John Laurens
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John Laurens (October 28, 1754 – August 27, 1782) was an American soldier and statesman from
South Carolina )''Animis opibusque parati'' ( for, , Latin, Prepared in mind and resources, links=no) , anthem = "Carolina (state song), Carolina";"South Carolina On My Mind" , Former = Province of South Carolina , seat = Columbia, South Carolina, Columbia , ...
during the
American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (April 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783), also known as the Revolutionary War or American War of Independence, was a major war of the American Revolution. Widely considered as the war that secured the independence of t ...
, best known for his criticism of slavery and his efforts to help recruit slaves to fight for their freedom as U.S. soldiers. In 1779, Laurens gained approval from the
Continental Congress The Continental Congress was a series of legislature, legislative bodies, with some executive function, for thirteen of British America, Britain's colonies in North America, and the newly declared United States just before, during, and after the ...
for his plan to recruit a brigade of 3,000 slaves by promising them freedom in return for fighting. The plan was defeated by political opposition in South Carolina. Laurens was killed in the Battle of the Combahee River in August 1782.


Early life and education

John Laurens was born in
Charleston, South Carolina Charleston is the largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina, the county seat of Charleston County, South Carolina, Charleston County, and the principal city in the Charleston metropolitan area, South Carolina, Charleston–North Charle ...
, on October 28, 1754, to Henry Laurens and Eleanor Ball Laurens, both of whose families were prosperous as
planters Planters Nut & Chocolate Company is an American snack food company now owned by Hormel, Hormel Foods. Planters is best known for its processed Nut (fruit), nuts and for the Mr. Peanut icon that symbolizes them. Mr. Peanut was created by grade sch ...
cultivating rice. By the 1750s, Henry Laurens and his business partner George Austin had become wealthy as owners of one of the largest slave trading houses in North America. John was the eldest of the five children who survived infancy. John and his two younger brothers, Henry Jr. and James, were tutored at home, but after the death of their mother, their father took them to England for their education. His two sisters, Martha and Mary, remained with an uncle in Charleston. In October 1771, Laurens's father moved with his sons to
London London is the capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kingdom, with a population of just under 9 million. It stands on the River Thames in south-east England at the head of a estuary dow ...
, and Laurens was educated in Europe from the ages of 16 to 22. For two years beginning in June 1772, he and one brother attended school in
Geneva Geneva ( ; french: Genève ) frp, Genèva ; german: link=no, Genf ; it, Ginevra ; rm, Genevra is the List of cities in Switzerland, second-most populous city in Switzerland (after Zürich) and the most populous city of Romandy, the French-speaki ...
, Switzerland, where they lived with a family friend. As a youth, Laurens had expressed considerable interest in science and medicine, but upon returning to London in August 1774, he yielded to his father's wish that he study law. In November 1774, Laurens began his legal studies at the
Middle Temple The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, commonly known simply as Middle Temple, is one of the four Inns of Court exclusively entitled to Call to the bar, call their members to the English Bar as barristers, the others being the Inner Temp ...
. Laurens's father returned to Charleston, leaving Laurens as guardian to his brothers, both enrolled in British schools. On October 26, 1776, Laurens married Martha Manning, the daughter of a mentor and family friend. Laurens's brother-in-law was William Manning, Governor of the
Bank of England The Bank of England is the central bank of the United Kingdom and the model on which most modern central banks have been based. Established in 1694 to act as the Kingdom of England, English Government's banker, and still one of the bankers fo ...
and
Member of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative in parliament of the people who live in their electoral district. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, this term refers only to members of the lower house since upper house members o ...
. Laurens remained determined to join the
Continental Army The Continental Army was the army of the United Colonies (the Thirteen Colonies) in the American Revolution, Revolutionary-era United States. It was formed by the Second Continental Congress after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary Wa ...
and fight for his country, rather than to complete law school in England and raise a family there. He embarked for Charleston in December 1776, leaving his pregnant wife behind in London with her family. In 1780, Laurens was elected a member to the
American Philosophical Society The American Philosophical Society (APS), founded in 1743 in Philadelphia, is a scholarly organization that promotes knowledge in the sciences and humanities through research, professional meetings, publications, library resources, and communi ...
.


