The Loyalist Collection

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Call Number: MIC-Loyalist FC LMR .C6C4P3
Name: Cornwallis, Charles, 1st Marquis Cornwallis, 1738-1805.
Title: Cornwallis Papers : 1614-1854.
Description: 20 microfilm reels of textual records ; 35 mm.
Charles Cornwallis was born in London, the seventh child and first son of the 1st Earl Cornwallis and his wife, Elizabeth Townsend, a daughter of the 2nd Marquis of Townsend. The Cornwallis family had been established at Brome Hall, near Eye, in Suffolk since the fourteenth century. Charles attended Eaton, and in 1756 at the age of eighteen years, he was commissioned an ensign in the Grenadier Guards. He attended the military academy at Turin, and by 1761 had risen to the rank of lieutenant colonel of the 85th regiment. At his father's death in 1762, he became the 2nd Earl Cornwallis and took his seat in the House of Lords, later becoming aide-de-camp to the king in 1765 and a major general in 1775.

Cornwallis consistently opposed the British government's measures which eventually provoked the American Revolution. He voted against the Stamp Act and the Declaratory Act, and sided with the colonies on most issues. However, in 1776 he accepted as his duty a command in North America. In 1779 he participated in the siege of Charleston, South Carolina, and when the city fell and General Clinton returned to New York, he took command of the British forces in the South. In the battle of Camden, 16 August 1780, Cornwallis routed General Horatio Gates, but defeats at King's Mountain and Cowpens greatly reduced his forces. At Clinton’s order he moved his army to Yorktown, Virginia. Here, he became surrounded by the Americans and the French, and surrendered his army on 19 October 1781, effectively ending the war.

In later years, Cornwallis was envoy to the court of Frederick of Prussia and Governor-General of India from 1786 to 1793. Honours followed in the form of his promotion to general and an appointment to the cabinet. In 1792 he was created Marquis Cornwallis for his services in India. From 1798 until 1801 he served as Viceroy of Ireland, and in 1805 was reappointed Governor General of India where he died shortly after his arrival.

The Papers of Lord Cornwallis include personal and semi-official papers of the Cornwallis family, but the major portion of the collection is comprised of correspondence and documents relating to the service of Charles, First Marquis Cornwallis, in America and in India. Only the American papers have been acquired on microfilm for inclusion in the Loyalist Collection. The first 7 pieces contain official and private documents as well as official correspondence and papers, all relating to the American colonies.
Piece 58 concerns the capitulation of the garrisons at York and Gloucester in Virginia, including communications with General Washington concerning the terms of surrender.
Piece 60 to Piece 100 contain correspondence between Cornwallis and Lord George Germain, Sir Henry Clinton, Lt. Colonel Balfour, Lord Rawdon, Major General Leslie, Lord Amherst, Admiral Arbuthnot, Banastre Tarleton, and numerous other commanders and officers.
Piece 101 to Piece 110 contain a variety of documents including: proclamations and warrants issued by Cornwallis concerning recruiting; returns of troops; casualties and stores; militia; intelligence and intercepted letters; letters and other papers concerning American troops from their commanders to the American General William Davidson; a Declaration of Allegiance to the king signed near Charlestown by 1500 persons; a tale showing the depreciation of paper currency from 1777-1780; a letter book of despatches from Lt. Colonel Balfour at Charlestown to Sir Henry Clinton, Lord George Germain and other commanders; a journal of a police council concerning John Cruden; and accounts for sequestered estates.
Piece 270, 275 and 277 contain some official and private letters, including letters to Earl Cornwallis from his brothers, William, Admiral Cornwallis; and James, Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry; and from his son Charles, Lord Brome.
Originals: The original records are held by the British Public Record Office.
PRO 30/11/1-7, 58, 60-100, 101-110, 270, 275, 277.
A calendar of the American papers of Lord Cornwallis was published for the Virginia Independence Bicentennial Commission in 1970. The full bibliographic citation is: Reese, George H. comp. The Cornwallis Papers: Abstracts of Americana. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1970. (HIL-MICGDL E267 .c675).

The entire collection of the Cornwallis Papers is calendared in, List and Index Society. Gifts and Deposits, Part I, Volume 10. London: HMSO, 1966 and is shelved with the Reference oversized volumes.

A microfilm shelf list is available in print.

Web Finding Aid Available

The Loyalist Collection is located within the Microforms Department at the Harriet Irving Library.

Last update: 2012/12
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