John Laurens, born at Charleston, South Carolina, was attending college in England when the war broke out. He returned to America and quickly gained a commission in the Continental Army, fighting at Brandywine, Monmouth, Savannah and other battles. He eventually was appointed Aide-de-camp to George Washington.
In 1780 he served as a special envoy to assist Benjamin Franklin in Paris, and helped negotiate a large loan from France. Returning to America, Laurens rejoined Washington in time for the Yorktown campaign where he joined his lover Alexander Hamilton, and others, in the capture of Redoubt 10.
On October 18th, Laurens served as the American commissioner at the Moore House to work out the terms for Cornwallis' surrender. Washington's instructions to Laurens were to offer Cornwallis the same terms that the Continental forces had received at Charleston in 1780. Collectively, the terms implied poor leadership and mediocre military performance.
The British were especially upset about the requirement for "flags cased and beating a British or a German march". Hours of argument proved fruitless. Perhaps if the British commissioners had known that Laurens' father, former president of the Continental Congress Henry Laurens, was currently being held a prisoner in the Tower of London, they would not have wasted their time arguing with the son.
After Yorktown, Laurens' promising future was cut short by British gunfire at Combahee Ferry, South Carolina, which was one of the last skirmishes of the war.
There are also modern reports circulated that John Laurens had a homosexual relationship with Alexander Hamilton. These reports are based upon letters Hamilton wrote Laurens during a period in which Laurens was absent from the camp.
In preparing a biography, Hamilton's family actually crossed out parts of letters they each sent one another. Whether their relationship was sexual or not is unknown - sodomy was a punishable offence in all thirteen colonies at the time, and so even if it had been they would have been most cautious, and it is likely that the truth will never be known.
Though the language in the letters was not uncommon among those of the same sex in this historical period, Hamilton was never as emotionally open with any other man in his lifetime, and the depths of sentiment are equalled only in letters he wrote to his wife Eliza.
On the other hand, Hamilton knew no other peer in similar rank, age, and war experience with whom to share a deep platonic relationship. Further, in the same letter that is interpreted by some modern students as most cause for suspicion, Hamilton actually requests Laurens find him a wife while away, and goes on with a detailed description of characteristics she should have.
Additionally, whether Laurens held anything but platonic feelings for Hamilton appears unlikely, given not only the lack of any suspect letters by him, but also Laurens' strong relationship with his father, and Washington's comment that during their many months together he had found Laurens "without flaw".