Military and diplomatic career


Service as Washington's aide-de-camp

Laurens arrived at Charleston in April 1777. That summer he accompanied his father from Charleston to Philadelphia, where his father was to serve in the
Continental Congress The Continental Congress was a series of legislature, legislative bodies, with some executive function, for thirteen of British America, Britain's colonies in North America, and the newly declared United States just before, during, and after the ...
. Henry Laurens, finding himself unable to prevent his son from joining the
Continental Army The Continental Army was the army of the United Colonies (the Thirteen Colonies) in the American Revolution, Revolutionary-era United States. It was formed by the Second Continental Congress after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary Wa ...
, used his influence to obtain a position of honor for his 23-year-old son. General
George Washington George Washington (February 22, 1732, 1799) was an American military officer, statesman, and Founding Fathers of the United States, Founding Father who served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Appointed by the ...
invited Laurens to join his staff in early August, as a volunteer aide-de-camp. Washington wrote: Laurens became close friends with two of his fellow aides-de-camp,
Alexander Hamilton Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755 or 1757July 12, 1804) was an American military officer, statesman, and Founding Fathers of the United States, Founding Father who served as the first United States secretary of the treasury from 1789 to ...
and the
Marquis de Lafayette Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette (6 September 1757 – 20 May 1834), known in the United States as Lafayette (, ), was a French aristocrat, freemasonry, freemason and military officer who fought in the Ameri ...
. He quickly became known for his reckless courage upon first seeing combat on September 11, 1777, at the
Battle of Brandywine The Battle of Brandywine, also known as the Battle of Brandywine Creek, was fought between the American Continental Army of General George Washington George Washington (February 22, 1732, 1799) was an American military officer, states ...
during the
Philadelphia campaign The Philadelphia campaign (1777–1778) was a Kingdom of Great Britain, British effort in the American Revolutionary War to gain control of Philadelphia, which was then the seat of the Second Continental Congress. British General William How ...
. Lafayette observed, "It was not his fault that he was not killed or wounded t Brandywine,he did everything that was necessary to procure one or t'other." Laurens behaved consistently at the
Battle of Germantown The Battle of Germantown was a major engagement in the Philadelphia campaign of the American Revolutionary War. It was fought on October 4, 1777, at Germantown, Philadelphia, Germantown, Pennsylvania, between the British Army during the American ...
, in which he was wounded on October 4, 1777: Two days after the Battle of Germantown, on October 6, 1777, he was given his official appointment as one of General Washington's aides-de-camp, and was commissioned with the rank of lieutenant colonel. From November 2 to December 11, 1777, Washington and several aides, including Laurens, were quartered at the Emlen House, north of Philadelphia in Camp Hill, which served as Washington's headquarters through the
Battle of White Marsh The Battle of White Marsh or Battle of Edge Hill was a battle of the Philadelphia campaign of the American Revolutionary War fought December 5–8, 1777, in the area surrounding Whitemarsh Township, Pennsylvania. The battle, which took the form ...
. After spending the remainder of the winter of 1777–1778 encamped at
Valley Forge Valley Forge functioned as the third of eight winter encampments for the Continental Army's main body, commanded by General officer, General George Washington, during the American Revolutionary War. In September 1777, Congress fled Philadelphi ...
, Laurens marched to New Jersey with the rest of the Continental Army at the end of June 1778, to face the British at the
Battle of Monmouth The Battle of Monmouth, also known as the Battle of Monmouth Court House, was fought near Monmouth Court House in modern-day Freehold Borough, New Jersey on June 28, 1778, during the American Revolutionary War. It pitted the Continental Army, com ...
. Near the start of battle, Laurens had his horse shot out from under him while he did reconnaissance for Baron von Steuben. On December 23, 1778, Laurens engaged in a duel with General Charles Lee just outside Philadelphia, after Laurens took offense to Lee's slander of Washington's character. Lee was wounded in the side by Laurens's first shot and the affair was ended by the men's seconds, Alexander Hamilton and Evan Edwards, before Laurens or Lee could fire a second shot.


