James Haltigan.

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

. (page 17 of 67)
Online LibraryJames HaltiganThe Irish in the American revolution, and their early influence in the colonies → online text (page 17 of 67)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Abandoning "the finest ship and the first employ in America,"
he offered his services to his adopted country and was the first
to put to sea "on a regularly commissioned national vessel for a
regular cruise" in December, 1775. Andrew Caldwell was ap-
pointed Commodore of the Pennsylvania navy, and was in com-
mand of the fleet which repelled the attack of the British ships
Roebuck and Liverpool, which came up tlie Delaware on May
8, 1776. One of the two new battalions added to the Associators
was commanded by Thomas McKean, aften\'ard President of the
Hibernian Society. Of the four battalions organized for the Con-
tinental service. Colonel John Shee and Colonel Anthony Wayne
commanded two of them, and Lambert Cadwalader and Francis
Johnston were Lieutenant-Colonels. John Maxwell Nesbitt was
appointed Paymaster of all the Pennsylvania forces. In the au-
tumn of 1776 the society contributed its first martyr to the cause
— George Fullerton, one of its members, being accidentally killed
while on service with the Light Horse. John Dickinson, Thomas
McKean, and Robert Morris were members of the Continental
Congress, and the last two signed the Declaration of Independ-

The Declaration was publicly proclaimed amidst the re-
joicings of the people. Colonel John Nixon read the Declara-
tion to the people assembled in the State House yard (Independ-
ence Square). Mr. Samuel Hood remarks in his sketch of the
Friendly Sons that it was an Irishman, Charles Thomson, Sec-
retary of Congress, who first prepared that immortal document
for publication from the rough draught of Jefferson; an Irish-
man's son, John Nixon, who first publicly read it; and another
Irishman, Thomas Dunlap, who first printed it and published it
to the world. Ireland was well represented in connection with the
glorious document, and nobly did her sons do their duty in the
work which called it forth.

There was some hard fighting in 1776- 1777, and the soldiers
of Pennsylvania were in nearly every engagement. Colonel


Anthony Wayne commanded a regiment in the Canada campaign,
Colonel Edward Hand commanded the oldest of the Continental
regiments in the army at New York, and Colonel John Shee
commanded another Continental regiment. Captain Thomas
Proctor (afterward a member of the Hibernian Society) com-
manded the first company of Pennsylvania artillery, and of the
Associator battalions of State troops who saw actual service out-
side of the State, three out of six of them were commanded by
Colonel John Dickinson, Colonel John Cadwalader, and Colonel
Thomas McKean. The Light Horse, which, as we have seen,
numbered in its ranks a great many of the society members, was
in active service under the immediate direction of Washington
himself, and in the retreat from Princeton it was ordered to
cover the rear of the army, and was the last to cross the Dela-*
ware River. On December 25, 1776, the troop recrossed the river
with Washington at McKonky's Ferry, eight miles above Tren-
ton. "The passage was made difficult and dangerous by storm,
darkness, and floating ice, and the boats upon which the troop
had embarked not being able to reach the shore, the men were
compelled to take the water and force a passage amid the float-
ing ice with their horses." That passage has become historical
in print and in painting, and we may well be proud of tlie pres-
ence of so many members of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.

In all the subsequent operations of that campaign they did
their duty as soldiers and men. They continued in active service
until January 23, 1777. They were twenty-five in number, ten
of them being Friendly Sons. Washington called them his "aids.*'

In the Navy Board of the city, eleven in number, were
Andrew Caldwell, Thomas Fitzsimmons, Thomas Barclay, and
Paul Cox (afterwards a member of the Hibernian Society).

These statements enable us to form some idea of the pa-
triotism of the Friendly Sons. In the long lists of "disaffected
persons" and British sympathizers, there are found none of the
members. They had all cast their lot with the Revolutionary
cause, and many of them lived for years afterwards to enjoy the
blessings of independence.

