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of the patriots of Chester County who led the opposition to the
measures of Great Britain which resulted in the War of Inde-
pendence. When the master spirits of that day assembled to
organize resistance to tyranny we almost invariably find Anthon^y
Wayne presiding at the meetings in Chester County and Francis
Johnston acting as Secretary." There, as elsewhere, the Irish
element was always in the front rank of the patriots. When
Wayne was appointed Colonel of the Fourth Pennsylvania Bat-
talion on January 4, 1776, Johnston was made Lieutenant-Colonel,
and in September of the same year, when the Fifth Pennsylvania
was organized, the latter was made its Colonel and led it with
bravery at the battles of Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth,
and Stony Point. Mr. Johnston was an excellent classical scholar
and distinguished for his genial and witty ways around the social
board. He died Februarv 22, 181 5, aged 67 years.

GEORGE LATIMER was born at Newport, Del., on July
8, 1750. His father, James Latimer, then a boy of seventeen, and
his grandfather, Arthur Latimer, came to America in 1736 and
settled in Lancaster County, Pa. James, the father of George,
married Sarah Geddes, and lived at Newport, where he owned
flour mills. Though living in a Tory neighborhood, the Latimers
were all active adherents of the American cause. James Latimer
was Lieutenant-Colonel of one of the two Delaware regiments
formed on March 20, 1775, to aid the cause of independence, and
was President of the Delaware Convention, which, on Decem-
ber 7, 1787, ratified the Constitution of the United States, being
the first State to do so. George Latimer, who joined the Friendly
Sons in 1792, was a Heutenant-colonel in the Revolutionary War.
His brother, Dr. Henry Latimer, afterward United States Sena-
tor from Delaware, was a surgeon in the American army, and
his brother-in-law. Captain Geddes, was a commissioned officer
in the navy. The British Government offered a reward for the
capture, dead or alive, of James Latimer and his two sons, George
and Henry — a fact which speaks volumes for their patriotism.
After the war George Latimer was a resident of Philadelphia
and was Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
and Collector of the Port of Philadelphia, He joined the Hiber-
nian Society in 1790, and his son James was also a member of
that organization. George Latimer died on June 12, 1825.

GEORGE MEADE, one of the founders of the Friendly
Sons, was bom on February 27, 1741, in Philadelphia. He was



THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOIvUTlON. 185

the son of Robert Meade, a native of Limerick, Ireland, and a
merchant in Philadelphia. He entered into the importing busi-
ness with his brother, Garrett Meade, as early as 1763, and two
years later we find them signing the non-importation agreement
against England. In 1775 George Meade was enrolled in the
Third Battalion of Associators and was a member of several im-
portant committees charged with preparations for the Revolution.
In 1780 he subscribed two thousand pounds to the patriotic bank
and was one of the leading subscribers to the building fund of
St. Augustine's Catholic Church, being also a trustee of St.
Mary's. He was the father of ten children and grandfather of
General George Gordon Meade, the hero of Gettysburg. He died
in Philadelphia on November 9, 1808.

JAMES, JOHN, AND MATHEW MEASE, three broth-
ers, were all born in Strabane, County Tyrone, Ireland, and were
among the original members of the Friendly Sons, while James
and John were members of the First City Troop from its incep-
tion. Their uncle, John Mease, also a native of Strabane, was
established as a merchant in Philadelphia for many years before
their arrival, and died there in 1767. The three brothers were
among the most zealous adherents to the cause of independence.
James Mease was a member of the Committee of Correspondence,
June 18, 1774; of the Committee of Safety, June 30, 1775, and
was made Paymaster and Treasurer of the Continental Army No-
vember 10, 1775. In January, 1777, he was appointed Clothier-
General of the army by Washington, and in 1780 he subscribed
five thousand pounds to the bank organized to supply the army
with provisions, his brother John giving four thousand pounds
toward the same worthy object. John Mease was with Washing-
ton on the night of December 25, 1776, when he crossed the Dela-
ware, and was one of five detailed to keep alive the fires along
the Hne of the American encampment, to deceive the enemy, while
the army marched by a private route to attack the British rear-
guard at Trenton. For twenty-nine years he was Surveyor of
the Port of Philadelphia — from 1796 until his death on Novem-
ber 21, 1825, in the 86th year of his age. He was the only man
who continued in latter days to wear the old three-cornered hat
of the Revolution and was affectionately called "the last of the
cocked hats." He was the father of Dr. James Mease, author
of "The Picture of Philadelphia in 1811." Matthew Mease en-
tered the navy and became purser of the Bon Homme Richard.
In the desperate struggle between that vessel and the Serapis Mr,
Mease, not relishing the thought of being an idle spectator of the
engagement, obtained from Paul Jones the command of the quar-
ter-deck guns, which he held until he was dangerously wounded



l86 THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.

on the head and had to be carried below. He died in 1787, two
years after his brother, James Mease.