Anti-slavery statements and recruitment of black soldiers

As the British stepped up operations in the South, Laurens promoted the idea of arming slaves and granting them freedom in return for their service. He had written, "We Americans at least in the Southern Colonies, cannot contend with a good Grace, for Liberty, until we shall have enfranchised our Slaves." Laurens was set apart from other leaders in Revolutionary-era South Carolina by his belief that black and white people shared a similar nature and could aspire to freedom in a republican society. In early 1778, Laurens advised his father, who was then the President of the Continental Congress, to use forty slaves he stood to inherit as part of a brigade. Henry Laurens granted the request, but with reservations that caused postponement of the project. Congress approved the concept of a regiment of slaves in March 1779, and sent Laurens south to recruit a regiment of 3,000 black soldiers; however, the plan was opposed, and Laurens was ultimately unsuccessful. Having won election to the
South Carolina House of Representatives The South Carolina House of Representatives is the lower house of the South Carolina General Assembly. It consists of 124 representatives elected to two-year terms at the same time as U.S. congressional elections. Unlike many legislatures, seati ...
, Laurens introduced his black regiment plan in 1779, again in 1780, and a third time in 1782, meeting overwhelming rejection each time. Governor
John Rutledge John Rutledge (September 17, 1739 – June 21, 1800) was an American Founding Fathers of the United States, Founding Father, politician, and jurist who served as one of the original Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, as ...
and General
Christopher Gadsden Christopher Gadsden (February 16, 1724 – August 28, 1805) was an American politician who was the principal leader of the South Carolina Patriot movement during the American Revolution The American Revolution was an ideological and po ...
were among the opponents.


Battles in South Carolina

In 1779, when the British threatened Charleston, Governor Rutledge proposed to surrender the city with the condition that Carolina become neutral in the war. Laurens strongly opposed the idea and fought with Continental forces to repel the British.


Battle of Coosawhatchie

On May 3, 1779, Colonel
William Moultrie William Moultrie (; November 23, 1730 – September 27, 1805) was an American planter and politician who became a general in the American Revolutionary War. As colonel leading a state militia, in 1776 he prevented the British from taking Charles ...
's troops, outnumbered two to one, faced 2,400 British regulars under General Augustine Prévost, who had crossed the
Savannah River The Savannah River is a major river in the southeastern United States, forming most of the border between the U.S. state, states of South Carolina and Georgia (U.S. state), Georgia. Two tributary, tributaries of the Savannah, the Tugaloo Ri ...
. At a point about two miles east of the Coosawhatchie River, Moultrie had left 100 men to guard a river crossing and provide warning when the British arrived. Due to Laurens's connections, his activities could not escape notice; for example, in a May 5 letter to the governor of Virginia, South Carolina's lieutenant governor Thomas Bee added a postscript: "Col. John Laurens received a slight wound in the arm in a skirmish with the enemy's advanced party yesterday, & his horse was shot also – he is in a good way – pray let his father know this."


Battles of Savannah and Charleston

That fall, Laurens commanded an infantry regiment in General
Benjamin Lincoln Benjamin Lincoln (January 24, 1733 (Old Style and New Style dates, O.S. January 13, 1733) – May 9, 1810) was an American army officer. He served as a Major general (United States), major general in the Continental Army during the American Revo ...
's failed assault on
Savannah, Georgia Savannah ( ) is the oldest city in the U.S. state of Georgia (U.S. state), Georgia and is the county seat of Chatham County, Georgia, Chatham County. Established in 1733 on the Savannah River, the city of Savannah became the Kingdom of Great Br ...
.


