John Laurens to Richard Kidder Meade, October 22, 1781
(A few lines from this letter have come up in some recent posts, and I was able to find the entirety of the letter on microfilm. There were a few words I couldn’t make out with 100% certainty, but the message of the letter remains intact.)
I snatch a moment my dear brother to thank you for your friendly letter which I cannot at present lay my hands upon, but I remember that you speak of retiring from public affairs, a measure which from my knowledge of your value, I can only reconcile myself to on one ground, [illegible] that your example and maxims will always be useful and have their effect altho’ you fill no office. How could I be so unfortunate, as to pass in your neighborhood, without knowing it?_ However anxious I was at that time to join the army, I should undoubtedly have made an effort to embrace my friend, after so long an absence, and to have made an acquaintance with the incomparable female that is become a part of yourself. I sincerely partake your mutual happiness, and I entreat you will speak of me in such terms to Mrs. Meade as will secure me an admission to her friendship_ you know my heart_ I am filled with admiration of her character from what I have heard among those who have the happiness of enjoying her society, and my unbounded and inviolable attachment to you will I am confident give me a title with her._ Our business here, my dear friend, has been happily accomplished, much sooner than we had reason to expect. On the 17th Cornwallis sent a letter to the General, in which he requested that a cessation of hostilities for twenty four hours should take place, that two officers might be appointed to meet the same number from him for the purpose of settling the terms of the surrender of York and Gloucester_ The General in answer, required that he should commit his proposals to writing, previous to the naming Commissioners; that for this purpose, a suspension of hostilities for two hours should be granted. He replied, that the time limited was too short for digesting articles, and in general proposed that his troops should surrender prisoners, with all the honors of war; that the British should have leave to go to England, and the Germans to Germany, on condition of not [illegible] until exchanged, and that some men in civil employments, attached to the army, should have their interests attended to_ The General in his answer declared that he regarded the removal of the Garrisons to Europe as inadmissible; that they must remain in parts of the country best calculated for their subsistence; that the same honours as were granted to the Garrison at Charleston should be allowed to them, and that they should be treated with that benevolence which had always been exercised by Americans to their prisoners_ The appointment of Commissioners succeeded; Colo. Dundas and Major Ross on the part of the British_ Colo. Laurens and Viscount de Noailles on the part of the Allies. On the Nineteenth, the Capitulation was definitively settled and signed_ The substance of it is that the Garrisons of York and Gloucester shall surrender prisoners of war that they shall remain in Pennsilvania, Maryland and Virginia_ that an officer in the [illegible] of one to fifty shall be suffered to reside with them to be witnesses of their treatment besides a field officer from each nation, Hessian [illegible] and British_ that the Genl, Staff and other officers not employed as above shall have their paroles to go to Europe or New York_ that the artillery, public stores, military chests &c, shall be delivered unimpaired_ that the shipping shall be delivered to an officer of the French Navy_ These are the essentials for you. The Garrison consist of between six and seven thousand privates, exclusive of seamen_ upon [illegible] of _ hundred pieces of ordnance, seventy five of which are [illegible], are returned in the two posts_ _ This is an illustrious day my dear friend for our national honor and interests_ You say something of horses_ I am most miserably mounted, because I bought with too unguarded confidence in the appearance of the seller_ his condition however of asking them back at the same price, will relieve me, provided he has the money._ In that case, I am anxious to purchase two military, serviceable horses, that can be recommended at a price, that will not be immoderate. If you can assist me in this, you will render me a real service. Adieu: I embrace you tenderly: my eyes are sore, my body and mind fatigued by an uninterrupted flow of business, but as long as they exist, my friendship for you will burn with that pure flame which is kindled by your virtues_
So I’m up to Monmouth and this book is describing what all the aides are doing and like, Meade is riding ahead to get information on what is going on, Tilghman is getting reinforcements, Hamilton is reforming one of the retreating brigades, Laurens is getting grenades thrown at him and then:
“McHenry, dispatched to look after the safety of the baggage”
I will only add that poor Andre, the British Adjt. General was executed yesterday; nor did it happen, my D'r Sir (though I would not have saved him for the world), without the loss of a tear on my part. You may think this declaration strange, as he was an enemy, until I tell you that he was a rare character. From the time of his capture to his last moment his conduct was such as did honor to the human race. I mean by these words to express all that can be said favorable of man.
