24 June 2009
GEORGE III (1738-1820). Autograph note, unsigned, to unidentified recipient, St. James 4 June 1781. 1 page, 4to, crease repaired, loss to blank integral leaf.
THREE MONTHS BEFORE YORKTOWN GEORGE III PRAISES CORNWALLIS'S SOUTHERN CAMPAIGN: "The letters from Ld. Cornwallis shew how well he has conducted his enterprise; I desire Ld. Geo. Germain will direct Capt. Broderick to be here at St. James at Seven this Evening that I may hear anything He has to say in addition." The King is responding to a detailed report from Cornwallis on the Battle of Guilford Court House (15 March 1781), and a letter to Germain outlining his Southern campaign strategy. This short note sheds important light on a fatal schism between the top two British commanders in America, Cornwallis and his ostensible superior Henry Clinton. The two men held starkly different conceptions about the conduct of the war, with Clinton favoring an occupy and hold strategy in New York, Georgia and the Carolinas, while Cornwallis itched to go on the offensive against the stronghold of American resistance in Virginia. Unlike Clinton, Cornwallis had powerful friends in Whitehall and was able to coordinate his plans and instructions directly with Colonial Secretary, Lord George Germain. As we see here he was even able to have his aide-de-camp (and nephew) reinforce his written reports by direct communication with the King! Cornwallis, against Clinton's wishes, continued to press further into Virginia, ultimately getting trapped-- and vanquished--at Yorktown. The triumph at Guilford about which he boasted to the King proved a pyrrhic victory, for it furthered Cornwallis's delusions that he could successfully act as an independent command.
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