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Letter from Henry Clinton to Charles Cornwallis, Marquis Cornwallis
Clinton, Henry, Sir, 1738?-1795
December 13, 1780
Volume 15, Pages 308-310

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SIR HENRY CLINTON TO EARL CORNWALLIS.

New York, 13th December, 1780.

My Lord:

I am honored with Your Lordship's Letters of the 3d and 22d of September, by the Thames, which arrived here the 12th Ultimo; And on the 5th instant I received, by the Beaumont, those from Lord Rawdon and Colonel Balfour to General Leslie.

As that General received Your first Invitation on the 7th Ultimo, I naturally supposed that he would have sailed very soon after to join You at Cape Fear; but am sorry to find he did not move from the Chesapeak before the 22d. Inclosed I send your Lordship a Return of the Force that embarked with him; it was all I could spare, and I thought it fully adequate to the Services required. My first Instructions to General Leslie put that Corps entirely subject to Your Lordship's orders. I did not, I confess, however, suppose it would move to Cape Fear. But having afterwards too good reason to dread Ferguson's Fate, I in a second Instruction recommended that Measure as the only Salutary one under the circumstances I apprehended Ferguson's Defeat would place your Lordship.

By a letter of Colonel Balfour's to General Leslie (without date) are these Expressions: “I have only to repeat that the Safety of this Province now is concerned in your getting as fast as possible near us.” I should be sorry to understand from this that the Province is really in danger. Wishing, however, to give your Lordship's operations in North Carolina every Assistance in my Power, tho' I can ill spare it, I have sent another Expedition into the Chesapeak, under the Orders of Brigadier General Arnold, Lieutenant Colonels Dundas and Simcoe. The Force by land is not equal to that which sailed with General Leslie, but I am not without Hopes it will operate essentially in favor of Your Lordship, either by striking at Gates's Depot at Petersburg, (which I have still reason to think is considerable,) or finally by taking Post at Portsmouth, which I have ever considered as very important, for Reasons most obvious. If we take Post there, fortify, & assemble the Inhabitants, it ought not afterwards to be quitted; and, therefore, I cannot suppose Your Lordship will wish to alter

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the destination of this Corps without absolute necessity. On the contrary, I flatter myself that, should Your Success be such as Your Lordship will, I hope, now have reason to expect, You will reinforce that Corps and enable it to act offensively. When that is your Intention, I am to request that the following Corps may, in their Turn, be considered for that Service, Viz.: The Troop of 17th Dragoons, the Yagers, the Detachment of the 17th Foot, and the Provincial Light Infantry, &c.

I need not tell Your Lordship that these Detachments have left me very bare indeed of Troops, nor that Washington still continues very strong, at least 12,000 Men; that he has not detached a single Man as yet to the Southward, except Lee's cavalry, about 250. I need not tell You, also, there are 6,000 French already at Rhode Island, but I must acquaint Your Lordship that six compleat Regiments more are expected under Convoy of a Number of Capital Ships. Whatever may have been the Intention of the French in sending a Reinforcement to this Country, I think, however, the Season is now too far advanced to expect the last, and, was I not clearly of that opinion, I should scarcely dare to detach as I do.

As I have already said, I think Your Lordship's Movements to the Southward most important, and as I have ever done, so will now give them all the Assistance I can. It remains to be proved whether we have Friends in North Carolina. I am sure we had three years ago. That Experiment will now, however, be fairly tried; if it succeeds, and we hold the Entrance of the Chesapeak, I think the rebels will scarcely risk another Attempt upon those Provinces.

I am very happy to find by Your Letter to General Leslie that Your Lordship is so well recovered from your late Indisposition which had given me the greatest Pain & Concern.

As Your Lordship's Dispatch of the 12th November, & Lord Rawdon's & Col. Balfour's Letters to General Leslie, brought here by the Beaumont, were addressed on His Majesty's Service, I took the Liberty to break the Seals, supposing they might contain Intelligence necessary for my Information.

Should your Lordship at any time judge it expedient to reinforce the Corps under General Arnold, You will of course either continue it under his Orders or send any other General Officer

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you think proper to take the Command, whenever you may think such Alteration necessary.

I have the honour to be,
Your Lordship's most obedient & most humble Servant.
H. CLINTON.
To Lieut. General Earl Cornwallis.