Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis (1738-1805)

Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis, is most remembered as one of the primary British generals in the American Revolutionary War. His 1781 defeat by a combined American-French force at the Siege of Yorktown is generally considered the end of the War, as the bulk of British troops had surrendered with Cornwallis, although minor skirmishes continued for another two years.

Cornwallis was educated at Eton College—where he received an injury to his eye by an accidental blow at hockey from Shute Barrington, afterwards Bishop of Durham—and Clare College, Cambridge. He obtained his first commission as Ensign in the 1st Foot Guards on December 8, 1757. His military education then commenced, and after travelling on the continent with a Prussian officer, Captain de Roguin, Lord Brome, as he was then known, studied at the military academy of Turin. He also became a Member of Parliament in January 1760, entering the House of Commons for the village of Wye in Kent. He succeeded his father as 2nd Earl Cornwallis in 1762.

Throughout the Seven Years' War, Lord Cornwallis served four terms in different posts in Germany, interspersed with trips home. In 1758, he served as a staff officer to Lord Granby. A year later, he participated at the Battle of Minden. After the battle, he purchased a captaincy in the 85th Regiment of Foot. In 1761, he served with the 11th Foot and was promoted to Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel. He led his regiment in the Battle of Villinghausen on July 15-July 16, 1761, and was noted for his gallantry. He became colonel of the 33rd Regiment of Foot in 1766.

During the 1760s and early 1770s, Cornwallis regularly spoke out against the repressive tax policies that Britain was imposing on its American colonies. However, his sympathy did not extend to support for independence and he joined British forces in America in August 1776.

Cornwallis saw action in most of the major campaigns of the American Revolutionary War. He served with William Howe on Long Island in the late summer of 1776, then assisted in the pursuit of George Washington across New Jersey. He was present at the American victories at Trenton and Princeton, and, in September 1777, the British triumph at Brandywine. Cornwallis was impatient with Howe’s seeming lack of initiative and was later similarly critical of Sir Henry Clinton. In frustration, Cornwallis resigned his commission, but his resignation was not accepted.

In 1778 Cornwallis was named second in command under Clinton and, in 1780, he assisted in opening a renewed effort in the American South. He won a key victory at Camden over Horatio Gates in June 1780, but was forced to retreat after his army's Pyrrhic victory in the March 1781 Battle of Guilford Court House. They subsequently marched north through North Carolina into Virginia, where the forces of General Washington and the French fleet compelled his surrender at Yorktown in October 1781.

The defeat at Yorktown did not destroy Cornwallis' career. In 1786, he was appointed governor-general of India, where he brought important reforms to the civil service and the judiciary. He also instituted a major land reform and led military campaigns against native uprisings. In 1792, he was made a marquess for his service in India. In 1798, Cornwallis became viceroy and commander-in-chief in Ireland. He won some measure of respect from both Roman Catholics and Protestants for his sincerity and dedication. Other contributions included quelling a rebellion in 1798 and thwarting a French invasion. He supported the Act of Union in 1801, which joined the British and Irish in Parliament, but resigned when the king failed to guarantee political rights for Catholics. Cornwallis served as minister plenipotentiary during the negotiation of the Treaty of Amiens (1802), which brought a cessation in the Napoleonic Wars.

In 1805, Cornwallis returned to India as governor-general, but died shortly after his arrival.

(info: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornwallis; Charles Cornwallis, http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1304.html)