James Haltigan.

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

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It was two by the village clock

When he came to the bridge in Concord town ;

He heard the bleating of the flock

And the twitter of birds among the trees.

And felt the breath of the morning breeze

Blowing over the meadows brown.

And one was safe and asleep in his bed

Who at the bridge would be first to fall.

Who that day would be lying dead,

Pierced by a British musket-ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British regulars fired and fled —
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farm-yard wall
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere,

And so through the night went his cry of alarm

To every Middlesex village and farm —

A cry of defiance and not of fear —

A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door.

And a word that shall echo forever more!

For, borne en the night-wind of the Past,

Through all our history, to the last,

In the hour of darkness and peril and need

The people will waken and listen to hear

The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed

And the midnight message of Paul Revere.


When the British arrived in Lexington they found abcMit one
hundred of the militia collected upon the green under the com-
mand of Captain Jonas Parker. The British, in overwhelming
numbers, rushed upon them, their commander, Major Pitcairn,
shouting, "Disperse, you villians; Lay down your arms! Dis-
perse, ye rebels, disperse 1"

As the patriots did not immediately lay down their arms
Pitcairn, waving his sword, gave orders to surround them. At the
same moment some random shots were fired by the British, but
without effect, which were promptly returned by the Americans.
Pitcairn then drew his pistol and discharged it, at the same time
giving the word Fire !

A general discharge of musketry ensued. The patriots were
compelled to fall back by overwhelming numbers and four of
their number were killed. Fired upon while retreating, several of
them halted and returned the shots. Altogether eight Americans
were killed, among them the brave Captain Parker, who had re-
peatedly said that he never would run from the British. He was
wounded at the first fire, but continuing to discharge his ^un
without retreating he was bayoneted to death by the overpowermg
English. As soon as the patriots were dispersed the British, now
joined by Colonel Smith and his whole force, pushed on toward
Concord, six miles distant. Confident of success, the whole party
were in high spirits. But Concord had been aroused and the
minute-men were gatliering to receive the invaders. The bells
were rung and before daylight the people were in arms under the
command of Colonel James Barrett The whole population, in-
cluding the women, assisted in removing the stores to a place of

About 7 o'clock in the morning the British soldiers were seen
advancing along the Lexington road. Their strength being more
than three times that of the Americans, Colonel Barrett thought
it prudent to temporarily retire to the high ground over the North
Bridge, about a mile from the Common.

The British entered Concord unopposed. The main body
remained in the town, but six companies were sent to secure the
North and South Bridges. The moment they arrived the torch
was applied and the work of destruction was commenced. They
destroyed a quantity of flour, burned sixteen new carriage wheels,
cut down the Liberty Pole, and set fire to the courthouse.

Most of their operations could be seen by the patriots from
their point of vantage on the heights and when the fires were
lighted in the center of the village they became greatly excited,
and they immediately resolved to dislodge the enemy at the North
Bridge. Wheeling into marching order, under the command of


Major John Buttrick, four companies of the militia advanced on
the bridge. When the Americans were within a few rods of the
river they were fired upon by the British and three of their num-
ber slain. "Fire, fellow-soldiers! for God's sake, fire," shouted
the brave Buttrick on seeing his companions fall, and immediately
a full volley was poured into the ranks of the invaders. Three
of the British were killed and several wounded and taken pris-
oners. Some other shots were fired, but in a few minutes Captain
Lawrie, the British commander, ordered a retreat and the Ameri-
cans took possession of the bridge. The British fled with so much
haste that they left two of their dead upon the field.

Colonel Smith, in the village, on hearing the firing at the
bridge, sent reinforcements. These met the retreating detachment
of Lawrie, but, observing the increasing force of the militia,
wheeled and joined in the retreat. Colonel Smith, too, thought
it prudent to return with his troops to Boston as speedily as pos-
sible, and a little after 12 o'clock started homeward on his inglor-
ious march.

