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

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cerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored
with. As to pay, sir, I beg leave to assure the Congress that, as
no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to accept the
arduous employment at the expense of my domestic ease and hap-
piness, I do not wish to make any profit from. I will keep an
exact account of my expenses. Those, I doubt not, they will dis-
charge, and that is all I desire."

When Washington was in retreat through the Jerseys in
1776 he sent an urgent appeal to Johnson for re-enforcements,
saying that he had not men enough to fight the enemy and too
few to run away with. Johnson raised 1,800 militia in the west-
em counties of Maryland and led them in person to the relief of
Washington. Johnson had six brothers, all of whom were most
active in the Revolutionary cause. Benjamin and Roger were
majors, James and Baker colonels, John a surgeon in the army,
and Joshua was in the diplomatic service, being afterwards the
first United States Consul at London.

When Congress met in Baltimore on December 20, 1776.
it was only a small village containing less than one hundred houses,
but the inhabitants were intensely patriotic. James McSherry,


in his history of Maryland, recites that when Lafayette passed
through Baltimore on his way to the South he was greeted with the
greatest enthusiasm by the people. A ball was given in his honor,
but in the midst of the festivities Lafayette appeared sad. "Why
so gloomy at a ball?" asked one of the ladies. "I cannot enjoy
the gayety of the scene," he replied, "while so many of the poor
soldiers are without shirts and other necessaries." "We will sup-
ply them," was the noble response, and the next day every woman
in Baltimore was engaged in the work.

Historian McSherry came of an Irish family distinguished in
the Revolution. He was him.self an active and devoted Catholic
and a regular contributor to the United States Catholic Magazine,
while his father, James McSherry, was a member of Congress
from 1 82 1 to 1823.

The Rev. Patrick Allison, first minister of the Presbyterian
Church in Baltimore, a native-born Irishman, was appointed
Chaplain of Congress while it remained in session in that city.

The late Mr. D. J. Scully, a prominent Irish writer and
patriotic worker in Baltimore, contributed an able sketch of the
Irish race in that city to a recent number of the Catholic Mirror,
from which we make the following extracts :

"Prior to the Revolution the most important merchants and
educators, and even professional men in the town were Irish by
birth. They laid the foundation of the town's trade and commerce
and built it up not only morally and physically, but financially.
The man who laid the foundation of the town's trade was Dr.
John Stevenson, who, although a physician, had an eye to trade,
and coming direct from Ireland deemed it wise to establish a line
of ships between this city and Irish ports. This was the begin-
ning of Baltimore's commerce, which for nearly seventy-five years
after Stevenson's pioneer line was established, almost rivalled
New York's commerce in general, and in many ways excelled it.
The work done by Stevenson in establishing trade for Baltimore
was continued by the Purviances, William Patterson, Bowly, John
O'Donnell, John Smith, William Smith, William McDonald, Rob-
ert and John Olivet, WiUiam Wilson, Talbott Jones, Isaac Mc-
Kim, Robert Garrett, Luke Tiernan, Cumberland Dugan, David
Stewart, Stephen Stewart, James Calhoun, John Sterrett, John
McLure, Thomas Russell, Samuel Hughes, William Neill, Hugh
Young, Patrick Colvin, Alexander Pendergast, Patrick Bennett,
Robert Welsh, Mark Pringle, William Kennedy, James O. Law,
Hugh McElderry, Charles M. Dougherty, William Walters, John
McCoy, D. J. Foley, Hamilton Easter, Robert Neale, Hugh
Birchhead, John Coulter, and others, who, from time to time, have
figured prominently in the shipping and commercial annals of


Baltimore. Many of these men were not only the pioneers, but
the leaders for years in the matters which concerned the carrying
trade of Baltimore and also in the business concerns of the town
and city. Their names are so closely associated with the history
of Baltimore for the first hundred years of her history at least
that it is impossible to disconnect them. They were honest merch-
ants of the old school and their methods were direct and above
suspicion. They laid the foundation of Baltimore's reputation for
business honesty.

