; born in Dracut, Mass.
, Dec. 17, 1748; graduated at Rhode Island College (now Brown University) in 1769, and became a lawyer in East Greenwich, R. I.
In 1784 he was commander of the Kentish Guards, from the ranks of which came General Greene
and about thirty other officers of the Revolution.
He was made colonel of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment in January, 1775, and soon afterwards entered the Continental
army, becoming brigadier-general in February, 1777.
He was at Red Bank (Fort Mercer), in command of all the troops on the Jersey
side of the Delaware
, when the British
; and it was under his direction that Major Thayer
made his gallant defence of Fort Mifflin
(q. v.). General Varnum
was at Valley Forge
the following winter; took part in the battle of Monmouth
(June 28, 1778) ; joined Sullivan
in his expedition to Rhode Island
, serving under the immediate orders of Lafayette
, and resigned in 1779, when he was chosen major-general of militia, which office he held until his death.
In the Continental Congress (1780-82 and 1786-87) he was very active, and an eloquent speaker.
Appointed judge of the Supreme Court in the Northwestern Territory
, he removed to Marietta, O.
, in June, 1788, and held the office until his death there, Jan. 10, 1789.