Prisoner of war

Laurens was taken prisoner by the British in May 1780, after the fall of Charleston. As a
prisoner of war A prisoner of war (POW) is a person who is held Captivity, captive by a belligerent power during or immediately after an armed conflict. The earliest recorded usage of the phrase "prisoner of war" dates back to 1610. Belligerents hold priso ...
, he was shipped to Philadelphia, where he was paroled with the condition that he would not leave
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania (; (Pennsylvania Dutch language, Pennsylvania Dutch: )), officially the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a U.S. state, state spanning the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic, Northeastern United States, Northeastern, Appa ...
. In Philadelphia, Laurens was able to visit his father, who would soon take ship for the Netherlands as American ambassador, in search of loans. During the voyage to his post, Henry Laurens's ship was seized by the British, resulting in the elder Laurens' imprisonment in the
Tower of London The Tower of London, officially His Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, which is separa ...
. Determined to return to South Carolina, and in the expectation of being freed by a prisoner exchange in November 1780, Laurens wrote to George Washington and requested a leave of absence from his service as aide-de-camp: Washington responded, "The motives which led you to the Southward are too laudable and too important not to meet my approbation."


Diplomatic mission to France

Upon his release, Laurens was unwillingly appointed by Congress in December 1780 as a special minister to France. Preferring to return to the South, he had originally refused the post and proposed Alexander Hamilton as the better candidate. Laurens was ultimately persuaded by both Hamilton and Congress to accept the post. He wrote again to advise Washington that "unfortunately for America, Col. Hamilton was not sufficiently known to Congress to unite their
suffrage Suffrage, political franchise, or simply franchise, is the right to vote in representative democracy, public, political elections and referendums (although the term is sometimes used for any right to vote). In some languages, and occasionally i ...
s in his favor and I was assured there remained no other alternative to my acceptance than the total failure of the business. Thus circumstanced I was reduced to submit—and renounce my plan of participating in the southern campaign." In March 1781, Laurens and
Thomas Paine Thomas Paine (born Thomas Pain; – In the contemporary record as noted by Conway, Paine's birth date is given as January 29, 1736–37. Common practice was to use a dash or a slash to separate the old-style year from the new-style year. In th ...
arrived in France to assist
Benjamin Franklin Benjamin Franklin ( April 17, 1790) was an American polymath who was active as a writer, scientist, Invention, inventor, Statesman (politician), statesman, diplomat, printer (publishing), printer, publisher, and Political philosophy, politi ...
, who had been serving as the American minister in Paris since 1777. Together, they met with
King Louis XVI Louis XVI (''Louis-Auguste''; ; 23 August 175421 January 1793) was the last King of France before the fall of the monarchy during the French Revolution. He was referred to as ''Citizen Louis Capet'' during the four months just before Execution ...
, among others. Laurens gained French assurances that French ships would support American operations that year; the promised naval support was later to prove invaluable at the
Siege of Yorktown The Siege of Yorktown, also known as the Battle of Yorktown, the surrender at Yorktown, or the German battle (from the presence of Germans in all three armies), beginning on September 28, 1781, and ending on October 19, 1781, at Yorktown, Virgi ...
. Laurens was also reported to have told the French that without aid for the Revolution, the Americans might be forced by the British to fight against France. When Laurens and Paine returned to America in August 1781, they brought 2.5 million
livres The (; ; abbreviation: ₶.) was one of numerous currencies used in France in the Middle Ages, medieval France, and a unit of account (i.e., a monetary unit used in accounting) used in Early Modern France. The 1262 monetary reform establishe ...
in silver, the first part of a French gift of 6 million and a loan of 10 million. Laurens also was able to arrange a loan and supplies from the Dutch, before returning home. His father Henry Laurens, the American ambassador to the Netherlands who had been captured by the British, was exchanged for General Cornwallis in late 1781, and the senior Laurens had proceeded to the Netherlands to continue loan negotiations.