"It is highly interesting to trace the rise and rule of these ex-
patriated Irish merchants who came to Baltimore, many of them
with money and business experience, driven from Ireland by Eng-
land's unjust tariff laws. These men hated England as strongly
as they loved fair play. They waxed rich and placed everything
they had at the services of their fellow-citizens and of their coun-
try. 'They were well aware of England's hypocritical methods and
thus when the Revolution came on they cast their fortunes to a
man with the colonies, and gave of their blood, their experience,
and their means to assist the patriots. During the Revolution in
Baltimore and Maryland they were prominent in all works of im-
portance. Thus we see Samuel Purviance, the chief man of the
town ; Purviance was a leading merchant.

"His services to the patriot cause were vast, and he was fre-
quently complimented by Washington and the Continnetal Con-
gress for his services. He was largely instrumental in helping
Lafayette to clothe his half-starved and half-clothed army when
on its way to the South to prosecute that historic campaign which
ended in the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. Thus he played
a prominent part in one of the historic events in history, and con-
sidering the present status of this Republic, the most momentous
campaign in history.

"The Irish merchants who contributed to this fund to buy
cloth and make uniforms for Lafayette's ragged army were
Messrs. Purviance, William Patterson, John McLure, Daniel
Bowly, Ridgely, and Pringle, James Calhoun, James McHenry,
Charles Carroll, William Smith, Alex. Donaldson, Samuel Hughes,
Russell & Hughes, William Neill, John Smith, William Smith,
Hugh Young, and Robert Patter Purviance. William Smith
and William Patterson and other Irish merchants were also prom-
inent in the committee work during the Revolution, and if it had
failed, would have no doubt decorated the short end of a hang-
man's rope for their love of liberty. The services of Charles Car-
roll, of Carrollton, and of his cousin, Charles Carroll, of Mount
Clare, to the patriot cause and to the city and State, even the na-
tion, it is useless to recount here as they are well known. They


were Irish-Americans, however, and not ashamed of it, and their
influence in the city and its environs were considerable along all

William Patterson gave Patterson Park to the city, and also
contributed largely to the foundation of many public enterprises,
some of which survive to-day as monuments to the activities of
himself and his fellow-Irishmen. Prime among those monuments
is the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Isaac McKim, another Irish-
man, founded the first free school set up in Baltimore. It still
stands at Baltimore and Aisquith streets a monument to him, and
has been in its day a strong sphere of influence. John Oliver,
another Gael, founded the Oliver Hibernian Free School, which
has been for nearly a century a wide center of influence for good.
It was the first school established in the United States for the ex-
clusive education of Irish-Americans, and was established at a
time when Americans of other races were without free schools
of any kind.

"Prominent in the establishment of the Baltimore and Ohio
Railroad and of the Northern Central Railroad were other Irish
merchants and professional men, such as Robert Garrett, Alexan-
der and George Brown, the latter of whom conceived the idea of
building the road; Isaac McKim, Charles Carroll, of Carrollton;
John V. L. McMahon, the Irish-American lawyer, who drew that
first railroad charter ever drawn for the Baltimore and Ohio,
which has served as a model ever since ; Patrick McCauley, the
Irish educator; Talbott Jones, Robert Oliver, and others. These
men gave not only their influence to these roads, but their money.
How well they built facts establish. John Donnell, the Irishman,
was the man who named Canton, on the southeast side of the
basin, because he thought it looked like Canton, China; and he
was the first president of the Baltimore Gas Light Company.
His son. General Columbus O'Donnell, was for many years the
honored president of the company. General William McDonald
was the first man to run packets on the Chesapeake Bay, and also
the first to run steam vessels. And thus he was the founder of
Baltimore's great bay trade.

"Alexander Brown, Robert Garrett, and Isaac McKim were
practically the founders of the banking business of this city, and
with others of the great Irish business men influenced the financial
interests of Baltimore for many years. In fact, their descendants
have a powerful influence in banking matters locally at this time.

