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Cornwallis

Cornwallis

 

CornwallisThe name of Lord Cornwallis is to Americans inseparably associated with defeat; yet he was a brave and skillful officer, who in a long life after his surrender at York town performed valuable service to his country. A noble and generous foe and a man of the highest character and integrity, he stood as the champion of reform. He belonged to one of the noblest families of England. The first member of it who bore a title, was Frederick Cornwallis, who was created a baronet in the reign of Charles I., and shared the fortunes of Charles II. in his exile on the continent of Europe. After the Restoration, he was created Lord Cornwallis, of Eye.

 

Charles, the fifth lord of the family, was created Earl Cornwallis in 1753. His son Charles was born in London, 31st December, 1738, and was educated at Eton and St. John's College, Cambridge. On obtaining a commission in the grenadier guards, he made a tour all the continent, and finished his military education at Turin. As aide-de-camp to the Marquis of Granby, he was present at the battle of Minden, where Ferdinand of Brunswick, with the aid of the English allies, totally ron ted the French in 1759. Returning to England in 1760, he was sent to Parliament from the family borough of Eye, and in the following year became colonel of the Trenth regiment, at the held of which he gained some distinction in the Continental campaign of 1762. Returning to England in November, he succeeded to the title and estates of his father, and took his seat in the House of Lords as second Earl Com wallis. On the formation of the Whig ministry under Rockingham in 1765, Cornwallis was made aide-de-camp to the king, and in 1766 colonel of the 33d regiment. He afterwards accepted the appointment of chief justice in Eyre, south of the Trent; but when his friend Shelburn resigned, he threw up his ministerial appointments, and was credited by the mysterious Junius with retiring into voluntary exile to recover his lost reputation; Junius did not mention that, notwithstanding his appointments, Cornwallis had voted against the ministry on several important occasions, notably in their scheme of taxing the American Colonies and their action against Wilkes.

 

In 1775 he was promoted to the rank of major-genera' In 1776 he was offered the command of a division of the English army in America, and although he had steadily opposed the measures which led to the Revolutionary war, he accepted the post, and served with credit under both Howe and Clinton. If the English cause was hopeless before Cornwallis first arrival, it was doubly so after Sir William Howe was succeeded by Sir Henry Clinton, who wavered much in his conduct of the war.

 

Cornwallis bad marked success over General Gates at Camden, and afterwards hotly pursued his abler successor, General Greene, into North Carolina. The engagement at Guilford Court House was hailed in the British Parliament as the promise of a new series of victories; but the results turned in favor of the Americans. Cornwallis entered Virginia and endeavored to capture Lafayette, who was acting under Washington's orders. He wanted to concentrate all the British forces in Virginia, and there risk a decisive battle. Clinton clung tenaciously to New York; yet finally, by Clinton's orders, Cornwallis took up his position at Yorktown, although he himself considered his forces insufficient for a position SO exposed to attack from the sea. Washington had made his arrangements beforehand with Rochambeau, and as soon as he was joined by the French troops, and knew that the French fleet was approaching from the \Vest Indies, moved against the doomed general with all his forces. Hemmed in by land and sea, Cornwallis, after a short siege, signed the capitulation on the 19th of October, 1781, and the war was practically at an end.

 

Cornwallis remained a prisoner of war for about three months, and was allowed to visit England on parole, from which he was at last released by his exchange with Colonel Henry Laurens, in 1783. There was a hot discussion in England over the responsibility for the disaster; but the government seems to have condoned the faults of Cornwallis, and perhaps considered that his actions were impeded and his designs frustrated by his superior.

 

The confidence still reposed in him was shown by the fact that in 1785 he was offered the honor of the governor-generalship of India, which he declined. The offer was renewed in 1786, and was accepted. He distrusted the ministry and evinced a great dislike to Pitt's accession still that statesman and Dundas considered him the only man capable of restoring the English prestige lost in the second Mysore war. Absolute civil and military power were to be vested in one person. A bill which he himself had approved or suggested, enlarging the powers of the governor-general, and enabling him in all cases of emergency to act without the concurrence of his council, and even in opposition to it, received the royal assent after Cornwallis had departed for India.

