In 1775 John Berrien of New Jersey came to the province of Georgia, where one of his mother's kin had previously settled. His father, John Berrien (1711-1772), was a judge of the supreme court of New Jersey and a trustee of Princeton College. From the Berrien home at Rock Hill, N.J., General Washington issued his farewell address to the army in 1783.
At the age of 17 John Berrien was commissioned 2nd lieutenant in the first Georgia Continental brigade (1776). A few months later he was promoted to 1st lieutenant and the following year he was commissioned captain. A first supporter of General Lachlan McIntosh in the troubles that befell that officer after his slaying of Button Gwinnett in a duel, Berrien followed McIntosh to Washington's headquarters in 1777 and served as a brigade major of the North Carolina troops at Valley Forge.
After the Revolution Berrien returned to Georgia with his family, which included his young son, John MacPherson Berrien, who was destined to become one of Georgia's most illustrious statesmen. Active in pubic life in Georgia, Major John Berrien was for several years Collector of Customs at Savannah; served as an alderman, and was State Treasurer at Louisville (1796-1799). Berrien died at Savannah on November 6, 1815.