James Haltigan.

The Irish in the American revolution, and their early influence in the colonies online

. (page 1 of 67)
Online LibraryJames HaltiganThe Irish in the American revolution, and their early influence in the colonies → online text (page 1 of 67)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


The Irish


American Revolution


Early Influence in the Colonies








AgTOR, • i-'.'.''V »., 71



Washinoton. 1908



Appleton's American Biography, Lossing's Field Book of the
Revolution, Little's Classified Dates, the Century Cyclopedia of Names,
Lecky's American Revolution, Musick's Independence, Doheny's
American Revolution, Hemstreet's Story of New York, When Old
New York Was Young, Rhoad's Battlefields of the Revolution, Walk-
er's Life of Andrew Jackson, Irving's Life of Washington, Hale's His-
toric Boston, History of the Boston Irish Charitable Society, Camp-
bell's History of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and Hibernian
Society of Philadelphia, McLaughlin's Life of Matthew Lyon, Speeches
of Edmund Burke, Jameson's Dictionary of United States History,
Official Papers of Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental
Congress; Official Publications of the American-Irish Historical So-
ciety, General John Sullivan's Indian Campaign, 1779; Masterpieces of
American Eloquence, History of the United States by B. B. Andrews,
History of the United States by Julian Hawthorne, Cullen's History of
the Irish in Boston, L. Carroll Judson's Sages and Heroes of the
American Revolution, Spark's American Biography, Garner and
Lodge's History of the United States, J. R. Spear's Anthony Wayne,
Headley's Washington and His Generals, Historical Papers by Col-
onel John C. Linehan, Jeremiah D. O'Connell, John Kelly, Miss Mary
L. Linehan, Gouverneur Morris, Wm. W. Campbell, Franklin M.
Danaher, M. H. Herschberg, Chas. C. Jones, Jr., and innumerable
Official Documents, Magazine and Newspaper Articles and
Historical Sketches.



Gen. George Washington
Commodore John Barry
Gen. Richard Montgomery
Gen. John Sui.wvan
Gen. Henry Knox
Gen. Anthony Wayne Carroll of Carrollton
Charles Thomson


To the Ancient Order of Hibernians in
America, whose members have been
foremo^ in preserving the spirit of Irish
Nationality in this country for the pa^
seventy-five years, and whose untiring
work in the present day is bound to make
their Order the Great Irish Organization
of the Future — upon whose platform will
^and the united children of the Gaelic


EN presenting this volume to the public we make no pretentions to
have WTitten any new history. Finding that a disposition exists
among many modern historians to ignore the achievements of the
Irish people in the foundation of this Republic we have merely
resurrected all we could of their true history in the past and restored it
to its proper place among the records of the Nation.

We have only endeavored to reinsert some of the pages which have
been torn from the National Book by racial and religious prejudice and
to give just credit to the brave men of our race who sacrificed their
fortunes and their lives for the liberty and independence of the United

In doing so we have carefully stated the sources of our information
and given full credit to all the authors we have quoted. We have made
no claims on behalf of our people that cannot be substantiated by oflScial
documents and reputable writers, and all our statements are based on
historic facts.

While we have done our best in this connection we are far from
satisfied with our work. The task was greater and more difficult than
we anticipated and over-reached our opportunities for proper research.

To do full justice to this subject a large volume should be published
for each State in the Union, for in every portion of this Republic, as
President Roosevelt truly says, ' ' the Irish people have proved themselves
a masterful race of rugged character — a race the qualities of whose
womanhood have become proverbial, while its men have the elemental,
the indispensible virtues of working hard in time of peace and fighting
hard in time of war."

Again, from the same high authority— the President of the United
States— we have the addditional evidence that ' ' the immigrants from
Ireland, and those alone, boldly pushed through the settled districts and
planted themselves as the advance guard of the conquering civilization
on the borders of the Indian-haunted wilderness."

