Item of the Day: Sir Henry Clinton’s Observations on the Answer of Cornwallis (1783)

Full Title: Observations on Some Parts of the Answer of Earl Cornwallis to Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative. By Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton, K.B. To which is added An Appendix; Containing Extracts of Letters and Other Papers, to which reference is necessary. London: Printed for J. Debrett, (Successor to Mr. Almon,) opposite Burlington-House, Piccadilly, M.DCC.LXXXIII. [1783]

 

WHEN I published a Narrative of my conduct during the period of my command in North America, which comprehends the campaign of 1781, I was in hopes I had said every thing that was requisite to explain the motives of my own actions, and to convince every unprejudiced person, that certain positions respecting them, advanced in Lord Cornwallis’s letter to me of the 20th of October, had no foundation. But it gives me extreme concern to observe, that his Lordship’s seeming to avow nearly the same sentiments in his Introduction to a late publication, styled, an Answer to that Narrative, lays me under the necessity of troubling the public again upon a subject, which they are probably tired of; and I sincerely wished to have done with. I hope, therefore, it may not be judged improper to request their attention to the following Observations on some of the opinions and assertions therein stated. Which (to be as concise as possible) I shall take according to the order in which they occur; — adding only, in an Appendix, the copies of such extracts from my correspondence, and other papers, as appear necessary.

I find upon enquiry that the four letters were omitted to be sent to the Secretary of State, which Lord Cornwallis mentions to have been wanting when the papers relating to this business were laid before the House of Lords. But the reasons for his Lordship’s march from Cross-creek to Wilmington, and from thence into Virginia (stated in the first of them) had been before given in his letters of the 23d and 24th of April, to the Secretary of State, General Phillips, and myself; and these stand the first of those letters from his Lordship’s correspondence, read before the House of Lords; the other three letters had been inserted in a pamphlet containing extracts from our correspondence, handed about at the time of the enquiry; and one of those pamphlets had been presented, by my order, to Lord Townshend, as a man of honour, and a friend to both parties, previous (I believe) to his noticing this omission to the House; and all the four missing letters were soon after published in the Parliamentary Register, along with those which had been read to the Lords. So that Lord Cornwallis could not well have sustained any injury by that omission. This, however, cannot be said to have been the case with mine of the 30th of November, and 2d of December to his Lordship, and of the 6th of December to his Lordship, and of the 6th of December to the American Minister; which were with-held, whilst Lord Cornwallis’s letters of the 20th of October and 2d of December (to which they were answers) were suffered to operate, for a long time, upon the minds of the public, to my prejudice. . . .

Every man of sensibility must lament that Lord Cornwallis has so indiscreetly availed himself of the liberty, he supposed was given him by the late change in American measures. For as my secret and most private letter to General Phillips, dated April 30, contained nothing necessary for this Lordship’s justification; the publishing it was highly impolite at least, not to say more—for reasons to obvious to need explanation. . . .

There remains little more necessary in reply to Lord Cornwallis’s introduction, but to observe, that the army and its followers in Virginia had been so increased in consequence of his Lordship’s move into that province; that it would have been impracticable to withdraw them by water (as his Lordship is pleased to suggest) for want of transports, even if the American minister had not directed me to support his Lordship there, and a pressing contingency had required it. And I must take the liberty to say, that the sending his Lordship’s corps back to South Carolina by land, would have been a most absurd idea for me to adopt after the opinions I had given of the risks it run in its former march by that route.

I shall now beg leave to conclude with an opinion, which I presume is deducible from the foregoing (I trust candid) review of circumstances. Which is, that Lord Cornwallis’s conduct and opinions, if they were not the immediate causes, may be adjudged to have at least contributed to bring on the fatal catastrophe which terminated the unfortunate campaign of 1781.

H. CLINTON

Harley -Street

April 3, 1783.

 [SEE ALSO: SIR HENRY CLINTON’S NARRATIVE and AN ANSWER TO SIR CLINTON’S NARRATIVE]

 

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Filed under 1780's, American Revolution, Great Britain, Military, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

2 responses to “Item of the Day: Sir Henry Clinton’s Observations on the Answer of Cornwallis (1783)

  1. Pingback: Item of the Day: An Answer to the Narrative of Sir Henry Clinton (1783) « Eighteenth-Century Reading Room

  2. Pingback: Item of the Day: Narrative of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton (1783) « Eighteenth-Century Reading Room

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