From John Rutledge
Charleston [S.C.] 6 June 1777. “This will be delivered to you by Mr Laurens, (Son of the Vice-President of this State,) who wishes to render his best Services to America, in a military Capacity, & with that View, has lately returned, from a foreign, to his native Country—He is desirous of acting in a more extensive Sphere than that may probably soon afford, of being where Experience will improve a Theoretical Knowledge, & of copying the best Examples.”1
At John Rutledge’s request, his brother Edward Rutledge also wrote a letter to GW on this date from Charleston introducing John Laurens. “I believe his Object,” Edward Rutledge writes, “is to serve in the Army as a Volunteer, & endeavour to get a little Insight into the Art of Fighting—From the Station which his Father has for some Time filled, with much Reputation to himself and Advantage to this Country I could not withhold from him this Letter” (DLC:GW).
In another letter to GW of this date, Edward Rutledge introduces Col. Daniel Horry, Jr. (d. 1785), of the South Carolina militia who is “going into your Camp for the Purpose of seeing something of actual Service. . . . He is a Gentleman of the first Fortune & Character amongst us. . . . It gives me pain to trespass so frequently upon you, by my Friends & Acquaintances, but I do not feel so much as I otherwise would upon reflecting that it is your Custom to be civil to every Gentleman who visits you and that the Trouble which I occasion will be thought less of by you than by any one else” (DLC:GW). Horry, a wealthy rice planter who owned several large plantations on the Santee River, apparently did not remain long in the North, nor did he enter Continental service. He subsequently commanded a South Carolina regiment of light dragoons under Gen. Francis Marion. After the British capture of Charleston in May 1780, Horry accepted protection from the Crown, and in 1781 he went to England to enroll his son in school. Only the influence of his Pinckney in-laws prevented confiscation of his plantations.
1. John Laurens (1754–1782), the eldest son of Henry Laurens, returned to Charleston on 16 April 1777 from London where he had read law at the Middle Temple and had married the daughter of one of his father’s business associates. On 7 June Laurens and his father set off for Philadelphia, where they arrived on 21 July, and on 9 Aug. Laurens joined GW’s headquarters at Germantown, Pa., as an extra aide-de-camp (see GW to John Laurens, 5 Aug. 1777, Varick transcript, DLC:GW, and Henry Laurens to John Lewis Gervais, 5–9 Aug. 1777, Laurens Papers description begins Philip M. Hamer et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Laurens. 16 vols. Columbia, S.C., 1968–2003. description ends , 11:417–31). Laurens’s appointment as an extra aide-de-camp was not announced in general orders until 6 Sept. 1777, however. Brave almost to the point of rashness, well-educated, and fluent in French, Laurens soon became a valued member of GW’s military family, and on 6 Oct. 1777, the day after Laurens was wounded in a shoulder at the Battle of Germantown, GW appointed him a regular aide-de-camp with the rank of lieutenant colonel (see General Orders, that date). Laurens received a minor wound at the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778, and during the Rhode Island campaign later that summer he served as a liaison between GW and the French fleet. In November 1778 Laurens declined a commission as lieutenant colonel in the line of the army that would allow him to command troops, but in March 1779 he accepted such a commission in order to return to South Carolina and assist in the defense of the state (see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 12:1105–6, 13:388–89; John Laurens to Henry Laurens, 6 Nov. 1778, Laurens Papers description begins Philip M. Hamer et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Laurens. 16 vols. Columbia, S.C., 1968–2003. description ends , 14:469–70; and GW to John Rutledge, 15 Mar. 1779, DLC:GW). Laurens was wounded in an arm during an engagement at Coosawhatchie River, S.C., on 3 May 1779, and he was captured in May 1780 when Charleston fell to the British. Exchanged in early November 1780, Laurens was appointed by Congress on 11 Dec. 1780 as a special agent to solicit aid from France (see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 18:1141, 1184–88). Laurens sailed to France from Boston in early February 1781, and he returned to Boston in late August with two-and-a-half million livres in specie and two ships carrying much-needed military supplies. Resuming his position as an aide-de-camp to GW at Philadelphia in early September 1781, Laurens accompanied GW to Yorktown, where in October he was given command of a light infantry battalion and then was appointed one of the two allied commissioners who negotiated the details of the British surrender (see General Orders, 8 Oct. 1781, and GW to Thomas McKean, 19 Oct. 1781, DNA:PCC, item 152). During the summer of 1782, Laurens commanded a light infantry battalion in South Carolina. He was killed on 27 Aug. 1782 during a minor engagement at Combahee Ferry, South Carolina.