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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
April 10, 1781
Volume 17, Pages 1010-1012


Camp Near Wilmington, 10th April, 1781.


I am just informed that I have a chance of sending a few lines to New York by the Amphithrite, but as it depends upon my being expeditious, I cannot attempt to give your Excellency a particular account of the Winter's Campaign, or the battle of Guilford. I have, however, the satisfaction of informing you that our military operations were uniformly successful; and the Victory of Guilford, altho' one of the bloodiest of this War, was very complete. The Enemy gave themselves out for nine or ten, & undoubtedly had seven thousand Men in the field, upwards of two thousand of which were eighteen-months men or Continentals.

Our force was 1,360 Infantry, rank & file, and about 200 Cavalry. General Greene retreated the night of the Action to the Iron Works, on Troublesome Creek, eighteen miles from Guilford, leaving us four six-pounders, being all the Cannon he had in the field. The fatigue of the Troops and the great number of wounded put it out of my power to pursue beyond the Reedy Fork in the afternoon

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of the Action; and the want of Provisions and all kinds of necessaries for the soldiers made it equally impossible to follow the blow next day. I therefore issued the enclosed Proclamation; and having remained two days on the field of battle, marched to Bell's Mill on Deep River, near part of the Country where the greatest number of our friends were supposed to reside. Many of the Inhabitants 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; for I could not get 100 men in all the Regulator's Country to stay with us, even as Militia.

With a third of my Army sick & wounded, which I was obliged to carry in Waggons or on horseback, the remainder without Shoes and worn down with fatigue, I thought it was time to look for some place of rest & refitment. I therefore, by easy Marches, taking care to pass through all the Settlements that had been described to me as most friendly, proceeded to Cross Creek. On my arrival there I found, to my great mortification, that it was impossible to procure any considerable quantity of provisions, and that there was not four days' forage within twenty miles. The Navigation of Cape Fear River, with the hopes of which I had been flattered, was totally impracticable, the distance from Wilmington by water being 150 miles, the breadth of the river seldom exceeding one hundred yards, the banks generally high, and the Inhabitants on each side almost universally hostile. Under these Circumstances I determined to move immediately to Wilmington. By this measure the Highlanders have not had so much time as the people of the upper Country to prove the sincerity of their former professions of friendship. But tho' Appearances are rather more favorable among them, I confess they are not equal to my expectations.

General Greene marched down as low as the mouth of Deep River, where he remained four days ago. He never came within our reach after the action, nor has a shot been since fired, except at Ramsay's Mill on Deep River, where Colonel Malmedy, with about 20 of a gang of plunderers that are attached to him, galloped in among the Sentries, and carried off three Yagers.

I cannot sufficiently commend the behaviour of both Officers and men under my command. They not only showed the most persevering intrepidity in action, but underwent with cheerfulness such

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fatigues & hardships as have seldom been experienced by a British Army, and justly merit every mark of favor and reward. The great assistance I received from Generals Leslie, O'Hara, & Lieut. Colonel Tarleton, deserves my warmest acknowledgements & highest commendations.

I am now employed in disposing of the sick and wounded, and in procuring supplies of all kinds, to put the troops into a proper state to take the field. I am, likewise, impatiently looking out for the expected reinforcements from Europe, part of which will be indispensably necessary, to enable me either to act offensively, or even to maintain myself in the upper parts of the Country, where alone I can hope to preserve the Troops, from the fatal Sickness, which so nearly ruined the Army last Autumn.

I am very anxious to receive your Excellency s commands, being as yet totally in the dark, as to the intended operations of the Summer. I cannot help expressing my wishes, that the Chesapeake may become the Seat of War, even (if necessary) at the expence of abandoning New York. Until Virginia is in a manner subdued, our hold of the Carolinas must be difficult, if not precarious. The Rivers of Virginia are advantageous to an invading Army, but North Carolina is, of all the Provinces in America, the most difficult to attack, (unless material Assistance could be got from the Inhabitants, the contrary of which I have sufficiently experienced) on account of the great extent of the numberless Rivers and Creeks, & the total want of interior navigation.

In compliance with your Excellency's general directions, I shall dispatch my Aide-de-camp, Captain Broderick, to England, with the particular accounts of the Battle of Guilford, of the Winter's Campaign, and the present State of the Province, Copies of which I shall have the honor of transmitting to your Excellency with my next dispatch. I have the honor to be with great respect, Sir, Your most obedient & Most humble Servant,