With February being Black History Month. I’d thought I’d celebrate by introducing you all to a great American patriot! He isn’t spoken of much in our history books and I think his story needs to be told everywhere! His name is Jack Sisson. There isn’t much on his story or his huge contributions to the American Revolution but, without him, the war may have looked very different.
I can’t do Jack Sisson justice without mentioning his regiment. He was part of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment. The regiment was organized on May 8, 1775, under Colonel James Mitchell Varnum. The regiment was reorganized several times after its initial formation. It also was called a couple of other names besides the 1st Rhode Island Regiment. The name that it was most associated with was the “Black Regiment”. Black Americans, at this time, had been barred from military service in the Continental Army from November 12, 1775, until February 23, 1778. There is a bunch of great information about the process to desegregate the continental army. Unfortunately, this post is not about that part of the history of the United States. This post is to honor an American Hero who is, in my opinion, not talked about enough.
Jack “Prince” Sisson was an African-American slave who gained notoriety during the Revolutionary War when he aided in the capture of British Brigadier General Richard Prescott on July 10th, 1777. There is almost nothing that is known of Sisson’s early life except that he was a slave owned by Thomas Sisson who lived in Tiverton, Rhode Island. We first hear about him in history as someone who volunteered to assist Major William Barton in a daring plot to apprehend British Brigadier General Richard Prescott, who was the Commander of the British forces in Newport, Rhode Island. The reason the Continental Army needed to capture the British General was due to General Charles Lee (second in command of the American Armies) being captured by British dragoons during the night and the army needed to find someone to trade for their captured general. Since the Continental Army did not have a British General to trade at the time, they decided to capture one that was trying to escape the summer heat at a local farm. (The revolutionary war journal link that I have down below can describe the event in wonderful detail for those who are interested in learning more.) This story is a great story of who the volunteers were that went with Major William Barton on this raid and how they formulated the plan. I am going to cut to the part where the raiding party was after the general found out the party was there and locked himself into his room. This is the part that Jack is famous for. He ran into the door the general was staying in, with his head, twice! He broke down the door that the general was hiding behind. I will put the quote here that a newspaper did of the story. “According to the Pennsylvania Evening Post, ‘The colonel went foremost, with a stout, active negro close behind him.” They slipped in through the entranceway and swiftly rounded up the occupants. Bounding the stairs, they found Prescott’s door locked. The Post went on to state that “the negro, with his head, at the second stroke, forced a passage.” Other accounts have Sisson slamming his great bulk against the thick door until the latch shattered. Just like Lee, Prescott was not allowed to dress over his nightshirt for fear of time wasted. Barefoot, both Prescott and his aide-de-camp, Major Barrington, complained their feet were being cut. Supposedly, a large strapping man by the name of John Paul was courteous enough to let the general wear his ‘big, low shoes.’” -Excerpt from the Pennsylvania Evening Post.
Needless to say, this man was willing to do whatever it took to capture this British general. His story is not the only one from the war. He later went on to enlist again a year after the capture of General Prescott. He would enlist in the newly-formed First Rhode Island, made up mostly of freemen and slaves. A decree was made for slaves who would join the Continental Army where freedom was granted upon joining. Jack would go on later to fight well on his turf in the Battle of Rhode Island. He served out his time until the war’s end. There isn’t much else that is told of Jack Sisson what we do know is that he died at age 78 in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Sorry for the long post today! Hope most of you stayed to see the end! There’s a lot more information you can read about Jack and many of his contemporaries. I hope this story has helped to educate you about more of our American heroes!
Hope you all have a great week!
As Always, Be Strong and Courageous