Soldier, legislator. Bratton was born in county Antrim, Northern Ireland, and immigrated with his family to America not long afterward. Family traditions recorded in the nineteenth century stated that Bratton lived in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina before moving to South Carolina in the 1760s. Beginning in 1765, an extended family of Brattons—including John, Robert, Thomas, Hugh, and William Bratton— moved into the area of present-day York County as part of a larger migration of Scots-Irish into the Carolina Piedmont immediately after the French and Indian War. William Bratton probably married his wife, Martha Robinson or Robertson (ca. 1750–1816), about this same time. They had eight children. In 1766 Bratton purchased two hundred acres of land on the South Fork of Fishing Creek. The Brattons’ original two-story log house, which probably dates from this same period, still exists as the Colonel William Bratton House at Historic Brattonsville in York County.
During the Revolutionary War, Bratton served as a South Carolina militia commander and rose from the rank of captain at the beginning of the war to colonel by late 1780, when he commanded a regiment in the partisan brigade of General Thomas Sumter. Early on the morning of July 12, 1780, an important battle was fought near Bratton’s home on the neighboring plantation of James Williamson; this battle is today known as the Battle of Williamson’s Plantation or, locally, as Huck’s Defeat. A force of about 133 local militiamen under the command of Bratton, William Hill, John McClure, Edward Lacey and others ambushed and defeated a mixed force of about 120 British Provincials and Loyalist militia under the command of Captain Christian Huck of the British Legion. This battle was the first significant defeat of British forces by South Carolina militia after the surrender of Charleston in May 1780, and it revitalized the patriot cause in the upstate.
Bratton served as a regimental commander in Sumter’s Brigade until the end of the Revolution. After the war, he served as a justice of the peace for York County, sheriff of Pinckney District, and a state legislator in both the House of Representatives (1785–1790) and the Senate (1791–1794). He also operated a small store, was a successful planter and businessman, and owned several slaves. William and Martha Bratton were early members of Bethesda Presbyterian Church, one of the oldest churches in the region. Bratton died on February 9, 1815, and was buried in the Bethesda Presbyterian Church cemetery. His children and grandchildren expanded the homesite into a large nineteenth-century plantation, which became known as the village of Brattonsville.
Bailey, N. Louise, and Elizabeth Ivey Cooper, eds. Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives. Vol. 3, 1775–1790. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1981.
Moore, Maurice A. Reminiscences of York. Edited by Elmer O. Parker. Greenville, S.C.: A Press, 1981.