With Cornwallis to the Dan: Deconstructing the “Forbes Champagné Letter”

The War Years (1775-1783)

October 18, 2016
by Gregory J. W. Urwin Also by this Author


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The American War of Independence produced many dramatic episodes, but none surpassed the campaign that Lt. Gen. Charles, Second Earl Cornwallis, conducted in North Carolina during the first three months of 1781 for hair-raising suspense and heartbreak. Things got off to a bad start for the British on January 17, 1781, at the Battle of Cowpens in western South Carolina. There Brig. Gen. Daniel Morgan with a mixed force of eighteen hundred to twenty-four hundred Continentals and militia smashed eleven hundred British and Loyalist regulars under the earl’s most flamboyant subordinate, Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton. Determined to redeem the reputation of British arms and recover the six hundred prisoners Tarleton had lost, Cornwallis tried to prevent Morgan from rendezvousing with the main Continental army in the South under Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene.[1]

Morgan gave his pursuer the slip, but Cornwallis remained determined to realize his original strategic vision. He would invade North Carolina and destroy Greene, which would secure the British hold on South Carolina once and for all, and also leave the Tar Heel State at his mercy. Although Cowpens had reduced the earl’s enlisted strength to 2,440, more than 2,150 of those men were seasoned regulars and widely considered superior to any number of troops Greene might put into the field. As James Lovell, a Massachusetts delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, confided to a Boston friend about affairs in the South: “Our Army there is no match for Cornwallis, and if he pushes Suddenly he will ruin Genl. Green.”[2]

A sudden and sustained push was exactly what Cornwallis had in mind. While the earl waited for the rain-swollen Catawba River to subside, he rested and reorganized his army at Ramsour’s Mill, North Carolina. The Cowpens defeat had deprived him of most of his light infantry, but he opted to increase the mobility of his entire army by drastically reducing its baggage train. “Great part of the wheel Carriages of the Army were distroy’d,” Lt. Harry Calvert of the 23rd Regiment of Foot (Royal Welch Fusiliers) scribbled in his diary on January 26. “Ld. Cornwallis set the Example by destroying all but one of his own Waggons.” The only other wagons that survived the conflagration were those reserved for hospital stores, ammunition, and salt, plus four to carry sick or wounded soldiers. Henceforth, Cornwallis’s men would have to forage for their rations and camp without tents. According to one of the earl’s more senior officers, those prospects did not daunt them: “In this situation without Baggage, necessaries, or Provisions of any sort for Officer or Soldier, in the most barren inhospitable unhealthy part of North America, opposed to the most savage, inveterate perfidious cruel Enemy, with zeal and with Bayonets only, it was resolv’d to follow Green’s Army, to the end of the World.”[3]

In the early hours of February 1, 1781, Cornwallis marched his army in two columns toward the Catawba River to kick off what history remembers as the “Race to the Dan.”[4] The next six weeks would irrevocably change the nature of the struggle for the South and arguably determine the outcome of the Revolutionary War.

One of the earliest eyewitness accounts of Cornwallis’s North Carolina campaign to reach British readers appeared in the Leeds Intelligencer on June 26, 1781.   The newspaper attributed that chronicle to an officer in one of Cornwallis’s most reliable units: “Extract of a letter from Capt C. of the 23d Regiment, now serving under Lord Cornwallis, to his relation Lieutenant C. on the recruiting service at Doncaster, dated Wilmington, April 17, 1781.” The lines that followed must have thrilled and stirred the pride of their original audience:

