Triumph of Freedom, 1775-1783

By John C. Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXV
The Exploits of Lord Cornwallis

AT this juncture of the war, Americans could ill afford to quarrel among themselves: Georgia and South Carolina had been overrun by the enemy and, to make the peril more acute, Cornwallis had turned northward, seeking to eliminate the last scattered elements of resistance in the Southern states.

With the American army routed and disorganized, Cornwallis summoned the North Carolina Loyalists to arms, urging them to fall upon the beaten rebels. The Loyalists, however, were wary; not until they saw a British army in their midst would they risk showing themselves in arms against their enemies. They had vivid memories of the defeat suffered at the patriots' hands in 1776 at Moore's Creek Bridge, and of the unhappy consequences of a premature rising made in June 1780 when, encouraged by the approach of Cornwallis's army, they had taken up arms only to be promptly vanquished by the patriots -- a disaster which forced many Loyalists to take refuge with Cornwallis's army.

Despite these setbacks, they promised to join Cornwallis in the field as soon as his army had established itself in the state. As Cornwallis discerned, here was the acid test of the experiment which had brought the British to the Southern states: Could the Loyalists be depended upon for military aid? After the battle of Camden, everything encouraged Cornwallis to believe that the Loyalists would take an active part in the final struggle against the rebels, and it was with this expectation that he resumed his march northward.

Cornwallis had not proceeded far, however, before the military situation in the South was changed by two unexpected reverses sustained by British arms. After being twice victorious over the rebels, the British themselves were defeated at King's Mountain and Cowpens.

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