Creating a Local Notable: Brigadier General Anthony Walton White of New Brunswick


  • Chris Rasmussen



To the extent he is remembered today, Brigadier General Anthony Walton White is hailed as one of New Brunswick, New Jersey’s, most illustrious residents and a reminder of the city’s significance during the American Revolution. This account of White’s career reveals that he was far from successful in the military or in business. Born to wealth on an estate along the Raritan River, White relied on family ties and political connections to gain appointments in the military and government throughout his life. He forswore allegiance to Great Britain in 1775 and sought a position on Gen. George Washington’s staff. Washington interviewed White but was unimpressed and declined to appoint him to his staff. White became a cavalry officer and served throughout the Revolutionary War, but his military record was hardly unblemished, and he faced several inquiries into his conduct and courts-martial proceedings. In the 1790s he served in the suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion and in 1798 was promoted to the rank of brigadier general during the quasi-war against France. George Washington reckoned him one of the least capable and most insufferable officers in the US Army. White fared no better in civilian life or business. After the revolution, he lost his sizeable inheritance in a series of bad investments. He also squandered the wealth inherited by his young bride, a girl he met during his service in South Carolina. White filed for bankruptcy in 1802 and died the following year. White was not a villain, but neither was he a hero. His life, like history generally, offers a complicated and cautionary tale.

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