I Embrace this opportunity which the ship that brings his Lordship’s dispatches affords me to inform you that I am well, tho’ greatly fatigued, and to congratulate you upon the success of his Majesty’s arms, and the conquest of the Southern Colonies: We have been constantly victorious, tho’ excessively harassed, owing to the nature of the country and the manoeuvres of the rebels. On the evening of the 31st of March, it was resolved to cross a ford called Stuart’s ford, which we were informed the rebels had overlooked in the panic our rapid movements occasioned among them. The first column consisting of the guards, grenadiers, &c. arrived at the place early on the first, but found the river swelled by the heavy rains, and guarded by a few irregular militia, who cowardly firing upon us during our passing the ford, which was nearly 700 yards wide. Notwithstanding this interruption, the whole column advanced upon them, with Gen O’Hara at its head; and had not the affair been rather serious, by the opposition of the skulking rebels, you would have been highly entertained with the situation and behaviour of our gallant leader. You know he is a little man, and consequently unfit to march thro’ a deep river: he was therefore obliged to ride upon the back of one of the grenadiers of our regiment, with his double barrelled fusee in his hand: Being by this circumstance a good mark for the rascals, they fired several shots at him, which he took no notice of ‘till he got within forty yards, when he returned the fire off his grenadier, and had the good fortune to strike three of the wretches and wound a fourth, upon which the rest fled to the woods with the greatest precipitation. The officers laughed at the droll adventure, and complimented the General upon his victory. The whole detachment landed immediately, and marched thro’ a close and boggy country, ‘till it joined the main army, to seek the enemy. The country people received us with the most unfeigned tokens of joy, as their deliverers from the oppressive, iron-hand of the rebel Congress; and great numbers daily joined the Royal standard. Unfortunately 300 of our friends, from excess of loyalty, venturing to march to us through the rebel quarters, were every man scalped, and their leader Col. Pyle, hanged up by the heels. But this unparalleled cruelty serves only to make our friends more steady and zealous in assisting us to restore their former legal and constitutional government. Nothing but light skirmishes happened ‘till we got up to the enemy on the night of the 14th, which next day brought on the attack and brilliant victory at Guildford, when the rebels were totally routed, and all their cannon, baggage and camp-equipage taken by our gallant victorious troops. Their force when they engaged consisted of eight continental regiments, and the rest militia, amounting in the whole to 10,000 men. Ours was about 3,800. The rebels left 500 dead upon the field, and upwards of 900 wounded, most of them must die for want of Surgeons and necessaries. Mr. Green collected the scattered remains of his followers and retreated (plundering all the way) into Virginia, where he was put under arrest by order of Congress. Thus the two fruitful provinces of North and South Carolina are entirely free from the oppressions of the rebels, and restored to the King’s peace. Our victorious army is at present in the neighbourhood of Wilmington, from whence we are soon to march to join Brigadier General Arnold, in order to subdue the strong and valuable province of Virginia.[5]

This letter was discovered several years ago, and it has been cited by several scholars. Students of the Revolutionary War will instantly recognize that it casts new light on such memorable incidents as Cornwallis’s crossing of the Catawba, the notorious “Pyle Massacre,” and the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. The original transcriber of this excerpt attributed it to Forbes Champagné, the only captain serving with the 23rd Foot at the time whose surname began with a “C.”[6] A close examination, however, reveals that this narrative contains so many errors, exaggerations and inconsistencies so as to call into question not only its accuracy, but also its authorship.

Born in Ireland in 1755 to a family of Huguenot descent, Forbes Champagné entered the British Army by purchasing an ensign’s commission in the 4th Regiment of Foot on May 29, 1773. He saw action with his regiment at Lexington, Massachusetts, on the first day of the Revolutionary War, April 19, 1775. Champagné purchased his lieutenancy on January 26, 1776, and received an assignment to the 4th Foot’s light infantry company. During the American War, British infantry regiments normally detached their grenadier and light infantry companies, which were grouped with others of their type in elite provisional battalions. Consequently, Lieutenant Champagné fought with the 1st Battalion of Light Infantry in the New York campaign of 1776, the Philadelphia campaign of 1777, and the Battle of Monmouth in 1778. Champagné purchased his way into the 23rd Foot as a captain and gained command of one of the regiment’s eight battalion companies on April 24, 1779.   Captain Champagné sailed south with the Royal Welch Fusiliers in December 1779 to participate in Gen. Sir Henry Clinton’s successful siege of Charleston, South Carolina. The 23rd remained in the South and Champagné became its acting commander that summer after a fever killed his major. The young captain led his fellow fusiliers in an irresistible bayonet charge that helped clinch Lord Cornwallis’s devastating victory over Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates’ larger Rebel army at Camden, South Carolina, on August 16, 1780.[7]
Forbes Champagné also had a brother in the British Army, who could have been the “relation” mentioned by the Leeds Intelligencer. Josiah Champagné was two years older than Forbes, and he did not become a soldier until two years later, obtaining an ensigncy in the 31st Regiment of Foot on January 28, 1775. The 31st Foot did not embark for North America until nearly a year after the outbreak of hostilities, and it arrived at Quebec in late May 1776. Promotion to lieutenant and a five-year appointment as regimental adjutant came on June 1, 1777. Except for the 31st Foot’s grenadier and light infantry companies, which marched south to Saratoga with Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne, Josiah’s regiment spent the war in Canada. Josiah’s obituary revealed that he “remained on active service till the peace, when he returned to England.” To put it another way, regiments did not send their adjutants home on recruiting duty. The “Lieutenant C.” on recruiting service in Doncaster had to be somebody else.[8]

