John Laurens, born on October 28, 1754, was a notable military hero, soldier, and statesman during the American Revolutionary War. He became well-known for his condemnation of slavery and attempts to recruit slaves as U.S. troops to fight for their freedom. Laurens worked as George Washington’s assistant during the whole American Revolution, becoming a faithful member of his ‘military family.’ During the war, Laurens advocated enlisting enslaved people from the southern states into National Army battalions and freeing them in return for military duty. Let us learn more and celebrate his special day with us!
John Laurens was born in South Carolina and was a vociferous opponent of the system of slavery during the American Revolution. He proposed to the Continental Congress a scheme to enlist enslaved people to fight against the British. He received his education at home alongside his siblings, Henry Jr., and James, as well as Mary and Martha. When their mom, Eleanor, died, their father sent the boys to school in London and Geneva. Following his father’s suggestion, Laurens finally decided to pursue law.
Laurens’ father used his clout to get his son a job as an aide-de-camp to Gen. George Washington. Tench Tilghman, James McHenry, Robert Harrison, Alexander Hamilton, the Marquis de Lafayette, and John Fitzgerald were among those who worked in Washington’s ‘family’ at different times. One of them, John Laurens of South Carolina, seemed destined for greatness. Laurens was adamantly opposed to slavery, unlike most other men of his social standing and upbringing. Laurens thought enslavement was unethical, although his family had profited from it for decades.
Laurens pleaded with enslavers, including his father, to free their slaves, but his efforts were ridiculed. He eventually proposed to Congress that a black battalion be formed to fight alongside the Continental Army in the fight against the British. He proposed taking these men away from southern plantations by promising them freedom after they finished their military service. Because it was feared that arming enslaved people would lead to an open mob insurgency against white landowners, Congress rejected the proposal. Following the surrender of Charleston, the British captured Laurens and transported him to Philadelphia. In November of that year, he was released as part of a prisoner swap. At Hamilton’s request, when Laurens was no longer a British captive, Congress nominated him as a minister to France.
Laurens sails back to Charleston to fight in the American Revolution for freedom, leaving behind his pregnant wife, Martha Manning, whom he had secretly married in London.
Laurens advocates the South Carolina arm to incorporate a black battalion and promises them independence in exchange for military service once the British shifted their focus to the South.
After Congress approves his proposal, he is assigned to the South Carolina assembly and given the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Laurens maintains his military duty at the same time and refuses Gov. Rutledge's proposal to surrender the city in exchange for the state remaining neutral during the war.
He is swapped and released after being detained when Charleston surrenders and is named special ambassador to France by Congress.
Laurens takes part in the two-month-long light infantry assault on Redoubt # 10, led by Lt. Col. Alexander Hamilton, and negotiates the British retreat on behalf of the French Army, which returns victoriously.
Why We Love John Laurens
He fought his fights regardless
He had been sick before in combat, most likely with malaria, but persisted in fighting with his regiment. He was never one to give up easily.
He was a gallant hero
Furthermore, despite his irresponsible behavior in battle, he established himself as a hero. He was indeed a mighty warrior.
His love for people went beyond hue
He was a black activist who supported black people and fought slavery in a society of whites who opposed the same. His efforts are highly appreciated to this day.
5 Surprising Facts
A reckless combat survivor
Laurens has a record for being aggressive in combat and has survived several battles.
A daughter he never met
He never got to see his daughter, Frances Eleanor, who was born in London after he left for South Carolina.
His efforts are still recognized
Laurens and his father, Henry, are commemorated by counties in South Carolina and Georgia.
He stood out from the crowd
Laurens was a 19th-century black activist in a culture of subjugated black traders and landowners in North America.
His romantic relationship
He was particularly connected to Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette.
John Laurens FAQs
How did John Laurens pass away?
Laurens was slain on August 27, 1782, over a year after the American triumph at Yorktown, which effectively ended the war.
What was Alexander Hamilton's connection with John Laurens?
During their time battling and building America, the two men had a bond that many people today feel was romantic.
How many slaves did Laurens free?
He persuaded Congress to raise a contingent of 3,000 slaves in exchange for their independence.
John Laurens’s birthday dates