Robert Barnwell

Robert Gibbes Barnwell (December 21, 1761 – October 24, 1814) was a South Carolina slave owner,[1] revolutionary and statesman who was a delegate to the Confederation Congress and a United States Congressman.

Robert Gibbes Barnwell
President of the South Carolina Senate
In office
December 2, 1805 – December 19, 1805
GovernorPaul Hamilton
Preceded byJohn Ward
Succeeded byWilliam Smith
Member of the South Carolina Senate from St. Helena's Parish
In office
November 26, 1804 – December 19, 1805
7th Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives
In office
December 20, 1794 – December 16, 1797
GovernorArnoldus Vanderhorst
Charles Pinckney
Preceded byJacob Read
Succeeded byWilliam Johnson, Jr.
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from St. Helena's Parish
In office
November 24, 1794 – December 19, 1801
In office
January 15, 1790 – December 20, 1791
In office
January 1, 1787 – November 4, 1788
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1791 – March 3, 1793
Preceded byAedanus Burke
Succeeded byJohn Hunter
Delegate to the Congress of the Confederation from South Carolina
In office
November 3, 1788 – March 2, 1789
Personal details
Born(1761-12-21)December 21, 1761
Beaufort, Province of South Carolina, British America
DiedOctober 24, 1814(1814-10-24) (aged 52)
Beaufort, South Carolina, U.S.
Political partyPro-Administration
Military service
AllegianceUnited States United States of America
Branch/serviceSouth Carolina Militia
Years of service1777–1782
RankLieutenant colonel
Battles/warsAmerican Revolutionary War

Barnwell was born in Beaufort in the Province of South Carolina. His education was by a private tutor after he had exhausted the resources of the Beaufort common school. But he interrupted this and entered the revolutionary war at the age of 16 as a private in the militia.[2] In the maneuvering after the Battle of Stono Ferry, his company was camped on Johns Island in late June 1779. A British surprise attack at night cut them up badly in an action known as the Battle of Mathews' Plantation. The sixteen-year-old Barnwell was wounded so badly that they stripped his gear and left him for dead. He was found in the field by a slave and taken to his aunt (Mrs. Sarah Gibbes) on her nearby plantation. She and her daughter nursed him back to health.

Revolutionary WarEdit

He returned to duty, rejoining the militia the next spring as a lieutenant. He was just in time to be included with the prisoners when General Benjamin Lincoln surrendered Charleston on May 12, 1780. He was imprisoned on the transport ship Pack Horse until his exchange in June 1781. He returned to militia service, and by the end of the war had risen to lieutenant colonel.

Political careerEdit

Back home in Beaufort, Barnwell was elected to the South Carolina house of representatives for 1787-1788. He was a delegate representing South Carolina in the Confederation Congress in 1788 and 1789. He was returned to the state house for terms in 1790-1791, and 1794–1801, and in 1795 he served as speaker of that house.[2] In the spring of 1788 Robert was a delegate to South Carolina convention that ratified the United States Constitution. He was elected to one term in the U.S. House (1791–1793) for an at-large seat, but declined to run again. Beginning in 1795 he was the chair of the board of trustees for the new Beaufort College, and held that position for many years. He was elected to the state senate for 1805–1806, and was president of that body in 1805.

He died in Beaufort and is buried there in the churchyard of the St. Helena Episcopal Church. His son, Robert Woodward Barnwell, was a Senator in both the United States Senate and the Confederate Senate.


  1. ^ "Congress slaveowners", The Washington Post, January 19, 2022, retrieved January 24, 2022
  2. ^ a b Lawrence Sanders Rowland; Alexander Moore; George C. Rogers (November 1, 1996). The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina: 1514-1861. Univ of South Carolina Press. pp. 265–. ISBN 978-1-57003-090-1.
  • Marquis Who's Who, Inc. Who Was Who in American History, the Military. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1975. ISBN 0837932017 OCLC 657162692

External linksEdit

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by