George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens, 25 May 1780

From Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens

Charles Town [S.C.] 25th May 1780.

Dear General.

Being suddenly disappointed in my expectation of retiring from this place by land in company with Colonel Ternant—I have scarcely a moment for paying Your Excellency my respects and informing that I am in the number of prisoners by Capitulation—It is the greatest and most humiliating misfortune of my life, to be reduced to a state of inactivity at so important a juncture as the present1—My only Reliance in these circumstances is on the continuance of that goodness and protection which I have always experienced from Your Excellency—An Exchange would restore me to life—and I confide in Your Excellencys kind attention to this matter—if there is a possibility of effecting it. I am with every Sentiment of Gratitude and respect Dear General Your faithful Aid

John Laurens


1Both Laurens and Lt. Col.Jean-Baptiste Ternant were among the 2,571 soldiers of the Continental army captured after the surrender of Charleston, S.C., on 12 May (see Peckham, Toll of Independence description begins Howard H. Peckham, ed. The Toll of Independence: Engagements & Battle Casualties of the American Revolution. Chicago, 1974. description ends , 70; see also Duportail to GW, 17 May).

Laurens wrote his father, Henry, from Charleston on this date that he had been taken prisoner and that Ternant, apparently released on parole, would give “a minute relation of our misfortunes & their causes.” Laurens expected “to return to Philadelphia with Genl Lincoln by water” and “sollicit” his exchange (Laurens Papers description begins Philip M. Hamer et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Laurens. 16 vols. Columbia, S.C., 1968–2003. description ends , 15:299–301). Laurens sailed from Charleston on 12 June with Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln’s staff officers. His parole required him to remain in Pennsylvania until his exchange, which occurred in early November 1780 (see GW to John Laurens, 13 Oct., PHi: Conarroe Collection, and to Samuel Huntington, 7 Nov., DNA:PCC, item 152; see also GW to Nathanael Greene, 8 Nov., NjMoHP: Park Collection). For Ternant’s exchange in early January 1782, see GW to Benjamin Walker, 13 Dec. 1781 (DLC:GW), and to Rochambeau, 14 Jan. 1782 (DLC: Rochambeau Papers).

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