From Richard Kidder Meade to Theodorick Bland, 3 October 1780, about the death of John Andre
Now through the camp the morning gun resounds: Now, noisy Gibbs the nightly watch relieves Up, up my sons! Grave Harrison exclaims, ( a learned clerk and not unknown to fame) and forth displays large packets unexplored. Tilghman, accustom’d to the well known voice, Pulls up his stockings smiling and preludes His daily labor with some mirthful stroke But falls, like, down without inflicting pain. Kidder of gentle soul, and courage true, And dearly lov’d by all for worth most rare, Such as in times of yore fill’d Bayard’s breast, Uprose, to plead for others longer sleep. But not might smooth the ancients care-worn brow He restless would pace the hut & still On Ham, and Henry call; congenial pair Who in rough blankets wrapped snor’d loud defiance To packets huge, to morning gun & Gibbs! Fort oft in gamesome mood these twain combin’d To tease Sctarius through him they pris’d Next to the chief who holds the reins of War.
Source: Diary of the year 1778 by James McHenry, but was written in the winter of 1779
Robert Hanson Harrison calling them “my sons” when demanding that they wake up and get their asses moving. Tench Tilghman, always the hard worker and ready to tackle the task at hand, was already getting himself ready for the day, but tripped and fell (he is unharmed). Richard Kidder Meade sitting up and asking that Harrison let young Hamilton and McHenry sleep for a little bit longer because he is the best. Harrison being undeterred and gets referred to as “The ancient” (There it is again! Calling him Ancient!! It was more than just John Laurens!) as he paced and tried to get Alexander Hamilton and McHenry to get up but Hamilton and McHenry are protesting the large packets of new letters Harrison has brought for them, the wake-up guns, Caleb Gibbs back from Night Guard and being noisy, and just not wanting to get up for work in general by wrapping themselves up tighter in their blankets and snoring louder while pretending to still be asleep in teasing protest. The fact that McHenry writes that he and Hamilton often teamed up to do all sorts of similar mischief in order to tease Harrison together.
This brings me joy. Everything about this is 10/10. Anything that gives us a glimpse of life at headquarters for the aides, in general, is a 10/10.
Happy weekend old chaps! I finally found my way out of this writer’s block and wrote a thing for @emmakoneko as a little thanks for following. :) You can thank my youngest sister for this one, as somehow whilst she was getting ready for bed, the subject of Laurens’s art skills came up and we decided that if the aides ever needed to forge a letter for the 18th century equivalent of a prank-call, he would probably be the one to do it. Enjoy!
The lines of the parlor were already beginning to waver by the time Hamilton, between snickers of laughter, called me over to where he was seated on the windowseat, several other aides crowded around him. I picked up my glass and proceeded across the room in a more-or-less straight line. I was sure that everyone felt the same sort of reassuring glow inside of them, a second-hand happiness from Gates’s victory at Saratoga that we were now celebrating. But the group, crowded around some sort of document, seemed to have other topics in mind.
“Laurens, m’dear,” Hamilton threw an arm at my shoulder, missed, and settled for grabbing my sleeve instead. He had clearly had even more to drink than I had. “We’ve a need for your most commendable talents in an endeavor, your assistance, if you will.”
While all the aides seemed to be friendly with each other, there apparently was an intimate inner circle at headquarters composed of Harrison, Tilghman, Hamilton, Laurens, Gibbs, and Meade. Their personal letters to each other are full of affection and good humor.
One of the things I love most about Washington’s military family is that it primarily consisted of a handful of incredibly talented, intelligent young men. That being said, they were all in their early-mid twenties, and if you think that somehow means they weren’t rowdy frat boys, you have another thing coming. Some things I would love to see discussed:
What exactly Tench Tilghman meant when he said all of the aides were really (and this is not an exact quote) “close in their quarters.”
That time a bunch of them bathed in the Raritan. ‘Nuff said.
How many/which of them attended Steuben’s pantsless flaming shots party, and who got their hair set on fire first.
Who made up the most ridiculous stories, especially when it came to their, uh, conquests.
The one who got in trouble for accidentally swearing in front of Washington. Twice.
Nights spent around a fire drinking and swapping dirty jokes.
In regards to the above, the person who thought putting ink in Hamilton’s tea was a good idea and had to deal with both him and Laurens until the stains finally came out of his teeth.
I know there was a war going on, but you can’t tell me those boys weren’t being, well… boys at least sometimes. Most of these aren’t canon. Regardless. Talk about this with me.