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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Charles Cornwallis, Marquis Cornwallis to Henry Clinton
Cornwallis, Charles Cornwallis, Marquis, 1738-1805
August 29, 1780
Volume 15, Pages 276-278


Received Septr. 23rd, No. 3. In Sir Henry Clinton's, No. 107.

Camden, 29th August, 1780.


I send Duplicates of my Letters of the 23rd and those of the 6th & 10th of this Month. Nothing very material has occurred since the 23d. We receive the strongest Professions of Friendship from North Carolina. Our Friends, however, do not seem inclined to rise until they see our Army in Motion. The Severity of the Rebel Government has so terrified & totally subdued the Minds of the People that it is very difficult to rouze them to any Exertions. The taking that violent and cruel Incendiary, Genl. Rutherford, has been a lucky Circumstance, but the indefatigable Sumpter is again in the Field, & is beating up for Recruits with the greatest Assiduity.

Major Wemyss is going with a Detachment of the 63d Regiment mounted, some Refugees, Provincials & Militia, to disarm in the most rigid Manner the Country between Santee & Pedee, and to punish severely all those who submitted or pretended to live peaceably under His Majesty's Government since the Reduction of Charlestown, and have joined in this second Revolt, And I ordered him to hang up all those Militia Men who were concerned in seizing their Officers and capturing the Sick of the 71st Regiment. I have myself ordered several Militia Men to be executed, who had voluntarily enrolled themselves and borne Arms with us, and afterwards revolted to the Enemy.

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The Number of Prisoners was a great Inconvenience to us here, in a small Village 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 as early as possible, by Divisions of 150 each, under the Escort of 38 Men, about two thirds of which were composed of the 63d & Prince of Wales' Regiments, the rest Militia. In order to cover their March, altho' I did not apprehend much danger, I posted Major Wemyss, with a Part of the 63d, at the high Hills of Santee, and I sent Lieut. Colonel Tarleton, with a Detachment of the Legion, & Lieut Colonel Hamilton's Corps & some Militia to Ratcliffe's Bridge on Linche's Creek, which I thought would effectually awe the lower Country. The Disaffection, however, of 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 a Party of about 200 mounted Militia under Colonel Marion went to Murray's Ferry, where they passed some Men in Canoes, drove away our Militia Guard and destroyed the Ferry Boats to prevent 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 that they were to halt that Night at Sumpter's House, (which halting place was not very well chosen by the Qr. Mr. General). The Ensign of the Militia of the Escort contrived to get over to the Enemy, and conducted them to the Attack, the Consequence of which was that our Escort was taken and the Prisoners released. By this Time some Patroles of Lieut. Colonel Tarleton's to Kingstree Bridge on Black River had spread the Alarm in their Rear, and being perfectly convinced by the Prisoners of General Gates's total Defeat, they retired with great Precipitation to George Town. The greatest 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 Charlestown. I am assured that not more than twelve of the Escort and forty of the Prisoners were carried off by the Enemy. I believe that Capt. Roberts, of the

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63d, who commanded the Escort, did his Duty perfectly well, & was not to blame in any Respect.

I hope to be able to move my first Division in eight or nine days into North Carolina by Charlotte-town & Salisbury; the Second will follow in about ten days after, with convalescents & Stores. I shall leave the New York Volunteers and Innes's Corps to take Care of this Place untill the Sick & Stores can be removed. Our Sickness at present is rather at a Stand, the Recoveries nearly keeping Pace with the falling down. I dread the Convalescents not being able to march; but it is very tempting to try it, as a move of forty or fifty Miles would put us into a much better Climate.

Ferguson is to move into Tryon County with some Militia, whom he says He is sure he can depend upon for doing their Duty and fighting well; but I am sorry to say that his own Experience, as well as that of every other Officer, is totally against him.

I am very anxious to hear again from the Northward, as our Accounts of the French Fleet were very imperfect.

I most sincerely hope that nothing can happen to prevent your Excellency's intended Diversion in the Chesapeak. If unfortunately any unforeseen Cause should make it impossible, I should hope that you will see the absolute Necessity of adding some Force to the Carolinas.

I have the honour to be,
Your most obedient & Most humble Servant,
His Excellency Sir Henry Clinton, K. B.