Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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BARTON, William, soldier, born in Warren, Bristol County, Rhode Island, 26 May 1748; died in Providence, Rhode Island, 22 October 1831. He received a common-school education, and when the war began was working at his trade, that of a hatter. On hearing of the battle of Bunker Hill, he shouldered a musket and joined the army. In 1777 he conceived the exploit that made him famous, that of capturing the British general, Robert Prescott, who had made himself offensive to the Rhode Island Whig s by his overbearing conduct. On the night of 10 July with thirty-eight men in four whale-boats, Barton crossed Narragansett bay, passed unobserved three British frigates, and, landing about half way between Newport and Bristol ferry, went to the farm-house, represented in the engraving, where Prescott had his headquarters. The guards were surprised, the door of Prescott's room was broken in by a Negro in the party, who used his head as a battering-ram, and the general was hurried away half dressed and taken to Warwick point, and afterward to Washington's headquarters in New Jersey. For this exploit congress gave Barton a sword, and he was brevetted colonel. He was very proud of his deed, and it is said that at the retreat of the British from Warren, in 1778, he called after one of the enemy's officers, challenging him to single combat, and announcing himself as " the man who took Prescott." During this same retreat Barton was wounded and disabled for some time. He was afterward a member of the state convention that adopted the federal constitution. Some time later Barton's right to a piece of land in Vermont was contested, and, as he refused to pay a judgment, he was detained in Danville, Vermont, for fourteen years. Lafayette, on his visit in 1825, paid the claim without Barton's knowledge, and set him free. It is said by some writers that the land in question was granted to Barton by congress: but Mrs. Catharine R. Williams, in her life of Barton ("Biographies of Revolutionary Heroes," Providence, 1839), says that he purchased it.
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