Henry William Harrington, Revolutionary War political and military leader, was born in London in 1747. He immigrated to Jamaica in the 1770s, but left after a short time for South Carolina, where he settled along the Pee Dee River. At the outbreak of war in 1775, Harrington accepted a captaincy in the South Carolina militia. The following year he married Rosanna Auld, the daughter of a prominent Anson County militia officer. The couple moved to North Carolina, settling in part of Anson that became Richmond County in 1779.
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Harrington was elected colonel of the Richmond County militia in November following their arrival and briefly commanded a militia regiment in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1780 before returning to serve in the General Assembly. In the summer of 1780 he was called upon to accept a temporary position as the brigadier general in command of the Salisbury District militia while Griffith Rutherford was serving in the Camden expedition.
Harrington held the rank for five months, but was chastised numerous times for not effectively maneuvering his forces. South Carolinian Francis Marion wrote that “Harrington has not done any service with the troops he commands.” Amidst arguments between himself, fellow North Carolina and South Carolina militia officers, and General William Smallwood of the Maryland Continental line, Harrington offered his resignation from the army in November 1780.
In January 1781 Harrington returned to the General Assembly. Tory and British raiding parties attacked his home at Hailey’s Ferry, plundering his livestock and seizing his slaves. His wife and baby daughter had fled the home in advance of the raid, but were attacked en route to Maryland. Although Rosanna survived the attack, their daughter Harriet died of complications brought on as a result of the assault.
After the conflict Harrington represented Richmond County in 1783 and again in 1785. In 1784 he was appointed a trustee of Salisbury Academy, and five years later became a trustee of the University of North Carolina, a post he held for six years. He also served as one of the commissioners that approved of placing the state capitol at Raleigh. In the latter 1790s Harrington retired to his plantation. He died on March 31, 1809, and is buried in the family cemetery overlooking the Pee Dee River.
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, III, 43-45—sketch by Henry A. Robertson Jr.
Alexander Gregg, History of Old Cheraws (1867)
Walter Clark, ed., State Records of North Carolina, XIII-XV, XXIV-XXV (1896-1906)
Clark Cox, General Henry William Harrington and the Harrington Cemetery (1979)