 

He found the civil service rotten to the core, and took the first step in reform by announcing to the East India Company's servants, that he had arranged their pay on a scale which would relieve them front the necessity of having recourse to peculation. His services in reorganizing and rendering efficient the company's military forces were no less important For three years he waged incessant war against all robbery and corruption in civil and military circles but was interrupted in his good work by the outbreak of the third Mysore war, which he settled in such a way as to secure official recognition and the title of Marquis. On leaving India he was succeeded as governor-general by Sir John Shore, who had been his principal coadjutor, and his fellow-officer, Sir Robert Abercromby, as commander-in-chief.

 

In I798 the disturbed state of affairs in Ireland needed the services of an experienced general and statesman. Cornwallis accepted the position of viceroy and commander-in-chief. much to Pitt's satisfaction and relief, and made strennous and well~directed efforts to pacify the country.

 

In 1801 he received the military command of the Eastern District of England, and was appointed English plenipotentiary to negotiate the peace of Amiens. In 1805 he was again called to India, and was proceeding up the Ganges with the view of putting an end to the improfitable war still being waged, when he was seized with sudden illness, which terminated fatally at Ghazipore, October 5th, 1805.

 

The whole career of Cornwallis in America and Europe, in India and in Ireland, was one of devotion to duty. His private life was pure and amiable; his public life was marked by tenacity of purpose, contempt of jobbing, and anxiety to protect the rights and interests of individuals.

 

LAFAYETTE AND CORNWALLIS IN VIRGINIA.

 

Washington had persuaded the French admiral, at New port, to send his whole fleet to close the entrance of the Chesapeake; and by land he sent Lafayette, with twelve hundred light infantrY1 to take command in Virginia. Lafayette left Peekskill, feigned an attack upon Staten Island in passing, marched rapidly by Philadelphia to the head of the Chesapeake-they all call it the head of Elk " crowded his men on such boats as he found there, and went down to Annapolis. There, with some of his officers, he look a little vessel, in which he rail down to williamsburg, to confer with Steuben. He then crossed the James River, and reached the camp of Muhlenberg, near Suffolk, on the 19th of March. On the 23d he learned that the English fleet had so far injured the French in an action that they had returned to Newport; so that it was Arbuthnot, and not Destouches, whose fleet had arrived at Hampton Roads. Under their protection the English General Phillips relieved Arnold with two thousand more men.

 

General Phillips immediately took command of the English army, for which he had sufficient force of light transports, and proceeded up the James River. He landed first at Burrel's Ferry, opposite Williamsburg, into which city, till lately the capital of the State, he marched unmolested. His different marauding parties had entire success in their operations and it is to be observed that his command of the navigation was an essential element of that success. There is no fighting here," Wrote Lafayette, "unless you have a naval superiority or an army mounted on race-horses." Under almost all circumstances a corps embarked on boats could be pushed along these rivers faster than an enemy marching on the land.

 

The State of Virginia was at this time the storehouse from which General Greene's army in Carolina was supplied. To destroy the stores collected here, and thus directly to break down the American Army in the South, was Sir Henry Clinton's object in sending out General Phillips. To protect these stores and the lines of communication with the Southern army was the object of the American generals. But an important change came when Lord Cornwallis at Wilmington, North Carolina, took the responsibility of the dashing but fatal plan, by which he crossed North Carolina with his own army, joined Phillips' army in Virginia, and with this large force, with no considerable enemy opposed, was in a position to go anywhere or to do anything unmolested. Cornwallis was an admirable officer, quite the ablest the English employed in America. He was young, spirited and successful, and, which was of much more importance in England, he had plenty of friends at Court. He conceived the great insubordination, therefore, of this great movement, which must compromise Sir Henry Clinton's plans, although Sir Henry was his commander. He wrote to the Secretary for the Colonies in London, and to General Phillips in Virginia, that he was satisfied that a "serious attempt" on that State, or solid operations in Virginia," made the proper plan. So he abandoned Carolina, to which he had been sent, to General Greene; and with the idea that Sir Henry Clinton, his superior in command, ought to quit New York and establish himself in Virginia, without waiting that officer's views he marched thither himself in such wise as to compel him to come. In that movement the great game was really lost.

 

Lafayette was at Williamsburg, disappointed at the failure to entrap Arnold. He returned at once to Annapolis by water, and transported his troops back to the head of Chesapeake Bay, expecting to return to New York, now that bis mission had failed. But Washington had learned meanwhile that General Phillips had been sent from New York to reinforce Arnold; and so Lafayette met orders at the head of the Chesapeake to return, take command in Virginia, and foil the English as he might. Wayne, in Pennsylvania, was to join him with eight hundred of the Pennsylvania line. "now Lafayetle or Wayne can march without money or credit," wrote Washington to Laurens, "is more than I can tell." But he did his part, which was to command-and they did theirs, which was to obey.

