Cornwallis, Charles Cornwallis, First Marquis (1738–1805), a British army officer and statesman. His surrender to General George Washington at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781, gave final victory to the Americans in the Revolutionary War.
Lord Cornwallis was the eldest son of Charles, First Earl Cornwallis. He attended Eton and Cambridge before entering the army in 1756. Cornwallis was elected to the House of Commons in 1760 and entered the House of Lords in 1762; in Parliament, he was known as a friend of the American colonists. When his regiment was sent to fight against the colonists during the Revolutionary War, George III offered him a leave of absence, but Cornwallis, then a major general, felt it his duty to go. After serving with distinction in fighting in the North, he was given command in the South. In October, 1781, his army, encamped at Yorktown, was trapped by combined American and French forces and forced to surrender.
Although this defeat was decisive in the war, Cornwallis was not blamed, and his political connections enabled him to move on to greater responsibilities. In 1786 he was appointed governor general of India, where he proved to be an able administrator and military leader. He was made a marquis in 1793. He was viceroy of Ireland, 1798–1801. In 1802 he helped negotiate the treaty of Amiens, which temporarily stopped Britain's war with Napoleon I. In 1805 he was again appointed governor general of India, but died soon after his arrival.