Image courtesy of Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

New Book Alert: "Kidnapping the Enemy: The Special Operations to Capture Generals Charles Lee & Richard Prescott"

Glenn Williams forwarded the following announcement:

Christian McBurney is excited to announce that his new book, Kidnapping the Enemy: The Special Operations to Capture Generals Charles Lee & Richard Prescott (Westholme), has been released and is now available on Here is a summary of the book:

On the night of December 12, 1776, while on a reconnaissance mission in New Jersey, Lieutenant Colonel William Harcourt and Cornet Banastre Tarleton of the British 16th Light Dragoons learned from Loyalist informers that Major General Charles Lee, the second-in-command in the Continental army behind only George Washington, was staying at a tavern at nearby Basking Ridge. Gaining valuable information as they rode, by threatening captured American soldiers with death if Lee'
s whereabouts was not revealed, Harcourt and Tarleton surrounded the tavern, and after a short but violent struggle, captured him. The dragoons returned through a hostile country by a different route, arriving safely at their British post at Pennington with their quarry in hand. With Lee’'s capture, the British were confident the rebellion would soon be over. But in fact, Lee’'s capture made the great American victory at Trenton possible.

Stung by Lee
’'s kidnapping, the Americans decided to respond with their own special operation. On the dark night of July 10, 1777, Lieutenant Colonel William Barton led a handpicked party in whaleboats across Narragansett Bay, carefully avoiding British navy ships,to an isolated beach north of Newport, Rhode Island. Although the town was occupied by more than 3,000 enemy soldiers, after landing Barton led his men up a hidden path and stealthily hurried to a farmhouse where General Richard Prescott had taken to spending nights. Surrounding the house, they forced open the doors and seized the sleeping Prescott, as well as his aide-de- camp and a sentry, and then quickly returned to their waiting boats. Despite British artillerymen firing rockets and cannon to alert the British vessels in the bay, the bold band of Americans reached the mainland safely. Not only had Barton kidnapped a British major general who could be exchanged for Lee, he had removed from action a man who had gained a reputation for his harsh treatment of American Patriots. Barton’'s raid was perhaps the outstanding special operation of the Revolutionary War, and still ranks as one of the greatest in American military history.

The book also addresses other related matters, including the evolution of British treatment of American captive officers. The British evolved from at first threatening to hang them as criminal
rebels to eventually treating them with the same respect Americans treated British captive officers. At the time of his capture, General Lee thought he could supplant Washington as commander-in-chief. William Barton, after the war, spent thirteen years in debtors' prison; did the pride he earned from his outstanding mission lead to his ignoble period in his life?

Britons prominent in the book include William Harcourt, Banastre Tarleton, Archibald Campbell, William Howe, George Germain, and King George III. Americans prominent in the book include Charles Lee, Ethan Allen, John Sullivan, Richard Henry Lee, and George Washington. William Barton is not well known, but he should be.

In order to:

obtain more information on the book
keep informed of future book lectures (I plan to do several in Rhode Island in March and April (and others later in the Washington, D.C., NYC and Philadelphia areas)
learn where to purchase the book at independent bookstores in Rhode Island and New Jersey (see Book Availability)
learn about my prior book, The Rhode Island Campaign: The First French and American Special Operation of the Revolutionary War (Westholme, 2011)

please see my book website:

Here is the link to the publisher
s website for the book:

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