JOHN MITCHELL, one of the original members of the
Society and one of its Vice Presidents, was a native of Ireland
and a prominent merchant in Philadelphia. He served without
pay as Muster Master-General of the State Navy in 1775 and
acted as an officer on the armed boats Chatham and Ranger.
After the war he was United States Consul at Santiago de Cuba.
His sons, John and Randle,were also members of the Friendly Sons.

One of the most interesting and picturesque figures in the
whole Revolution was GENERAL STEPHEN MOYLAN, a
native of the city of Cork, Ireland. Though the majority of the
Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick were Protestants at
its inception Moylan, a Catholic, was unanimously elected its first
President — a fact which speaks volumes for the liberal feelings
which actuated the members. He was also its last President, hav-
ing been re-elected to that honorable position in 1796 and con-
tinued to hold it until the extinction of the organization — prob-
ably at his death. From the beginning he was one of its most
active and loyal members and in its later years, clinging to the
grand old organization with a beautiful devotion, he was its chief
mainstay and support. His father, John Moylan, of the city of
Cork, was married twice. By his first wife, the Countess of Lim-
erick, he had four children — two daughters who became Ursuline
nuns, one of them being an abbess ; Stephen Moylan and Francis
Moylan, the latter being Catholic Bishop of Cork from 1786
until his death. By his second wife he had two children — Jasper
and John Moylan. The Moylans were merchants, established in
business in Cork as early as 1720 and prominently connected with
commercial affairs. Denis Moylan, an uncle of Stephen, who died
in 1772, held the Government contract for the commissariat of
the Isle of Bourbon. In consequence of the severe penal laws
against the education of Catholics the boys of the family had to
be smuggled out of the country to France for their education.
Upon their return they soon became men of mark. Stephen Moy-
lan was born in 1743. It is a tradition in the family that, after
receiving his education abroad, he was sent to Lisbon, Portugal,
where his father had large commercial interests, and upon his
return to Ireland he chafed so much under the restraint of Brit-
ish laws that he resolved to emigrate to America. He carried his
resolve into execution, came to America some years before the
Revolution, and became a prosperous merchant in Philadelphia.
He was foremost in every movement leading up to independence
and at the commencement of the war he immediately applied for
service in the army. He did not wait for hostilities to open in



the; IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOI,UTION. 187

Philadelphia, but enlisted in a regiment that hastened to the
American camp before Boston in 1775. His business experience
led to his assignment to the Commissariat Department, and on June
5, 1776, through the influence of his friend and fellow member of
the Friendly Sons, John Dickinson, Congress elected him Quar-
termaster-General, with the rank of Colonel, thus placing him on
the staff of General Washington, then after being appointed Com-
mander-in-Chief of the patriot army. From the first Washington
was attracted by his gentlemanly and polite bearing and a warm
friendship sprung up between them which lasted during their
lives. The duties of Quartermaster-General not being suitable to
the gallant Irishman, he resigned his position on October i, 1776.
On the recommendation of Washington, and by permission of
Congress, Moylan raised a regiment of horse, the Fourth Penn-
sylvania Light Dragoons, the vast majority of whom were men
of the Irish race, which became as famous in the Revolution as
Sheridan's command did afterward in the Rebellion. Moylan
was in constant service until the end of the war, and in all the
operations of Washington and his Continental Army "Moylan's
Dragoons" bore a conspicuous and gallant part. Whether in the
field or while the army was in camp at Valley Forge and other
places he was constantly at the front in all the movr^ments in
which the cavalry were employed, whether in harassing the
enemy, cutting off supplies, or providing sustenance for the
American patriots in the field.

