[AMERICAN REVOLUTION]. CORNWALLIS, Charles, Lord (1738-1805), Major General, British Army. Autograph letter signed ("Cornwallis") to Lt. Colonel Alured Clarke, Charlestown, [S.C.], 17 July 1780. 3½ pages, 4to, second leaf neatly inlaid, otherwise very fine.
THE VICTOR OF CHARLESTON CONSIDERS BRITISH STRATEGY IN GEORGIA AND FLORIDA
An important and revealing letter written only two months after the surrender of the American garrison of Charleston, South Carolina to Cornwallis' army following a long seige, marking the shift of British offensive operation to the southern theater. Here, having consolidated his hold on the Carolina coast, Cornwallis writes to Colonel Alured Clarke (1745-1832), commanding the British troops in Savannah, Georgia. Cornwallis discusses dilemmas of command and how best to hold onto British outposts, especially those in Georgia and Florida. General Paterson, he notes, has returned to the "more temperate" climate of New York, an command of his force devolves upon Colonel Westerhagen (a Hessian), but Cornwallis expresses concern about his suitability "as it is impossible for a foreigner to manage the very complicated civil business of this Place," so, instead, he has sent Nisbet Balfour [Balfour eventually was sent to command the important post known as Ninety-Six], "He will be very usefull [sic], having been much accustom'd to business."
Cornwallis shows acute awareness of the increased strategic difficulties that the American alliance with France and Spain created for the British, particularly in Florida. He advises Clarke, "I think for the good of his Majesty's service that you should have the command of the troops in East Florida as well as Georgia, by the last accounts from Pensacola, I think there is great reason to apprehend its falling soon into the hands of the Spaniards. East Florida will then become an important position" but "whilst we keep possession of S. Carolina in Force, nothing in my opinion is to be apprehended for Georgia." Cornwallis then advises Clarke that perhaps he should oversee operations from St. Augustine and suggests troop deployments, "The 60th regt is by all accounts very bad, & very little to be depended on being chiefly composed of deserters & prisoners" thus, if Pensacola falls, the 60th should be withdrawn and Clarke should "place the regt of Weissenbach with some weak Provincial Corps at St. Augustine."
Cornwallis concludes his letter to Clarke in a discussion of cavalry and its cost. Mentioning a letter he received from Georgia Governor James Wright concerning the need for cavalry, Cornwallis replies "I cannot allow of any establishment of Cavalry for Georgia, whilst it is protected on all sides from a foreign enemy ... If some Horse are necessary for the interior Government of the Province, He must embody some Militia," and, he asserts, all expenses must be met "without coming upon the Military Chest, which is not capable of answering too violent demands."
One month after Cornwallis wrote to Clarke, he won a major victory against the Continental forces of General Horatio Gates at Camden. However, the difficulties of occupying hostile territory, the failure to attract a substantial army of loyalists, and several defeats at the hands of American General Nathaniel Greene, led Cornwallis to abandon the South. Just over a year later, he was forced to surrender his army at Yorktown.