After the evacuation of Philadelphia the meetings of the
Friendly Sons were resumed and continued without interruption
throughout the Revolution. The leading officers of the army
and the highest National and State officials thought it an honor
to attend their public functions. , ,

The members of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick had par-
ticipated in the most stirring scenes of the Revolution up to that
time and were held in the highest esteem for the bravery they


displayed and for the many sacrifices they had made in the cause
of independence. At the battle of Germantown General Wayne
commanded one of the divisions and Colonel Moylan's Light
Horse was on the extreme of the American line. Through the
dreary winter camp at Valley Forge the members of the society
not only shared in its sufferings but did everything in their power
to relieve the dire necessities of the American army.

When the Continental army returned to Philadelphia after
the British evacuation, September, 1778, they were foremost
among the Anti-Tory Associators who afterwards organized
themselves into the Patriotic Society. On July 12, 1779, Colonel
Proctor's artillery fired a salute to greet the Ambassador from

During the dark hours of 1778 and 1779, when hope for the
American cause was at its lowest ebb, the Sons of St. Patrick
never lost heart. They struggled with such determination and
vigor against the most gloomy surroundings that they inspired
others with renewed exertion when they had faltered in despair.

At the beginning of 1780 the Continental money had de-
preciated so much that the State currency was affected by the
general distrust, and in order to maintain its credit an agreement
was entered into and published by the leading men of the dty
to take the paper money of the issue of March, 1780, as equiva-
lent to gold and silver. This patriotic agreement included the
names of twenty-three members of the Friendly Sons.

The patriotic women of Philadelphia in 1780, when things
looked so gloomy for the American cause, raised a fund upwards
of $300,000 to supply destitute soldiers with clothing. Among
the ladies on the committee were Mrs. R. Bache, Mrs. T. Fran-
cis, Mrs. J. Mitchell, Mrs. J. Caldwell, Mrs. B. McClenachan,
Mrs. S. Caldwell, Mrs. J. Mease, Mrs. T. McKean, Mrs. J.
Searle. a second Mrs. J. Mease, and Mrs. R. Morris. It is evi-
dent that the wives of the members shared the views of their
husbands. The money raised was employed, at the suggestion
of General Washington, in furnishing shirts for the army.

This movement among the women was followed by one on
the part of the men to obtain supplies for the army through the
agencv of a bank. The Bank of Pennsylvania was accordingly
organized for the purpose of supplying the army of the United
States with provisions for two months. Mr. Samuel Hood, in
his sketch of the Friendly Sons, has the following account of
the bank :

"Intimately connected with the glory of the Society of the
Sons of St. Patrick is a matter which must be referred to in some
detail. In the year 1780 a transaction took place in Philadelphia,


almost unparalleled in the history of nations and patriotism,
which casts a luster not only on the individuals who were the
authors of it, but on the whole community to which they be-

"If the glorious examples of the past could influence the
conduct of men of the present day, the reputation and good
name of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania would soon be firmly
fixed on so immovable a pedestal as to defy the maUcious assaults
of British libelers, and even the more dangerous folly, selfish-
ness, and cowardice of our own partisan politicians. At the time
alluded to, when everything depended on a vigorous prosecution
of the war, when the American army was in imminent danger of
being compelled to yield to famine, a far more dangerous enemy
than the British, when the urgent expostulations of the Com-
mander-in-Chief, and the strenuous recommendations of Con-
gress, had utterly failed to arouse a just sense of the danger of
the crisis, the genuine love of country, and most noble self-sac-
rifices of some individuals in Philadelphia supplied the place of
the slumbering patriotism of the country, and saved her cause
from most disgraceful ruin. In this great emergency was con-
ceived and promptly carried into operation, the plan of the Bank
of Pennsylvania, established for supplying the army of the
United States with provisions for two months.

"On the 17th of June, 1780, the following paper, which de-
serves to rank as a supplement to the Declaration of Independ-
ence, was signed by ninety-three individuals and firms :

" 'Whereas, in the present situation of public affairs in the
United States, the greatest and most vigorous exertions are re-
quired for the successful management of the just and the neces-
sary war in which they are engaged with Great Britain : We, the
subscribers, deeply impressed with the sentiments that on such
an occasion should govern us in the prosecution of a war on the
event of which our own freedom, and that of our posterity, and
the freedom and independence of the United States, are all in-
volved, hereby severally pledge our property and credit for the
several sums specified and mentioned after our names, in order
to support the credit of a bank to be established for furnishing
a supply of provisions for the armies of the United States; and
do hereby severally promise and engage to execute to the Direc-
tors of the said bank bonds of the form hereunto annexed.