Our great object has been to reawaken interest in these early Irish
settlers of America, so truthfully characterized by President Roosevelt; to
restore the true history of the Fathers in their regard and to re-establish
facts in connection with their noble lives that have been forgotten or

If we have done this even in a small way — if we have only made
a beginning that will be taken up by others and carried on to its logical
end — we can look forward with confidence to the time when full justic
will be done our countrymen for the work they have accomplished in tl
establishment and preservation of this Republic, /




CHAPTER I— Introduction 9

CHAPTER II— Before the Revolution 17

CHAPTER III— The Early Days of Pennsylvania 28

CHAPTER IV— Prominence of the Irish Race in Early New

New York and New Jersey 35

CHAPTER V— The Early Days in New England 50

CHAPTER VI— Vermont and Matthew Lyon 71

CHAPTER VII— The Irish Race in the Early Days of Virginia.. 85
CHAPTER VIII— The Irish in the Early Days of the Carolinas 92
CHAPTER IX— Irishmen in the Early Days of Georgia and

the South 116

CHAPTER X— Irish Effort in the Early History of Delaware... 129

CHAPTER XI— The Decade Before the War I39

CHAPTER XII— Irishmen in Philadelphia Before and During

the Revolution 152

CHAPTER XIII— Sketches of the Principal Members of the
Philadelphia Friendly Sons and their Patriotic Services

to America 165

CHAPTER XIV— The Continental Congress and the Men of

the Irish Race Who Took Part in it 206

CHAPTER XV— Some of the Early Irish Educators of

America 242

CHAPTER XVI— The Irish Ancestry of President Roosevelt 260

CHAPTER XVII— On the Brink of the Revolution— Patrick

Henry's Immortal Speech 267

CHAPTER XVIII— Cullen's Story of the Irish in Boston 284

CHAPTER XIX— Lexington and Concord 310

CHAPTER XX— Battle of Bunker Hill, Ticonderoga, and the

Siege of Boston 3^9

CHAPTER XXI— General Richard Montgomery and the Inva-
sion of Canada 355

CHAPTER XXII— The Battles Around New York, in 1776, and

the Events Which Led up to Them 368

CHAPTER XXIII— The Battles of Trenton and Princeton-
Some of the Irishmen who Helped Turn Defeat Into Victory 389

CHAPTER XXIV— The Conflict Opens in the South 403

CHAPTER XXV— The Opening of 1777— British Atrocities—
Tryon's Raid on Danbury — American Prisoners and Their
Brutal Treatment— Ethan Allen in Cork Harbor— Treason
of Gen. Charles Lee— Arrival of Lafayette— His Friendship
for Matthew Carey — Origin of Our Revolutionary Generals.. 415



CHAPTER XXVI— Captain Gustavus Conyngham, an Irish ^'

Naval Hero of the Revolution 43°

CHAPTER XXVII— The Burgoyne Expedition and Surrender,

the Battle of Bennington, and the Fall of the Hudson Forts.. 448

CHAPTER XXVIII— Battles of Brandywine and Germantown

—The British in Philadelphia— The Horrors of Valley Forge. . 472

CHAPTER XXIX— The British Evacuate Philadelphia— Bat-
tle of Monmouth — Heroism of Molly Pitcher 487

CHAPTER XXX— The Arrival of the French Fleet— Sulli-
van's Rhode Island Campaign — The Massacres of Wyom-
ing and Cherry Valley — The Surprise and Plunder of New
Haven and the Burning of Fairfield and Norwalk 499

CHAPTER XXXI— General John Sullivan's Expedition Against
the Tories and Indians and the Gallant Storming of Stony
Point by General Anthony Wayne — The Two Great Military
Events of 1779 — One of them the Most Glorious in the His-
tory of the Revolution, Carried Out by Irish-American
Commanders 516

CHAPTER XXXII— The Irish Fighters in the Southern Cam-
paigns — The Capture of Savannah and Its Siege by the Al-
lied French and Americans — Fall of Charleston — Governor
Rutledge on the Barbarities of the English — Gen. Thomas
Sumter — The Song of Marion's Men — Captain John McClure
and His "Chester Rocky Creek Irish." 531

CHAPTER XXXIII— Captain John McClure, One of the Mas-
ter Spirits of the South — Battles of Rocky Mount, Hanging
Rock, Camden, King's Mountain, and the Cowpens — Sum-
ter Defeats Tarleton and Wemyss, While Campbell and
Morgan Achieve Signal Victories Over the British at King's
Mountain and the Cowpens 544

