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Laurens, John

Laurens, John

LAURENS, JOHN. (1754–1782). Continental officer. South Carolina. The son of Henry Laurens, he was educated in England and Geneva and returned to the colonies in 1777. He was Washington's volunteer aide from September 1777 to March 1779 and September to November 1781, serving often as secretary and translator. He fought at Brandywine on 11 September 1777 and was wounded at Germantown on 4 October 1777 and at Monmouth on 28 June 1778. On 23 December 1778 he shot General Charles Lee in a duel. He was named lieutenant colonel on 29 March 1779 after having declined a similar commission voted him by Congress on 5 November 1778. In 1779 he was elected to the South Carolina assembly but withdrew from it when the British invaded the state. Joining General Moultrie's militia, he fought at Charleston against Augustine Prevost and was wounded at Coosashatchie Pass. At Savannah he led the light infantry. He was at Charleston during Clinton's siege and was captured, paroled, and exchanged. Congress sent him to France in the spring of 1781, when he was twenty-six years old, to help Franklin arrange for more money and supplies. He received the Thanks of Congress for his success in this and then returned to the field. Laurens planned to raise Continental troops in South Carolina and Georgia from the slave population, with the project financed by himself, but the legislature of the two states rejected the enterprise. At Yorktown, he captured a redoubt and, with the Viscount de Noailles, negotiated the surrender with Cornwallis. (The latter was constable of the Tower of London, where the elder Laurens was imprisoned and was exchanged for him.) Young Laurens returned to the South and was killed at Combahee Ferry, South Carolina, on 27 August 1782.

SEE ALSO Combahee Ferry, South Carolina; Laurens, Henry; Lee, Charles (1731–1782); Moultrie, William.


Hamer, Philip M., et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Laurens. 16 vols. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press 1968–2003.

Laurens, John. The Army Correspondence of Colonel John Laurens. New York Times, 1969.

Massey, Gregory D. John Laurens and the American Revolution. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2000.

                              revised by Harry M. Ward

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