Charles Cornwallis

Sometimes duty to one’s country comes first. That was true for Earl Charles Cornwallis, a member of the ruling class who sympathized with the colonists but served the Crown as commander during the British Southern Campaign.

Cornwallis was born in London on New Year’s Eve in 1738. He attended Eton and became a Member of Parliament in 1760. During the Seven Years War, Cornwallis was stationed in Germany and proved himself an able soldier. When his father, the 1st Earl Cornwallis, passed away, he succeeded him in the House of Lords. There, he voted to support rights for American colonists. Despite his personal feelings, Cornwallis did not hesitate to fight for Britain in the Revolutionary War. He was promoted to lieutenant general and sailed to America in 1776, where he served under Lieutenant General Henry Clinton during a failed attempt to capture Charleston. Cornwallis then headed north, suffering defeat at Trenton but triumphing at the Battle of Brandywine. In 1780, he helped Clinton finally capture Charleston and then assumed leadership of the British Army in the South, winning the field at Camden. His attempts to recruit Loyalist support in the Carolinas backfired, however, and with heavy British casualties at Kings Mountain and Cowpens, and a Pyrrhic victory at the Battle of Guilford Court House, his troops were pushed back to the coast. He surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown on October 17, 1781.

The loss did not mar his distinguished career. Cornwallis later became Governor General of India and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He died in India in 1805.

Lieutenant General, Earl Cornwallis


December 31, 1738 - October 5, 1805

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