As for the letter excerpt showcased in the Intelligencer, it opened with a spirited description of Cornwallis’s crossing of the Catawba River, although it got both the date and location of that operation wrong. Lord Cornwallis approached the Catawba in the early morning hours of February 1, 1781, not April Fool’s Day.[9] The earl knew that North Carolina militiamen under Brig. Gen. William Lee Davidson guarded the most likely crossing places along the river’s opposite bank. He ordered Lt. Col. James Webster to take a smaller part of the British troops to Beattie’s Ford, where Davidson had reportedly stationed five hundred militia, to create a diversion. Cornwallis himself led the rest of his army to Cowan’s Ford, which was supposedly watched by a considerably slighter number of Rebels, for his “real attempt.”[10]

Cornwallis’s column included the Brigade of Guards under Brig. Gen. Charles O’Hara – two battalions of three companies each with personnel drafted from the three regiments of Foot Guards (1st, Coldstream, and 3rd). The Hessian Regiment von Bose followed in the Guardsmen’s tracks, along with the Royal Welch Fusiliers, two hundred cavalry from Tarleton’s British Legion, and two three-pound guns. Unlike the typical line infantry regiment, the Guards retained their light infantry and grenadier companies, and those formations spearheaded Cornwallis’s advance.[11]

The Redcoats groped their way through wooded terrain, their progress hampered by the early morning darkness and heavy rain. A three-pounder preceding the 23rd Regiment in the line of march overturned in a swamp. Cornwallis left the fusiliers behind to help extricate the field piece from the mire, while he proceeded to Cowan’s Ford with the Guards and Hessians. Thus Forbes Champagné would not be in a position witness many of the scenes described in the document under analysis in this article.[12]

Plunging into a raging torrent waist deep or higher in many places, the Guardsmen came under heavy musketry from the left bank as they reached midstream. General Davidson and some three hundred militia had taken post at Cowan’s Ferry the night before, but proved unable to check the Guards, who forged on without pausing to fire until they stumbled onto the opposite shore. Suffering the loss of one officer and three men killed and thirty-six men wounded, the brigade scattered its opponents and killed the valiant Davidson.[13]

One of the most vivid passages in the Leeds Intelligencer account depicted General O’Hara riding across the Catawba “upon the back of one of the grenadiers of our regiment.” Such a thing was possible because the river’s swift current caused O’Hara’s horse to roll over with its rider still in the saddle. It is entirely feasible that the drenched brigadier could have made use of a grenadier to complete his crossing. After all, the British Army filled its grenadier companies with men chosen for their height and strength. The only problem is that the grenadier in question could not have belonged to the Royal Welch Fusiliers, which did not reach the river’s right bank until minutes after O’Hara disentangled himself from his stricken steed’s stirrups and reins. Indeed, the 23rd Foot’s grenadier company was not to be found anywhere in the Southern Theater at that time. As part of the 1st Battalion of Grenadiers, the 23rd’s company served through the Siege of Charleston from February to May 1780, embarking for New York on the last day of the latter month. Hence, the only British grenadiers present at Cowan’s Ford on February 1, 1781, belonged to the Brigade of Guards. Likewise, the officer quoted by the Leeds Intelligencer was probably not Forbes Champagné at all. References to Charles O’Hara as “our gallant leader” and “one of the grenadiers of our regiment” indicates that the author of those words actually belonged to the Guards, especially since Captain Champagné probably never got close enough to witness O’Hara’s adventures.[14]

The description of Brigadier O’Hara downing four Rebels with a double-barreled fusil from the back of his human mount is quite striking, but it would have taken a miracle to make it happen. Any flintlock weapon doused in a river would have had its gunpowder ruined and could not be fired without having the sodden loads extricated, its barrels and locks dried, and new rounds rammed home. There is also the question of how O’Hara could have managed to extricate the weapon from his upturned steed as it flailed about in the roaring river.