"In the religious concerns of the city the Irish have ever
played an important part. The city is the seat of the Roman
Catfiolic Church in tins country, the first bishop and archbishop
of which was John Carroll, an Irish-American, Since his day the


Irish have been in the forefront in Catholic affairs in Baltimore.
Many will recall the names of the saintly McColg-an. Dolan, Mc-
Manus, Coskery, Slattery, McCoy, Dougherty, M alloy, Dugan,
Gaitley, McDevitt, and many others of equal note who have served
prominently in this city and have been towers of strength to their
coreligionists. The stature of Archbishop Carroll in his day was
heroic, and he was regarded as one of the chief citizens of the
Republic, as his famous successor. Cardinal Gibbons, is to-day.
The similarity between Dr. Carroll and the Cardinal on the lines
of personal influence is remarkable. What Dr. Carroll was in his
day a century ago, the Cardinal is to-day, and the person who is
familiar with the Cardinal's character knows what power and in-
spiration that is for good. Other prelates who were of Irish ex-
traction and who labored here were Archbishops Neale and the
illustrious Kenrick, the latter one of the greatest of church writers
and a strong man of his day.

"In other denominations we have Dr. Patrick Allison, the
first pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, and a remarkable
man in many ways, who was the friend of Dr. Carroll, and his
contemporary. Rev. John Glendy, a native of Ireland, who was
a rebel in 1798, and had to fly for his life to this country, was
the first pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church, and an ora-
tor of unusual ability. Rev. John Healey was the first Baptist
minister in Baltimore Town, and founded the first Baptist chapel.
He ministered here for many years and was without doubt an
influential man. The congregations of the Presbyterian and
Baptist churches included a number of prominent Irish business
and professional men.

''The first Methodist preacher that we know of who
preached in the vicinity of this city was Robert Strawbridge, the
Irshman. We know that there were several well-known Irish-
men who Avere among the first members of the first M. E.
Church, old Light street, now Mount Vernon Place Church;
among them being Patrick Colvin and Patrick Bennett. This
Colvin afterwards was buried from the old Light Street Church,
which caught fire during his funeral and was burned to the
ground. His daughter founded the old Colvin Institute in his
honor, and Colvin street is named after him. He was an influ-
ential merchant as well as a leading Methodist. The first mayor
of the city, James Calhoun, was an Irish-American.

"The first Secretary of the Navy from Maryland was an
Irishman, James McHenry, after whom the fort is named. It is
well to remark that Fort Carroll is also named after Charles
Carroll, the Irish-American. The first Secretary of State and
Attorney-General from Maryland was Robert Smith, son of John


Smith, the Irishman. General Samuel Smith, the Revolutionary
hero, who served more years than any other from this State in
the United States Senate, also commanded the forces at the
battle of North Point and the defense of Fort McHenry, The
first and only Chief Justice of the United States from Maryland
was Roger Brooke Taney, the Irish-American, who was also an
Attorney-General of the United States. One of the two Secre-
taries of the Navy from this State was John Pendleton Ken-
nedy, the Irish-American. All of these facts serve to show
that the Irish have played some part in public affairs in this city
and State.

"Past and present, the Irish element has been so closely iden-
tified with the history of Baltimore that it has played an impor-
ant part in influencing every detail of the life of the city."

Among the Irishmen prominent in Baltimore, not only dur-
ing the sessions of Congress there but for eighteen years before,
was JOHN SMITH, a native of Strabane, County Tyrone, Ire-
land. He at first settled in Pennsylvania, but removed to Balti-
more in 1759. where he became one of the most prominent mer-
chants. In 1763 he was one of the Commissioners to raise money
for the erection of a market house in Baltimore, and three years
later he acted in a like capacity in laying out an addition to the
town. In 1769 he presided at a meeting of merchants to prohibit
English importations, and in 1774 he was a member of the Balti-
more Committee of Correspondence. In November, 1774, he
became one of the Committee of Observation, whose powers
included the local government of Baltimore town and county and
the raising of forty companies of minutemen, who, in common
with all soldiers bearing that honored title, were to hold them-
selves in readiness to take the field at a minute's notice.

