Captain James Barton's background and information
The Barton Family
James Edward Barton was born on May 8th, 1782 as the third son to his father, Charles Barton, a retired officer of His Majesty’s Navy, and Adrianna Williams, the eldest daughter of a colonial merchant. The Bartons had originally made their fortune in the Seven Years’ War from prize money earned by James’ father, who’d served as captain of the 6th Rate H.M.S. Hawthorne, a 28-gun frigate of the Coventry class. In addition to a successful career as an independent cruiser, H.M.S. Hawthorne had seen other noteworthy action in the Battle of the Windward Passage in Admiral Holmes’ squadron, and in the Siege of Havana under command of Vice-Admiral Sir George Pocock.
After the war’s end, the Bartons settled in colonial Virginia, and purchased the lands to build an estate and several plantations in the fertile Tidewater area adjacent to the Hampton Roads and Norfolk areas. Partnering with his father-in-law, the family business would soon come to encompass the cultivation of crops such as corn, hemp and tobacco, and their exportation into ports as far as Minorca and the greater Mediterranean. The Barton-Williams partnership would span across years and seas, ferrying all manner of goods with the exception of slaves, due to Williams’ status as a fierce abolitionist.
The outbreak of the American Revolution would find the Bartons siding with the Crown. Recalled into active service once more, Charles Barton was made captain of the ship H.M.S. Gallop, a 22-gun converted trader’s snow. His commission from Lord Dunmore, then the Loyalist governor of Virginia, would see him cruising off of loyalist territories, fighting rebel privateers and escorting supply convoys for General Cornwallis’ troops. Charles conducted a successful series of anti-privateering operations, and was never once defeated or forced to strike his colors.
But in the year of 1776 would spell an end of any hope of keeping Virginia in Loyalist hands. Steady defeats at the hands of the rebels would force Dunmore to retreat and gather in Norfolk, stationing his forces within the Royal Navy ships anchored in the harbor. Colonel Robert Howe, the officer in command of the occupying Whig force, adopted a hard line approach to Dunmore, denying any requests to purchase supplies for the overcrowded ships. On New Year’s Day, Dunmore ordered an attack, cannonading the town as landing parties retrieved provisions and set fire to buildings from where Whig snipers were hiding. However, both Whigs and loyalists failed to take into account advantageous winds, and the waterfront fire quickly spread to the rest of the town. From aboard the Gallop, Charles Barton and his family were helpless to do anything as the fire destroyed the Barton homestead and the Whigs looted what they were unable to carry with them.
The Burning of Norfolk, as it would be later called, forced the Bartons to return to the mother country, carrying only what their ship could hold and a mere fraction of their fortune. In spite of this, the money was enough to purchase a small estate in the countryside of Hampshire. After ensuring that his family had resettled without complaint, Charles returned to active service in 1778, now captain of H.M.S. Osprey, a 6th-rate frigate charged with protection of the English Channel. His return to duty saw the entry of France into the war, and with French ports open to the Continental Navy, English trade found itself imperiled by privateers, most notable among them Samuel Tucker and “the pirate” John Paul Jones.
In spite of a successful career and the capture of several prizes, any hopes of reclaiming their lands in Virginia were dashed with the Battle of the Chesapeake, and the resultant surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1783. Charles Barton was furloughed on half-pay, and eventually retired as a superannuated captain at the war’s end. The losses he suffered, including his home and an eye from shrapnel, left him a bitter man, and the next four years were devoted to restoring their fortune as reputable merchantmen. In 1787, when Lord Dunmore, now governor of the Bahamas, offered land grants to disenfranchised loyalists, James and his elder brothers were quickly dispatched by Charles to open a “Jamaica station” for Barton shipping. The following years would see the construction of plantations, notably sugar and cotton, as well as imported slaves to cultivate them.
James has no memories of America. As a result, he lacks the general bitterness that had taken root in his elder siblings when they were exiled from their home in the colonies. However, his ambition to restore the family name and fortune is no less than his siblings’. Upon their father’s deathbed in 1797, Charles Arthur, Richard and James swore to carry out his dream of returning the Bartons to the prestige they once held.
Mister Midshipman Barton
Record of Achievement
- August 16th 1819 - Promoted to Esquire.
- July 25th 1819 - Joined the St. George Squadron of the White.
Certificates and Letters Patent
- H.M.S. Dragonfly, 5th-rate frigate, 38 guns.
- H.M.S. Boreas, 6th-rate snow, 22 guns.
- H.M.S. Alexandria, 5th rate frigate, 44 guns.
Prior Commissions of Note:
- H.M.S. Orca, 5th-rate frigate, 50 guns.