CHAPTER XXXIV— Greene's Retreat Through North Caro-
lina and His Second Campaign in the South — The Battles
of Guildford Court-House, Hobkirk's Hill and Eutaw
Springs — Wayne's Successful Campaign in Georgia — The
British Evacuate Savannah and Charleston — End of the
War in the South 561

CHAPTER XXXV— The Year 1780 in the North— Battle of
Springfield, N. J. — The Arrival of Rochambeau and Six
Thousand French Soldiers — Wayne's Descent on New Jer-
sey — The Treason of Arnold and the Execution of Andre —
Washington's Selection of Irish Troops for West Point —
The So-called Mutiny of the Pennsylvania Line 573

CHAPTER XXXVI— Arnold Scourges the South - \yayne, with
the Pennsylvania Line, Charges the While British Army —
The Union of the French and American Armies on the Hud-
son — The Siege of Yorktown and the Surrender of Corn-
wallis — "Richelieu" Robinson's List of Guests Who Should
Have Been Invited to Its Centennial Celebration — Irish-
men in the French Army — The English, "Who Lost
America Through the Irish," Driven Forever from the
United States 590



Sixty years ago when Michael Doheny was asked by Gavan
Duffy and Thomas Davis to contribute a volume to the Irish
Library they were then issuing in Dublin, he chose for his sub-
ject the history of the American Revolution.

His first idea, as he was addressing himself entirely to Irish
readers, was to write only of the deeds of Irishmen during that
eventful period, or at least to group together in the history
the men of his own race who took a prominent part in it. He
abandoned that intention, however, feeling that his impartiality
might appear questionable if he selected them as leading charac-
ters in the history of a great people, of whom they formed but a
proportionate part.

At the time Michael Doheny was writing there was no neces-
sity to take up the history of his countrymen especially, for their
names were then written in large letters on the roll of American
fame, and no attempt had yet been made to ungratefully ignore
their important services or unjustly dim the luster of their glo-
rious names.

In this our day matters are entirely different. Since the time
of Michael Doheny a great change has taken place in American
literature. What would then have been justly considered partial
and indelicate on his part now becomes a duty under the changed
conditions. The orators, poets, writers and soldiers of Ireland
were then given a high place in American books, especially in
those intended for the instruction or entertainment of the young.
Emmet's immortal speech atid the classic orations of such bril-
liant men as Burke, vSheridan, Grattan, and O'Connell were
printed in American school books, and the patriotic efforts of
Irishmen in behalf of their unhappy country were held up as
bright examples to all Americans.

Now there plainly exists a disposition to ignore the Irish
element in current American books. At first this practice crept
in with stealthy and treacherous steps, but as time wore on it was
established as a general rule.

During the Civil War Irishmen and Irish-Americans once
more, and with greater force than ever, proved their devotion to
this Republic on many a hard-fought field, yet from that time
forth the credit of their services, which hitherto had been freely
accorded them as their due, seems to have become subject to a



process of evaporation until it is now either grudgingly bestowed
or altogether refused.

During the progress of that war England tried by every
means in her power to destroy this Republic, but all her efforts
in that direction having failed, she resolved on a new course — a
method none the less deadly in its hatred of Republican institu-
tions, but one having the guise of pretended friendship. It was
then that the cry of "the mother country," "the one race," "the
same language," and all the other phrases of hypocrisy first arose
in any concerted volume — it was then that the cultivation of the
Anglo-American Alliance first began. Every power and influence
in England has since been used not only to foster this feeling
but to destroy all elements of opposition to it.

It is plain that all discrimination against Irishmen and
Catholics may be traced to this source. The spirit which seems
dominant in American literature to-day to crowd out all refer-
ence to Irish and Catholic endeavor does not arise from the
hearts of the American people. It was not born on this soil, but
is a direct importation from our old enemies across the sea. The
same power which monopolized, as far as possible, Irish genius
at home to its own glory, now seeks to destroy it in this country,
where it is beyond its control.

\\'hcnever a bright and gifted mind appeared in Ireland it was
quickly turned to the service of England or else destroyed. The
Burkes and Sheridans were flattered and rewarded, while the
Wolfe Tones and Emmets were condemned to death.

And it is this same power — the secret service of England —
which is now changing the American schoolbooks into English
readers and endeavoring to do away with all allusion to Irish or
Catholic achievement in the literature of America.