The Continental Congress having recommended measures
for procuring arms and ammunition from abroad, John Smith
was appointed on the committee for that purpose from Baltimore.
He was a member of the convention that framed the first Con-
stitution of Maryland and was elected to the State Senate in
1 78 1, and re-elected in 1786.

His son, SAMUEL SMITH, was in every way worthy of
his patriotic Irish father, and from the opening to the closing of
his long and brilliant career he was ever on duty for his countrv.
He spent five years in his father's counting-room and sailed to
Havre, France, in 1772, as supercargo of one of his vessels. He
traveled extensively in Europe and returned home after the bat-
tle of Lexington. He offered his services to Maryland, and in
1776 was commissioned captain in Colonel Small wood's regi-
ment. He served with distinction at Long Island, where his regi-


ment lost one-third of its men ; at Harlem, White Plains, Staten
Island, and on the Brandywine, meanwhile rising to the rank of
colonel. Upon the ascent of the British fleet up the Delaware
he was appointed by Washington to the command of Fort Mif-
flin, where, in a naked and exposed position, he maintained him-
self under a continued cannonade from September 26 till Novem-
ber II, 1777, when he was so severely wotmded that he had to
be carried to the Jersey shore. For this gallant defense he re-
ceived from Congress a vote of thanks and a sword. While still
suffering from the effects of his wounds he shared in the hard-
ships of Valley Forge and later took an active part in the battle
of Monmouth. So liberally did he contribute his means to the
cause of independence and the wants of his soldiers, for a con-
tinued service of three and a half years, he was reduced from
affluence to poverty and compelled to resign his command, but
he continued to do duty as colonel of the Baltimore militia until
the end of the war.

After the Revolutionary War Colonel Smith occupied the
position of port warden, member of the House of Delegates, and
brigadier-general of the militia of Baltimore. In 1793 he was
elected a representative in Congress, holding the place until 1803,
and again from 1816 till 1822. He was a member of the United
States Senate from 1803 to 181 5, and from 1822 to 1833, thus
serving continuously in Congress, as Senator and Representative,
for the long period of forty years. Under President Jefferson
he served a short time in 1801, without compensation, as Secre-
tary of the Navy, though declining the appointment.

He was major-general of the State troops in the defense of
Baltimore in the War of 1812. He was one of the leading
projectors of the Washington and Battle monuments in Baltimore,
and a founder of the Bank of Maryland and of the Baltimore
Library Company. In 1835, when he was in his eighty-third
year, a committee of his fellow-citizens, having called on him to
put down a mob that had possession of the city, he at once con-
sented to make the attempt, and was so successful in restoring
order that he was elected Mayor, of Baltimore and continued in
that office for three years. He died on April 22, 1839, in his
eighty-seventh year.

His son, John Spear Smith, who was born in Baltimore in
1790, and died there in 1866, was one of the leading citizens of
Maryland and occupied many positions of trust and honor. He
acted as aide-de-camp to his father in the defense of Baltimore.
He was a judge of the Orphans' Court, Presidential elector in
1833, and first President of the Maryland Historical Society, hold-
ing the latter position from 1844 until his death.


Robert Smith, another son of the Irish founder of the fam-
ily, was a noted leader in State and national affairs. He fought
in the Revolution as a volunteer, was State Senator and member
of the House of Delegates, Secretary of the Navy, and Attorney-
General under Jefferson and Secretary of State under Madison,
and in 181 3 succeeded Archbishop John Carroll as Provost of
the University of Maryland. He died in Baltimore on Novem-
ber 26, 1842, in the eighty-fifth year of his age. His son, Sam-
uel William Smith, who was born in Baltimore in 1800, and died
there eighty-seven years later, was a leader in public affairs dur-
ing his long life and well maintained the honor of the family.

