He himself took an active part in the revolutionary war and fell into the hands of the enemy while serving in the Royal Louis under the father of the celebrated Decatur. It was in 1780 that this vessel was captured by the Amphion commanded by Sir John Beazley. Sir John's son who
was then a midshipman about the same age with young Forten was one day playing at marbles on the deck when the latter, who had been employed to pick them up, exhibited such superior skill after the game was over in knuckling down and hitting the object aimed at, that the young Englishman was delighted with him. The acquaintance soon ripened into a sort of intimacy, and his generous friend offered if he would accompany him to England to provide for his education and assist him in procuring some respectable occupation,. The young Africo-American however preferred serving his country, small as the chance was that he would ever recover his liberty, to the brilliant career thus placed before him, and he was ultimately transferred to the prison ship, the old Jersey of sixty four guns, then lying in the East river where the New York navy yard now is.
Sir John's son was so affected at parting that he shed tears and having obtained from his father a protection for him against enlistment saved him from the wretched fate which befell many of his brethren who were carried by their captors to the West Indies and sold there as slaves.
He remained in confinement seven months till he was sent home in exchange. During the period of his detention no less than 3500 prisoners fell victims to an epidemic which the crowded state of the vessel occasioned. The average number on board was 1500.
When the war was over Forten went to London where he remained a year and on his return to his native land obtained employment in the sail loft ,which is now his own property and which has witnessed his industry and enterprise for upwards of forty six years. In his business as a sail maker he is generally considered to stand above competition.