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Cornwallis’s Letter Criticized

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II.  Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

After an attentive perusal of Lord Cornwallis’s letter to Sir Henry Clinton, containing an account of the reduction of his post and army in Virginia, we think the following observations are equally just and natural:—

I. That his lordship is no general. This is evident:—1. From the nature of the posts he occupied; 2. From the structure of his works; 3. From his presuming it impracticable to escape to New York by land; 4. From his neglecting to obtain earlier intelligence of the approach of General Washington, at the head of the allied army.

II. His lordship is no soldier. This is evident:—1. From his neglecting to attack the Marquis De la Fayette and the French troops, before the arrival of General Washington; 2. From his evacuating his outposts at the approach of the French grenadiers; 3. From his not daring to make a sortie, by which he might have injured our works, and protracted the siege for several weeks.

III. His lordship is no politician. This is evident:—1. From his neglecting to take notice of the conduct of the German troops during the siege. This impolitic omission will probably be resented by large and immediate desertions from the German corps who are now in captivity among us. 2. From his accounts of the strength of the American army. The powers of Europe must soon see the impossibility of conquering America, when they perceive from Lord Cornwallis’s letter that only one of our armies consisted, after a war of nearly six years, of eight thousand regulars and five thousand militiamen.

IV. His lordship is no gentleman. This is evident from his ungrateful silence as to the noble and generous conduct of General Washington and the American officers to him and his army after the capitulation.

The magnanimity, humanity, and politeness of the commander-in-chief of the American armies would have extorted expressions of gratitude and respect from an Indian savage, a Tartar, or a Turk. A British General and an English nobleman is the only human being that could have treated such superlative virtue with sullen disrespect.1


1 “A Subaltern,” in the New York Packet, December 27.