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First Name: William

Last Name: Barton

Birthplace: Warren, RI, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Continental Army (1775 - 1784)

Date of Birth: 26 May 1748

Date of Death: 22 October 1831

Rank: Major General

Years Served:
William Barton

•  Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783)


William Barton
Major General, Continental Army

William Barton was born on 26 May 1748 in Warren, RI.

Growing up in the small town of Warren, RI, he was educated to an average level and worked as a milliner. When the call was sounded for men needed to fight against the British, he left to fight with the local state forces that were called to defend Boston. Barton was in the infantry during the Battle of Bunker (Breed's) Hill.

He stayed in the Rhode Island Militia and advanced well up through the ranks to Lieutenant Colonel. Soon after his last promotion, Barton became infamous for a most daring exploit. After the British occupation of Newport in December of 1776, it became apparent that the English Army was going to try to take either Providence or Boston next. The shortest distance between the Island of Aquidneck (where Newport is located) and mainland Rhode Island is Howland's Ferry, Tiverton. Rhode Island received aid from Massachusetts to fortify a structure to protect the small waterway, which established a strategic defense. After its construction it was named Tiverton Heights Fort, and Barton and his troops were among the first to hold this fort.

In July of 1777, Barton chose thirty-eight elite soldiers, some from the 1st Rhode Island, the all-black regiment which was also under his command, and went on an amazing adventure which produced one of the most daring captures of the war. Barton had learned through his own spies that the Commanding General of the British Newport Garrison, one Major General Richard Prescott, was staying at the Overing house. He and his small troop left Tiverton in four whale boats; evading British ships by using local water routes. The party landed in Portsmouth and followed a brook south to Newport to the Overing House. They overpowered the General's guards, stormed the house, broke down the bedroom door of the cornered Prescott, and took him captive.

For this deed, Congress gave Barton a sword and he was brevetted Colonel. Proud of this capture, it's said that in later battles Barton would draw the splendid sword and intimidate his enemies by announcing that he was "the man who took Prescott." He was wounded and disabled in 1778, eventually retiring at the rank of Major General.

Barton later participated in the Rhode Island convention that would adopt the federal Constitution. The fort in Tiverton from which he executed his amazing deed of valor has since been re-named "Fort Barton." 

Death and Burial

Major General William Barton died on 22 October 1831. He is buried at North Burial Ground in Providence, RI.

Honoree ID: 2221   Created by: MHOH




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