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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
May 20, 1781
Volume 17, Pages 1029-1030


Petersburg, 20th May, 1781.


You will easily conceive how sensible an Affliction it was to me, on entering this province, to receive an account of the death of my friend General Phillips, whose loss I cannot sufficiently lament, from personal or public considerations.

The Corps which I had brought from North Carolina arrived here this morning. The information conveyed by your Excellency to

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General Arnold relative to the probable movements of the French Armament restrains me at present from any materials offensive operations; but as soon as I can hear any satisfactory account of the two Fleets, I will endeavor to make the best use in my power of the Troops under my command. General Arnold being of opinion that Portsmouth, with its present Garrison, is secure against a Coup de main, I would wish to avoid making a precipitate movement towards that place without absolute necessity; because it would lessen our reputation in this province but I have sent to assure the Commanding Officer that I will do everything I can to relieve him in case the French should attack the post.

LaFayette is at Wilton, on the other side of James River, not far from Richmond. I have not heard that Wayne has yet joined him.

It is with infinite satisfaction that I enclose to your Excellency copies of two Letters from Lord Rawdon, which have relieved me from the most cruel anxieties. His Lordship's great abilities, courage & firmness of mind cannot be sufficiently admired and applauded.

There is now great reason to hope that we shall meet with no serious misfortune in that province; if, however, General Greene should persevere in carrying on offensive Operations against it, we must, I think, abandon Camden, & probably Ninety-Six, and limit our defence to the Congaree & the Santee. This will only be giving up two bad posts, which it is difficult to supply with provisions, & quitting a part of the Country which for some months past we have not really possessed.

I have taken every means to inform Major Craig of my having passed the Roanoke, on which event it was previously concerted between us that he should fall down to Bald River, & from thence proceed to Charlestown, as soon as Transports arrive to carry him.

The Legion, being in the utmost distress for want of Arms, Clothing, Boots, & indeed appointments of all kings, I must beg that your excellency will be pleased to direct the Inspector General to forward a Supply of every article with the greatest dispatch.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, Sir, Your most obedient & most humble Servant,
His Excellency Sir Henry Clinton, K. B., &c., &c., &c.