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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
May 29, 1781
Volume 17, Pages 1035-1037


New York, May 29th, 1781.

[Received July 12, 1781, from Lieut. Col. MacPherson.]

My Lord:

I had the honor of writing to your Lordship by Lord Chewton, who sailed from hence in the Richmond the 4th instant, to join you at Wilmington; but your Lordship's departure from thence will have prevented his meeting you there and I hope he has since then joined you in the Chesapeak.

When I first heard of your Lordship's retreat from Cross Creek to Wilmington, I confess that I was in hopes you had reason to consider Greene so totally hors de combat as to be perfectly at ease for Lord Rawdon's safety. And after your arrival at Wilmington I flattered myself that if any change of circumstances should make it necessary, you could always have been able to march to the Waccamaw, where I imagined vessels might have passed you over to Georgetown. I cannot therefore conceal from your Lordship the apprehensions I felt on reading your letter to me of the 24th ult., wherein you inform me of the critical situation which you supposed the Carolinas to be in and that you should probably attempt to effect a junction with Major General Phillips.

Lord Rawdon's officer-like and spirited exertions in taking advantage of Greene's having detached from his army, have indeed eased me of my apprehensions for the present. But in the disordered

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state of Carolina and Georgia, as represented to me by LieutenantColonel Balfour, I shall dread what may be the consequences of your Lordship's move, unless a reinforcement arrives very soon in South Carolina, and such instructions are sent to the officer commanding there, as may induce him to exert himself in restoring tranquility in that province at least. These I make no doubt your Lordship has already sent to Lord Rawdon and that every necessary measure for this purpose will be taken by his Lordship in consequence of them, should he remain in the command. But as there are many officers in the regiments coming out who are older than Lord Rawdon, I have to lament the probability of his being superseded in it as I can scarce flatter myself that any of them will be possessed of the knowledge requisite for conducting operations in Carolina without having ever served in that country, or be so competent to the command there as officers of more local experience. I therefore beg leave to submit to your Lordship the propriety of sending either Major General Leslie or Brigadier General O'Hara to Charlestown, to take the command of the troops in that district; which in the present critical situation of affairs in the Southern Colonies, will certainly require an officer of experience and a perfect knowledge of the country. Had it been possible for your Lordship in your letter to me of the 10th ult., to have intimated the probability of your intention to form a junction with General Phillips, I should certainly have endeavored to have stopped you, as I did then, as well as now, consider such a move as likely to be dangerous to our interests in the Southern Colonies. And this, my Lord, was not my only fear; for I will be free to own, that I was apprehensive for the corps under your Lordship's immediate orders, as well as for that under Lord Rawdon; and I should not have thought even the one under Major General Phillips in safety at Petersburg, at least for so long a time, had I not fortunately on hearing of your being at Wilmington sent another detachment from this army to reinforce him.

I am persuaded your Lordship will have the goodness to excuse my saying thus much; but what is done, cannot now be altered; and as your Lordship has thought proper to make this decision, I shall most gladly avail myself of your very able assistance in carrying on such operations as you shall judge best in Virginia, until we are

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compelled, as I fear we must be by the climate, to bring them more northward. Your Lordship will have been informed of my ideas respecting operations to the northward of the Carolinas, by my instructions to the different General Officers detached to the Chesapeak; and the substance of some conversations with General Phillips on that subject, which I committed to writing and sent to him with my last dispatch, with directions to communicate it to your Lordship. By these your Lordship will observe that my first object has ever been a co-operation with your measures; but your Lordship's situation at different periods, made it necessary for me occasionally to vary my instructions to those General Officers according to circumstnaces. They were originally directed to assist your Lordship's operations in securing South and recovering North Carolina; their attention was afterwards pointed to the saving South Carolina; and now your Lordship may possibly think it necessary to employ your force in recovering both or either of those provinces, by either a direct or indirect operation. With respect to the first, your Lordship must be the sole judge; with respect to the last, you have my opinions, which may however probably give way to yours, should they differ from them, as they will have the advantage of being formed on the spot, and upon circumstances, which at this distance I cannot of course judge of. I therefore leave them totally to your Lordship to decide upon, until you either hear from me or we meet.