Then commenced a succession of desultory attacks — the col-
onists rushing from all quarters to the scene of action, and without
concert, organization, or orders, and utterly disregarding the coun-
sels of the morning not to attack the enemy without provocation,
maintained a galling fire upon the confused troops from house
and wall and hedge. In the midst of their perplexities the British
soldiers commenced that fatal retreat, which would probably have
been their last, had not Gage, apprehensive for the fate of the
expedition, dispatched Lord Percy in the morning with strong re-
inforcements to support Colonel Smith. The retreating and ad-
vancing detachments entered Lexington at different points to-
gether, and the latter temporarily checked the fierce pursuit of
the Americans, while the former were resuming order and putting
themselves in a better posture of defense.

Percy's brigade met the wearied troops between 2 and 3
o'clock. He formed a hollow square, planted his cannon for its
defense, and received within it the worn-out companies of Colonel
Smith. Many of the soldiers fell upon the ground completely
overcome. "They were," writes Stedman, "so much exhausted
with fatigue that they were obliged to lie down for rest on the
ground, their tongues hanging out of their mouths like those of
dogs after a chase."

Tired as the British were they managed to indulge in their
usual acts of vengeance. Three houses, two shops, and a barn
were laid in ashes in Lexington, and many buildings were defaced
or destroyed, and numbers of helpless persons were abused and


killed along the route. A swift and terrible vengeance, however,
overtook the cowardly perpetrators of these deeds.

"But brief, indeed," writes Michael Doheny, "was the pause
of the retreating columns. Hurriedly they again resumed their
backward route, and with their first step was recommenced the
telling fire from flanks, rear, and front, whenever a hillside, a
safe defile, or a parallel stone fence afforded shelter to the pur-
suers. As the troops entered Charlestown Common, thinned in
ranks and subdued in courage, at set of sun, the avenging and
lately despised citizen soldiers were hot upon their track, pressing
them till the last man found shelter as he crossed the Neck to
Bunker Hill, under the protecting guns of the ships of war.

"The loss of the British in killed, wounded, and prisoners
was 273 ; that of the Americans 90. But greater advantages ac-
crued to the latter from their victory, than the disparity of their

"They had met in open conflict the proud army of England
and overthrown it. They had come to that conflict on a sudden
summons, without arrangement, discipline, or experience, every
one obeying the impulse of his own patriotism and courage ; and
though some were roused from their sleep at dead of night, others
hurried, half armed, from long distances, and others mingled in
the fray without well knowing how it commenced or what its
object — all fought without shrinking until the night closed upon
vanquished and victors, when they first had time to consider the
consequences of the unforseen battle and the unhoped for triumph
they had won.

"Out of victory thus gained in the first encounter arose a
new hope for the whole land. The cannon of Lexington dis-
pelled the apathy, as it lighted the indignation of every man from
the St. Lawrence to the James River ; and though peace was still
assumed to be the condition, both England and America felt that
their differences were from that hour committed to the arbitra-
ment of the sword, and each prepared at once, with the utmost
diligence, for the bloody trial that appeared imminent and in-

This was the first battle of the Revolution and we are proud
to say the Irish people nobly took their part in it. It is hard to
trace the nationality of many of those who were undoubtedly of
Irish origin, but we have sufficient data to prove that at least one
hundred and fifty of our countrymen were enrolled among the
minutemen of Lexington, while Concord and the other towns
through which the Enghsh passed were equally as well repre-
sented. The brave Captain Parker, who commanded at Lexington
and who gave up his life there, was the son of an Irishwoman from


Clare, while Colonel James Barrett, who commanded at Concord,
was also an Irish-American, as were also Colonel William Smith
and Captain Isaac Davis, the latter being among the first killed at

Hugh Cargill, a member of Engine Company No. 6, of Bos-
ton, was present at the Concord fight and did good work in saving
the town records. He was a sergeant in Colonel Nixon's Regiment
at Bunker Hill. He afterward moved to Concord and died there
in 1799. He bequeathed to the town of Concord the Stratton
Farm and other lands valued in 1800 at $5,000, for the establish-
ment of a poor-house, for which purpose it is still used. His tomb
is marked by a plain slab, on which is the following epitaph :

"Here lies interred the remains of Hugh Cargill, late of Bos-
ton, who died in Concord, January 12, 1799, in the 6oth year of
his age. Mr. Cargill was born in Ballyshannon, Ireland, came to
this country in 1774, destitute of the comforts of life, but by his
industry and good economy he acquired a good estate, demised
to his wife, Rebecca Cargill ; likewise a large and generous dona-
tion to the town of Concord for benevolent purposes."

