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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Charles Cornwallis, Marquis Cornwallis to George Sackville Germain, Viscount Sackville
Cornwallis, Charles Cornwallis, Marquis, 1738-1805
April 23, 1781
Volume 17, Pages 1016-1018


Wilmington, 23 April, 1781.

My Lord:

I yesterday received an express by a small Vessel from Charlestown, informing me that a Frigate was there but not then able to get over the bar, with Dispatches from Sir Henry Clinton, notifying to me that Major General Phillips had been detached into the Chesapeak

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with a considerable force, with instructions to co-operate with this Army & to put himself under my orders. This Express likewise brought me the disagreeable accounts, that the upper posts of South Carolina were in the most imminent danger from an alarming Spirit of Revolt among many of the people and by a movement of Gen. Greene's Army.

Although the expresses I sent from Cross Creek to inform Lord Rawdon of the necessity I was under of coming to this place, and to warn him of the possibility of such an attempt of the Enemy had all miscarried, yet his Lordship was lucky enough to be apprized of General Greene's Approach, at least six days before he could possibly reach Camden, and I am therefore still induced to hope from my opinion of His Lordship's Abilities, & the precautions taken by him & Lieut. Colonel Balfour, that we shall not be so unfortunate as to lose any considerable Corps.

The distance from hence to Camden, the want of forage and subsistence, on the greatest part of the Road, and the difficulty of passing the Pedee, when opposed by an Enemy, render it utterly impossible for me to give immediate assistance, and I apprehend a possibility of the utmost hazard to this little Corps, without the chance of a benefit in the attempt. For if we are so unlucky as to suffer a severe blow in South Carolina, the spirit of Revolt in that Province, would become very general, and the numerous Rebels in this Province be encouraged to be more than ever active & violent. This might enable General Greene to hem me in among the great Rivers, & by cutting off our subsistance, render our Arms useless. And to remain here for Transports to carry us off, would be a work of time, would lose our Cavalry, and be otherways as ruinous and disgraceful to Britain as most events could be. I have therefore, under so many embarrassing circumstances, (but looking upon Charlestown as safe from any immediate attack from the Rebels) resolved to take advantage of General Greene's having left the back part of Virginia open and march immediately into that province, to attempt a junction with General Phillips.

I have more readily decided upon this measure because if General Greene fails in the object of his March his retreat will relieve South Carolina. And my force being very insufficient for offensive operations in this province may be employed usefully in Virginia,

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in conjunction with the Corps under the Command of General Phillips.

I have the honor to be with great respect My Lord,
Your Lordship's Most obedient and Most humble Servant,
Right Honorable Lord George Germain, &c., &c., &c.