Over the next two weeks, Cornwallis marched many of his men out of their shoes in a no-holds-barred effort to overtake and destroy Greene’s army. From February 13 to 15, the earl conducted a series of forced marches covering sixty-six miles in a final bid to pin Greene along the Dan River before the latter passed over that stream into Virginia. On the morning of the fifteenth, the British advance guard reached the south side of the Dan six hours after Greene’s rear guard had been rowed to the opposite shore. Exhibiting remarkable objectivity for someone two weeks short of his eighteenth birthday, Lieutenant Calvert pulled out his diary and penned this tribute to the two leading contestants in the Race to the Dan: “No Army could have pursued another more closely than Ld. Cornwallis’s did Green’s & No General could have conducted his Army better that Genl. Green did his; he had a great advantage in being in a friend’s country without it he could never escaped Ld. Cornwallis’s great Activity.”[15]

troopsfording-full2Not feeling strong enough to follow Greene into Virginia, Cornwallis retired by easy stages to Hillsborough, North Carolina, where he raised the royal standard and issued a proclamation inviting “all loyal Subjects to repair to it, and to stand forth and take an Active part in assisting me to restore Order and Constitutional Government.” The response to this summons left the earl feeling bitterly disappointed. “The principal reasons for undertaking the Winter’s Campaign,” he confessed, “were, the difficulty of a Defensive War in South Carolina, and the hopes that our Friends in North Carolina, who were said to be very numerous, would make good their promises of assembling & taking an Active part with us in endeavouring to re-establish His Majesty’s Government. Our experience has shewn that their numbers are not so great as has been represented, and that their friendship was only passive.” Brigadier General O’Hara confirmed his commander’s words in a letter addressed to a noble patron in England: “The novelty of a Camp in the back Woods of America, more than any other cause, brought several People to stare at us, their curiosity once satisfied, they returned to their Homes.” Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton also claimed that few North Carolinians were willing to take up arms for the king. This testimony contradicts the rosy picture presented in the Leeds Intelligencer, which asserted that residents of the Hillsborough area greeted Cornwallis’s troops with “the most unfeigned tokens of joy.”[16]

To be fair to North Carolina’s Loyalists, it bears remembering that they had been living under the thumbs of their Rebel neighbors for nearly six years, and some had suffered severe persecution. As a Quaker resident of the state told Charles Stedman, Cornwallis’s American-born commissary, a few weeks later: “It was the general wish of the people to be reunited to Britain; but that they had been so often deceived in promises of support, and the British had so often relinquished posts, that the people were now afraid to join the British army.”[17]

One indomitable Loyalist militia colonel, Dr. John Pyle, broke with the prevailing temerity and called on his friends and neighbors residing between the Haw and Deep rivers to turn out under arms and follow him to Hillsborough. Somewhere between two hundred to four hundred rallied to him. Pyle had informed Cornwallis of his plans, and the earl sent Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton to cross the Haw on February 24 with two hundred light dragoons from the British Legion, one hundred and fifty British infantrymen, and one hundred jägers to effect a rendezvous. As fate would have it, Nathanael Greene had ordered Lee’s Legion and two companies of Maryland Continental infantry under Lt. Col. Henry Lee back across the Dan to prevent North Carolina Loyalists from rising. On February 25, Lee sighted Pyle’s column. Mistaking the similarly clad Continental light dragoons for Tarleton’s men, the relieved Loyalists held their fire. At the request of one of Lee’s officers, they even moved to one side of the road to permit their supposed friends to pass. When the two forces were roughly parallel, Lee’s troopers wheeled their horses, drew their swords, and fell on the surprised Loyalists with a vengeance. Ignoring repeated cries for mercy, the Rebels kept hacking at their prey until they had killed at least ninety and wounded most of the rest.

