|Birth Day:||October 28, 1754|
|Death Date:||Aug 27, 1782 (age 27)|
As per our current Database, John Laurens died on Aug 27, 1782 (age 27).
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He was tutored at home before his mother died. His father then took him to England to finish his education.
John Laurens was born in Charleston, South Carolina on October 28, 1754, to Henry Laurens and Eleanor Ball Laurens, both of whose families were prosperous as planters 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.
In October 1771, Laurens's father moved with his sons to London, 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, 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. 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 and Member of Parliament.
Laurens remained determined to join the Continental Army 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.
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. 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 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. Henry Laurens, finding himself unable to prevent his son from joining the Continental Army, used his influence to obtain a position of honor for his 23-year-old son.
Laurens became close friends with two of his fellow aides-de-camp, Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette. He quickly became known for his reckless courage upon first seeing combat on September 11, 1777, at the Battle of Brandywine during the Philadelphia campaign. Lafayette observed, "It was not his fault that he was not killed or wounded [at Brandywine,] he did everything that was necessary to procure one or t'other." Laurens behaved consistently at the Battle of Germantown, 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.
Laurens's only child, their daughter Frances Eleanor Laurens (1777–1860), was born c. January 1777 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.
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.
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, 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 and General Christopher Gadsden were among the opponents.
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.
On May 3, 1779, Colonel William Moultrie's troops, outnumbered two to one, faced 2,400 British regulars under General Augustine Prévost, who had crossed the Savannah River. 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.
Laurens was taken prisoner by the British in May 1780, after the fall of Charleston. As a prisoner of war, he was shipped to Philadelphia, where he was paroled with the condition that he would not leave Pennsylvania.
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:
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 suffrages 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."
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 friendships 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".
In March 1781, Laurens and Thomas Paine arrived in France to assist Benjamin Franklin, who had been serving as the American minister in Paris since 1777. Together, they met with King Louis XVI, 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.
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 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.
Laurens returned from France in time to see the French fleet arrive and to join Washington in Virginia at the Siege of Yorktown. 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 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.
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.
In October 1782, Alexander Hamilton wrote to General Nathanael Greene of Laurens's death:
In 1834, Hamilton's son and biographer John Church Hamilton named his youngest son Laurens Hamilton, a name that continued to recur over several generations in that branch of the Hamilton family.
The Laurens family sold their plantation in the 19th century, and in 1936 it was purchased by publisher Henry Luce and his wife Clare Boothe Luce. In 1949, the Luces donated a large part of the former plantation, including an extensive landscape garden, to the Trappists 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.
John Laurens was the subject of two short educational films, both released in 1972 by Learning Corporation of America. 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. Michael Douglas played the leading role of Laurens.
Laurens was depicted heroically as a supporting character in the 2015 musical Hamilton. Anthony Ramos originated the role of Laurens in the off-Broadway and Broadway casts, including the 2020 film of the stage production.
Currently, John Laurens is 267 years, 6 months and 22 days old. John Laurens will celebrate 268th birthday on a Friday 28th of October 2022.
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