Charles Cornwallis orderly book  1780-1781
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Charles Cornwallis orderly book (148 pages), written by an anonymous British officer, contains orders from a moving headquarters in the southern theater of the American Revolutionary War, covering November 10, 1780 through July 13, 1781. These document the British march across North Carolina, the aftermath of the Guilford Courthouse campaign, and Cornwallis' campaign in Virginia. The book contains lists of promotions and reports of courts martial, as well as general marching orders and information on supplies, transportation, and the sick and wounded.

The orderly book's entries are not ordered strictly chronologically. The bulk of the orders are from Cornwallis' army in North Carolina and Virginia; these entries run from February 8-July 13, 1781. However, orders from New York, dating from November 10, 1780-February 8, 1781, are periodically copied out of sequence. The Box and Folder Listing provides the page numbers of the different blocks of entries.

Many of Cornwallis' orders concern disciplinary matters such as courts martial and guidelines for enforcing authority. For example, the order of May 11, 1781, states: "Lord Cornwallis has had several Complaints of Soldiers going out of camp in the night & plundering the Inhabitants of the Country. Commanding Officers of Corps are desired to use every means to prevent such Shameful Irregularities in future" (p.69). Other Cornwallis orders praise the army for bravery on the battlefield, and send news to the troops. For example, the May 8, 1781, entry states that: "Lord Cornwallis has the pleasure to inform the Army that he has the greatest Reason to believe that Lord Rawdon has gained a Signal Victory over the Rebel Army near Camden" (p.68). To celebrate, he ordered a double allowance of rum for the troops. The orders also reveal information on other important military subjects, such as the use of horses and the practice of recruiting loyalists (see the subject index). Of note are several entries on African Americans' role in the British side of the conflict.

Among other entry types, the book contains 81 marching orders. Roughly half specify the order in which participating units would be marching; the other half simply mention that battery horses and wagons were to be loaded and troops ready to march the following morning. Two directly state that the regiments would not be marching. These orders typically specify the daily parole and countersign, and the location of the army. Entries in the orderly book terminate before Cornwallis's defeat and surrender at Yorktown in October 1781.

The volume documents the promotions of 32 British regiments between 1779 and 1781. The book lists promotions by regiment (see the General Subject Index), and pages 148 to 152 contain lists of promotions by rank. The book documents the promotions of the following regiments:

  • 7th foot
  • 17th foot
  • 17th light dragoons
  • 7th regiment
  • 9th regiment
  • 16th regiment
  • 17th regiment
  • 21st regiment
  • 22nd regiment
  • 23rd regiment
  • 24th regiment
  • 33rd regiment
  • 37th regiment
  • 38th regiment
  • 42nd regiment
  • 43rd regiment
  • 44th regiment
  • 54th regiment
  • 57th regiment
  • 60th regiment/2nd battalion
  • 60th regiment/3rd battalion
  • 60th regiment/4th battalion
  • 62nd regiment
  • 63rd regiment
  • 64th regiment
  • 70th regiment
  • 71st regiment
  • 71st regiment/2nd battalion
  • 76th regiment
  • 80th regiment
  • 82nd regiment
  • 84th regiment

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