Laurens was born in Charleston, South Carolina, on 28 October 1754. He went with his father to England for his education, attending the University of Geneva for two years, and then London's Middle Temple for legal studies. Early in the war, he returned home to America, becoming General George Washington's aide-de-camp in the fall of 1777. Laurens fought at Brandywine and Germantown, wintered at Valley Forge, and was injured in the Monmouth campaign. In 1779 he returned to South Carolina for service in the state legislature. He was captured during the British siege of Charleston and, after his release, went to France in order to assist Benjamin Franklin with the task of raising funds for the Continental Army. Returning to the war a few months later, Laurens fought at Yorktown and was killed on 27 August 1782 at Combahee Ferry in South Carolina.