In December 1776, the second
in- command of the American Army, General Charles Lee, was taken
prisoner by the British. In order for the Americans to effect his release
through a prisoner exchange, a British general of the same rank was needed. A
bold plan was therefore undertaken by Lt. Col. William Barton. He would slip
past British forces at Newport, Rhode Island, enter the heart of the British
camp, capture British General Richard Prescott in his quarters, and return him
to the American side before the British learned of the raid.
Col. Barton hand-selected about
forty elite soldiers, both black and white. He gathered the group, explained to
them his plan, warned them of the risk, and asked for volunteers. All chose to
be part of the daring operation.
Waiting until the middle of the
night, the group loaded into small boats, and with muffled oars, rowed silently
past General Prescott's
warships and guard boats anchored in the harbor. Landing near the general's
headquarters, the Americans quickly overpowered the guards and surrounded the
house of the sleeping general. They entered his house and, standing outside his
locked door, they had only to break down the door and quickly grab Prescott
before he realized what had occurred.
At that moment, one of the black commandos, Prince Sisson - a powerful man - stepped forward and charged the door, using his own head as a battering ram; on the second try, the locked door gave way and Prince entered the quarters and seized the surprised general. They safely returned with Prescott to the American lines where he was subsequently exchanged for the second-in-command of the American Army, General Charles Lee. The daring act of Sisson is still celebrated to this day.