Bartow was born in 1816 in Savannah. His marriage to the daughter of U.S. Senator and former Attorney General John Macpherson Berrien's daughter helped launch his political career in the state legislature. In 1856, he was elected captain of Savannah’s Oglethorpe Light Infantry and led the daring capture of Fort Pulaski in early 1861. Bartow was an outspoken secessionist at the Milledgeville convention that took Georgia out of the Union, and he was one of the four Georgia delegates in the Provisional Confederate Congress in Montgomery. Having advocated so strongly for a Southern confederacy, Bartow went to Virginia to fight for it and was killed in the first major clash at Manassas.
Bartow County honors the Georgian killed on July 21, 1861, Today in Georgia History.
A bronze busts of Bartow stands at Confederate Monument in Forsyth Park.