It would seem impossible to exaggerate an incident as horrific as the Pyle Massacre, but the Leeds Intelligencer account does so.   Rebel sabers no doubt inflicted many disfiguring wounds, but no other sources charge Lee’s men with taking scalps. As for Colonel Pyle being “hanged up by the heels,” he did suffer several wounds, but still managed to escape with his life. Finally, the fate of Pyle’s force further intimidated North Carolina Loyalists rather than inflaming them. [18]

Once Greene swelled his ranks with sufficient reinforcements, he returned to North Carolina seeking battle. He and Cornwallis clashed at Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781. As related in the Leeds Intelligencer, the British drove Greene’s numerically superior Continentals and militia from the field, taking four six-pound guns. Cornwallis claimed that he had beaten more than 7,000 Rebel regulars and militia, although his intelligence had led him to believe that he would face 8,000 to 10,000 foes. In reality, Greene fielded in excess of 4,000 men, and Cornwallis met him with 1,924 officers and men. The earl lost 506 dead or wounded and 26 missing, which made Guilford Courthouse the perfect definition of a pyrrhic victory.[19]

Seeking to save face, Cornwallis labeled Guilford Courthouse a “Signal Success” and “compleat victory.” Three days afterward, he distributed another proclamation inviting loyal North Carolinians to stand with his army and promised clemency to Rebels who surrendered themselves, along with their arms and ammunition, to him or any other British official. These empty words fooled no one, least of all Cornwallis himself. As he admitted in a private letter to a brother general: “The idea of our Friends rising in any number & to any Purpose totally failed as I expected.”[20]

Cornwallis withdrew his crippled army to Wilmington to refit and seek better care for his wounded. Greene took advantage of his adversary’s predicament to march south to attack vulnerable British outposts in South Carolina. Cornwallis deemed an overland pursuit of Greene far too risky with his drastically diminished ranks. He decided that his best chance of drawing Greene north was to strike at the Quaker general’s main source of supplies: Virginia.   Far from leaving the Carolinas “entirely free from the oppressions of the rebels, and restored to the King’s peace,” the earl had opened the door to both of them being restored to the control of the young United States. Congress did not place Nathanael Greene under arrest for his defeat at Guilford Courthouse, but permitted him to extinguish British authority in all of South Carolina except for Charleston and its environs.[21]

Aside from deconstructing the account of Cornwallis’s 1781 North Carolina campaign from the June 26, 1781, edition of the Leeds Intelligencer, what has this exercise achieved? It seems highly unlikely that Forbes Champagné or any other officer of the Royal Welch Fusiliers penned this narrative. Could it be a fraud – a burst of braggadocio concocted by a patriotic editor or some other writer to boost morale on the British home front? Capt. Henry Broderick, Cornwallis’s aide-de-camp, arrived at London on June 4, 1781, with the two dispatches that the earl had composed on March 17 covering his campaign from Cowpens to Guilford Courthouse, and they appeared in the London Gazette the very same day. That would have afforded some ingenious scribe in Leeds the sources and plenty of time to fashion a jingoistic variation and attribute it to one of the earl’s officers. Such circumstances could account for the many departures from fact that teem in that brief chronicle.[22]

On the other hand, actual eyewitnesses have been known to spread unintentional or deliberate falsehoods. Portions of this story ring true, offering statements that were, at the very least, plausible. Judging from the internal evidence, “Capt C.” most probably belonged to the Brigade of Guards. Independent scholar Linnea Bass discovered that the brigade possessed an officer who might have been “Capt C.” Napier Christie ranked as a lieutenant in the 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards, but as a captain in the British Army at large, in keeping with the dual rank structure that applied to Guards officers. The American-born Christie was posted to the brigade’s grenadier company on November 6, 1780, which would have placed him in General O’Hara’s proximity at Cowan’s Ford three months later.[23]

Judging from the spin “Capt C.” put on Cornwallis’s failed campaign, he either suffered from unrealistic optimism, or he was too diplomatic to cast a highly connected senior officer’s endeavors in a negative light. Just how an officer of the 23rd Regiment of Foot ended up getting credited with authoring this piece remains a mystery.


Research for this article was funded in large part by an Earhart Foundation Fellowship from the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, a Tyree-Lamb Fellowship from the Society of the Cincinnati, a Mellon Research Fellowship from the Virginia Historical Society, a research fellowship from the Richard H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, and two Summer Research Awards from Temple University.



