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

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When Mooney undertook the task of organizing the society his
idea was to name it in honor of Columbus, and it was to be called
the Columbian Order. The organization was formed on May
12, 1789. Many of its founders had, long anterior to that period,


been induced from patriotic ardor to associate together for the
purpose of counteracting the base designs of the remnant of the
disaffected, who, taking advantage of the magnanimity that per-
mitted them to remain among us, were endeavoring to weaken
the attachments of the people and to undermine the temporary
institutions of our unsettled Government

On the corner-stone of the first Tammany Hall, at the cor-
ner of Park Row and Frankfort street, which is now occupied
by the offices of the New York Sun, was the following inscrip-

"Tammany Society or Columbian Order, founded by Will-
liam Mooney, in 1786; organized under a constitution and laws
in 1789. William Mooney, First Grand Sachem. New York,
May 12, 1811."

The Washington Post, on July 16, 1900, published an article
entitled, "A Century of Tammany," in which the following
tribute is paid to Mooney : "To William Mooney, a noted citizen
of old New York, belongs the credit of having organized the
Tammany Society of New York. Mooney was an Irishman by
descent, an American by birth. During the Revolution he was
a leader among the famous Liberty Boys. After the war he went
into business as an upholsterer in Nassau street. Toward the close
of his life he was appointed Keeper of the Alms House. It was
Mooney's idea to call the Society the Columbian Order."

The Encyclopedia Americana, in an article by the Hon.
Charles F. Murphy, the official representative of the Democracy
of Greater New York, says : "The Tammany Society or Colum-
bian Order was founded May 12, 1789, by William Mooney, ex-
Revolutionary soldier, two years after the National Government
was established, as a fraternity of patriots solemnly consecrated
to the independence, the popular liberty, and the federal union of
the country. The membership was composed of those who were
known before the Revolution as Sons of Liberty and Sons of
St. Tammany, societies formed to promote the cause of independ-
ence. The Society was opposed to the St. George, St. David,
and St. Andrew Societies, whose Tory members proclaimed
fealty to George the Third."

Mooney must have been a Catholic as well as an Irishman.
His determination to call the Society after Columbus bears out
that conclusion. At all events he was a man highly honored in
his day and generation and the organization which he founded
will live as long as America. Like all things human, Tammany
Hall errs occasionally and unscrupulous men sometimes get con-
trol of its councils, but it always has the manliness to correct
itself and is generally supported by the people. An organization


which has outlived the fierce political storms of more than one
hundred and twenty years must be founded on just and honorable
principles and be closely allied to the best interests of the great
body of the people.

Owing to the activity of the Sons of Liberty and the general
disposition of the people of New York to ignore his authority,
Tryon, the Royal Governor, took refuge on board the British
sloop of war, Halifax, on October 19, 1775, and from there at-
tempted to exercise his authority. His chief aid in doing so was
James Rivington, an Englishman, editor of the Royal Gazetteer,
who continued to denounce and misrepresent the patriots until
his printing office was destroyed by Captain Isaac Sears, one of
the leaders of the New York Sons ot Liberty. That patriot,
according to Lossing, fired by personal insult and patriotic zeal,
came from Connecticut, where he had gone to plan schemes for
the future, and entered New York at noon, on November 23,
1775, ^t the head of seventy-five light horsemen. He proceeded
to the printing office of Rivington, at the foot of Wall street,
placed a guard with fixed bayonets around it, and put all his types
in bags, destroyed his press, and other apparatus, and then, in
the same order, amid the shouts of the populace, and to the tune
of Yankee Doodle, left the city. They carried off the types and
made bullets of them. On their way back to Connecticut they
disarmed all the Tories in their route, and at the village of West
Chester seized and took with them the Rev. Samuel Seabury,
afterwards Bishop Seabury, and two other offensive Tories, and
carried them in triimiph to New Haven.

Rivington's power to help the royal cause was thus tem-
porarily destroyed, but in the following year, when the British
re-entered the city, he re-established his newspaper. Toward
the end of the war, however, when he realized that their cause
was lost, he turned traitor to the British and thus managed to
remain, but only as a bookseller, after independence was estab-
lished. ,

There were three other newspapers in New York at the time
Rivington's office was destroyed — Hugh Gaine's New York
Mercury, in Hanover Square ; Holt's New York Journal, in Dock,
now Pearl street, near Wall, and Anderson's Constitutional Ga-
zette, in Beekman's slip.