The Marquis de Chastellux, the distinguished French author
and soldier, thus speaks of Colonel Moyl<m \n his "Travels in
America :"

"Behold me traveling with Colonel Stephen Moylan, whom
his excellency General Washington had given me in spite of my-
self, as a companion. I began to question him, he to answer me,
and the conversation gradually becoming more interesting, I found
I had to deal with a very gallant and very intelligent man, who
had lived long in Europe and who has traveled through the
greatest part of America. I found him perfectly polite, for his
poHteness was not troublesome, and I soon conceived a great
friendship for him. Mr. Moylan is an Irish-Catholic ; one of his
brothers is Catholic Bishop of Cork. As for himself he came to
America some years a^o, where he was at first engaged in com-
merce ; he then served ui the army as aide-de-camp to the General,
and has merited the command of the light cavalry. During the
war he married the daughter of a rich merchant in the Jerseys,
who lived formerly at New York, and who now resides on an
estate at a little distance from the road we were to pass the
next day."



l88 THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.

Chastellux, we might add, was a major-general in the French
expedition under Rochambeau and gained the friendship of Wash-
ington by his amiable character. He was married to an Irish lady
named Plunkett.

Colonel Moylan returned at the close of the war with the
rank of Brigadier-General and resumed business in Philadelphia,
attempting to rebuild a fortune which had been greatly impaired
by the sacrifices he had willingly made in the service of his adopted
country. His wife, the daughter of Philip Van Home, Colonial
Governor of New Jersey, was a highly cultured and amiable lady,
the charm of whose manners greatly added to the attractions
of her home on the corner of Walnut and Fourth streets. With
her aid General ]\Ioylan soon became distinguished as an old
school gentleman and a hospitable host. In 1793 he was appointed
Commissioner of Loans and Pensions and held that position until
his death, which occurred on April 11, 1811, his wife preceding
him to the grave by more than twenty years.

Major-General John Joseph Coppinger, of the United States
army, who was born in Queenstown, Ireland, on October 11, 1834,
was a descendant of Denis Moylan, uncle of General Stephen
Moylan. In early life General Coppinger was in the Papal Brigade
and was decorated for heroism in the war against Victor Em-
manuel. He joined the United States Army on September 30,
1 86 1, and rose from the rank of Captain to that of Major-General,
He was retired on October n, 1898.

The following poem on "Moylan's Dragoons" was written by
Thomas D'Arcy McGee when he first came' to the United States.
It was supposed to be sung in honor of Moylan's Dragoons after
the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, in 1781 :

MOYLAN'S DRAGOONS.

Furl up the banner of the brave, Our sabers were not slack ;

And bear it gently home. Like lightning, next, to Charlestown

Through stormy scenes no more to We scourged the British back.
wave ;

For now the calm has come. And here at Yorktown now they

Through showering grape and yield,

drifting death. And our career is o'er,

It floated ever true ; No more thou'lt flutter o'er the field,

And by the signs upon our path, Flag of the brave! — no more.

Men knew what troop went The Redcoats yield them to "the

through. Line ;"

Both sides have changed their

Our flag first flew o'er Boston fre«, tunes,

When Graves' fleet groped out To peace the Congress doth in-

On Stony Point, reconquered, we cline;

Unfurled it with a shout ; And so do we Dragoons.
At Trenton, Monmouth, German-
town.



THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. I89

Furl up the banner of the brave, Hurrah, then, for the Schuylkill

And bear it gently home; side.

No more o'er Moylan's march to Its pleasant woody dells !

wave. Old Ulster* well may warm with

Lodge it in Moylan's home. pride

There Butler, Hand, and Wayne, When each his story tells.

perchance, Comrades, farewell; may heaven

May tell of battles brave, bestow

And the old flag on its splintered On you its richest boons !

lance So let us drink before we go,

Above their heads shall wave. To Moylan's brave Dragoons !



♦Ulster County, Pa.

BLAIR McCLENACHAN, who joined the Friendly Sons
in 1777, was a native of Ireland, but came to Philadelphia at an
early age and became the largest importer in the city, with the
exception of Robert Morris. His sympathies were early enlisted
in the American cause and he was one of the original members
of the First City Troop, serving with it in the Jersey Campaign
in 1 776- 1 777. His subscription of ten thousand pounds to the
patriotic bank project was only equaled by that of Robert Morris,
who gave a similar amount. After the war he was a member of
the Pennsylvania Assembly for five years, and was elected to
Congress in 1797. In 1794 he was President of the Democratic
Society and bitterly opposed the confirmation of Jay's treaty,
which he denounced as a complete surrender to England. He
lost all his money through financial reverses, and toward the close
of his career became a very poor man. President Jefferson did
not forget his services, however, and appointed him Commissioner
of Loans, which position he held until his death on May 8, 18 12.

