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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Henry Clinton to Charles Cornwallis, Marquis Cornwallis
Clinton, Henry, Sir, 1738?-1795
April 30, 1781
Volume 17, Pages 1023-1026


New York, April 30th, 1781.

[Received June, 1781.]

My Lord:

Captain Biggs, of his Majesty's ship Amphitrite, who arrived here the 22d, has delivered to me your Lordship's two letters from Wilmington, of the 10th instant, informing me of your having obtained a compleat victory over the rebel General Greene, near Guilford, on the 15th ult., on which occasion I beg leave, my Lord, to offer your Lordship my most hearty congratulations, and to request you will present my thanks to Major-General Leslie, Brigadier-General O'Hara, and Lieutenant-Colonel Tarleton, for the great assistance you received from them, and to the officers and men under your command, for their great exertions on the march through Carolina, and their persevering intrepidity in action.

The disparity of numbers between your Lordship's force and that of the enemy opposed to you, appears to be very great, and, I confess I am at some loss to guess how your Lordship came to be reduced before the action to one thousand three hundred and sixty

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infantry, as by the distribution sent to me in your letter of the 6th of January, I am to suppose it was your intention to take with you the regiments mentioned in the margin,1 which (notwithstanding the loss of the seventy-first and legion, in the unfortunate affair of Cowpens) I should have imagined must have amounted to considerably above three thousand, exclusive of cavalry and Militia.

Before I was favored with your Lordship's letter, the rebel account of the battle of Guilford had led me, indeed, to hope, that its consequences would have been more decisive, and that Greene would have repassed the Roanoke, and left your Lordship at liberty to pursue the objects of your move into North Carolina. Under the persuasion, therefore, that you would soon be able to finish your arrangements for the security of the Carolinas, I submitted to you in my letter of the 13th instant, (a duplicate of which I have the honor to enclose) the propriety in that case of your going in a frigate to Chesapeak, and directing such corps to follow you thither as you judged could be best spared. But, as it is now probable that your Lordship's presence in Carolina cannot be so soon dispensed with, I make no doubt that you will think it right to communicate to Major-General Phillips, without delay, the plan of your future operations in that quarter, together with your opinion how the Chesapeak army can best direct their's to assist them. That General officer has already under his orders three thousand five hundred men, and I shall send him one thousand seven hundred more which are now embarked, and will sail whenever the Admiral is ready.

With these, my Lord, which are rank and file fit for duty, and great part of them taken from the elite of my army, General Phillips is directed by his instructions to act in favor of your Lordship to the best of his own judgment, until he receives your orders, and afterwards in such manner as you may please to command him, &c. But I shall be sorry to find your Lordship continue in the opinion that our hold of the Carolinas must be diffucult, if not precarious, until Virginia is in a manner subdued, as that is an event which I fear, would require a considerable space of time to accomplish, and

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as far as I can judge, it might not be quite so expedient at this advanced season of the year to enter into a long operation in that climate. This, however, will greatly depend upon circumstances, of which your Lordship and General Phillips may probably be the better judges, hereafter.

With regard to the operations of the summer, which your Lordship is anxious to receive my directions about, you cannot but be sensible that they must in great measure depend on your Lordship's successes in Carolina, the certainty and numbers of the expected reinforcement from Europe, and, likewise on your Lordship's sending back to me the corps I had spared to you, under Major-General Leslie, which Colonel Rawdon, in his letter of the 31st of October, told me you could return in the spring. For until I am informed of the particulars of your Lordship's march through North Carolina, the effective strength of your moving army, your plan of operations for carrying those objects you had or may have had in view, into execution, as well by the corps acting under your immediate orders, as those acting in co-operation under Major-General Phillips, it must be obviously impossible for me to determine finally upon a plan of operations for the campaign.

I was indeed in great hopes that your successes in North Carolina would have been such as to have put it in my power to avail myself of a large portion of your Lordship's army, the whole Chesapeak corps, and the entire reinforcement from Europe, for this campaign's operations to the northward of Carolina, but I observe with concern, from your Lordship's letter, that so far from being in a condition to spare me any part of your present force, you are of opinion that part of the European reinforcement will be indispensably necessary to enable you to act offensively, or even to maintain yourself in the upper parts of the country.

Had I known what your Lordship's further offensive measures were intended to be for the remaining part of the season, I might now have given an opinion upon them, as well as upon the probable co-operation of the corps in the Chesapeak, without having which it will be scarce possible for me to form any; for as I said before, I fear no solid operation can be carried on to the northward of Chesapeak before those to the southward of it are totally at an end, either from success, or the season; and my letter to your Lordship

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of the 6th of November will have informed you what were my ideas of the operations proper to be pursued in Chesapeak, and my expectations from them, had circumstances admitted of my pursuing the plan to its full extent.

But I must not defer fixing ultimately on a plan for the campaign, until I am made acquainted with the final success of your Lordship's operations, your prospects and sentiments, and I can judge what force I can collect for such measures as I can then determine upon.

I have the honor to be, &c.,


1 Brigade of Guards, Twenty-third, Thirty-third, Seventy-first, two Battalions-Yagers, Regiment of Bose, Light Infantry, Seventy-first, and Legion, North Caro, lina Regiment.