Sunday, December 9, 2007

Cornwallis' "Hunting Leopard"

"We have said that Cornwallis had subordinates who were foot, and hand, and staff, and sword to him. Tarleton was his hunting leopard, glossy, beautifully mottled, but swift and fell––when roused by resistance, ferocious. Even this does not give an adequate idea of the velocity of his movements. He was the falcon, which, when unhooded and cast off, darts with arrowy swiftness on its prey. Few were the commanders opposed to him whom he did not at one time or another surprise––and among them were Colonel Washington, Sumpter, and some others––the very men more accustomed than all others in the American army to study and practise this line of soldiership. Tarleton was a man of imposing, and, when necessary, dignified manners––his conversation that of a soldier and well bred man of the world. There was not an appearance of bloodthirstiness about him, and he knew how to be studiously courteous to a foe. We cannot convince ourselves that he was cruel by nature, or took any pleasure in the atrocities committed by his band. We take him to have been one of those smooth, hard, unfeeling men, often met with, who have no positive cruelty of disposition, no brutalized taste for mere blood or crime, but who are not easily overcome by human distress––who, with the decisive promptitude of their energetic natures, do what they regard as necessary to their end with little ceremony or compunction––who, as principals, would not perhaps commit a gratuitous crime, but who, as subordinates, would unhesitatingly wade through seas of blood to obey the very letter of their orders."

––Henry S. Randall, in The Life of Thomas Jefferson, pub. New York: Derby & Jackson, 1858