From its first meeting until his death JOHN MAXWELL
NESBITT was one of the most active members of the Friendly
Sons, and on March 3, 1790, when the grand old society com-
menced to decline, he was Chairman of the "Select Meeting of
Irishmen" which formed the Hibernian Society. He was a native
of Loughbrickland, County Down, Ireland, and came to America
when a young man, with recommendations to Redmond Conyng-
ham, who was a prosperous merchant in Philadelphia long before
the Revolution and who employed him as a clerk. In 1765, when
Mr. Conyngham was about to return to Ireland, he entrusted his
business into Mr. Nesbitt's hands, making him a partner and
finally changing the firm name to J. M. Nesbitt & Co. Quite a
number of the Friendly Sons owed their change of residence
from Ireland to America by reason of the business connections
of this firm with the North of Ireland. At the commencement
of the Revolution the firm soon became noted for its patriotism,
and in 1780 subscribed five thousand pounds to the patriotic



190 THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.

bank. Mr. Nesbitt took a prominent part in the struggle for
Independence and held many honorable appointments. When the
Continental army, in 1780, was suffering from hunger General
Washington wro'te to Judge Peters depicting their great distress.
Judge Peters called on Mr. Nesbitt and mformed him of the con-
dition of affairs. Mr. Nesbitt immediately replied that a quantity
of beef and pork which he had recently bought, together with a
valuable prize laden witli provisions which had just arrived, were
at the ser\ice of General Washington. They were accepted at
once and immediately forwarded to the soldiers, some of whom
were half starved. In addition to tliis Mr. Nesbitt most heartily
co-operated with every effort to sustain the public credit and
provide for the continuance of the war. He was one of the
Directors of the Bank of North America and the first President
of the Insurance Company of North America. He died in January.
1802. His brother, Alexander Nesbitt, also distingushed himself
as a patriot during the Revolution. Both brothers were members
of the First City Troop and fought with it in the campaign of
I7;76- 1 777. Alexander Nesbitt was in the dry goods business,
General Walter Stewart being his partner in the firm of Stewart
& Nesbitt He died in September, 1791.

FRANCIS NICHOLS was born in Enniskillen, Fermanagh,
Ireland, in 1737. He came to America in 1769 and settled in
Philadelphia. He was a lieutenant in Colonel William Thomp-
son's Rifle Battalion in 1776 and was captured in the attack on
Three Rivers. On December 16, 1776, after his exchange, he
was promoted to the rank of Captain, and subsequently was
Major of the Ninth Pennsylvania Line. After the war he engaged
in business in Philadelphia and took an active part in the public
events of the city. He was a member of the First City Troop,
the Hibernian Society and the Pennsylvania Society of the Cin-
cinnati. He died on February 13. 1812, at Pottstown, Pa. His
brother, William Nichols, was United States Marshal of Phila-
delphia in 1785, and his grandson, Henry K. Nichols, joined the
Hibernian Society in 1867.

JOHN NIXON, one of the original members of the Friendly
Sons, was bom in Philadelphia in 1733. He was the son of
Richard Nixon, a native of County Wexford, Ireland, who was a
prominent shipping merchant in Philadelphia. He succeeded his
father in business and from an early age took a leading part in
public affairs. In 1774 he was a member of the Philadelphia
Committee of Correspondence which brought about the First
Colonial Congress in that city and in the following year he was
made Colonel of one of the Associator Regijnents formed to
defend Philadelphia. The Council of Safety having received



THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. 191

from Congress, upon July 6, 1776, a copy of the Declaration of
Independence, it was ordered to be proclaimed at the State House
upon Monday, July 8, at 12 o'clock noon, and John Nixon, one of
the members of the Council, was selected to read it. At the time
and place mentioned, in the presence of the assembled citizens,
he read and proclaimed, FOR THE FIRST TIME, that precious
document. He was twice in the field, with his regiment of Asso-
ciators, under Washington, and took part in the battle of Prince-
ton. ^ He was appointed by Congress to many positions of trust,
and in 1780 subscribed five thousand pounds to the patriotic bank.
In the Federal Procession upon July 4, 1788, to commemorate
the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, Colonel
Nixon represented the character of "Independence" and was one
of the principal organizers of the parade. He was a trustee of
the University of Pennsylvania, an alderman of Philadelphia,
and for ten years was President of the Bank of North America,
from 1792 until his death on December 31, 1808.