[1]   Lord Charles Cornwallis to Sir Henry Clinton, January 18, 1781, No. 1, PRO 30/11/5/43-46, Charles Cornwallis Papers, National Archives, Kew, United Kingdom; Cornwallis to Lord George Germain, March 17, 1781, No. 7, 150:1, Sir Henry Clinton Papers, William L. Clements Library, Ann Arbor, Michigan. For the best account of Cowpens, see Lawrence E. Babits, A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998).

[2]   Cornwallis to Clinton, June 30, 1780, Clinton Papers, 107:27; Cornwallis to Clinton, August 6, 1780, 115: 39; Cornwallis to Clinton, August 10, 1780, 116: 17; Cornwallis to Germain, March 17, 1781, No. 7, 150:3, all in Clinton Papers; “State of the Troops That Marched with the Army under the Command of Lieut General Earl Cornwallis,” n.d., PRO 30/11/5/134, Cornwallis Papers; Banastre Tarleton, A History of the Campaign of 1780 and 1781, in the Southern Provinces of North America (London: T. Cadell, 1787), 209; James Lovell to Samuel Holten, February 8, 1781, No. 835, Sol Feinstone Collection of the American Revolution, ca 1760s-1850s, American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

[3]   Charles Stedman, The History of the Origin, Progress, and Termination of the American War, 2 vols. (Dublin: P. Wogan, P. Byrne, J. Moore, and W. Jones, 1794), 2: 362-63; Cornwallis to Germain, March 17, 1781, No. 7; Harry Calvert, “Gen. Sir H. Calvert, August 16 1780 to October 19 1781,” January 24-26, 1781, (9/102/1), Claydon House Trust, Middle Claydon, Buckingham, United Kingdom. Hereafter cited as Calvert, “Diary.” Charles O’Hara to August Henry Fitzroy, Third Duke of Grafton, April 20, 1781, in George C. Rogers, Jr., ed., “Letters of Charles O’Hara to the Duke of Grafton, South Carolina Historical Magazine 65 (July 1964): 174.

[4]  Cornwallis to Germain, March 17, 1781, No. 7.

[5]  Leeds Intelligencer, June 26, 1781.

[6]  See “Letter: from Captain Forbes Champagne, 23rd Regiment of Foot, while on Campaign in the Southern Colonies, to His Brother in England,” Documentary History of the Battle of Camden, 16 August 1780, http://www.battleofcamden.org/champayne.htm (accessed June 21, 2016), and Lawrence E. Babits and Joshua B. Howard, Long, Obstinate, and Bloody: The Battle for Guilford Courthouse (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009), 39.

[7]  J. A. Houlding, “British Army Officers Database, 1725-1793” (unpublished manuscript in Houlding’s possession, 2016); Mark Urban, Fusiliers: The Saga of a British Redcoat Regiment in the American Revolution (New York: Walker and Company, 2007), 201-3; “Succession of Colonels of the Seventieth Foot,” in Richard Cannon, Historical Record of the Seventieth, or the Surrey Regiment of Foot (London: Parker, Furnival, & Parker, 1849), 18-19. Cornwallis to Clinton, August 23, 1780, 118: 18, and Thomas George Barrette to Clinton, August 26, 1780, 118:41, both in Clinton Papers.

[8]  Houlding, “British Army Officers Database”; Don Troiani and James L. Kochan, Insignia of Independence: Military Buttons, Accoutrement Plates, & Gorgets of the American Revolution (Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 2012), 88; “Obituary.—Gen. Sir Josiah Champagne, G.C.H.,” Gentleman’s Magazine, May 1840, 542.

[9]  Lt. Harry Calvert of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, who faithfully kept a diary during Cornwallis’s operations in the Carolinas and Virginia from August 16, 1780, to October 19, 1781, did not record the British conducting an opposed river crossing on April 1, 1781. Nor did the three most important British memoirists of Cornwallis’s Southern campaigns, Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton of the British Legion, Sgt. Roger Lamb of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, and Charles Stedman, the earl’s commissary.

[10]   Cornwallis to Germain, March 17, 1781, No. 7.

[11]   Cornwallis to Germain, March 17, 1781, No. 7; Stedman, American War, 2: 224; Babits and Howard, Long, Obstinate, and Bloody, 91, 92.

[12]   Cornwallis to Germain, March 17, 1781, No. 7; Calvert, “Diary,” February 1, 1781.

