General Sir Banastre Tarleton, 1st Baronet, GCB

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Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton, 1st Baronet, GCB

Birthdate: (78)
Birthplace: Liverpool, England
Death: January 16, 1833 (78)
Leintwardine, Herefordshire, England, United Kingdom
Place of Burial: Leintwardine Church, Herefordshire, England
Immediate Family:

Son of John Tarleton and Jane Tarleton
Husband of Susan Priscilla Tarleton
Father of Banina Georgiana Tartleton
Brother of John Tarleton, MP; Thomas Tarleton; Unknown Tarleton and Clayton Tarleton

Occupation: General; 1st Baronet; MP, British soldier and politician.
Managed by: Erica Howton
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About General Sir Banastre Tarleton, 1st Baronet, GCB

General Sir Banastre Tarleton, 1st Baronet, GCB (21 August 1754 – 16 January 1833) was a British soldier and politician.

Parents: John Tartleton of Liverpool (1718-1773) and Jane Parker, daughter of Banastre Parker, Esq. He was their 3rd son and 5th child. The Tartleton family "was ancient ... seated for many years at Aigburth in Lancashire, and latterly in the town of Liverpool." (obituary, attached as PDF)


  1. 1779 common law liason with Mary Robinson, famed actress and poet
  2. bef.1796 liason with Kolina, last name unknown
  3. on 17 Dec 1798 to Susan Priscilla Bertie, illegitimate daughter of Robert Bertie, 4th Duke of Ancaster.

Children of Banastre Tartleton and Kolina:

  1. Banina Georgiana Tarleton (c. 1797-1818)


Bloody Ban, The Butcher, The Green Dragoon, Butcher of the Carolinas, Bloody Tarleton, Tarleton's Quarter

also said about him

‘ He was a born cavalry leader, with great dash, as such he was unequalled in his time’. -- The Dictionary of National Biography

Among the calamities of war may be jointly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.-- Samuel Johnson; The Idler.

Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton...arrogant, ruthless, and by all reports (including his own) utterly charming." -- Karen Hayden, in an online article Remembering Jack Jouett, Virginia's Paul Revere.

We have said that Cornwallis had subordinates who were foot, and hand, and staff, and sword to him. Tarleton was his hunting leopard, glossy, beautifully mottled, but swift and fell -- when roused by resistance, ferocious. Even this does not give an adequate idea of the velocity of his movements. He was the falcon, which, when unhooded and cast off, darts with arrowy swiftness on its prey. -- Henry S. Randall, in The Life of Thomas Jefferson (1858).

A devil-may-care charmer, the real Ban Tarleton quickly became one of my favorite historical figures, and so he remains. He was a fearless and ferocious cavalry leader, capable of showing his enemies both chivalry and ruthlessness. Away from the battlefield, he was a witty, hyper-sociable little rogue who made friends by the carriageload. (After the war, that list of friends grew to include many of his former enemies such as the Duc de Lauzun, Lafayette, Thaddeus Kosciusko and possibly even Thomas Jefferson.) -- from "Oatmeal for the Foxhounds"

Military Service

A Note from Political Life

Campaigning for office during this time included mobs fighting in the streets, broken windows, and broken bones, which was probably right up Banastre Tarleton's alley. A very funny and slightly sarcastic poem was published in early fall. A local wit decided to write epitaphs for the politically prominent, and Tarleton was not excluded. His "epitaph" read:

Coach-builders, Curricle-builders,

Harness-devisers, and Wheel Patentees Deplore your loss. Your Colonel is no more! Here beneath this rough hewn stone, Called from life without a groan, In piteous case he lies at length! Sunk in all his manly beauty, Perish'd all his Martial Duty, Wither'd all his prosperous Strength.

Colonel T*******

Was one of those unhappy few, in whom the General, the Drummer, and The Suttling Wench had set their Seal, To certify to the World that he Was a Soldier! Yet why? He was sentenced to die, like Sisera, By the hand of a woman, and, in Consequence of that Destiny Expired at midnight of the first of January 1796 In the arms of Mrs. _________, with his Head where his Heels should be.

Tarleton had learned much while campaigning in 1784 and 1788. He took advice from the Duchess of Devonshire, who had scandalized London by publicly campaigning for Fox. She had kissed strange men in public! Ban kissed the girls in the fish market. He "dazzled" honest carpenters and whalers along the Mersey. On June 14th, from his mother's home, he announced his candidacy. The effort to be elected was not without its "Pittfalls." He once took himself off the ballot, only to have a ground-swell of support finally push him over the top. On June 23, after days of mob rule in the streets fighting for the various candidates, Ban beseeched for quiet. His major opposition had withdrawn. He had won the election. In doing so, he became the first Tarleton in Parliament. Having several ancestors Mayor of Liverpool, the family could be considered politically ambitious, which meant his victory was a family triumph.