We could cite many instances where prominent Americans,
consciously or unconsciously, are being made the tools of England
in tills evil work, but a few will be sufficient for our purpose.

One of these is supplied by Mr. J. D. O'Connell, lately of
Washington. For over thirty years Mr. O'Connell was one of
the chief clerks of the Bureau of Statistics in Washington, and
the experience and knowledge which he there gained render him
a most competent authority on many important subjects.

In an article in the Atlantic Monthly for October, 1896, en-
titled "Five Contributions to American Civilization," President
Eliot, of Harvard University, thus wrote :

"It is great mistake to suppose that the process of assimilat-
ing foreigners began in the nineteenth century. The eighteenth
century provided the colonies with a great mixture of peoples,
although the English race predominated then as now. When the


Revolution broke out there were already English, Scotch, Dutch,
Germans, French, Portuguese, and Swedes in the colonies."

Noticing the omission of any mention whatever in that ar-
ticle of the Irish as an element in the mixture of peoples who
made up the Americans of the eighteenth century, Mr. O'Connell
addressed a letter to Professor Eliot calling his attention to that
strange omission.

This letter was so filled with historic facts that it could not
be controverted, and Professor Eliot was publicly com.pelled to
acknowledge his ignorance. "I shall have to confess," he wrote
Mr. O'Connell, "that I omitted the Irish because I did not know they
were an important element in the population of the colonies in the
eighteenth century. My ignorance about the early Irish immigra-
tion is doubtless due to provincialism. The Massachusetts of the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was the creation of the Eng-
lish Puritans and Independents."

The Springfield Republican, in commenting on this admis-
sion, said that President Eliot confessed to an extent of ignorance
which was amazing for a man in his position and which must
have cost him some courage to own.

It is almost impossible to conceive that the President of Har-
vard College could be so densely ignorant as he represented him-
self to be in this letter. He must have heard of the Boston Char-
itable Irish Society, which was founded in 1737, and in his study
of the Revolutionary period he must have seen such names as
Sullivan, Stark, and Knox. One of the Sullivans was a leading
General in the army and another was a judge on the bench and
afterwsrds Governor of Massachusetts. Stark was one of the
most renowned men in New England, while General Knox was
the warm friend of George Washington and one of his ablest and
most trusted advisers.

No American able to read could justly make the plea of
ignorance which the President of Harvard avowed, and the infer-
ence is not unfair that some other motive lay at the bottom of his

Moreover, according to all accounts, there were m.ore Irish
in the American colonies at the time of the Revolution than all
the other foreign elements combined. But as the Irish, being
Catholics, were considered at that time outside of the body politic
in their own country and by their own Parliament, it is reason-
able to suppose that some portion of that feeling followed them
to America, and they were compelled to fight their way in public
as well as in private life.

But there v/ere vast numbers of Irishmen in this country
then outside of the proscribed Catholic faith — ProtestTants and


Presbyterians who were of the same race as the men who joined
with their CathoHc fellow-countrymen in the Revolution of 1798.
They were real patriotic Irishmen — not Scotch Irishmen, as some
would like to make them — and fought England in America as
their brothers did in Ireland. In both countries they battled
against the tyranny and injustice of English rule and left behind
them names that will never perish, no matter how Anglo-Ameri-
cans may seek to becloud or ignore their memories.

Another instance of the efforts recently being made to create
a pro-English feeling in this country is the publication of Lecky's
History of the American Revolution, a work so notoriously unfair
and prejudiced towards the Americans and their cause as to call
forth an apology from its editor, another college man, James A.
Woodburn, Professor of History and Politics in Indiana Univer-

In his introduction to his new version of Lecky, Professor
Woodburn tells us that American history should be studied in the
light of Europe, and that the American citizen's intelligence is too
meager if he has his knowledge merely in the study of American
subjects from American schoolbooks and Ainerican authors. In
other words he lays down the law that we must accept the story
of our enemies — for to him Europe means England — in prefer-
ence to the chronicles of the patriots who laid down their lives
in behalf of the American cause.