Another prominent name in the accounts of Concord and
Lexington is Dr. Thomas Welsh, an Irish-American, who was
army surgeon to the patriots. He met Dr. Joseph Warren, the
hero of Bunker Hill, as he rode through Charlestown, at about
10 o'clock on the morning of that memorable April day and was
informed by him that the reports of the murderous work of the
regulars were true.

"Well," said Dr. Welsh, "they are gone out."

"Yes," replied Dr. Warren, "and we'll be up with them be-
fore night."

Dr. Welsh was born at Charlestown in 1754. He performed
great service in attending to the wounded at Lexington and
Bunker Hill, and at the latter battle assisted in arresting the re-
treat of the New Hampshire troops. He occupied many of the
most responsible positions in the medical profession in Boston, and
was Vice President of the Massachusetts Medical Society in 1814.
He was also one of the most accomplished orators of his time and
deUvered the last address in commemoration of the Boston Mas-
sacre in 1783, the year peace was proclaimed. He died in 1831.

The following is a list of Irish names taken from the official
rolls of the Lexington Minutemen :

Daniel Bagley, John Barrett, John Boyd, Daniel Bradley,
John Bradlee, William Bradley, Edward Breck, Joseph Burke,
Richard Burke, Daniel Collins, William Connors, John Crehore,
Timothy Crehore, William Crehore, James Dempsey, Philip Done-
hue, Benjamin Donnell, James Donnell, Joseph Donnell, John


Donnelly, John Downing, Andrew Duningan, John Fadden,
Thomas Fanning, William Fanning, John Farley, Michael Farley,
John Fay, Thomas Fay, Timothy Fay, William Fay, John Fife,
Robert Fife, John Flood, William Flood, John Foley, Mathew
Gilligen, Richard Gilpatrick, James Gleeson, John Gleason,
Thomas Gleason, John Golden, Joseph Golden, James Gooly, John
Grace, Daniel Griffin, Joseph Griffin, John Racket, Joseph Hacket,
Wait Burke, Daniel Carey, Joseph Carey, Peter Carey, William
Carey, Silas Carty, John Carroll, Patrick Carrell, Jonathan Car-
roll, Richard Hacket, Thomas Hacket, William Hacket, Joel
Hogan, John Haley, Thomas Haley, William Haley, John Healy,
John Holland, John Hugh, David Kelly, George Kelly, John Kelly,
Patrick Kelly, Peter Kelly, Richard Kelly, Stephen Kelly, Samuel
Kelly, James Kenny, David Kenny, John Kenny, Nathaniel Ken-
ny, Thomas Kenny, William Kenny, Jeremiah Kinney, Daniel
Lary, Samuel Lauchlin, James Logan, Joseph McAnnell, Thomas
McBride, John McCarty, Andrew McCauseland, John McCullin,
Michael McDonnell, James McFadden, Ebenezer McFarley,
Thomas McFarley, Henry McDonegal, John McGrah, Daniel
McGuire, Joseph Carroll, Cornelius Cochran, William Cochran,
Henry Cogen, John Collins, Jeremiah Collins, Mark Collins, Na-
thaniel Collins, Samuel Collins, John Mack, Patrick McKeen,
James McKenny, Joseph McKenny, John McLeary, David Mc-
Leary, John McMuUen, Thomas McMullen, John Madden, Daniel
Mahon, James Mallone, John Manning, Robert Manning, Samuel
Manning, Thomas Manning, Timothy Manning, William Man-
ning, Benjamin Maxy, James Magoone, John Mehoney, Daniel
Mullikin, Ebenezer Mullikin, John Murphy, Patrick Newjent,
Patrick O'Brien, Richard O'Brien, Daniel Shay, John Shea, Ed-
ward Tappan, J\Iichael Tappan, John Walsh, Joseph Walsh, Ben-
jamin Walsh, Edw^ard Welsh, John Welsh, Joseph Welsh, Samuel
Welsh, Thomas Welsh, Walter Welsh, and William Welsh.

