month occasioned great inconvenience to us in the small village of Camden, which was so crowded and so sickly I was afraid that the close place in which we were obliged to confine them might produce some pestilential fever during the excessive hot weather. I therefore sent them off to Charlestown as early as possible, by divisions of One hundred & fifty each, under the escort of thirty-eight men, about two thirds of which were composed of the 63d and Prince of Wales's Regiments, and the rest Militia. In order to cover their March, although I did not apprehend much danger, I posted Major Wemyss, with about One hundred men of the 63d Regiment, on the high hills of Santee, and I sent Lt. Col. Tarleton with a detachment of the legion, and Lt. Col. Hamilton's Corps and some Militia to Ratcliffe's bridge, on Linche's Creek, which I thought would effectually awe all the lower Country. The disaffection, however, in the Country East of Santee, is so great that the Account of our Victory could not penetrate into it, any person daring to speak of it being threatened with instant death; and so great was the ignorance in which these people were kept that, on the night of the 23d of August, a party of about Two hundred of the Inhabitants, in the neighborhood of Black River, under the command of Col. Marion, went to Murray's ferry, where they passed some Men in Canoes, drove away our Militia guard, who fled at the first shot, and destroyed the ferry boats, to prevent

-------------------- page 280 --------------------
our making our escape from General Gates over the Santee. On the 24th they were proceeding to do the same at Nelson's ferry, when they heard of the march of the first division of Prisoners, and they were to halt that night at Sumpter's house, about six miles East of the ferry. The Ensign of the Militia of the escort contrived to get over to the enemy, and conducted them to the attack of Sumpter's house, the consequence of which was that our Escort was taken and the Prisoners released. By this time some Patroles ef Lt. Col. Tarleton's to Kingstree bridge, on Black River, had spread the alarm in that Country; and the Enemy, being perfectly convinced by the Prisoners of General Gates's total defeat, retired with great precipitation to Georgetown. Great part of the Escort escaped from them, and above eighty of the Prisoners, all Continentals, either English or Irish, declared their determination to proceed to Charles-town.

I am sorry to inform Your Lordship that the Troops under my command, as well Officers as Men, have continued very sickly ever since the Action. In hopes that the change of air might be useful, I moved from Camden on the 7th of this Month with the 23d, 33d & Volunteers of Ireland, and encamped at Waxhaw Creek. Lieut. Col. Tarleton marched the next day with the Light Troops up the West side of the Catawba River. The 71st Regiment, who are beginning a little to recover, are to join me in a few days. Major Wemys is gone with part of the 63d Regiment, and of Lt. Col. Hamilton's Corps, to endeavor to form a Militia in the district of Cheraws on whose fidelity we may place some dependence, and to punish those Traitors who, after voluntarily engaging in our Militia, deserted to the enemy. Detachments are likewise gone for the same purpose to Georgetown.

I must assure Your Lordship that His Majesty's Service has derived the greatest advantages from the ability and great exertion of Lt. Col. Balfour in the very important post of Commandant of Charlestown, where he has put everything in such perfect Order, and has formed so respectable a Militia, that with the concurrence of Majr. Moncrief, the Chief Engineer, he is enabled to spare another Battalion for the field, notwithstanding the increase of Prisoners, in consequence of which the 7th Regiment is now on its march to join me.

By the Capitulation of Charlestown, the Town Militia were

-------------------- page 281 --------------------
allowed to remain on parole, and their property in Town was to be secured to them. About twenty or thirty of them, who had been the Ringleaders of Rebellion in this Province, held constant meetings, from which they carried on a correspondence with the enemy and with all the disaffected parts of the Province, and received, in order to propagate it throughout the Town and Country adjacent, General Gates' Proclamation. They advanced, in the most publick and insolent manner, the grossest falsehoods, tending to encourage the disaffected and to terrify the well disposed Inhabitants, and seemed to imagine that their Parole was intended only to protect them, without laying them under any restraint whatever. It was impossible, with safety to the Town full of Rebel Prisoners, to suffer them to persevere in these dangerous practices. I therefore ordered them to be seized and transported with their Baggage to St. Augustine, where they will remain on parole, without a possibility of hurting the Interests of Great Britain. I am aware that this proceeding may raise a clamour amongst the enemies of my Country, but I am fully convinced that it was as Just as it was absolutely necessary.

I transmit to Your Lordship a Copy of a Proclamation which I thought myself under the necessity of issuing relative to the Sequestration of Rebel Property. The severe mortification which it must occasion to His Majesty's Loyal Subjects on this Continent to see their Estates Confiscated and themselves and their families reduced to beggary, whilst their inhuman persecutors, who have brought ruin and destruction on them, are suffered to persist openly in the avowal of Rebellion, and to continue to enjoy, by permission of the British Government, the full possession of their property, renders this measure in my opinion absolutely indispensable; and as it can affect no future plan, and only appropriates those funds to the present use of Government which would otherwise be employed against it, I flatter myself that it will meet with His Majesty's approbation.

The great sickness of the Army, the intense heat, and the necessity of totally subduing the Rebel Country between the Santee and Pedee, have detained me longer than I would have wished on the frontiers of this Province. I am likewise anxious to hear from New York, from whence I have no Accounts since the 15th

-------------------- page 282 --------------------
of July. I hope, however, that nothing can prevent my entering North Carolina before the end of this Month.

I have the honour to be,
Your Lordship's most Obedient & most humble Servant,
CORNWALLIS.
Right Honorable Lord George Germain, &c., &c., &c.