Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, Vol. 2

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Author: John Laurens

U.S. History

From Lieutenant-Colonel John Laurens.

Charleston, 14 March, 1780.

DEAR GENERAL,

The enemy’s present disposition of his force, and all his late operations, indicate a design to attack Charleston by a siege in form. To complete the investiture, he must introduce his ships of war into the harbour. That it is his intention, appears from his fixing buoys on the bar, barricading his ships’ waists, and anchoring them in a station where they may embrace the first favorable spring tides to enter. His transports and store-ships have removed from Edisto up Stono River, where they lie contiguous to Wappoo Cut, which is the water communication from thence to Ashley River. At a point of the mainland, formed by the issuing of the former into the latter, he raised, in the course of a night, the 11th instant, a battery of six embrasures. This situation, naturally advantageous, he will probably render very strong, and establish in it his deposit of military stores and provisions. He then may either force a passage over Ashley River, or turn it by a circuitous march, fortify a camp on the Neck, and open his trenches. The best communication between his magazines and camp will be across Ashley River, from a bluff, marked Bull, in your large map.

Your Excellency will have learnt that the Commodore and all his officers renounce the idea of defending the passage of the bar; they declare it impracticable for the frigates to lie in a proper position for that purpose. The Government has neglected to provide floating batteries, which might have been stationed there; so that it has been agreed, as the next best plan, to form a line of battle, in such a manner as to make a cross-fire with Fort Moultrie; a shoal, called the Middle Grounds, being on the right of the ships, and the fort advanced of the left. As it would be the enemy’s policy, with a leading wind and tide, to pass the fire of the fort, and run aboard of our ships, the Commodore is contriving an obstruction, which he thinks win check their progress, and allow time for the full effect of our fire.

The impracticability of defending the bar, in the first instance, appears to me a great diminution of our means of defence. We must not only have a greater number of shipping below, and consequently withdraw them from flanking the enemy’s approaches on the Neck, but are subject to the chances of a combat, which, in the other case, were out of the question. The Commodore has destroyed one set of the enemy’s buoys, and I hope he will cut away such as may have been since put down, and order the galleys to give all possible annoyance to the enemy’s ships in the act of entering.

The attention of the Engineers has been distracted by different demonstrations on the part of the enemy, and they have not perfected the line across Charleston Neck. Henceforward I hope they will confine themselves solely to completing it, and then proceed to the construction of some interior inclosed works, to prolong the defence.

As the enemy is determined to proceed by regular approaches, all his operations are submitted to calculation, and he can determine, with mathematical precision, that with such and such means, in a given time, he will accomplish his end. Our safety, then, must depend upon the seasonable arrival of such re-enforcements as will oblige him to raise the siege. The Virginia line is much more remote than we could have thought it would have been, at this moment. Your Excellency, in person, might rescue us all. Virginia and North Carolina would follow you. The glory of foiling the enemy in his last great effort, and terminating the war, ought to be reserved for you. Whatever fortune attends us, I shall, to my latest moments, feel that veneration and attachment, which I always had for your Excellency; and I beg leave to continue to subscribe myself,

Your faithful Aid,

JOHN LAURENS.

P. S. I entreat your Excellency’s pardon for trans-miring the annexed letter, in its present imperfect state. It was a sketch, which I intended to have put in better form, if time had permitted.

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Chicago: John Laurens, "From Lieutenant-Colonel John Laurens.," Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, Vol. 2 in Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, ed. Jared Sparks (Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1853), 413–415. Original Sources, accessed January 26, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=94M1B38J9EMBIQB.

MLA: Laurens, John. "From Lieutenant-Colonel John Laurens." Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, Vol. 2, in Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, edited by Jared Sparks, Vol. 2, Freeport, NY, Books for Libraries Press, 1853, pp. 413–415. Original Sources. 26 Jan. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=94M1B38J9EMBIQB.

Harvard: Laurens, J, 'From Lieutenant-Colonel John Laurens.' in Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, Vol. 2. cited in 1853, Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, ed. , Books for Libraries Press, Freeport, NY, pp.413–415. Original Sources, retrieved 26 January 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=94M1B38J9EMBIQB.