One of the most daring raids and missions of the American Revolution was undertaken by Warren, RI native, Lt. Col. William Barton, and 40 men. Being upset and taken back by the British capture of American General Charles Lee, Barton was compelled to do something. The purpose was to set out from Tiverton with a raiding party and land in Portsmouth to capture the British General Richard Prescott, commander of the British forces in Rhode Island.
Intelligence was provided from Paul Coffin and Quacko Honeyman (a former slave who escaped pressed service to General Richard Prescott) who both escaped Aquidneck Island and reported that the General was staying at a house 5 miles North of Newport.
With a plan developed and approved at the Tiverton Heights Fort by second in command Barton, 40 men were approached to volunteer for a important mission without the details being provided. On 5 July 1777, Barton and his men from the Tiverton Heights fort launched from Howland’s Ferry (Stone Bridge Location) in five boats and proceeded to Bristol, RI to prepare for the mission.
The target was guarded by some 5,000 of his men and several naval vessels guarding the approaches. Muffling the sound of their oars with cloth on the night of 9 July, Lt. Col. Barton’s courageous group rowed from Warwick Neck, Rhode Island past British frigates in 5 whaleboats, and landed on the shores of Portsmouth. Marching to the Overing House where General Prescott was staying, they quickly busted down the door and overwhelmed the sentries. General Prescott and his aide-de-camp were captured in their bare feet and nightware and were quickly taken prisoner and shuffled away without normal clothing.
With the alarm raised and patrols in search, Barton and his party rowed away in the early hours of the 10th of July and eventually brought General Prescott to Providence for questioning. In spring 1778, the British agreed to swap General Prescott in exchange for American General Lee.
The fort in Tiverton Heights was later renamed Fort Barton in honor of Lt Col. William Barton for a event that was planned and initiated from Tiverton, RI.