Volume I (1st April to 15th August 1780) begins with Cornwallis’s involvement in the siege of Charlestown and his consolidation of British authority in South Carolina. It ends as British ascendancy there begins so soon to unravel in the face of internal uprisings and an external threat.
Volume II (16th August to 31st October 1780) covers the Battle of Camden and the autumn campaign, including Ferguson’s advance into North Carolina, his defeat at King’s Mountain, and the ensuing abandonment of the campaign. Also covered are the assault on Augusta and Wemyss’ and Moncrief’s expeditions to the east of the Wateree and Santee.
Volume III (1st November 1780 to 31st January 1781) deals with Cornwallis’s refitment at Winnsborough, his uphill and largely unrewarding struggle to put South Carolina into a better state of defence, and the commencement of the winter campaign. Events taking place were Tarleton’s foray east of the Wateree, the actions at Fishdam and Blackstocks, and the Battle of Cowpens.
Volume IV (1st February to 19th May 1781) outlines the disastrous winter campaign, the pyrrhic victory at Guilford, and Cornwallis’s refitment at Wilmington. It ends with his march to Virginia, the absurdity of which is addressed.
Volume V (20th May to 22nd July 1781) recounts the short Virginia campaign and continues with Clinton’s countermanded requisition of troops for the defence of New York or a raid on Philadelphia. It concludes with his request that a post protecting ships of the line be occupied on Williamsburg Neck even if it required all the force present in Virginia. Further evidence comes to light that it would have been perfectly feasible for Cornwallis to return overland from Wilmington to South Carolina.
Volume VI (23rd July 1781 to 17th January 1782) describes in part the evacuation of Portsmouth and the occupation, siege and capitulation of Yorktown and Gloucester. It goes on to disclose the beginning of the Clinton-Cornwallis controversy before detailing Cornwallis’s fraught passage to England. The papers end as they begin – with South Carolina and Georgia.
CORNWALLIS PAPERS The Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in The Southern Theatre of the American Revolutionary War
This work deals with Britain’s last throw of the dice in the American Revolutionary War. Comprising six volumes, it contains a fully edited transcript of almost all the papers that were written by, or came before, Lord Cornwallis during his command in the south. The papers cover the siege of Charlestown, his tenuous occupation of South Carolina and Georgia, the autumn, winter and Virginia campaigns, and ultimately his capitulation at Yorktown. Among a mass of matters that are also covered are Craig’s occupation of Wilmington, his operations there, the Spanish threat to East Florida, and the eventual collapse of British authority elsewhere in the south.
The papers are arranged in 14 Parts and 68 chapters. In view of the numberless inaccuracies published about the war most Parts begin with an introductory chapter, the purpose of which is to present the papers in an accurate, balanced and dispassionate way. Whether such chapters are seen to succeed will, inevitably, depend to a degree on the perspective from which the papers are viewed.
The papers open the door to re-evaluating certain aspects of the war. The introductory chapters very briefly provide pointers besides addressing certain important considerations that have long gone by default.