[13]   Cornwallis to Germain, March 17, 1781, No. 7; Henry Lee, Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States, ed. Robert E. Lee (New York: University Publishing Company, 1869), 233-34; Calvert, “Diary,” February 1, 1781; John Buchanan, The Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1997), 344-48.

[14]    Stedman, American War, 2: 365; Cornwallis to Germain, March 17, 1781, No. 7; Roger Lamb, An Original and Authentic Journal of Occurrences during the Late American War, from Its Commencement to the Year 1783 (Dublin: Wilkinson & Courtney, 1809), 343-45; “Officers Roster 1st Battn. Grenadiers Dec, 22d. 79,” in George Philip Hooke, “Orderly Book, 17th Grs.,” Orderly Book Collection, 1764-1815, Clements Library. See also Hoke’s entries for December 20, 1779, and February 11, 1780; John Peebles, John Peebles’ American War: The Diary of a Scottish Grenadier, 1776-1782, ed. Ira D. Gruber (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1998), 313, 338, 376, 382, 396, 445, 480.

[15]   Calvert, “Diary,” February 2-15, 1781; Buchanan, Road to Guilford Courthouse, 348-58.

[16]   Cornwallis to Germain, March 17, 1781, No. 7; Cornwallis to Germain, April 18, 1781, No. 10, 152: 41, Clinton Papers; Calvert, “Diary,” February 18-25, 1781; O’Hara to Grafton, April 20, 1781; Tarleton, Southern Campaigns, 231.

[17]   Stedman, American War, 2: 286-88; Tarleton, Southern Campaigns, 231.

[18]   Cornwallis to Germain, March 17, 1781, No. 7; Calvert, “Diary,” February 24-25, 1781; Tarleton, Southern Campaigns, 231-33; Stedman, American War, 2: 371-72; Lee, Memoirs, 253-59. The best reconstruction of the Pyle Massacre is Jim Piecuch, “’Light Horse Harry’ Lee and Pyle’s Massacre,” Journal of the American Revolution, June 19, 2013, https://allthingsliberty.com/2013/06/light-horse-harry-lee-and-pyles-massacre/#_edn23 (accessed June 25, 2016).

[19]   Cornwallis to Germain, March 17, 1781, No. 7; Cornwallis to Germain, March 17, 1781, No. 8, 150: 4; J. Despard, “Field Return of the Troops under the Command of Lieutenant General Earl Cornwallis in the Action at Guilford, 15th. March 1781,” n.d., 149: 32; J. Despard, “Return of the Killed, Wounded and Missing of the Troops under the Command of Lieut Genl. Earl Cornwallis in the Action at Guilford, 15th March 1781,” n.d., 149: 30; J. Despard, “Return of the Killed & Wounded on the March through North Carolina in the Various Actions Preceding the Battle of Guilford,” n.d., 149: 33, all in Clinton Papers; Babits and Howard, Long Obstinate, and Bloody, 77, 80-94.

[20]   Cornwallis, Proclamation, March 18, 1781, PRO 30/11/101/28, and Cornwallis to William Phillips, April 10, 1781, PRO 30/11/85/31-32, both in Cornwallis Papers; Cornwallis to Germain, No. 8, March 17, 1781.

[21]   Cornwallis to Phillips, April 10, 1781; Cornwallis to Phillips, April 24, 1781, PRO 30/11/76/57-58, Cornwallis Papers; Cornwallis to Germain, April 18, 1781, No. 9, 152: 40; Cornwallis to Germain, April 18, 1781, No. 10, 152: 41; Cornwallis to Clinton, April 24, 1781, 156: 18; Cornwallis to Clinton, May 26, 1781, 158: 16, all in Clinton Papers.

[22]  London Gazette, June 4, 1781.

[23]  Linnea Bass, “Dec 1780: Brigade of Guards Restructured,” n.d., attached to Linnea Bass, e-mail to the author, June 27, 2016; Houlding, “British Army Officers Database.”


  • Indeed a great lesson in the significance of making sure your source corroborates with others! Hopefully with wider access to primary data these days, more sources will be looked into and not just taken at face value.

  • Larry Babits concluded that Morgan had closer to 1000 men at Cowpens, not “a mixed force of eighteen hundred to twenty-four hundred Continentals and militia.” Morgan himself thought he had less than 1000.

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