sullivan's island


Today, June 28th, we South Carolinians celebrate Carolina Day, which is to commemorate the victory of the Patriots at the Battle of Sullivan’s Island on this day in 1776. One of the first major victories of the Revolutionary War. Those brave men in that small palmetto tree made fort, and the men on the beaches, fought off the British and won. I am so proud to say my 6th great grandfather, Peter Hubbard, was among the men who fought on the island that day. The fort was later renamed Fort Moultrie after Colonel William Moultrie, who commanded the troops at the fort. Huzzah!!

My Dear Kinloch,

I have just been perusing your last kind Letter, which fortunately for me has no date, (for I should be asham’d to mark the Length of my Silence_) and am very happy to find that you are pursuing a Plan of Study, in which I am engaged as far as my necessary Attention to the particular Laws of one Country will permit_ it is the noblest Employment of the Mind, and what our Country particularly requires of her Sons at this juncture_

I supposed that you have had satisfactory Answers long since, to all those Questions of Intelligence in your Letter_ the last Packet brought over Lady William Campbell and her Family.  She informs us that the Carolinians have given a thorough Repair to Fort Johnston, have erected a New Battery on Sullivans Island, which if you recollect, is opposite, have emptied the Town of all valuable Moveables, and dispersed their Wives and Children as they found it convenient in different Parts of the Country_ that they are determined to make the best Defense in their power, in case any Troops should be sent against them, and that her only Doubts on this head, are whether the Men of Property who seem to be firm and resolute, will be supported by the lower Class_ my Letters, one from Doctor Garden and the other from my Father, are very short_ not a word of Public Intelligence in either_

G. Britain has now collected all the Strength which she can consistently with Policy spare from home, which joined to considerable foreign Aid, she thinks will be sufficient to bring us into Subjection_ whether they will succeed or no depends upon the degrees of Virtue and Unanimity which the Americans are possess’d of_ if they are so great as we are taught to expect, all that the Mother Country can do will prove ineffectual_ the Destruction of the Sea Port Towns, or the greatest Part of them, and the Landing of Troops either under Cover of Men of War, or upon some defenceless shore of so vast a Continent, can scarcely be prevented; Britain may destroy our Riches, but what are these to Americans when set in competition with that Liberty for which they nobly sacrifice their Lives_ the Troops will not dare to penetrate the Country_ of what avail will it be to England that her Troops should here and there have footing upon an uncultivated Coast; cut off from Sustenance and Necessaries of every kind, but such as shall be sent them from home_ that her Ships mann’d and victualled at a vast expence, should now and then seize an American Straggler endeavouring to force a Trade_ is this the End to be answer’d, by such mighty preparations and such an immense addition to the national Debt_ and how long will they be able to continue it?_

the Americans have already Sacrificed their Luxuries, and many of them have gone farther, the longer They live in a frugal temperate manner & the longer they are accustomed to Arms_ the more will they despise Affluence and its Incidents, the more will they prize Liberty and the better able will they be to repulse their Enemies_ I should not be surprized if like Pelasgus and his followers they should retire to barren Rocks, sooner than yield_ and I should glory to be one of their Number_ In Men there must be always powerful Motives to produce great Actions_ if this Struggle continues America will abound with great Characters_ otherwise by our Trade with the Mother Country, consequent Riches and Introduction of her Luxuries, we should soon have advanced from Infancy, to the Corruption of an old and ruin’d State, without ever having had any intermediate Maturity_

You blame your Countrymen in many things, and so must every Man who is not utterly blinded by party_ _ prejudice_ but tell me my Dear Friend whether in a Dispute of this Nature, where the passions have been so much raised, Men can avoid falling into frequent Errors; considering the Provocation, consider the great and glorious Object for which we contend_ and tell me whether Men can be as considerate & moderate as they might be, were the Stake less [torn] By-Standers will undoubtedly see where Passion has taken [torn] of Policy, where the Liberty which is meant to be establsih’d has suffer’d a temporary Infringement_ but this has been invariably the Case in popular Struggles, and Slight Evils must be endured that greater Good may come_ Our Poverty, and Loss of Trade I shall never regret, provided we can establish, either in union with Gr. Britain, or without her, such a form of Government. as will best conduce to the good of the whole_

I think we did not use to agree exactly in our political Sentiments, my Turn was rather more Republican than yours when we used to converse together at Geneve, and unless you have changed, we are still at variance in our Sentiments_ but there is one Thing I am persuaded from your Humanity and Love of Justice you will grant me_ I think we Americans at least in the Southern Colonies, cannot contend with a good Grace, for Liberty, until we shall have enfranchised our Slaves_ how can we whose Jealousy has been alarm’d more at the Name of Oppression sometimes than at the Reality, reconcile to our Spirited Assertions of the Rights of Mankind, the galling abject of Slavery of our Negroes_ I could talk much with you my Dear Friend upon this Subject, and I know your generous Soul would despise and sacrifice Interest to establish the Happiness of so large a Part of the Inhabitants of our Soil_ if as some pretend, but I am persuaded more thro’ interest, than from Conviction, the Culture of the Ground with us cannot be carried on without African slaves, Let us fly it as a hateful Country_ and say ubi Libertas ibi Patria_ You and I may differ my Dear Kinloch in our political Sentiments but I shall always love you from the Knowledge I have of your Heart.  It has not fall’n in my way […] tho’ the Question of Charters you see, is not intirely laid aside_ I wish I could send you a Pamphlet lately publish’d by Doctor Price_ perhaps I may shortly have an Opportunity_ Adieu

J Laurens.


John Laurens to Francis Kinloch, in a letter dated April 12, 1776

Transcription provided by Greg Massey.  The bracketed ellipsis in the last paragraph indicates a part of the letter that survives but was cut off in the transcription I was provided.

Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams regarding the defeat of Washington on Long Island.

I assure you, We are as much at a Loss, about Affairs at New York, as you are. In general, our Generals were out generalled on Long Island, and Sullivan and Stirling with 1000 Men were made Prisoners …

Wherever the Men of War have approached, our Militia have most manfully turned their backs and run away, Officers and Men, like sturdy fellows – and their panicks have sometimes seized the regular Regiments.

You are told that a Regiment of Yorkers behaved ill, and it may be true, but I can tell you that several Regiments of Massachusetts Men have behaved ill, too.

October 8, 1776

John Adams has some wonderfully sarcastic lines in most of his letters and documents. I particularly enjoyed the line “our militia manly turned their backs”, which reminds me a bit of troubadour in Monty Python and the Holy Grail singing “And Sir Robin bravely ran away."