MICHAEL MORGAN O'BRIEN, who joined the Friendly
Sons in 1781 and was also a member of the Hibernian Society
and First City Troop, was a native of Ireland and a merchant in
Philadelphia. In his will he mentions many of his old friends
in the Friendly Sons and leaves his books to the "Rt. Reverend
Falher in God, John Carroll, R. C, Bishop of Baltimore, as a
testimony of the great respect and esteem I bear him." He also
made the following interesting bequest: "I give unto my dear
nephew, James Boland, now residing at the Island of Dominica,
in the West Indies, my gold watch and a gold medal which was
struck for the members of a society known by the name of the
Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, and of which society General Moylan
is President for the present year." His will was made on Septem-
ber 2, 1803, before going on a voyage to France, where he died.

JOHN PATTON was born in Sligo, Ireland, in 1745, came
to America in 1761 and settled in Philadelphia, where he was
a merchant at the opening of the Revolution. He was a member
of the City Committee of Inspection and Observation, August 16,
1775; Major of the Second Provincial Rifle Battalion, March,
1776; Major Ninth Pennsylvania Regiment, November 11, 1776,
and Colonel Sixteenth Pennsylvania Regiment, January 11, 1777.
He served with credit during the war and subscribed two thou-
sand pounds to the patriotic bank in 1780 — his purse, as well as
his person, being always at the disposal of his country. He
resumed business in Philadelphia after the war and later became
an iron manufacturer on a large scale. He was also a member
of the Hibernian Society and of the First City Troop, and at the
time of his death, in 1804, was Major-General of a Division of the



192 THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.

Pennsylvania Militia. Writing in 1892, Mr. Campbell tells us
that "his son, John Patton, was a lieutenant in the United States
Navy and served for eight years under Commodore Stephen
Decatur. His grandson, Honorable John Patton, was a member
of the Thirty-seventh and Fiftieth Congresses, Brigadier-General
of Pennsylvania Militia, and is now the President of the Curwens-
ville (Pa.) Bank. His great-grandson, John Patton, jr., is a
practicing lawyer in Grand Rapids, Mich., and has a son, also
named John Patton, the fifth of the name, five years of age."
It will thus be seen that the name of Patton stands out with
honor in every generation from the Revolution down to the present
day. May it long continue to be a credit to its illustrious founder,
John Patton, of Sligo, Ireland.

JOHN SHEE, one of the original members of the Society,
was born in Ardanagrah Castle, Westmeath, Ireland, and, through
his mother, was lineal heir to that estate, consisting of 900 acres.
On the death of his mother, he and his brother, Bertles, were
brought to America by their father, Walter Shee. They settled
in Philadelphia and engaged in the shipping business, the firm
being Walter Shee & Sons. On January 3, 1776, John Shee was
elected Colonel of the Third Pennsylvania Regiment, and in
April, 1777, he was appointed on the State Board of War and
served until the close of its labors. In 1780 he subscribed one
thousand pounds to the bank organized to supply provisions to
the army. After the war he remained prominent in military
affairs and attained the rank of General in the Militia. He was
also active in the politics of the day and was City Treasurer from
1790 to 1797. President Jefferson appointed him Collector of
the Port of Philadelphia, Stephen Girard being surety on his
official bond, and he held the position until his death on August
5, 1808.

HUGH SHIEL, who joined the Friendly Sons in 1780,
was a native of Ireland and a physician. He practiced medicine
in Philadelphia toward the end of the Revolution, and in 1780
subscribed five thousand pounds to the patriotic bank organized
to supply the American army with provisions. After the war
Dr. Shiel removed to Kentucky, where he was accidentally
drowned while crossing a river.

CHARLES STEWART was bom in Newton Cunningham,
County Donegal, Ireland, in 1729. He came to America in 1750
and became Deputy Surveyor-General of the Province of Penn-
sylvania, being noted for the excellence of his strrveys. In 1774
he was a member of the first convention in New Jersey that is-
sued a Declaration of Rights against the aggressions of the Crown
and in 1775 was a delegate to the First Provincial Congress. He



THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. I93

was made Colonel of the First New Jersey regiment of Minute



Online LibraryJames HaltiganThe Irish in the American revolution, and their early influence in the colonies → online text (page 20 of 67)