British General Sir Henry Clinton
Revolutionary War: 1779-1781
On June 1, 1779, Lt. General Henry Clinton captured Stony Point. In July, he launched raids along the Connecticut Coast. Later in August, Lt. General Charles Cornwallis returned with some of the reinforcements he had requested. He was unable to launch his campaign because of a large French fleet that first approached West Indies and then moved up the Atlantic Coast. Clinton instead had to take a defensive stance and evacuated Newport. Cornwallis had returned with an Admiral of the British Navy that Clinton felt was mediocre and so he submitted his resignation.
While awaiting word on his resignation, General Clinton now decided to procede with the campaign that he had postponed. He wanted to take control of the South, hopeful of gaining support and manpower from the Tories there. He would take the major port city of Charleston and then fan out and gain control of the four Southern colonies of George, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, thus controlling the Chesapeake Bay region as well as New York.
On December 26, 1779, General Clinton sailed south from New York City with 8,700 troops and 5,000 sailors on 100 ships. The voyage south was filled with storms and the fleet was separated. They reformed off Florida's coast and sailed back north. It was decided that about 1,500 infantry would be put ashore north of Savannah as a diversionary force. They were joined by the cavalry who had to find mounts since all their horses had been put overboard due to injuries from the storms.
General Clinton and the rest of the fleet then sailed north to within thirty miles of Charleston where he and his army forces were put ashore on James Island on February 11, 1780. Clinton undertook a meticulous approach march. A force commanded by General Cornwallis finally crossed over to the mainland on March 11. After sending Cornwallis and his cavalry under Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton and Major Patrick Ferguson to cut off lines of communication to Charleston, Clinton personally oversaw the Siege of Charleston (2nd Battle of Charleston) that culminated on May 12, 1780 with the city's surrender by Maj. General Benjamin Lincoln.
Even though Genreal Clinton had wanted to personally oversee the rest of the campaign, another French fleet had been reported to be on its way to America, so he decided to return to New York. During the preparations for the siege of the city, word arrived that Parliament had refused to accept Clinton's resignation. As part of his resignation, Clinton had recommended General Cornwallis as his replacement. Before departing for New York in June, Clinton gave Cornwallis command of the Southern Department and almost all communications between he and Cornwallis ended.
General Clinton returned to New York and began a waiting game while General George Washington took up a position outside the city. While most of the action of the war continued in the South, there was very little activity in the north. In August 1781, Cornwallis built fortifications at Yorktown, Virginia. At the same time, Washington received word that the French fleet was on its way. While French General Comte de Rochambeau marched from Newport, Rhode Island, Washington made preparations to leave New York. General Washington left a few men behind to create the illusion that the Continental camps were still occupied and marched south on September 21. General Clinton did not realize that Washington was gone until October 2. Meanwhile, the French fleet occupied the Chesapeake Bay. By the time, Clinton departed with a relief force, the Battle of Yorktown was over.
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