British surrender at Yorktown

Laurens returned from France in time to see the French fleet arrive and to join Washington in Virginia at the
Siege of Yorktown The Siege of Yorktown, also known as the Battle of Yorktown, the surrender at Yorktown, or the German battle (from the presence of Germans in all three armies), beginning on September 28, 1781, and ending on October 19, 1781, at Yorktown, Virgi ...
. He was given command of a battalion of light infantry on October 1, 1781, when its commander was killed. Laurens, under the command of Colonel Alexander Hamilton, led the battalion in the storming of
Redoubt A redoubt (historically redout) is a Fortification, fort or fort system usually consisting of an enclosed defensive emplacement outside a larger fort, usually relying on Earthworks (engineering), earthworks, although some are constructed of ston ...
No. 10. British troops surrendered on October 17, 1781, and Washington appointed Laurens as the American commissioner for drafting formal terms of the British surrender. Louis-Marie, Vicomte de Noailles, a relative of Lafayette's wife, was chosen by Rochambeau to represent the interests of France. At Moore House on October 18, 1781, Laurens and the French commissioner negotiated terms with two British representatives, and the articles of capitulation were signed by General Cornwallis the following day.


Return to Charleston

Laurens returned to South Carolina, where he continued to serve in the Continental Army under General
Nathanael Greene Nathanael Greene (June 19, 1786, sometimes misspelled Nathaniel) was a major general of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. He emerged from the war with a reputation as General George Washington's most talented and dependabl ...
until his death. As head of Greene's "intelligence department", stationed on the outskirts of the city near Wappoo Creek, Laurens created and operated a network of spies who tracked British operations in and around Charleston, and was given responsibility for guarding Greene's lines of secret communication with the British-occupied city.


Death at Combahee River

On August 27, 1782, at the age of 27, Laurens was shot from his saddle during the Battle of the Combahee River, as one of the last casualties of the Revolutionary War. Laurens died in what General Greene described sadly as "a paltry little skirmish" with a foraging party, only a few weeks before the British finally withdrew from Charleston. Laurens had been confined to bed at Wappoo Creek with a raging fever for several days, possibly due to malaria. When he learned that the British were sending a large force out of Charleston to gather supplies, he left his sickbed, "wrote a hurried note to Gen. Greene, and, in disregard of his orders and the important duties with which he had been charged – a practice which the loose discipline of the American forces rendered not unusual – put off for the scene of action." On August 26, Laurens reported to General Mordecai Gist near the
Combahee River The Combahee River ( ) is a short blackwater river A blackwater river is a type of River#Classification, river with a slow-moving channel flowing through forested swamps or wetlands. As vegetation decays, tannins leach into the water, makin ...
. Gist had learned that 300 British troops under Major William Brereton had already captured a ferry and crossed the river, in search of rice to feed their garrison. Gist sent a detachment with orders to attack the British before sunrise the next morning. Laurens was given orders, at his own request, to take a small force further downriver to man a
redoubt A redoubt (historically redout) is a Fortification, fort or fort system usually consisting of an enclosed defensive emplacement outside a larger fort, usually relying on Earthworks (engineering), earthworks, although some are constructed of ston ...
at Chehaw Point, where they could fire on the British as they retreated. Laurens and his troops stopped for the night at a plantation house near the Combahee River. Laurens got little or no sleep, instead "spending the evening in a delightful company of ladies... ndturned from this happy scene only two hours before he was to march down the river". With his command, Laurens left the plantation at about 3 o'clock on the morning of August 27. Leading a force of fifty Delaware infantrymen, and an artillery captain with a howitzer, Laurens rode toward Chehaw Point. However, the British had anticipated their maneuvers; before Laurens could reach the redoubt, 140 British soldiers had prepared an ambush along the road, concealed in tall grass about one mile from his destination. When the enemy rose to fire, Laurens ordered an immediate charge, despite the British having superior numbers and the stronger position. Gist was only two miles away, and quickly approaching with reinforcements. According to William McKennan, a captain under Laurens's command, Laurens appeared "anxious to attack the enemy previous to the main body coming up," gambling that his troops, "although few in numbers, ould besufficient to enable him to gain a laurel for his brow" before the end of the fighting. McKennan's opinion was that Laurens "wanted to do all himself, and have all the honor." As Laurens led the charge, the British immediately opened fire, and Laurens fell from his horse fatally wounded. Gist's larger force arrived in time to cover a retreat, but was unable to prevent costly losses, including three American dead. After Laurens's death, Colonel Tadeusz Kościuszko, who had been a friend of Laurens, came from North Carolina to take his place in the final weeks of battle near Charleston, also taking over Laurens's intelligence network in the area. Laurens was buried near the site of the battle, at William Stock's plantation where he had spent the evening before his death. After Henry Laurens returned from imprisonment in London, he had his son's remains moved and reinterred on his own property, the Mepkin Plantation. The Laurens family sold their plantation in the 19th century, and in 1936 it was purchased by publisher
Henry Luce Henry Robinson Luce (April 3, 1898 – February 28, 1967) was an American magazine magnate who founded '' Time'', '' Life'', '' Fortune'', and '' Sports Illustrated'' magazine. He has been called "the most influential private citizen in the Amer ...
and his wife
Clare Boothe Luce Clare Boothe Luce ( Ann Clare Boothe; March 10, 1903 – October 9, 1987) was an American writer, politician, U.S. ambassador, and public conservative figure. A versatile author, she is best known for her 1936 hit play ''The Women (play), The ...
. In 1949, the Luces donated a large part of the former plantation, including an extensive landscape garden, to the
Trappists The Trappists, officially known as the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance ( la, Ordo Cisterciensis Strictioris Observantiae, abbreviated as OCSO) and originally named the Order of Reformed Cistercians of Our Lady of La Trappe, are a ...
for use as a monastery. As Mepkin Abbey and the Mepkin Abbey Botanical Garden, located near Moncks Corner, South Carolina, the site is open to the public, including the Laurens family graveyard on the monastery grounds.


