Documenting the American South Logo
Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Charles Cornwallis, Marquis Cornwallis to Henry Clinton
Cornwallis, Charles Cornwallis, Marquis, 1738-1805
August 23, 1780
Volume 15, Pages 273-276


Camden, August 23d, 1780.


Your Excellency will have, in all probability, received my letters of the 6th & 10th by Captain Lutwidge. The opportunity was so safe, & I am at present so hurried with business,

-------------------- page 274 --------------------
with everybody belonging to me Sick, that I shall omit sending the Duplicates until another opportunity.

I left Charlestown on the Evening of the 10th & arrived here in the night of the 13th, having suffered the most anxious suspense on the road, where I met frequently the most alarming reports & had the greatest reason to apprehend that if our Affairs did not speedily take a more favourable turn the greatest part of the inhabitants between Camden & Charles Town would appear in Arms against us.

As I thought it of the greatest consequence to His Majesty's Service that the account of the important event of the 16th should be communicated with all possible expedition to the Secretary of State, and as your Excellency told me in a conversation at Williams' House, that if I fought a Battle and took Cannon I should write directly to England, I have on this occasion dispatched my Aid-de-Camp, Captain Ross, with the letters to Lord George Germain, of which I have the honour to enclose to you the copies.

I must beg leave to recommend in the strongest manner to you the brave Troops who fought with me on that day. Their behaviour was indeed above all praise & deserves every encouragement—Poor Major Mecan died a few days before the Action, & as I cannot possibly dispense with Lt. Col. Balfour's remaining at Charlestown, where he is of infinite use, I must particularly request that you will please to appoint some active, good Officer to the Majority of the 23d Regiment.

I have not yet heard any accounts from No. Carolina, but I hope that our friends will immediately take Arms, as I have directed them to do. The diversion in the Chesapeak will be of the utmost importance. The troops here have gained reputation, but they have lost numbers, and there can be no doubt that the enemy will use every effort to repel an attack, which, if successful, must end in their losing all the Southern Colonies.

I have likewise to observe that, if a general Exchange should take place, the Enemy's prisoners should, in my opinion, be delivered at the same place as ours are sent in. The Rebels now confined at Charlestown are almost all Continentals, and of the old Country, and would, if released from hence, soon from a Corps on the frontiers of Virginia, far superior in number to the troops

-------------------- page 275 --------------------
under my command; & I do not think, if the Prisoners were all removed, that I could draw any considerable reinforcement from the Garrison of Charlestown, considering the great distance we shall be removed from thence.

It is difficult to form a plan of operations which must depend so much on circumstances, but it at present appears to me that I should endeavor to get, as soon as possible, to Hillsborough, & there assemble and try to arrange the friends who are inclined to arm in our favour, and endeavor to form a very large Magazine for the Winter of Flour & Meal from the Country, and of Rum, Salt, &c., from Cross Creek, which I understand to be about eighty miles' carriage. But all this will depend on the operations which your Excellency may think proper to pursue in the Chesapeak, which appears to me, next to the Security of New York, to be one of the most important objects of the War. I can only repeat what I have often had the honour of saying to you that, wherever you may think my presence can be most conducive to His Majesty's Service, thither I am at all times ready and willing to go.

When I found that Genl. Gates was advancing towards Camden, I sent orders to the Commanding Officer at Ninety-Six to push parties of Militia, supported by Provincials, in the rear of his right, and endeavor to harass his convoys, and be ready to take advantage of any success that we might have against him. I have since received a report that Lieut. Col. Innes, in attempting this Service, fell in on the 19th with a party of Rebels, when he was deserted by the Militia & himself wounded in the neck, and about Fifty Officers & men of his Provincials Killed, Wounded or taken. The rebels who were pursuing him heard of our Successes against Gates & Sumpter, and went off with great precipitation. Major Wemys performed his March from George Town without loss or difficulty, and is now in the neighborhood of this place.

I am sorry to say that I fear Major Harrison will totally fail in his attempts to raise a Corps.

Our sickness is great, and truly alarming. The Officers are particularly affected; Doctor Hayes and almost all the Hospital

-------------------- page 276 --------------------
Surgeons are laid up. Every person of my family, and every Public Officer of the Army, is now incapable of doing his duty.

I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your most Obedient & most humble Servant,
His Excellency Sir Henry Clinton, &c., &c., &c.