"American journals and schoolbooks," writes Mr. Woodburn.
"of a past generation — fortunately it is not so true at present — have
conveyed false and exaggerated conceptions of British despotism
and tyranny. The reading of a volume like Mr. Lecky's will do
much properly to remove these harmful impressions. The intel-
ligent reading of our Revolution should lead us to see that, while
that unfortunate policy may have disturbed, it has in no sense
destroyed the essential unity of the Anglo-Saxon race."

In these latter words Mr. Woodburn exposes the object of
his volume and makes common cause with those who seek to
distort American history for the benefit of England.

The latter country is now weak and tottering to decay as a
result of countless years of her own despotism and cruelty to other
peoples. She feels the need of an alliance with this country to
restore her strength and prestige and enable her to carry on her
old policy of robbery and conquest.

If the false and exaggerated conceptions of English despot-
ism and tyranny do not now, as Mr. Woodburn says, appear in
American journals and schoolbooks as much as they did in past
generations, we may thank the secret work of England and the
action of American journalists and educators, who, with or with-


out malice or pecuniary reward, aid her in her nefarious

In the case of Professor Eliot, if we believe himself, Eng-
land's work was done through his own ignorance, but in Profes-
sor Woodburn the Anglo-Americans have found a man brazen
enough to charge exaggeration and stupidity against his own
countrymen in advocacy of England's cause. He even has the
effrontery to print apologies for the American patriots and their
cause in cases where Mr, Lecky's criticism has been unduly severe
or hostile.

Mr. Lecky, we may add, was an Irishman of genius and
ability, but he is one of those who have been bought by England.
In the case of his own country he has flatly contradicted his own
writings of an earlier and more honest day in order to retain the
favor of his English masters. The man who falsifies the history
of his native land cannot be depended upon in the story of any
other country.

It is customary for some of our men of letters, editors and
teachers, to allude in glowing terms to England's great achieve-
ments in all the walks of life, but all their fine words cannot wipe
out the record of her evil deeds or change the verdict of honest
men that every inch of her supposed greatness represents a mile
of ruthless desolation and destruction in other lands.

The doctrines taught by this Anglo-American coterie, as we
have said before, meet no response in the great heart of the
American people. In their estimation, we verily believe, all the
business in all the world would not make amends for the loss of
one sentence of the Declaration of Independence. In this regard
thev agree with our Catholic teaching that it avails a man nothing
to gain the whole world and lose his own soul. They believe that
the men who demand liberty for themselves and refuse it to others
do not appreciate what the word means and are not fit for the
duties of American citizenship.

Previous to the Revolution the Tory feeling in this country
among those who sprung from England was deep and widespread.
Some of the best people in the land felt themselves bound to
England not only by business connections but by ties of blood and
friendship, and even those whose reason saw her tyranny and
injustice— who realized that Ireland's treatment was about to be
repeated in America— hesitated long before they cast the final die.

And we arc firmly of the opinion that in the hour of doubt
and indecision immediately preceding the great change, the
stroni^est power which turned the scales against England was
exercised by the Irish people then resident in this country. They


knew from bitter experience the treachery of England and were
pronounced from the beginning in their opposition to her rule.

When Franklin gave up hope on the passage of the Stamp
Act in 1764 it was an Irishman who cheered him on and invig-
orated him with new life — Charles Thomson, Secretary of the
Continental Congress from its first session to its close.

"The sun of liberty is set,"' Franklin wrote to him on that
occasion, "and Americans must now light the lamps of industry
and economy." "Be assured," promptly answered Thomson,
"we shall light torches of quite another kind."

Thomson was one of the most noted men of his time — a
patriot second only to Washington in the esteem of Americans.
His influence during the Revolution was so great that he was
called "the Sam Adams of Philadelphia, the life of the cause of

We do not say that but for men like Thomson the decision
would have gone the other way, but we fearlessly assert that they
were the most potent factors in arousing the great feeling of
liberty and justice which lay at the bottom of the people's
hearts. They were the most tireless workers in bringing that
feeling into active, burning life, and were amongst those who
made the greatest sacrifices in its behalf.

Thomas Hamilton ]\Iurray, the Secretary of the American-
Irish Historical Society, a man who has done noble work in
behalf of the Irish race, wrote an article on "Some Patricks in
the Revolution" in the Rosary Magazine of December, 1896. In

Online LibraryJames HaltiganThe Irish in the American revolution, and their early influence in the colonies → online text (page 1 of 67)