Personal life


Marriage and children

On October 26, 1776, Laurens married Martha Manning in London. Her father, one of Henry Laurens's business agents, was a mentor and family friend whose home Laurens had frequently visited during his years in London. Laurens wrote to an uncle, "Pity has obliged me to marry", an unplanned marriage being necessary to preserve his honor, the reputation of the six-month pregnant Martha, and the legitimacy of their child. Laurens and his new wife moved from London to a home in Chelsea, but Laurens was zealous in his patriotism and unwilling to remain in England, believing that honor and duty required him to fight in the
American Revolution The American Revolution was an ideological and political revolution that occurred in British America between 1765 and 1791. The Americans in the Thirteen Colonies formed independent states that defeated the British in the American Revolut ...
. In December 1776, he sailed for Charleston. His pregnant wife, unable to risk a months-long journey by sea during wartime, stayed behind with her family in London. Laurens's only child, their daughter Frances Eleanor Laurens (1777–1860), was born and baptized on February 18, 1777. Laurens' father-in-law wrote to him that the infant had "undergone much pain, & misery by a swelling in her hip, & thigh, I believe from a hurt by the carelessness of the nurse". Fanny was not expected to live, but by July 1777, she had recovered from a successful surgery to her hip. At the age of eight, after the loss of both parents, Fanny was brought to Charleston in May 1785, and was raised there by John Laurens's sister Martha Laurens Ramsay and her husband. Against the wishes of the Ramsays, Fanny eloped in 1795 with Francis Henderson, a Scottish merchant. Later in life, she was married to James Cunnington, and died in South Carolina at the age of 83. Laurens had one grandson, Francis Henderson Jr. (1797–1847), a South Carolina lawyer who died young after struggling with alcoholism, and who did not marry or have children.


