The repulsive and brutal character of Tavington was based on Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton. Tavington, like Tarleton, believed that civilians aiding and abetting the Patriots had chosen sides in the war and as a result, deserved to be treated as combatants or punished as spies. His drive for total victory is also attributed to the fact that his father had squandered their money and had ruined the family name.
Colonel Tavington also seems to need or desire the approval of General Charles Cornwallis in his activities. It goes beyond that of Cornwallis being his commanding officer. Tavington seems to strive to be a noble as Cornwallis does and gain his approval, although in a scene that was cut, Tavington mentions to his second that Cornwallis' great-grandfather was nothing more than a servant to Tavington's ancestors.
After initially being criticized by General Cornwallis for using such brutal tactics under Cornwallis' command, Cornwallis gives Tavington's tactics an unofficial blessing after Benjamin Martin makes a fool out of Cornwallis. Tavington is the chief nemesis of Benjamin Martin and the entire Martin family since he kills Gabriel, Thomas, Gabriel's wife Anne, her family and threatens Charlotte and the younger Martin children. He does, of course, pay up by the end of the movie in a face-off with Benjamin.
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