In glancing over this formidable array of Irish names we
do not w^onder that Hutchinson, the last royal Governor in Massa-
chusetts, exclaimed : "Without the Irish rebels in Massachusetts
the opponents of the King could not have succeeded in wresting
that noble province from our Sovereign Lord the King!"

The British force which left Boston on the night before Lex-
ington "to drive the miserable and cowardly Yankees and Irish
rebels to cover," as Major Pitcairn said, were themselves com-
pelled, through the aid of these brave Irishmen, to flee for their
lives before the aroused but undisciplined people.



In his Concord Hymn, sung at the dedication of the Battle
Monument, near Concord North Bridge, April 19, 1836, Ralph
Waldo Emerson thus writes:

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,

Their flag to April's breeze unfurled.
Here once the embattled farmer stood,

And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;

Alike the conqueror silent sleeps ;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept

Down the dark stream which seaward sweeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream.

We set to-day a votive stone.
That memory may their deed redeem.

When, like our sires, our sons are gont

• Spirit, that made those heroes dare

To Die, or leave their children free
Bid time and nature gently spare

The shaft we raise to them and thee.

As a first response to this momentous shot Boston was
speedily surrounded by an army of thirty thousand freemen de-
termined not only to avenge Lexington and Concord, but to de-
stroy the power of England in America and drive her soldiers
into the sea.

Poorly armed, entirely undisciplined, without supplies or
mimltions of war, they took no time to consider the chances of
success and rushed eagerly into the fray. As Michael Doheny
writes, they neither received nor expected pay for their dangerous
service, and were kept together solely by virtuous patriotism. The
troops, if such they may be called, acknowledged no control, and
though they sat down before the city prepared to brave danger
and death, they were bound by no obligation save their own
courageous purpose. The army was, in fact, a multitude of men
brought together by the impulsive enthusiasm of sudden emer-
gency, but there was no instance of devotion in ancient or modem



times to suggest a hope that without provisions, ammunition,
clothing, or pay, beyond the uncertain suppHes of patriotism,
they could be maintained after the first flush of victory subsided
or necessity began to press upon them. They had scarcely any of
the agencies which in all ages enabled nations to wage successful

On the other hand, the British were supplied to repletion
with all that the Americans lacked. They had able generals and
disciplined troops, and their army was well stored and provided
with all the requirements for aggression or defense. Their ves-
sels of war, too, were moored around the town, so placed as to
prevent approach or destroy it at a moment's notice. And behind
all stood the most unscrupulous and powerful nation in the world
on land or sea.

At first General Gage, the British commander, now backed
up by fresh reinforcements and new generals in the persons of
Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne — made an agreement with the Se-
lect Men of Boston that all who wished might leave town with
their families and properties, but the movement became so general
that he grew alarmed, fearing that when all the patriots had left
the besiegers would not scruple to burn the town. Finally he
violated his agreement and would not allow women or children
to leave, but kept them as hostages for the good behavior of the
patriots. This was a virtual declaration of war against the women
and children, an old policy of England, which was repeated in
our own day by the horrors of the concentration camps of South

Thus the perplexities of the Americans were increased. They
had not only to risk their own lives in the struggles forced upon
them, but the existence of those dearest to them on earth.

"Perhaps," continues Doheny, "that great struggle presented
in all vicissitudes no feature so singular and admirable as the
mutual faith and trust which kept those thousands of colonists,
with their chiefs, knit together during the long and doubtful period
that intervened between the battle of Lexington and the appoint-
ment by Congress of a commander in chief who was to reduce
to order, discipline, and efficiency the elements of resistance which
his country presented, and lead these raw troops at first to des-
perate struggles sure of defeat and finally to victory and glory.

"In the provincial army were many men of eminent abilities
and the most tried patriotism but not among them all was there
any one moulding mind having confidence and power to undertake
the management of the whole, so as to secure the means of making
a permanent stand for the liberties of the country. The salvation
of America at this juncture depended on the cordiality of co-opera-


tion that prevailed in the camp. Each chief confined the sphere
of his action to his own immediate duties, and none thought of
supplanting or overruling his brother officer, while every man in
the army must have felt that his personal responsibility extended
to the entire defense of his country. Hence, he was indifferent
where or under whom he served, and was eager to perform any
duty, the only emulation between him and his fellows being who
could do best service and incur most peril.

