HAMILTON, Alexander. Autograph letter signed ("A. Hamilton") to Lt. Col. John Laurens (1754-1782), Aide de Camp to the Commander in Chief, Morristown, 30 March . 2 pages, folio, mat burn, neat repairs along top edge.
HAMILTON'S SPIES WARN OF BRITISH TROOPS MOVING FROM NEW YORK TO CHARLESTON: "WE ARE VERY WEAK...AND CANNOT CONCENTRATE OUR FORCES"
Hamilton warns his successor as Washington's aide-de-camp, South Carolina's John Laurens, of British troops heading south from New York to join the siege of Charleston in 1780: "The enemy will push the point at every hazard....Our late accounts from New York tell us a further embarkation is going on, no doubt destined your way. It is said to consist of three new levy corps composing a brigade under Lord Rawdon, the Queens Rangers under Simcoe, two British and two German regiments, amounting I suppose in the whole to about three or four, and twenty hundred men. I am inclined to believe these accounts substantially true though not yet entirely authenticated."
Some spy was passing this intelligence to Hamilton, and it was indeed accurate: Francis Rawdon (1754-1826) and John Graves Simcoe (1752-1806) joined General Henry Clinton in the final stages of the Charleston siege. Laurens and the other American defenders were hopelessly outnumbered, and here Hamilton dashes any hopes for sending reinforcements: "The unanimous sentiment is against it. You know my ideas of Southern affairs and that you cannot be more an advocate for throwing all the strength we can to that quarter than I am; but in the present case, I assure you I know not how to advise a detachment. We are very weak and from the embarassments in the Qr. Master's department, for want of money and the early period of the season, we cannot concentrate our force; otherwise I should be of opinion to find you a detachment and collect the remainder at West Point."
Hamilton anticipates the blow that soon would fall at Charleston and he worries his friend might lose his life in a hopeless battle: "Adieu my Dear, I am sure you will exert yourself to save your country; but do not unnecessarily risk one of its most valuable sons. Take as much care of yourself as you ought for the public sake..." And a postscript adds: "All the lads remember to you as a friend & brother, Meade, Jay & God bless you." Laurens was taken prisoner after the British captured the city (and later exchanged). In 1781, Congress sent him to Paris to assist Franklin's efforts to win more money and supplies for the American war effort. But in September, Laurens was back, fighting with the Continentals at Yorktown, and later sat at the negotiating table with Viscount de Noailles and Cornwallis, hammering out the terms of surrender. Ironically, Laurens lost his life fighting in one of the few post-Yorktown actions in the war, the Battle of Combahee Ferry, South Carolina, in August 1782.