Lot 1028: Charles Cornwallis

RR Auction

December 15, 2012
Amherst, NH, US

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Description: British General who served in America from 1776 to his surrender at Yorktown in 1781. Governor General of India (1786-1793), Lord Lieutenant of Irleand (1798-1801). Excellent content ALS, signed "Cornwallis," four pages on two adjoining 7.25 x 9 sheets, September 14, 1794, Brome, to Henry Dundas (1742-1811) William Pitt the Younger's Secretary of State for War. Recently returned from India, Cornwallis informs Dundas of his disinclination to become Commander-in-Chief of the British Army and giving his recommendations for the following year's campaign against France during the War of the First Coalition.Cornwallis writes, in full, "Your letter of yesterday's date has relieved me from much anxiety of mind, as I was very apprehensive from the summary mode of proceeding to which Lord Grenville seemed to incline by what he said after dinner at Wimbledon, that I should have been hurried into the most embarrassing and dangerous situation possible, with every prospect of ruin to myself, and very little probability of rendering any essential service to my country. I trust that the Duke of York was apprised that nothing could be more repugnant to my inclination and wishes than to assume the command of the army, and that I saw as strongly as himself the impossibility of his serving, or even remaining with the army under me. I conclude that I am now completely ruined at St. James's, indeed I could not be much worse than I was before, but that is a circumstance that will not disturb my rest, nor abate in the smallest degree my attachment & affection for the Great Personage, from whom I have formerly received much favor and kindness.I cannot judge without much more circumstantial information whether our army will be able to maintain a more forward position during the next winter; I suppose it must depend, as well as the recapture of Antwerp, upon our next gaining some very decided advantage over the enemy soon after our troops are put into motion; I always conceived the two measures, of a forward movement, and the exchange of Lord Moira's corps, to be absolutely incompatible. I perfectly agree with Lord Moira in thinking that if our accounts of the strength of the Royalists is correct, and not exaggerated, it would require at least 20,000 good British troops to undertakes any solid operations in France; and indeed a much larger body would be required to afford any very sanguine hopes of success. As to myself I can only repeat, that whilst I am able, I shall ever be ready to serve my country; but you must remember that Lord M. will no more serve under me than H.R.H. would, and I think you should not lightly deprive yourselves of the services of the former, who as a soldier is in my opinion of the two, the most worth retaining. I return you all the papers, except the printed paper from India, which I have not had time to read; It is more unjust than unusual to abuse a man for his measure before it is known what they are to be, but I think the matter too contemptible to make it worth your while to trouble yourself about him. I will come to you to talk over the arrangement of the India army whenever you please after the end of this month, but I should be sorry to be absent from Suffolk from more than three or four days at a time unless it was absolutely necessary. I have however not only declared, but shown my readiness to attend, whenever Mr. Pitt and yourself have wished to see me." In fine condition, with evidence of an old removed mounting remnant along the extreme right edge of the last page, and writing showing through from opposing sides.Surprisingly, the defeat at Yorktown did little to dampen Cornwallis' career prospects. He returned to England with Benedict Arnold and was greeted as a hero, though his strategic blunders were used by his political enemies against him. In 1786, Cornwallis was appointed Governor-General of India. For his military and diplomatic successes there he was created Marquess Cornwallis.Cornwallis' message to the Duke of York must have been heard loud and clear. Upon his return to India in 1794, he was sent on several fruitless diplomatic missions and then appointed Master of the Ordnance, responsible for overseeing the army's entire infrastructure. In 1798, he became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, a post he held until 1801. In 1805, Pitt again appointed him Governor General of India, and Cornwallis died there the same year. A superb letter written by one of the most important military figures in the Revolutionary War.
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