Sexuality and relationship with Alexander Hamilton

As a young man in Geneva, from ages 16 to 19, Laurens "never had difficulty attracting women and men", while reserving "his primary emotional commitments for other men." According to Laurens's biographer Gregory D. Massey, this period "marked the beginning of a pattern; he continually centered his life around homosocial attachments to other men."
Homosociality In sociology, homosociality means same-sex relationships that are not of a Romance (love), romantic or sexual nature, such as friendship, mentorship, or others. Researchers who use the concept mainly do so to explain how man, men uphold men's do ...
, in
sociology Sociology is a social science that focuses on society, human social behavior, patterns of Interpersonal ties, social relationships, social interaction, and aspects of culture associated with everyday life. It uses various methods of Empirical ...
, refers to
same-sex relationship A same-sex relationship is a Romance (love), romantic or Human sexuality, sexual relationship between people of the same sex. ''Same-sex marriage'' refers to the institutionalized recognition of such relationships in the form of a marriage; civil ...
s that are not of a romantic or sexual nature, such as
friendship Friendship is a Interpersonal relationship, relationship of mutual affection between people. It is a stronger form of interpersonal bond than an "acquaintance" or an "association", such as a classmate, neighbor, coworker, or colleague. In so ...
,
mentorship Mentorship is the influence, guidance, or direction given by a mentor. A mentor is someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person. In an organizational setting, a mentor influences the personal and p ...
, and male bonding. Shortly after his marriage, while in Washington's camp, Laurens met and became extremely close friends with Alexander Hamilton. They exchanged many letters during the several years when different assignments and Laurens's capture by the British kept them apart; for example, when the terms of Laurens's parole prevented him from being present at Hamilton's wedding to Elizabeth Schuyler in December 1780, even though Hamilton had invited him. While emotional language was not uncommon in
romantic friendship A romantic friendship, passionate friendship, or affectionate friendship is a very close but typically non-Human sexuality, sexual Interpersonal relationship, relationship between friends, often involving a degree of physical closeness beyond ...
s among those of the same gender in this historical period, Hamilton biographer James Thomas Flexner stated that the intensely expressive language contained in the Hamilton-Laurens letters "raises questions concerning homosexuality" that "cannot be categorically answered". Stating that "one must tread gingerly in approaching this matter," Hamilton biographer
Ron Chernow Ronald Chernow (; born March 3, 1949) is an American writer, journalist and biographer. He has written bestselling historical non-fiction biographies. He won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Biography and the 2011 American History Book Prize for h ...
wrote that it is impossible to say "with any certainty" that Laurens and Hamilton were lovers, noting that such an affair would have required the exercise of "extraordinary precautions" because sodomy was a capital offense throughout the colonies at the time. Chernow concluded that based on available evidence, "At the very least, we can say that Hamilton developed something like an adolescent crush on his friend." According to Chernow, "Hamilton did not form friendships easily and never again revealed his interior life to another man as he had to Laurens", and after Laurens's death, "Hamilton shut off some compartment of his emotions and never reopened it." In contrast to Hamilton's effusive letters, surviving letters from Laurens to Hamilton were notably less frequent and less passionately worded, although some letters written by Laurens have been lost or may have been destroyed. Massey has dismissed speculations on John Laurens's supposed homosexuality and on a Laurens-Hamilton relationship as unsubstantiated, concluding, "Their relationship was platonic, a bond formed by their devotion to the Revolution and mutual ambition for fame." Years later, Massey regretted that the tone of his assertion had been decisive rather than equivocal, conceding that the matter "can not be definitively resolved."


