Thursday, December 6, 2007

Gen. Sir Henry Clinton & the Southern Theatre

In March 1775, King George III dispatched reinforcements to the American colonies under General Sir Henry Clinton and fellow Major-Generals William Howe and John Burgoyne to strengthen the British position in Boston. On 17 June, with the British army having been besieged in Boston since April, Clinton was one of the British field commanders in the Battle of Bunker Hill. This assault to drive the rebels from the heights north of Boston harbor was successful, but only at the heavy cost of over 1,000 British casualties.
In January 1776, Clinton was sent south with a small fleet and 1,500 men to assess military opportunities in the Carolinas. In June, Clinton led a naval assault on Fort Sullivan at Charleston, South Carolina, successfully defended by Colonel William Moultrie. It was a humiliating failure for Clinton. The British did not attempt to renew the battle to try to take the fort again, and by mid-July the fleet withdrew northward. Clinton and his twenty-five ships rejoined the main fleet to participate in General Howe's August 1776 assault on New York City.
In May of 1778, after the British disaster of the Saratoga Campaign, Clinton replaced Howe as Commander-in-Chief for North America. He assumed command in Philadelphia. France had by this time overtly entered the war on the American side, and because of this Clinton was ordered by his government to send 5,000 of his troops to the Caribbean, which forced him to withdraw from Philadelphia and retreat to New York. Having concentrated his forces, for a time he pursued a policy of making mere forays from there. Before year's end, however, Clinton regained the initiative for the British and sent an expedition south to strike at Georgia. This force took Savannah in December, and by early 1779 it had gained control of the hinterland.
The Georgia campaign presumed Loyalist support would appear as soon as redcoats were present in strength. The notion that the South was more likely to be friendly to British forces had been entertained by George Germain, the American Secretary, for much of the war to date, a notion fed by Loyalist exiles in London. Contrary to expectations, the wave of public support for the arrival of British troops never materialized, leaving Clinton and his subordinates isolated. For much of the remainder of the war in the South, British commanders aimed at mobilizing Loyalist support, but results were never as successful as they had anticipated.
By late 1779 Clinton assembled a force for the next step in his strategy, an invasion of South Carolina. he took personal command of this campaign, and a force with 14,000 men sailed south from New York at the end of the year. By early 1780, Clinton lay siege to Charleston. In May, together with Admiral Mariot Arbuthnot, he forced the surrender of the city, with its garrison of 5,000. It was during the siege and capture of Charleston that Clinton's inability to cooperate with equal ranking officers began to become more evident. Arbuthnot and Clinton did not work well together, and the feud would last until the end of the war with disastrous results for the British high command.
Clinton subsequently returned north, leaving 8,000 British troops in the southern theatre under the command of General Cornwallis, his second-in-command. From New York, he continued to oversee and take an active interest in the Southern campaign, as evidenced in his correspondence with Cornwallis. However, as the campaign progressed, he grew further and further away from his subordinate. As the campaign drew to a close, the correspondence became more and more acrimonious.
In 1782, after being replaced as Commander-in-Chief by Sir Guy Carleton, Sir Henry Clinton returned to England.

(Source: Wikipedia)