General Charles Cornwallis Essay

General Charles Cornwallis Essay.

British General Charles Cornwallis had a leading role in the American Revolution. Without his help, the British army would have been defeated a lot earlier than they did. However, although his skills were great and his heart was in the right place for his country, Cornwallis did not have the required intellect to conquer America and claim victory in the name of the king. He fought hard in his battles, but at the expense of much bloodshed of his own soldiers.

Many battles were won because of the sacrifices he made, which also ultimately lead to his demise. Thus, Cornwallis was a great British commander and prevailed in many battles, but due to his recklessness, he was overthrown by the American Patriots.

To begin, Charles Cornwallis was by many known as a great leader. He began fighting in the Revolution after the British victory in Charleston, South Carolina in the spring of 1780 . His hopes lead him to the southern colonies as a general.

This meant that his men had to be led in several different battles. He fought in the battles of Princeton (1777), Brandywine (1777), Camden (1781), Guilford Courthouse (1781), and Yorktown (1781) . He was successful in three out of his five battles; Brandywine in Birmingham Pennsylvania, Camden in New Jersey, and Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina. Cornwallis proved himself to be an asset to the British, since he could triumphantly overtake these places in the colonies. Cornwallis showed the Americans that he could handle controlling an entire army and leading them to victories in the colonies. Therefore, Charles Cornwallis was recognised as a worthy general, hoping to lead Britain to a successful victory over the rebel Americans.

The general tried to prove himself well in the battles which he commanded and fought. However, in many cases he did many actions that can be described as reckless, a big gamble, wild, and stupid. It is said that people who did take real risks, like Cornwallis, suffered total defeat . For example, in January of 1777, the general went after General Washington to avenge his defeat at Trenton. Little did Cornwallis know that Washington snuck from behind with his 5200 men into Princeton. Thus, Washington caused 400 British casualties and only suffered 40 deaths for the Americans . This shows that one should always watch their back and look in every direction. Although Cornwallis triumphed in the battle of Guilford Courthouse in 1781, he caused many deaths in his army which lead his defeat in the end of the war. He encountered General Nathaniel Greene who was very clever. Cornwallis won at the expense of 30% of his army, whereas the intelligent Greene only lost a few . Cornwallis was not thinking straight in this battle and only had his eye on the goal, not on his men.

Furthermore, this is also shown on the 7th of April, 1781; where he finally counts his men, only to discover that half of his troops were missing! He did not care for his troops well, which adversely effected his ability to become a great General. On September 30, 1781 in Yorktown, Cornwallis gave up his outer lines, which meant that the American and French allies could overtake his inner defence. The Americans and French had Cornwallis trapped and he failed in a counterattack on October 16th. On October 19, Cornwallis could not put himself to surrender, so he made Charles OHara, second in command; deliver his sword to the victors. However, Cornwallis wrote multiple letters to Washington in terms of the surrender of Yorktown. It turned out to be Britains greatest military defeat in many generations. The lack of men the reckless general had in his command, and the way he treated them, turned to be one of the greatest downfall for the British. Hence, Cornwallis made very careless actions which caused him to be defeated in the end.

Consequently, General Charles Cornwallis was somewhat a good leader, but made many hasty decisions which caused Britain to be crushed in the American Revolution. He may have won several battles, but he was defeated in the war. His carelessness in care for his troops, and his lack of awareness for his surroundings all caused his ruin. Even so, without Cornwallis, defeat may have come quicker and harsher. In conclusion, General Cornwallis did aid Britain and contributed in the American Revolution, but was overthrown due to his lack in leadership skills, which inevitably caused the British to lose the war.


Morris, Richard. The Life History of the United States 1775-1789 . 2. NJ: Time-Life Books, 1974.

Murray, Stewart. American Revolution. New York: DK Publishing Inc, 2005.

“Sons of the American Revolution.” Calendar of Revolutionary Events 13 Sep 2006 .

Taylor, Quintard. “United States History.” War of Independence 13 Sep 2006 .

Wiegand, Steve. U.S. History for Dummies. New York: Wiley Publishing Inc, 2001.

General Charles Cornwallis Essay

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