Legacy


In popular culture

John Laurens was the subject of two short
educational film An educational film is a film A film also called a movie, motion picture, moving picture, picture, photoplay or (slang) flick is a work of visual art that simulates experiences and otherwise communicates ideas, stories, perceptions, ...
s, both released in 1972 by Learning Corporation of America.Learning Corporation of America, ''The Shaping of the American Nation'' (18 videocassettes). Worldcat information sourced from Library of Congress Authorities data, . Retrieved October 5, 2020. Based on Laurens' correspondence with his father, the first film dramatized the young man's decision to leave England, and the second outlined his battles in the Continental Army and his death.''American Heritage: The Cause of Liberty''
(video);
Michael Douglas Michael Kirk Douglas (born September 25, 1944) is an American actor and film producer. He has received numerous accolades, including two Academy Awards, five Golden Globe Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, the Cecil B. DeMille Award, and th ...
played the leading role of Laurens. Laurens was featured in an episode of the 1984 ''George Washington'' miniseries, portrayed by
Kevin Conroy Kevin Conroy (November 30, 1955 – November 10, 2022) was an American actor. He appeared in a variety of stage performances, television series, and television films, but earned worldwide fame for his voice portrayal of the DC Comics DC Co ...
. Laurens was depicted heroically as a supporting character in the 2015 musical ''Hamilton''. Anthony Ramos originated the role of Laurens in the
off-Broadway An off-Broadway theatre is any professional theatre venue in New York City with a seating capacity between 100 and 499, inclusive. These theatres are smaller than Broadway theatres, but larger than off-off-Broadway theatres, which seat fewer tha ...
and Broadway casts, including the 2020 film of the stage production.


Historical tributes

In October 1782, Alexander Hamilton wrote to General
Nathanael Greene Nathanael Greene (June 19, 1786, sometimes misspelled Nathaniel) was a major general of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. He emerged from the war with a reputation as General George Washington's most talented and dependabl ...
of Laurens's death: In 1834, Hamilton's son and biographer
John Church Hamilton John Church Hamilton (August 22, 1792 − July 25, 1882) was a historian, biographer, and lawyer. He was a son of Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Early life Hamilton was born on August 22, 1792, in Philadel ...
named his youngest son Laurens Hamilton, a name that continued to recur over several generations in that branch of the
Hamilton family The Hamiltons of the United States are a family of Scottish national identity, Scottish origin, whose most prominent member was Alexander Hamilton (1755/57–1804), one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Their ancestors and relations i ...
. Nathanael Greene, in general orders announcing the death of Laurens, wrote "The army has lost a brave officer and the public a worthy citizen." Three years after Laurens's death, George Washington responded to a question about Laurens's character by stating that "no man possessed more of the ''amor patria'' ove of country In a word, he had not a fault, that I ever could discover, unless intrepidity bordering upon rashness could come under that denomination; and to this he was excited by the purest motives." According to Gregory D. Massey, a history professor at Freed–Hardeman University and author of a Laurens biography:


Geographical names

*
Laurens County, Georgia Laurens County is a County (United States), county located in the Central Georgia, central part of the U.S. state of Georgia (U.S. state), Georgia. As of the 2020 United States Census, 2020 census, the population was 49,570, up from 48,434 in 20 ...
, was named in honor of John Laurens. * The city of
Laurens, South Carolina Laurens is a city in Laurens County, South Carolina )''Animis opibusque parati'' ( for, , Latin, Prepared in mind and resources, links=no) , anthem = "Carolina (state song), Carolina";"South Carolina On My Mind" , Former = Province of South ...
, and Laurens County, South Carolina, were named for both Laurens and his father Henry Laurens.


References


Further reading

; Laurens and the Revolutionary War * * * ; Battle of Coosawatchie * *


External links


''Your Dutiful Son, John Laurens''
(excerpts from Laurens' correspondence with his father)
National Archives: ''Founders Online''
(correspondence of Laurens and Hamilton) {{DEFAULTSORT:Laurens, John 1754 births 1782 deaths Military personnel from Charleston, South Carolina American Revolutionary War prisoners of war held by Great Britain Continental Army staff officers Huguenot participants in the American Revolution United States military personnel killed in the American Revolutionary War People of South Carolina in the American Revolution Aides-de-camp of George Washington 18th-century Anglicans American duellists