The record of the family founded by John Smith, of Tyrone,
Ireland, brings out the fact that his son, General Samuel Smith,
was in chief command of the State troops in Baltimore, with his
son acting as his chief aide when Francis Scott Key wrote "The
Star-Spangled Banner," which the agents of England are now
seeking to change. It will be seen, therefore, that we Irish have
a deep interest in the preservation of our National Anthem and
that our countrymen nobly distinguished themselves in the brave
deeds which called it forth. We have earned the right to act as
its preservers and we will do so, with God's help, as long as
Irishmen or their descendants have a voice in the councils of this

Francis Scott Key witnessed the bombardment of Fort Mc-
Henry on September 13, 1814, from the deck of a ship supplied
by President Madison for the purpose of releasing his friend, Dr.
William Beans, who had been captured by the British. General
Ross, the English commander, granted the release of Dr. Beans,
but decided that both him and Key should be detained during the
attack on Baltimore. Owing to the position of their vessel the
flag on Fort McHenry was distinctly seen through the night by
the glare of the battle, but before dawn the firing ceased and the
prisoners anxiously watched to see which colors floated on the
rarnparts. Key's feelings, when he saw that the Stars and
Stripes had not been hauled down, found expression in his im-
mortal "Star-Spangled Banner." On arriving in Baltimore he
finished the lines which he had hastily written on the back of a
letter and gave them to Captain Benjamin Fades, of the Twenty-
seventh Baltimore Regiment, who had participated in the battle
of North Point, with directions to have them printed and sung to
the air of "Anacreon in Heaven." Seizing a copy from the press
Eades hastened to the old tavern next to the Holiday Street
Theater, where the actors were accustomed to assemble. The
verses were first read aloud by the printer and then, on being ap-
pealed to by the crowd, Ferdinand Durang mounted a chair and


sang them for the first time. In a short time the song was known
all over the United States and soon became the National Anthem,
which it will always continue to remain despite the contemptible
pilferings of England. Here is the anthem as Key wrote it, with
the third stanza, the one England seeks to destroy, printed in
Italic letters.


Oh! say, can you see by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly \\ne hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming,

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight.
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket's red glare, and bombs bursting in air.

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there !

Oh ! say. does the star-spangled banner yet wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mist of the deep.
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam.

In full glory reflected, now shines in the stream ;

'Tis the star-spangled banner, oh I long may it wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And zvhcre is tJmt band zt'ho so vauntingly swore,
'Mid the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country they'd leave its no more?

Their blood has wash'd out their foul foot-step's pollution;
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flighty or the gloom of the groove,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shail wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Oh ! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand.

Between their loved home and the war's desolation;
Blest with victory and peace may the heaven-rescued land

Praise the power that made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is iust,
And this be our motto, "In God is our trust.
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The Irish people have an additional claim to "The Star-
Spangled Banner" from the fact that Fort McHenry, the scene
of the battle which called it forth, was named in honor of
JAMES McHENRY, statesman and patriot, who was born in
Ireland in 1753 and died in Baltimore May 3, 1816. He received
a classical education in Dublin but was obliged to make a voyage


on account of delicate health and came to Philadelphia about
1 771. He induced his father to emigrate to that city, where the
young man studied medicine under Dr. Benjamin Rush. When
Washington was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Army
James McHenry accompanied him to the camp at Cambridge and
became a surgeon and medical director in the army. He was
made prisoner at the fall of Fort Washington and held captive
in the loathsome dungeons of New York for over a year. On
May 15, 1778, he became a secretary to Washington and his rela-
tions with the latter continued through life to be those of trusted
friend and adviser. From 1783 till 1786 he was a member of
the Continental Congress and afterwards was repeatedly elected
as member of the Maryland Legislature and was the first to take
his seat as member of the United States Constitutional Conven-
tion, over which Washington presided. In 1796 he joined Wash-
ington's cabinet as Secretary of War and continued to hold that
office until 1801, when he retired to private life.

James Smith was a signer of the Declaration of Independence
and a member of Congress from Pennsylvania from 1776 to 1778.
He was born in Ireland and came to this country with his father
in 1729 while still a boy. The elder Smith, with his family, set-
tled on the banks of the Susquehanna, where he engaged in farm-
ing. James was educated at the College of Philadelphia and be-
came a lawyer and surveyor, settling first in Shippensburg and

Online LibraryJames HaltiganThe Irish in the American revolution, and their early influence in the colonies → online text (page 24 of 67)