" 'Witness our hands, this 17th day of June, in the year of
our Lord 1780.'

"Then followed the names of the subscribers with the sums
respectively subscribed, amounting to £315,000 Pennsylvania
currency, payable in gold or silver. Of this amount, twenty-seven


members of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick subscribed £103,500.
The names of these, with the amounts of their subscriptions, are
as follows, namely:

Robert Morris John Mease>

Blair M'Clenachan 10,000 Bunner, Murray & Co 6,000

William Bingham John Patton 2,000

J. M. Nesbitt & Co Benjamin Fuller 2,000

Richard Peters 5.000 George Meade & Co 2,000

Samuel Meredith 5.000 John Donaldson 2,000

James Mease 5,ooo Henry Hill 5,ooo

Thomas Barclay 5,ooo Keane & Nichols 4.000

Hugh Shiell 5,ooo James Caldwell 2,000

John Dunlap 4,000 Samuel Caldwell 1,000

John Nixon 5.000 John Shee 1,000

George Campbell 2,000 Sharp Delaney 1,000

Tench Francis £5,500

"There were five inspectors of the bank, of whom three,
Robert ]M orris, J. M. Nesbitt, and Blair ]\IcClenachan, were mem-
bers of the St. Patrick's. So were the first of the two directors,
John Nixon, and the factor, Tench Francis. All these agreed to
serve without compensation. The several bonds were executed
to the two directors, and were conditioned for the payment of
an amount not exceeding the sum subscribed by each obligor,
for furnishing a supply of provisions for the armies of the United
States. The bank opened July 17, 1780, in Front street, two doors
below Walnut. The tenth and last installment was called in on
the 15th of November, 1780. The bank continued in operation till
the establishment of the Bank of North America, January 7, 1782,
which appears to have sprung from it, and to have monopolized
the glory which belonged to the old Bank of Pennsylvania, of
having rendered essential service to the country during the Revo-

In addition to Mr. Hood's list we might add the names of
John Mitchell, £2,000, and of two members of the Hibernian So-
ciety, Joseph Carson, £4,000, and Thomas McKean, £2,500, mak-
ing a total subscription by members of the two societies of £112,-
000 out of £315,000, the full amount subscribed, or more than one-
third of the entire sum. This magnificent Irish-American dona-
tion to the independence of America, when her hopes were at
the lowest ebb, should never be forgotten by her citizenr-.

A meeting of citizens was held at the State House in No-
vember, 1780, to sustain the credit of the Continental money, and
a committee was appointed to draw up articles of association. Of
the thirteen members of this committee we find on the list John
Dunlap, Thomas Fitzsimmons, John Shee, Blair McClenachan,
and Samuel Caldwell.


The Tories having again become active about this time a
"Whig Association" was formed for the purpose of preventing
all intercourse with Tories and suspected persons, and in the list
of the Executive Committee we find Colonel John Shee, John
Dunlap, Dr. Hugh Shiell, and Blair McClenachan.

"The members of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick," writes
Mr. Campbell, "many of whom, as we have seen, were among the
most prominent and wealthy merchants of Philadelphia, ni all
the dark period of 1780-81, never lost faith in the Revolutionary
cause. Ready to take the field when occasion demanded it — sev-
eral of them occupying distinguished military positions through-
out the war — they were just as ready to contribute their means
to sustain the cause or to uphold public opinion when needful.
Philadelphia, unfortunately, contained among its population a
number of Tories or British sympathizers. None of this class
were found among the Friendly Sons. We read through the long
lists of suspected and disaffected persons, and w^e examined the
proceedings taken by the authorities against these same persons,
and to the credit of the Society not one of its members is found
on the lists, and we may be sure that when the news of Corn-
wallis' surrender at Yor'ktown reached the city on 226. October,
1781, none of its inhabitants rejoiced more heartily than the mem-
bers of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick."

The news of this surrender was sent by Washington to
Thomas McKean, a member of the Hibernian Society, then Pres-
ident of Congress.