As a child, Meriwether Lewis (of the Lewis & Clark exploration) absorbed a strong anti-British sentiment. This came naturally to any son of a patriot growing up during the war; it was reinforced by seeing a British raiding party led by Colonel Banastre Tarleton sweep through Albemarle in 1781. President Thomas Jefferson recorded: "He [Tarleton] destroyed all my growing crops of corn and tobacco, he burned all my barns containing the same articles of last year, having first taken what he wanted; he used, as was to be expected, all my stocks of cattle, sheep and hogs for sustenance of his army, and carried off allthe horses capable of service; of those too young for service he cut the throats, and he burned all the fences on the plantation, so as to leave it an absolute waste. He carried off also about 30 slaves." Tarleton also ordered all the county court records burned. This wanton act was roundly and rightly condemned by Reverend Edgar Woods in his 1932 history of Albemarle County: "It is hard to conceive any conduct in an army more outrageous, more opposed to the true spirit of civilization, and with more useless in a military point of view, than the destruction of public archives."

Note: Although his place of burial is identified above as Herefordshire, identifies his final resting place as: Lancaster Cemetery, Lancaster, Lancashire, England.

Brigade Major of Cavalry.1 He fought in the American War of Independence in 1781.1 He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Liverpool in 1790.1 He gained the rank of Major-General in 1794.1 He gained the rank of Lieutenant-General in 1801. He gained the rank of General in 1812. He was created 1st Baronet Tarleton on 6 November 1818. He was invested as a Knight Grand Cross, Order of the Bath (G.C.B.) in 1820.
Sir Banastre Tarleton, 1st Baronet, GCB was a British soldier and politician. Tarleton was eventually ranked as a general years after his service in the colonies during the American Revolutionary War, and afterwards did not lead troops into battle.

Banastre Tarleton was known for his British military service in the American War of Independence, which started when Tarleton was twenty-one. As a military commander he was the subject of a rebel American campaign which claimed that Tarleton's British Legion had massacred surrendering Continental Army troops at the Battle of Waxhaws, South Carolina, in 1780. In the 19th century those killings became known in American history as the "Waxhaws Massacre". In the biography The Green Dragoon: The Lives of Banastre Tarleton and Mary Robinson (1957), by Robert D. Bass, Tarleton is identified as the 'Bloody Ban', the 'Butcher', and 'The Green Dragoon'. In American popular culture those nicknames were the result of Col. Tarleton's reputation for brutality during the War of Independence, whilst the colonial Loyalists and the British hailed and praised Tarleton as an outstanding leader of light cavalry, and as an officer of great tactical prowess and soldierly resolve, especially against superior numbers of enemy.

Tarleton's cavalrymen were called 'Tarleton's Raiders'. His green uniform was the standard uniform of the British Legion, a provincial unit organised in New York, in 1778. After returning to Great Britain in 1781 at the age of 27, Tarleton was elected a Member of Parliament for Liverpool and returned to office in the early 19th century. As such, Tarleton became a prominent Whig politician despite his young man's reputation as a roué. Given the importance of the slave trade to the British shipping industry in Liverpool, Tarleton strongly supported slavery as an economic means.

Banastre Tarleton was the third of seven children born to the merchant John Tarleton, who served as Mayor of Liverpool in 1764 and had extensive trading links with Britain's American colonies. His paternal grandfather Thomas Tarleton had been a shipowner and slave trader.

Banastre's younger brother John entered the family business. He was elected as a Member of Parliament (MP).

Tarleton was educated at the Middle Temple, London and went to University College, Oxford University in 1771, preparing for a career as a lawyer. In 1773 at the age of 19, he inherited £5,000 on his father's death. He squandered almost all of it in less than a year on gambling and women, mostly at the Cocoa Tree club in London. In 1775 he purchased a commission as a cavalry officer (Cornet) in the 1st Dragoon Guards, where he proved to be a gifted horseman and leader of troops. Due to his abilities, he worked his way up through the ranks to Lieutenant Colonel without having to purchase any further commissions.

In December 1775, at the age of 21, the volunteer-soldier Banastre Tarleton sailed from Cork to North America, where the American Revolutionary War had broken out. Tarleton sailed with Lord Cornwallis as part of an expedition to capture the southern city of Charleston, South Carolina. After that expedition failed, at the Battle of Sullivan's Island (28 June 1776), Tarleton joined the main British Army under command of General William Howe, in New York City.

