Brig. General James Mitchell Varnum (Continental Army)

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Brig. General James Mitchell Varnum (Continental Army)'s Geni Profile

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James Mitchell Varnum, (Continental Army)

Also Known As: "(December 17", "1748 – January 9", "1789)"
Birthplace: Dracut, MA, USA
Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of Samuel Varnum and Hannah Varnum
Brother of Mary Varnum; James Varnum; Hannah Varnum; Samuel Varnum, III; Joseph Bradley Varnum, 7th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Senator and 6 others

Occupation: Brigadier General
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Brig. General James Mitchell Varnum (Continental Army)

James Mitchell Varnum (December 17, 1748 – January 9, 1789) was an American legislator, lawyer and a general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.

Early life

James Mitchell Varnum was born in Dracut, Massachusetts. As a young man he matriculated at Harvard College only to transfer to the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (later named Brown University), where he graduated with honors in 1769. In Rhode Island he met his future wife.

Leadership in the American Revolution

Along with Nathanael Greene he served in the Kentish Guards. He served as a brigadier general in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, serving from 1777 until 1779. Varnum advocated allowing African Americans to enlist in the Continental Army, which resulted in the reformation of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment as an all-black unit. Varnum was a disciple of General Charles Lee and a serious critic of the position of Inspector General held in 1778 by Baron Von Steuben. After Varnum resigned his Continental Army commission because of personal business matters, he was appointed major general of Rhode Island militia. He led troops in the service of the United States in July and August, 1780, under the Comte de Rochambeau who commanded allied troops sent by King Louis XVI of France. General Varnum served at the siege of Boston, the battles at Long Island, White Plains, Red Bank, at Valley Forge and the battle of Rhode Island.

He later represented Rhode Island in the Continental Congress (1780–1781 and 1787). After the Revolutionary War, along with General George Washington, Nathanael Greene, Henry Knox, Thomas Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and several others, he became a founding member of the Society of the Cincinnati.

Legal career

Varnum was also well known as a jurist. He successfully represented the defendant in Trevett v. Weeden one of the earliest cases of judicial review. In 1787, Varnum was appointed a justice of the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territory, and moved to Marietta, Ohio, to take up his duties; he was one of the early pioneers to the Northwest Territory. He died less than two years later of consumption, and his marker is located in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Marietta. His college classmate the distinguished physician Solomon Drowne eulogized him at his funeral.

General Varnum's home, the Gen. James Mitchell Varnum House in East Greenwich, Rhode Island is a tourist attraction today. Varnum's brother was Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Joseph Bradley Varnum.

Brigadier General, Continental Army, James Varnum is descended from Mayflower Pilgrim Francis Cooke.

"James Mitchel Varnum was born in Dracut, Massachusetts on December 17, 1748. As a member of the Harvard Class of 1769 he was a prominent agitator in the student disturbances of April 1768 and left the school as a result. He graduated from Rhode Island College in 1769 and became a lawyer. He was early involved in the American Revolution and became a brigadier general in 1777. In 1780 he was appointed a delegate to the Continental Congress, and would continue to be actively in law and civil duties until his death on January 9, 1789."

the above from a collection: ~• manuscript copy of genealogy of James Varnum

• "Varnum advocated allowing African Americans to enlist in the Continental Army, which resulted in the reformation of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment as an all-black unit." <~ wiki.

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Brig. General James Mitchell Varnum (Continental Army)'s Timeline

December 17, 1748
Dracut, MA, USA
January 9, 1789
Age 40