In 1 78 1, especially after the surrender of Cornwallis, the
prospects of the patriots grew brighter and hope dawned once
more on the destinies of the new nation. The attendance at the
meetings of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick became more nu-
merous, the number of distinguished guests greatly increased,
and applications for membership became more and more frequent.
During the latter part of 1781 it was proposed to invite General
Washington to dinner, but it was found that he could not attend
owing to a previous engagement.

On December 18, 1781, the Society evidently determined
that they must have his Excellency not only present as a guest
but must have his name also added to the roll, and as the list of
honorary members who were not of Irish birth or descent was
full, they "unanimously adopted General Washington as a mem-
ber of this Society," thus making an Irishman out of him as far as
it was in their power to do so. The members must have known
that it would be agreeable to General Washington to be added
to the list of members, and his acceptance of the honor shows
that they had knowledge of his sentiments. After the enthusiasm


which had been created by General Washington's adoption had
subsided it was ordered "that the president, vice president, and
secretary should wait on his Excellency with a suitable address
and present him with a medal in the name of the Society." James
Mease offered his medal for the purpose and it was accepted.
It was also resolved "that they invite his Excellency and his suit
to an entertainment to be prepared and given him Tuesday, the
first day of January, at the City Tavern, to which the secretary
is directed to invite the President of the State and of Congress,
the Minister of France, Mr. Marmois ; Mr. Otto, the Chief Jus-
tice, Thomas McKean; the Speaker of the House of Assembly;
Mr. Francisco Rendon, I\Ir. Holker, Count de la Touche, and
Count Dillon, with all the general officers that may be in the

The minutes further record that "in the pursuance of the
foregoing order, the president and secretary waited upon his Ex-
cellency with the following address:

" 'May it please your Excellency :

" 'The Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick in this
city, ambitious to testify with all possible respect the high sense
they entertain of your Excellency's public and private virtues,
have taken the liberty to adopt your Excellency a member. Al-
though they have not the clothing of any civil establishment, nor
the splendor of temporal power to dignify their election, yet they
flatter themselves, as it is the genuine offspring of hearts fiU'd
with the warmest attachments, that this mark of their esteem and
regard will not be wholly unacceptable to your Excellency.

" 'Impress'd with these pleasing hopes, they have directed
me to present your Excellency with a gold medal, the ensign of
the Fraternal Society, which that you may be pleased to accept,
and long live to wear, is the earnest wish of
" 'Your' Excellency's Most Humble and Respectful Servant,
" 'By order and in behalf of the Society,
" 'GEORGE CAMPBELL, President.

" 'To His Excellency, General Washington,

" 'Commander-in-Chief of the AlHed Army.'
"To which his Excellency was pleased to give the following
answer :


" 'I accept with singular pleasure, the Ensign of so worthy
a fraternity as that of the Sons of St. Patrick in this city — a So-
ciety distinguished for the firm Adherence of its Members to the
glorious cause in which we arc embarked.

" 'Give me-Jeave to assure you, Sir. that I shall never cast


my eyes upon the badge with which I am honoured, but with a
grateful remembrance of the polite and affectionate manner in
which it was presented.

" *I am with Respect and Esteem,

" 'Sir, your mo. Ob. Servant,

" 'To George Campbell, Esq., President of the Society of the
Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, in tlie City of Philadelphia.' "

The dinner which followed was a most distinguished gath-
ering, nearly all the invited guests being present, together with
seven Generals of the army, six Colonels, and one Major, and the
Surgeon-General, Dr. John Cochran. The anniversary dinner on
March 18, 1782, exceeded in brilliancy even the preceding dinner
on the first of January. General Washington was again present,
but this time he was recorded as a member and not as a guest. It
must have been on this occasion that he signed the Rules, as Gen-
eral Hand, who signed along with him, was elected a member at
that meeting, as was also General Knox.

In the Grand Federal Procession on the Fourth of July, 1788,
to celebrate the ratification of the Federal Constitution, no less
than twenty members of the Friendly Sons took leading parts in
the various committees which organized it.