"There is no trial of a man's courage so severe as uncer-
tainty ; nor was there ever on earth an instance where uncertainty
prevailed to as great an extent as during the first struggle of the
people of Massachusetts. They knew not what resolve the people
of other colonies had come to. From the great extent of the
country and the delays and difficulties of holding communications,
the people of New England might have been scattered by the in-
vading army long ere those of Virginia or the Carolinas had in-
telligence of their first resistance, or could even determine on
giving or refusing aid. Yet there was none found to falter or to
hesitate, and all trusted that the same just cause, in defense of
which they took up arms, would find volunteers throughout every
part of the continent. They calculated truly, for while the camp
was recruited by every young man in the colony, and even the old
and feeble attended them with whatever means they could spare,
and drove to the camp from hamlet and farm carts of provisions
which were bestowed not only without a price but with a bene-
diction — the committees of correspondence in every other colony
were actively preparing for the common defense."

Such was the condition of affairs when on the morning of the
17th of June, 1775, a strange and wonderful sight presented itself
to the British, right under their very guns. During the preceding
night, without a word of warning or a sound of alarm, and within
ear-shot of the British sentinels and ships of war, Breeds' Hill
had been strongly fortified and its peaceful slopes turned into a
frowning battery.

The Provincial Congress, which had previously ordered the
raising of an army of 30,000 men and appointed General Artemus
Ward to its chief command, suggested to the Council of War that
Bunker Hill should be fortified. Forthwith the suggestion was
carried out and on the night of the i6th of June a detachment of
1,000 men, under the command of Major Prescott, was ordered
to take possession of Bunker Hill and throw up, with the greatest
expedition, field fortifications for the defense of the position.

The detachmeint took up their station on Breed's Hill, instead
of Bunker Hill, the former being nearer Boston and the British
and more adapted to the work in hand. The main fortifications


were therefore erected on Breed's Hill, and the battle was fought
there, but from that day to this the place has been called Bunker
Hill, and will forever be known by that glorious title.

The eminence then known as Breed's Hill had really no set-
tled name, its title shifting with that of its proprietor, but the
name of Bunker Hill was as firmly moored as the eminence itself,
and had long been used in legal documents and town history.
Froude says it is of Irish origin, there being a Bunker's Hill in
the vicinity of Belfast. "Massachusetts tradition," he writes, "has
forgotten how the name came to the Charlestown peninsula. It
is possible that the connection with Ireland is a coincidence. It
is possible that the name of a spot so memorable in American his-
tory was brought over by one of those Irish exiles."

As the patriots labored with their picks and spades they were
cheered on in their work by the distant signals of "All's well"
that came from the British ships of war and their sentinels on
shore. They proclaimed that they were still undiscovered, and at
every cry of the grateful words the patriots plied their tools with
increased vigor.

At the dawn of day, when the new fortifications were dis-
covered by the British, orders were instantly given to the batteries
and vessels to commence a simultaneous fire upon the works and
workmen. But this heavy cannonade seemed only to stimulate
the young soldiers, nor did they pause until they had constructed
a line of breastworks from the right of the redoubt to the bottom
of the hill.

Towards noon, General Gage finding all his efforts to arrest
these formidable preparations unavailing, determined on dislodg-
ing the Americans by assault, and during the next two hours
four thousand picked British soldiers under the command of
Generals Howe and Pigott, were landed on the shores of Charles-
town peninsula at Morton's Point, right under the American
works. Here they formed in battle array in all the pomp and
panoply of war, but the imposing display did not, as was intended,
strike terror into the American forces, who continued their labors
with remarkable coolness and persistency.

General Warren, who was President of the Provincial Con-
gress, then sitting at Watertown, seven miles distant, on hearing
of the landing of the enemy, hastened to Charlestown, though suf-
fering from sickness and exhaustion. He had been commissioned
major-general four days before, and thought his proper place
was on the firing line. Though advised against going into the
battle, Warren was not to be diverted from his purpose. Mounting

Online LibraryJames HaltiganThe Irish in the American revolution, and their early influence in the colonies → online text (page 34 of 67)