Hero from American Revolutionary War writes about his life from prison

Date Written

Dec. 9, 1818

Member of Series

William Barton was 70 years old when this was written.
The recipient, Samuel Brown Barrell, was 28 when it was received.

William Barton died 12 years, 10 months, 13 days after writing this.
It was written 204 years, 9 months, 26 days ago.
It was a Wednesday.

{This letter is unusual. It was written on one sheet of paper. The backside appears to be a first draft written on 2 Dec 1818 and designated at the bottom as "note". The front side was written 9 Dec 1818 and addressed to S. B. Barrell. Initially, it was decided only to put the final version in the Archive, but after transcribing each, it was then decided that the sides are sufficiently different that each should be posted. In fact, it arguably reads more coherently if the note of 2 Dec 1818 is read before the finished letter. One should keep in mind that he is writing from prison due to unpaid debt.}

Limits in Danville, December 9, 1818

Dear Sir,

I rote you buy the last male. I have found the nomber that you rote for in yours of the 24 October. I have thought best to send them on in the same imporfeek state of the others in hopes that you may find sum thing that may help the old man. My edears [endeavors] have been from the beginning that when you found A [?] or A word that you did not larn what I ment, you would plase [place] you one, & indeed plase the whole pamphlet in your one way. I presume that you will pubblish what my lawer sent you and your one comment. If you pubblish any of my observations that I have made on the conduct of the courts or Any person I presum you will think best not to give Any names: will you exchuse me if I give you sum more rason for not giveing the history of my life. You will very sildom see the history of Any persons life published in there lifetime. Do you know that there are A great many persons in the United States that believe that mecannicks are not fit for commishen officr [officer]. It is true in times of grate danger, they will aplod [applaud] Hattors, Saylors, barbors, even Indians & Neagors that will perform such an enterprise as the capture [of] Gen’l Prescott And will even bost [boast] & say to Britain can you think to concher America when our Hattors, Taylors & Barbers etc. will perform such an enterprise as was performed by the party under me & all volunteers, but as soon as the war was over Away to your stoops. I knew an officr in Providence, state of Rhodlang [Rhode Island] went in his hattors stoop and worked like a slave & many the night was in such pain he could not have but very littell rest in consiquence of wounds received in fighting the proude Britains. If you wish to know the fight, it was in the town of Bristol. I suppose that there Are many that say that I have had too much all redy. What a hattor who left his stoop wint into the ranks & in less than three years, with out A singell cornation in the Assembly or in Congress was permided. A [?] aught bee content even in prison although even so unjust but I still flatter myself that you will be abell to obtain sum thing hansum. There is one eitem that have not menchened that I have suffered in consequence of the conduct of the courts in the state. I held the office of surveyor for the part of Providence wich was quite a hansum living wich I resined after I was first in prison: but I ought to menchen that that the preseden had the goodness to Apoint my son, John Brown Barton, who had been my depbity. Altho I feel gratfull to the Preseden, I cant help feeling exstreamly hard of the court but I have rote you cagely [occasionally] on that subject in stating to the world my sufferings in my imprisonentt, is not proper that you should know that sins [since] I have been imprisoned in this place, I have lost 2 sons & three grand children. I was prevented from [?] with my Dear wife and the rest of the family. Oh my Dear Sir, if you could only know the one half that I have suffered. You make such an Adress that would that bare down all apprehension in Congress and I cant help thinking that there are many in Boston that as soon as your pamphlet coms to bee pubblished will com forward & declar that the D. officr shall not die in prison, for sum of us momentous. What joy it gave us when genl Prescott was taken prisoner. Now we [s]hall have genl Lee who was at that time was very poplar & genl [Howe] would not exchang him only for an officr of the same rank. I have menchened that was the sole object of the enterprise & shall I not hope that your Address will the draw the attention of thousands that was not born at that time many of whom have recd the account of that enterprise. Will they naut say is it a disgrass to our country that such a man should die in prison of lands decreed to him, it being the furst that even was known in Amarica or perhaps in the known world. Are ther not gentemen in Boston that will wright to the Membar in Congress in my behalf. You now sir, it of grate consignee that my fate should be know[n] this Congress wich has but short seshens may [?] me. I am your most obedent humble servt.

William Barton

To: S. B. Barrell

{Below is the first draft}

Limits in—Danville December 2, 1818

Dear sir,

I rote you by the last mail. I have found the number, that you rote for in your litter of the 24th. I have thought best to inclose them to you. I think it possebell that you may pick out sumthing that after you have employed your masterly pen that may lengthing out this pamphlet to sum advantage, here let me observe that my eidea [idea] has been that from the beginning. When you come to Any world [word] (& I am shure that you must com to A g[r]ate many and in deed where you can to A word that you did not like you would plase [place] your on word & when I have menchen any thing that is too triffind [trifling] that your hand direct out entirely. I hope you have understood me in this matter but if you have not I hope you now will. I consider this matter in the same light as tho I was to employ you too wright my last will, only give you sum of the matearell [material] outlines & lines you to put in proper shape. I have don my best in giving you the outline of the capture [of] gen. Prescott and sum other mattors. It is trew I have given them in A sempell plain way. I could have mad[e] it much large[r] but I have thought for a man if he had the tallans [talents] it not improper for him to try to impress the minds of the pubblick with his on Bravery. I think that it was quite sufishent to say that the party was Vollinteers & that they would not have been hired to have goan on that enterprise for all the money that the state of Rhode Island could have command wich you may depend was the failur. Permight [permit] me to give you sum edias [ideas] in regard [to] giving the history of my life at the present time. You may depend that there a grate many in the United States that thinks that a mecannick is not fight [fit] to be a commis offcr [commissioned officer] and more espeshuly one that had been Neglect in his education. It is trew that at the time of such exstream dange[r]. Hatters, taylor, Barber or even Indians & Nig—s. Oh what fine fellas only this when said they if such men as these can Acomplist [accomplish] such [?] as to surprise A britis[h] genl in his one [own] quarters. Grate Britan will soon despare of konkering Amarica but when the war was over, what was there langwige; away to your stoops, you was made for Mecannick. I knew an officr in Providence Rhod I. that went to his Hattars stoop and worked like a slave and many knight was in such pain that he could sleap but very littell for the whole knight in conciquence of pain in wounds that he received in fighting the British; if you ask where I answer the Town of Bristol. Here let me observe that it will bee in your power to make the pamphlet quite large buy taking what my lawers have wrote & perhaps sum littell caches that I have.

Scans of Letter