The Patriot Resource - American Revolution

British General Charles Earl Cornwallis
Charles Cornwallis Born: December 31, 1738; Grosvenor Square, London, England
Died: October 5, 1805; Ghazipore, India

Battles: Fort Sullivan, Siege of Charleston, Camden, Guilford Courthouse, Yorktown

In 1738, Charles Cornwallis was born in London. He grew up in elite social circles and going to expensive boarding schools. After he purchased his commission in the British Army, he actually went to military school in Italy. He served as aide-de-camp to the Marquis of Granby during the Seven Years' War. In 1762, his father died and he inherited the name and title of Earl. Even though Cornwallis voted in Parliament against the harsh acts and laws imposed on the colonies, he still remained in the King's favor. In 1768, he married Jemima Tullekin Jones. In spite of his personal feelings, Cornwallis readily offered to serve in America when war broke out. On January 1, 1776, Cornwallis sailed to America, newly promoted to Lieutenant General.

Cornwallis' first action was at the Battle of Fort Sullivan, serving as Lt. General Henry Clinton's deputy. He then served in the middle colonies under Maj. General William Howe seeing extensive action at the Battle of Long Island on August 27, 1776, and the Battle of Harlem Heights. He commanded at the British landing at Kip's Bay on September 15, 1776. General Howe then sent him to chase General George Washington out of Northern New Jersey, which he did. However, as Cornwallis was settling down for winter quarters, Washington claimed victory at Trenton on December 26, 1776. Cornwallis then nearly trapped Washington, who managed to slip away and defeat his rear guard at Princeton on January 3, 1777.

After spending the winter in England, Cornwallis returned and commanded one of General Howe's two divisions in his Philadelphia campaign. Cornwallis saw action at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777 and at the Battle of Germantown on October 4, 1777. He also skirmished with General Washington at Matson's Ford on December 11, 1777. He returned to England for the winter and he was formally promoted to Lieutenant General. While he was in England, General Howe's resignation of command was accepted and after some debate, General Clinton was chosen as successor and Cornwallis was to be his deputy. This decision did not bode well for the British, because there was some tension between the two generals going back to the Battle of White Plains in October 1776.

On June 28, 1778, Cornwallis commanded at the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse. He returned to England again for the winter, but also carrying a request from General Clinton for reinforcements. He also found his wife ill and resigned his commission, but she died in February 1779. Cornwallis returned to military duty for solace. When he returned to America without the reinforcements, Clinton attempted to resign. In December 1779, Cornwallis accompanied General Clinton south serving as his second-in-command.

After the capture of Charleston, South Carolina and surrender of Maj. General Benjamin Lincoln on May 12, 1780, General Clinton gave Cornwallis command of the South Colonies with only the stipulation that he hold Charleston and Savannah, Georgia. Cornwallis next defeated Lincoln's replacement, Maj. General Horatio Gates, at the Battle of Camden on August 16. 1780. However, after the crippling losses of his flanking force at the Battle of King's Mountain on October 7, 1780 and his light infantry at the Battle of Cowpens on January 17, 1781 coupled with the costly victory at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781, he abandoned the South and marched to Virginia. In October 1781, he commanded at the Battle of Yorktown and subsequently surrendered. Following the war, he had a successful career serving in Ireland and India.

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