 

Lafayette did his part thus: His troops, twelve hundred light infantry, the best soldiers in the world, he said at the end of the summer, had left Peekskill for a short expedition only. They had no supplies for a summer campaign, and seemed likely to desert him. Lafayette issued a spirited order of the day, and offered a pass back to the North River to any man who did not dare share with him the perils of the summer against a superior force. He crossed the Susquehanua on the I3th of April, was in Baltimore on the 18th, and it was here that the ladies gave him the ball where he said, " My soldiers have no shirts." He borrowed two thousand guineas on his own personal security, promising to pay at the end of two years, when the French law would make him master of his estates. He bought material with the money, made the Baltimore belles make the shirts, and started all his forced march again, with his troops clothed and partly shod, all the 20th. He pressed on to Fredericksburg, and was at Richmond on the 29th.

 

This saved the city and its magazines from General Phillips, who had reached Manchester, on the opposite side of James River. Phillips retired down the river, hoping to decoy Lafayette after him, on the neck of land between the James and York rivers, and then to return by his vessels on the first change of wind, get in Lafayette's rear, and shut him up there. Phillips was called south to Petersburg, where he died.

 

Cornwallis arrived at Petersburg with his Southern troops, including Tarleton's horse, on the 20th of May. He then had nearly six thousand men under his orders. Lafayette had about thirty-two hundred, of whom only a few were cavalry, a volunteer body of Baltimore young gentlemen being the most of them. The Virginia gentry had hesitated about giving up their fine blood-horses to mount cavalry on. But Tarleton had no hesitation in stealing them for his troopers, nor Simcoe, his fellow-partisan, for his,-so that Cornwallis had the aid of two bodies of cavalry thus admirably mounted, against an enemy almost destitute. Both armies marched without tents, with the very lightest baggage.

 

Lafayette felt his inferiority of force, and as soon as Cornwallis joined, crossed back over James River at Osborn's. Cornwallis crossed at West over, twenty miles lower down the river. Lafayette felt the necessity of meeting Wayne, who was supposed to be coming from Pennsylvania; he therefore retraced his march of a few weeks before, followed by Cornwallis with his infantry; the cavalry had been on more distant service. Cornwallis would have crushed Lafayette, if he had overtaken him but Lafayette marched nearly up to Fredericksburg again, protected it till its stores were removed, and then, after five days' march more, westward, met Wayne with his eight hundred Pennsylvanians at Raccoon Ford. Cornwallis pas...ed through Hanover Court-House to Chesterfield Court-House, stealing tobacco" to the amount of two thousand hogsheads, then turned south and west again, and awaited Lafayette's movements. Cornwallis was all along unwilling to engage in extensive operations till he should hear from Sir Henry Clinton, whom he knew he had insulted and offended. His detachments of horse had been sent, meanwhile, up the line of James River above Richmond.

 

Tarleton penetrated as far as Charlottesville, marching seventy miles in twenty-four hours, hoping to take the Legislature by surprise j hut the legislators escaped, Jefferson among them. Tarleton took seven, however, who told him that the country was tired of the war, and that, if no treaty for a loan were made with France that summer, Congress would negotiate with England before winter. Tarleton returned down the Rivanna River to its junction with the James, where he assisted Simcoe in driving out Baron Steuben who with a few militia was trying to protect some arms there. Poor Steuben had but few to protect, nothing to protect them with, and lost them all. At this point the cavalry rejoined the main army under Cornwallis.

