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Commander was more at fault for the outcome clinton

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commander was more at fault for the outcome.Clinton, in his departing orders,instructed Cornwallis that he could:make such changes in the Position… as you may judge most conducive toHis Majesty’s Service for the defence of this important Post [Charleston], and itsdependencies.At the same time it is by no means my Intention to prevent youracting offensively, in case an opportunity should offer consistent with the Securityof this place, which is always to be regarded as a primary object.29To the naturally aggressive and bold Cornwallis, the orders gave him free reintopursue, engage and defeat rebel forces wherever he might find them.To the morecautious Clinton, his intent implied the safety of Charleston and the posts above all.Thisdichotomy of interpretation set in motion the basic tension between the two officers overthe campaign’s strategic direction.Clearly, from his correspondence and later defense ofhis actions, Clinton intended that Cornwallis should make the defense of Charleston theprime objective with any offensive operations in North Carolina to be conducted alongthe Cape Fear River basin in cooperation with the Royal Navy.Such operations could besupported by sea power operating out of the port of Wilmington, North Carolina.21
Clinton viewed the Middle Colonies and Chesapeake region as the decisivetheatre.If he could take Petersburg operating from a base in the Virginia Tidewater area,the rebels would be forced to operate beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains, which inessence denied reinforcement and support of all enemy forces operating in the Carolinas.Additionally, Virginia operations would force Washington to respond in that region, thusremoving any substantial threat to Charleston and the South Carolina posts.A moveagainst Philadelphia might force General George Washington into a reaction that woulddestroy the diminishing Continental Army prior to any significant French intervention.The eventual detachment of the force under Major-General Alexander Leslie in Octoberto Portsmouth, Virginia supported that strategic concept.In theory, this plan seems like areasonable strategic approach. Herein lies the problem.Cornwallis did not view the plan as did his superior.Clinton’s conceptencompassed more of a holding pattern that supported the Middle Colonies and Virginiaoffensive, thus moving the Seat of War north.Ultimately, Clinton desired to mount acampaign against Philadelphia (which he had been forced to evacuate in the spring of1778) as supported by the establishment of a naval operating base in Chesapeake Bay,most likely in the Tidewater/Hampton Roads area.Few notions could more roil theaggressive Cornwallis than the thought of sitting in Charleston merely defending a cityand outlying posts.Thus, Clinton’s ambiguous orders and thecarte-blanchetoCornwallis to operate as he saw fit, created a cycle of command and control problemsfrom which no heroic effort on the part of British, Provincial or Loyalist soldiers couldovercome.

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Term
Fall
Professor
professor_unknown
Tags
Royal Navy, Strategic Leadership, Commander, southern campaign, Earl Cornwallis

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