The Papers of Henry Laurens


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Henry Laurens to John Wells, Jr.[1]

Sir.

Be the inclosed Account true or false, I for my own part have no objection to the Publication, since that cannot make it one, nor the other_ nor can I think it anybody will have, since it will be delivered to the World with the Author's Name_ a Whisper that an unfavorable Account was in Town & suppressed_ I should think would have a worse effect on Mens Minds_[3]
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If you publish let me recommend the following Note_

"the Public will make on the foregoing Account these two Remarks_

first that it is the verbal narrative of an Officer who was in opposition to the Americans_ & secondly_ that General Gage who embraced the earliest opportunity of transmitting to the Governor or Commander in chief of this Colony an Account of the affair which happened the 19 April last between Lexinton & Boston_ has transmitted no Account of this Action at Bunker's Hill altho he had so favourable an opportunity as the abovementioned tender_ possibly it might have been determined by His Excellency_ that the Oral testimony of Lieutt. Logies, would be on this[4] occasion the best way of informing the Souththern Colonies
We will not remark, on the probability of General Howe's send for a Reinforcement to pursue a vanquished & flying Enemy_ who were deliberately, "carrying off considerable numbers of Persons killed & wounded in Waggons."_ nor on the humanity of the General Gage who after every effort from Ships, Batteries, by a "dreadful Canonade, Bombardment & bur setting Fire to a whole Town" &ca. &ca_ Politely "determined there had enough of the Blood of British Subjects already been shed"_ but Lieutt. Logies will pardon the writer of this for understanding in the only possible way in which (he thinks) it can be understood_ who were meant by Governor Gage when he said_ "British subjects."_[5]
But be these things as they may, it can remain no longer a doubt that American Subjects (not Rebels, as Governor Gage has distinguished them) in defence of their just Rights & Liberties "Dare face British Troops" since aft their Enemies declare that amidst the dreadful Fire of Cannon, Bombs, Carcasses & Musquetry led on by the Bravest Generals whom Britons boast_ they have Dared, to Kill in one short action_ 1 Colonel_ 2 Majors_ 8 Captains_ 4 Lieutenants_ a return this detail of Officers, which would make no comtemptible appearance in the Return of Killed after an Action in Flanders_
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If the number of Rank & File Killed is allowed to have been in the ordinary proportion Lieutt. Logies must have Committed some error_ perhaps in his hurry_ he may have misplaced the number of Wou Killed for Wounded or possibly he may have omitted a figure of o_ the addition a Cypher at the end of his 140._
I hope Mr Wells will not omit this unless he has good reasons to assign_ Mr Laurens has not overstrained & only means fair play on both sides_[6]
ADraft, Kendall Collection; no address; no date; docketed erroneously in another hand "To Robert Wells".
[1.] John Wells, a lukewarm patriot at best, had succeeded his Loyalist father Robert in publishing the S.C. General Gazette when the latter fled the province in May 1775. The paper continued under the same title until Feb. 28, 1781, when, in the face of the British occupation, young Wells openly shifted his allegiance to the Crown and with his brother William Charles Wells began to print a Royal Gazette. With the British surrender he fled South Carolina, eventually settling in Nassau where he published the Bahamian Gazette. The Papers of Henry Laurens, III, 450n; South Carolina Historical Magazine, V (1904), 75n; Isaiah Thomas, History of American Printing (Albany, N.Y., 1874; reprint, 1970), pp. 577-578.
[2.] This letter has been dated on the basis of internal evidence in Wells's response (see John Wells, Jr., to HL, Aug. 31, 1775). However, it may have been written any time between the publication of Wells's last number of the S.C. General Gazette, Aug. 25, 1775, and the reply.
[3.] An unfavorable account had been in town for almost a month. Vice Admiral Samuel Graves had sent Lt. Gustavus Logie on June 30 with "Dispatches from the Governor [Gage], myself and the other departments of Government" in the sloop Charlotte, "for the different Ports along the Continent as low as Charles Town in South Carolina." The Charlotte arrived at Charleston July 28 and Logie's was among the first reports of the Battle of Bunker Hill to reach the city. Printer Charles Crouch was warned by North Carolina patriots that Logie had already attempted to spread his "extravagant" report of the June 17 engagement when he stopped at Cape Fear. The Cape Fear Mercury, July 14, 1775, printed from Logie's report that 3000 regulars had driven 1500 provincials from their stronghold with 1000 casualties for the Americans and only half that number for the British. Samuel Graves to Philip Stephens, July 16, 1775, Naval Documents (Clark), I, 895; S.C. Country Journal, Aug. 1, 1775.
[4.] "this" written over "that".
[5.] Crosshatch here to indicate the beginning of new paragraph.
[6.] This paragraph was set off to distinguish it from HL's remarks on the account of the Battle of Bunker Hill.