Under the command of Colonel William Harcourt, Tarleton, as a cornet (lieutenant), was part of a scouting party sent to gather intelligence on the movements of General Charles Lee, in New Jersey. On 13 December 1776, Tarleton surrounded a house in Basking Ridge, and forced Gen. Lee, still in dressing gown, to surrender, by threatening to burn down the house; the prisoner of war, General Lee, was taken to New York, and later was used in an exchange of prisoners.

In the course of the colonial war in North America, Cornet Tarleton's campaign service during 1776 earned him promotion to brigade major of cavalry at the end of the year; he was twenty-two years old. Major Tarleton was at the Battle of Brandywine and at other battles in the campaigns of 1777 and 1778. One such battle, in 1778, was an attack upon a communications outpost in Easttown Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, which was guarded by troops commanded by Capt. Henry Lee III, of the Continental Army, who repulsed the British attack, and in which Major Tarleton was wounded.

After becoming commander of the British Legion, a force of American Loyalist cavalry and light infantry, also called Tarleton's Raiders, Tarleton went to South Carolina, at the beginning of 1780. There, Tarleton's Raiders supported Sir Henry Clinton in the siege operations that culminated in the capture of Charleston. The siege and capture of the city were part of the British strategy in the southern military theatre meant to restore royal authority over the southern colonies of British North America.

After Tarleton's first major victory at Monck's Corner, during the Siege of Charleston, a soldier of the British Legion was involved in an attempted sexual assault that entered legend. The attack by one of Tarleton's soldiers against a civilian woman in the area was halted by one of his companions.

On 29 May 1780, Colonel Tarleton, with a force of 149 mounted soldiers, overtook a detachment of 350 to 380 Virginia Continentals, led by Colonel Abraham Buford, who refused to surrender or to stop his march. Only after sustaining many casualties did Buford order the American soldiers to surrender. Nonetheless, Tarleton's forces ignored the white flag and massacred the soldiers of Buford's detachment; 113 American soldiers were killed, 203 were captured, and 150 severely-wounded soldiers. The British army casualties were 5 soldiers killed and 12 soldiers wounded. From the perspective of the British Army, the affair of the massacre is known as the Battle of Waxhaw Creek. In that time, the American rebels used the phrase 'Tarleton's quarter' (a high-rate of casualties) as meaning 'no quarter offered'. In the 19th century, American historians represented Tarleton as a ruthless butcher, whilst the perspective of some contemporary historians has changed in this regard.

An eye-witness, the American field surgeon Robert Brownfield, wrote that Colonel Buford raised the white flag of surrender to the British Legion, "expecting the usual treatment sanctioned by civilized warfare"; yet, while Buford called for quarter, Colonel Tarleton's horse was shot with a musket ball, felling horse and man. On seeing that, the Loyalist cavalrymen believed that the Virginia Continentals had shot their commander — while they asked him for mercy. Enraged, the Loyalist troops attacked the Virginians with an "indiscriminate carnage never surpassed by the most ruthless atrocities of the most barbarous savages"; in the aftermath, the British Legion soldiers killed wounded American soldiers where they lay.

Colonel Tarleton's account, published in 1787, said that his horse had been shot from under him, and that his soldiers, thinking him dead, engaged in "a vindictive asperity not easily restrained". On the other hand, Tarleton advocated repression, and criticized the mildness of Lord Cornwallis's methods, because moderation "did not reconcile enemies, but . . . discourages friends".

Regardless of the extent to which they were true or false, the reports of British atrocities motivated Whig-leaning colonials to support the American Revolution. In the event, on 7 October 1780, at the Battle of Kings Mountain, South Carolina, soldiers of the Continental Army, having heard of the slaughter at Waxhaw Creek, killed surrendering American Loyalists, after a sniper killed their British commanding officer, Maj. Patrick Ferguson.

In South Carolina, Col. Tarleton's British Legion were harried by Francis Marion, 'The Swamp Fox', an American militia commander who practiced guerrilla warfare against the British. Throughout the campaigns, Tarleton was unable to capture him or thwart his operations. Marion's local popularity among anti-British South Carolinians ensured continual aid and comfort for the American cause. In contrast, Colonel Tarleton alienated the colonial citizens with arbitrary confiscations of cattle and food stocks.

Tarleton materially helped Cornwallis to win the Battle of Camden in August 1780. He defeated Thomas Sumter at Fishing Creek, aka "Catawba Fords", but was less successful when he encountered the same general at Blackstock's Farm in November 1780. On 17 January 1781 Tarleton's forces were virtually destroyed by American Brigadier General Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens. Tarleton and about 200 men escaped the battlefield. Retreating from his defeat at the Battle of Cowpens, Tarleton was able to escape capture by forcing a local plantation owner, Adam Goudylock, to serve as a guide.