 

Lord Cornwallis reunited all his forces at Elk Island, about forty miles above Ricmond, all James River. His own headquarters were at "Jefferson's Plantation." He proposed another blow, on the stores collected in Old Albemarle CourtHouse, behind the mountains and on the 9th of June he ordered Tarleton to march thither at daybreak, but recalled the order. He seems to have preferred waiting till he could attack "the Marquis," as they all called Lafayette, to advantage, to risking-an considerable division in the mountains. And as he lay, the road by which he supposed Lafayette must come down from Raccoon Ford to protect Albemarle would expose him to a flank attack as be passed the head of Byrd's River. It was at this time, that, in a dispatch which was intercepted, he wrote, "The boy cannot escape men Lafayette tells the story with great gusto. The boy" found a mountain-road which crossed farther west than that which he was expected to march upon. It had been long disused, but he pressed through it-and at Burwell's Ordinary-he formed, on the 12th and 13th, in a strong position between Cornwallis and the coveted magazines. Cornwallis affected to suppose that the stores had been withdrawn; but, as he had given lip Fredericksburg that he might destroy these very stores, Lafayette had good reason to congratulate himself that he had foiled him in the two special objects of the campaign, and had reduced him to the business which he did not like, of stealing tobacco." For whatever reason, Cornwallis did not press his enterprise. Leaving the Albemarle stores, therefore, and the road to Greene behind the mountains, he retraced his steps down the valley of the James River, and, passing Richmond, descended as low as Williamsburg.

 

Lafayette followed him with delight, not to say amazement. "The enemy is so obliging as to withdraw before us," he writes. Their forces were numerically about equal, each commanding now rather more than five thousand men. But of Lafayette's only fifty were cavalry, a very important arm in that campaign, while Cornwallis had now eight hundred men mounted on the blood· horses of Virginia. Lafayette thought that the English exaggerated his force. But we now know from Cornwallis' letters, that he bad promised Clinton to be at Williamsburg on the 26th of June, ready for any operations he might then and there propose. On the 25th he arrived at 'Williamsburg. Lafayette was always one day's march behind him.

 

At Williamsburg poor Cornwallis met his fate. He had, perhaps, been dreading the arrival of his dispatches from Clinton, through all the month he had been in Virginia. At last they came. Clinton was sorry he was there, expressed his regret that Cornwallis did not favor his plan for marching on Philadelphia, gave him carle blanche for Baltimore or Delaware; but, instead of reinforcing him, asked for two thousand men, if he could spare them. The letter is, on the whole, a manly letter, from a superior to an inferior, who had social rank higher than himself, and more of the confidence of their government. It gives Cornwallis great latitude; but it does not abandon New York and bring our whole force into Virginia," which was Cornwallis' pet plan.

 

His lordship behaved ill, and, in a pet, threw away the British empire in America. He sulked, to speak simply. He took the sullen policy of literal obedience to orders, though he knew he should "break his own." He marched at once, crossed James River at Jamestown, where Lafayette attacked his rear, withdrew to Portsmouth, and put on vessels the two thousand men asked for by Sir Henry. Just then new dispatches came from Clinton, who had received later news, and who was always trying to humor this spoiled child. He told him to keep all his men in Virginia, where he would take command himself as soon as the hot season was over.

 

Clinton ordered him to take post at Old Point Comfort, where Fort Monroe is. But the engineer officers reported that they could not protect the fleet there against the French; and, to the delight of Lafayette, Cornwallis selected York. town for his summer position.

 

When Lafayette heard that the troops had sailed up the Chesapeake-instead of to New York, which he had very correctly supposed to be their destination-he thought Cornwallis was going to strike at Baltimore, and that he must cut across to Fredericksburg. That way be marched with his light infantry. His amazement hardly concealed itself when he found the enemy stopped at Yorktown. Back he came to Williamsburg, and wrote to Washington: "If a fleet should arrive at this moment, our affairs will take a very fortunate turn." This was on the 6th of August. On the 1st of September he could write: "From the bottom of my heart, my dear General, I felicitate you on the arrival of the French fleet. . . . . Thanks to you, my dear General, I am in a charming situation, and I find myself at the head of a superb corps.I The Marquis of St. Simon joined him with three thousand French infantry from the Beet, and at Williamsburg they effectually kept Cornwallis from escape by land, as the French fleet did by sea. The English plan was to attack and beat Lafayette and St. Simon before Washington joined them.

 

The English columns were to move from Yorktown so as to attack Williamsburg before daybreak. That time was deemed eligible I says Tarleton, because the ground near and in Williamsburg is cut by several ravines, and because the British column in advancing, in the long and straight road through the town, would not be so much exposed to the enemy's cannon under cover of the night as during the day." Cornwallis gave up the plan, however, and waited for the help front Clinton, which never came. On the 15th of September Washington and Rochambeau joined Lafayette; on the 18th of October Cornwallis capitulated, and for eighty years the Virginian campaigns were over.-C. C. LARKIN.

 

Cornwallis

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