The society continued to wield a great influence on public
affairs until 1790. After that it commenced to wane, its ranks
being thinned by death and its place being taken by the younger
and more powerful Hibernian Society, which was organized in
that year. The last meeting of the Friendly Sons is supposed to
have been held in March, 1802. "The Society at that date,"
writes Mr. Campbell, "was probably but a shadow of its former
self, kept alive, no doubt, by General Moylan and a few of his old
companions for association sake. We can fancy them seated at
dinner on St. Patrick's Day, talking over the golden days of the
Society — ^how General Washington was made an Irishman by
adoption, and how he signed the constitution — how Mad Anthony
Wayne captured Stony Point — ^how Thomas Jefferson, Alexander
Hamilton, Paul Jones, and other distinguished men honored the
Patron Saint of Ireland — how John Nixon, Thomas Fitzsimmons,
and others were fined for not wearing their Society medals at
dinner — how glorious and patriotic a part the members took in
achieving American independence.

"It was a Society of heroes — some distinguished, some hum-
ble — ^but all animated with the spirit of resistance to oppression
which made them such stern foes of British tyranny. The story
of the American Revolution contains many bright pages, and


among the brightest are those relating the history of the Friendly
Sons of St. Patrick, and it is a pleasing thought that the spirit
which animated them has continued in full vigor and exists at the
present day in their worthy descendants of the Hibernian So-
ciety, whose history is rivalled only by that of its patriotic pre-



We cannot follow Mr. Campbell in the biographic sketches
which he gives of all the members of the Philadelphia Friendly
Sons of St. Patrick, but as his work is of such a nature that it can
never circulate among the people, we feel called upon to give
condensed accounts of the lives of the principal members — of the
men who were prominent not only in Pennsylvania, but who dis-
tinguished themselves in the affairs of the nation and accom-
plished work of the greatest importance in the War of Inde-
pendence. The lives of men like Captain John Barry, the Father
of the American Navy, cannot be passed over in silence or even
with a few words. They allied themselves with the American
cause when its friends were few and its prospects almost hopeless,
and never hesitated to sacrifice their fortunes or their lives in
its behalf. They therefore should receive that treatment which
the importance of their life work so eminently deserves.

CAPTAIN JOHN BARRY was bom in Tacumshane,
County Wexford, Ireland, in 1745. His father was an Irish
farmer of the highest character and he mherited from him the
many noble attributes which afterwards made him loved and dis-
tinguished in pubUc and private life. He followed the sea from
his earliest years and made his home in Philadelphia in 1760. He
not only applied himself with diligence to the study of his pro-
fession, but he also found time to store his mind with useful in-
formation. As a result he rose rapidly in the confidence of his
employers and early acquired position and wealth. He com-
manded ships before he was of age, and at thirty stood at the
head of his profession. He offered his services to Congress at the
opening of the Revolutionary War, abandoning, as he said him-
self, the finest ship and the first employ in America, to espouse
the patriotic cause. His services were gladly accepted, and
he was appointed to the command of the Lexington, the first Con-
tinental vessel of war that sailed from Philadelphia, in which
he made the first capture of a British war vessel accomplished by
an American cruiser — that of the tender Edward. Preble, in his
"Origin of the Flag," says this Lexington of the Seas was the
first vessel that bore the American flag to victory, and we can
proudly add that she was commanded by an Irishman.

Barry cruised successfully in the Lexington until the fall of



1776, when he was appointed to the command of the Effingham,
one of the three large frigates built in Philadelphia. In the event-
ful winter of that year, the navigation of the Delaware being im-
peded by ice and all naval employment suspended, Barry's bold
and restless spirit could not remain inactive. So zealous was he
in his country's cause that he volunteered his services in the army
and served with distinguished reputation as aide-de-camp to Gen-
eral Cadwalader in the important operations around Trenton and
commanded a company of volunteers and some heavy guns during
the most critical part of the action.

During the year 1777 Barry was senior commander of the
American Navy at Philadelphia and for some time prevented the
capture of the city by the enemy. In October of that year he re-
pulsed a British squadron in their passage up the Delaware, but
later on, when the British obtained command of the city and river,
it was deemed prudent to send the American ships up the Dela-
ware beyond the reach of the enemy.

While they were lying near Whitehall, Captain Barry, chafing
under inaction when there was so much to be done, formed a pro-
ject which for boldness of desigri and dexterity of execution was

Online LibraryJames HaltiganThe Irish in the American revolution, and their early influence in the colonies → online text (page 17 of 67)