Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis (December 31, 1738-October 5, British general and colonial governor. In America, he is most remembered for his role in the American Revolutionary War. He was the eldest son of Charles Cornwallis, 5th Baron Cornwallis (later 1st Earl Cornwallis) and was born in London even though his family's estates were in Kent.
Cornwallis had all the advantages that money and family connections could bring. His family had been Barons Cornwallis since the reign of King Charles II, and his uncle, Frederick, was Archbishop of Canterbury. His mother was a daughter of Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend and a niece of the Prime Minister, Robert Walpole.
To this background he added a strong sense of duty, inflexible integrity, and an independent character. He was educated at Eton College and Clare College, Cambridge. Charles decided on a military career, so in 1756 he purchased a commission in the 1st Grenadier Guards, then enrolled in the academy at Turin, which was one of the few places to learn military theory. His studies were cut short by the start of the European phase of the Germany, interspersed with trips home. He served as a staff officer to John Manners, Marquess of Granby in 1758. In 1759 he was assigned to the 85th Regiment of Foot, and after action at the Battle of Minden he was promoted to Captain before returning to England. He also became a Member of Parliament in January 1760, entering the House of Commons for the village of Wye in Kent. In 1761 he was again sent to Germany, this time for duty with the 12th foot, and was promoted to brevet Lieutenant Colonel. He led his unit in the Battle of Vellinghusen on July 15th-16th, and was noted for his gallantry.
Between January 2 and January 4, 1777 Cornwallis fought the American Continental Army at Princeton, New Jersey, led by General George Washington. The Americans surprised a detachment of Cornwallis' troops and pressed the attack until encountering the main body of Cornwallis' force. After this first engagement, the American army slipped away in the night before Cornwallis could counter-attack. The Battle of Princeton was seen as an American victory, although it was actually a confused series of skirmishes without a decisive defeat for either force.
In 1780, Cornwallis led British forces in the Carolinas, against Nathanael Greene.
After a textbook siege by American and French forces, Cornwallis surrendered to the allied forces, bringing to a close the Battle of Yorktown, on October 19, 1781, and thus ending the war. He was ultimately blamed for losing the war to the colonists.
Cornwallis was again made Governor General of India in 1805. He died at Ghazipur in Benares shortly after arriving, and is buried overlooking the Ganges River, where his memorial is maintained by the Indian Government.