He was successful in a skirmish at Torrence's Tavern while the British crossed the Catawba River (Cowan's Ford Skirmish 1 February 1781) and took part in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in March 1781. With his men, Tarleton marched with Cornwallis into Virginia. There he carried out a series of small expeditions while in Virginia. Among them was a raid on Charlottesville, where the state government had relocated following the British occupation of the capital at Richmond. He was trying to capture Governor Thomas Jefferson and members of the Virginia legislature. The raid was partially foiled, and Jefferson and all but seven of the legislators escaped over the mountains. Tarleton destroyed arms and munitions and succeeded in dispersing the Assembly. In July 1781 some of his forces allegedly were involved in Francisco's Fight, an alleged skirmish between colonial Peter Francisco and nine of Tarleton's dragoons, which resulted in one dead, eight wounded and Francisco capturing eight horses.

After other missions, Cornwallis instructed Tarleton to hold Gloucester Point, during the Siege of Yorktown. On 4 October 1781, the French Lauzun's Legion and the British cavalry, commanded by Tarleton, skirmished at Gloucester Point. Tarleton was unhorsed, and Lauzun's Legion drove the British within their lines, before being ordered to withdraw by the Marquis de Choisy. The Legion suffered three Hussars killed, and two officers and eleven Hussars wounded. Fifty British were killed or wounded, including Tarleton. The British surrendered Gloucester Point to the French and Americans after the surrender at Yorktown, Virginia in October 1781. After the surrender, the senior British officers were invited to dinner by their American captors—the only one not to get an invitation was Tarleton. He returned to Britain on parole, finished with this war at the age of 27.

Tarleton had lost two fingers from a bullet received in his right hand in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, but "his crippled hand was to prove an electoral asset" back home. The condition of his hand is disguised in the pose of his 1782 portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

After his return to Great Britain, Tarleton wrote a history of his experience in the war in North America, entitled Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Provinces of North America (London, 1781). He portrayed his own actions in the Carolinas favourably and questioned decisions made by Cornwallis. It was criticized by Lieutenant Roderick Mackenzie in his Strictures on Lieutenant-Colonel Tarleton's History (1781) and in the Cornwallis Correspondence.

In 1784, Tarleton stood for election as M.P. for Liverpool, but was narrowly defeated. In 1790 he succeeded Richard Pennant as MP for Liverpool in the Parliament of Great Britain and, with the exception of a single year, was re-elected to the House of Commons until 1812. He was a supporter of Charles James Fox despite their opposing views on the British role in the American War of Independence. Tarleton spoke on military matters and a variety of other subjects.

He is especially noted for supporting the slave trade, which was highly important to the port of Liverpool. Its ships were deeply involved in slave trading. Tarleton was working to preserve the slavery business with his brothers Clayton and Thomas, and he became well known for his taunting and mockery of the abolitionists. He generally voted with the Parliamentary opposition. When the Fox-North Coalition came to power, he supported the government nominally headed by William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland. He was rewarded with the title of Governor of Berwick and Holy Island.

In 1794, Tarleton was promoted to Major-General, in 1801 to Lieutenant-General and in 1812 to General, but he never again led troops into battle. He had hoped to be appointed to command British forces in the Peninsular War, but the position was instead given to Wellington. He held a military command in Ireland and another in England. In 1815, he was made a baronet and in 1820 a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB).

For 15 years, he had a relationship with the actress and writer Mary Robinson (Perdita), whom he initially seduced on a bet. She was an ex-mistress of the future King George IV while he was still Prince of Wales. Tarleton and Robinson had no children; in 1783 Robinson had a miscarriage. She was important to his parliamentary career, writing many of his speeches. His portrait was painted by both Joshua Reynolds, who showed him at battle in the American Revolution, and Thomas Gainsborough.

Tarleton ultimately married Susan Bertie, the young, illegitimate and wealthy daughter of the 4th Duke of Ancaster in 1798. They had no children. Tarleton did however, father an illegitimate daughter in 1797, prior to his marriage. The child was named Banina Georgina (1797–1818), her mother being named simply as Kolina.

Tarleton died in January 1833, at Leintwardine, Herefordshire.

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General Sir Banastre Tarleton, 1st Baronet, GCB's Timeline

August 21, 1754
Liverpool, England
December 19, 1797
Age 43
January 16, 1833
Age 78
Leintwardine, Herefordshire, England, United Kingdom
Leintwardine Church, Herefordshire, England