From Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens1
Charles Town. [South Carolina] 14th July 79.
Ternant2 will relate to you how many violent struggles I have had between duty and inclination—how much my heart was with you, while I appeared to be most actively employed here—but it appears to me that I shd be inexcusable in the light of a Citizen if I did not continue my utmost efforts for carrying the plan of black levies into execution, while there remains the smallest hope of success. Our army is reduced to nothing almost by the departure of the Virginians; Scots arrival3 will scarcely restore us to our ancient number; if the Enemy destine the Reinforcements from G. B. for this quarter, as in policy they ought to do, that number will be insufficient for the security of our country. The Governor among other matters to be laid before the House of Assembly under the head of preparations for the ensuing Campaign, intends to propose the completing our Continental batts. by drafts from the militia; this measure I am told is so exceedingly unpopular that there is no hope of succeeding in it—either this must be adopted, or the black levies, or the state may fall a victim to the supineness and improvidence of its inhabitants. The house of Representatives have had a longer recess than usual occasioned by the number of members in the field—it will be convened however in a few days—I intend to qualify—and make a final effort. Oh that I were a Demosthenes—the Athenians never deserved more bitter exprobration than my Countrymen. Genl. Moultrie who commands our Remains of an army at Stono4 and has a Corps of observation at Beaufort ferry informs us in his last letter, that the Enemy are preparing the Court House and Gaol at Beaufort for the reception of their sick—which indicates a design to establish themselves in quarters of refreshment there. Clinton’s movement and your march in consequence, made me wish to be with you; if any thing important shd. be done in your quarter while I am doing daily penance here, and making successless harangues, I shall execrate my Stars—& be out of humour with the world. I entreat you my dear friend write me as frequently as circumstances will permit, and enlighten me upon what is going forward—adieu—my love to our dear Colleagues. I am afraid I was so thoughtless as to omit my remembrances to Gibbes5 in the last Letter Tell him that I am always his sincere well wisher and hope to laugh with him again before long. adieu again—yours ever
You know my opinion of Ternants value—his health and affairs call him to the North—if you can render him any services—they will be worthily bestowed—we have not hitherto availed ourselves of his zeal and talents.
ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress. In JCHW description begins John C. Hamilton, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1851). description ends , I, 114, this letter is dated 1779.
1. In 1779, Laurens was elected to the South Carolina legislature, in which he attempted to win support for his plan for the enlistment of Negro troops. He withdrew from the legislature, however, to return to military service—first under Brigadier General William Moultrie and then under Major General Benjamin Lincoln.
2. Jean Baptiste de Ternant, a Frenchman who came to America without letters of introduction. He claimed to have been an engineer in the French army, and at Baron von Steuben’s instigation he was appointed in September, 1778, a lieutenant colonel and inspector. When this letter was written he was serving with Pulaski’s Legion.
3. Brigadier General Charles Scott, who was in command of troops in Virginia, had been ordered by Washington to reinforce the American forces in the Carolinas (GW description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington (Washington, 1931–1944). description ends , XV, 384).
4. Stono Ferry, South Carolina, where on June 20, 1779, the Americans under Lincoln had been defeated by the British.
5. Major Caleb Gibbs.