Hugh Gaine was an Irishman, but is depicted as a time-
server and very unworthy person by Philip Freneau, the Revolu-
tionary poet. We do not wish to screen Gaine from just blame
for his shortcomings, but from all we can learn of his history
we believe Freneau is entirely too severe in his criticism. Po-
litically, he may have been easy-going and careless in his party


attachments, but he was a man of honorable character in business
and private life. He was born in Ireland, in 1726, one of the
darkest periods in her history, and began business in New York
as a printer and bookseller in 1750. Two years later he established
a weekly newspaper called the Mercury, being editor, compositor,
pressman, folder, and carrier himself. At first Gaine was true
to the American cause, and moved his paper to Newark, when
the English approached New York. He soon returned, however,
and gave at least a quasi support to the royal cause, but he could
not have been a very ardent adherent for his petition to remain
in New York after the British were driven out was readily
granted. According to Appleton's American Biography, Gaine
led an exemplary life and was a man of active business habits,
though he seemed to have no settled convictions. Gaine, we sup-
pose, came of an Irish family who were flogged into passive sub-
mission and poHtical dependence by the British, but who still re-
tained their decent habits and love of learning. In the hopeless
days there were many such families in Ireland, especially in the
large towns where the hand of persecution was heaviest.

While we claim that the great body of Irish in America
fought on the side of Independence we cannot deny that there
were exceptions to the rule. There were Irishmen in the Eng-
lish service in America, who were a disgrace to Ireland, but they
belonged to the same class whom England had trained for gen-
erations to betray their own people and were the direct product of
British rule in Ireland. They should not, therefore, be classed
as Irish. They should be branded as especially made in Ireland
by England, from creatures whom she had already debased below
the level of humanity by the perverted ingenuity of her laws.

But Hugh Gaine did not belong to this class. While he may
have been vaccilating in his politics he was a decent man at heart,
whose reputation for truth has been accepted by historians. After
a career of forty years he retired with a large fortune, the result
of strictly honorable business and not a penny of which could be
considered tainted money.

The New Yorker of the present day will find it hard to
realize that at the time of the Revolution the city only extended
three-quarters of a mile from the Battery, its suburbs lying around
what is now Fulton street. Old St. Paul's Church, where Wash-
ington attended divine service, is now the only building standing
that existed in those days, and that is a veritable monument to
Irish and American patriotism. From Broadway, the rushing
thousands that forever ebb and flow can read the imposing me-
morials to Montgomery, Emmet, and MacNeven, while within
lie buried the mortal remains of many other illustrious Irishmen.


Where the City Hall now stands was then called the Fields,
but close beside its site stood the old prison, where so many pa-
triotic Americans were confined and done to death. When the old
building was demolished a year or so ago, to make way for the
Brooklyn Bridge Subway Station, countless skeletons were found
in its cellars and gave gruesome testimony to the last efforts of
British civilization in .^Wierica.

A tablet under the Mayors' window in the City Hall tells
that there Washington first read the Declaration of Independence
to his assembled soldiers. To the west, between the present Park
place and Chambers street, stood the King's College, presided
over by Dr. Cooper, the representative of the Archbishop of Can-
terbury, who was obUged to fly for his life on account of his ob-
noxious Toryism. Where the Tombs Prison now stands was the
deep Collect Pond, and a stteam ran from it to the Hudson River,
along the line of the present Canal street.

A canal ran through Broad street, with a walk en either side,
and a bridge crossed it on the site of the present Bridge street,
which was called the Kissing Bridge, from the fact that an
amorous toll was exacted from all the fair ones found crossing it.
Another of these Kissing Bridges was on the Boston Post Road,
where it crossed a brook in the vicinity of Fifty-second street and
Second avenue, then called Beekman's Hill, where WilHam Beek-
man had an extensive country house. During the Revolution this
house was the British headquarters and residence of Sir William
Howe, where Nathan Hale was condemned to death, and where
Major Andre received his last instructions before going on his ill-
fated mission to the traitor Arnold.

On the west side of Broadway, where Thomas street now
crosses, stood the country residence of Anthony Rutgers, sur-
rounded by beautiful grounds. After varying fortunes it became
the home of the New York Hospital, which occupied it until well
on toward the seventies, when it moved northward to its present
location on West Fifteenth street. Where Mulberry street now
crosses Grand street, stood Bayard's Mount, afterwards called
Bunker Hill, the highest point on Manhattan Island, while far to
the north and west, in the vicinity of West Twenty-third street,
was the village of Chelsea, where Washington was called to settle
the grievances of Mrs. MoUie Clarke, on whose premises Amer-
ican soldiers had been billeted when they arrived from Boston.

North of Chelsea, but more to the east, between Thirtieth
and Fortieth streets, was Murray Hill, where stood the country
residence of Mrs. Lindley Murray, mother of the famous gram-
marian, whose quick wit and patriotism saved four thousand
American troops from capture by General Howe, whom she de-


tained at luncheon while the American troops passed up to
Bloomingdale, on the west side of the island. Beyond Blooming-
dale were the heights of Harlem, where the battle of that name
was fought, the conflict raging all the way from Momingside
Heights, where Columbia College now stands, to the present loca-
tion of Trinity Cemetery, at One Hundred and Fifty-third street
and Amsterdam avenue. Farther north was Fort Washington,
with Fort Lee on the opposite bank of the Hudson, while at the
extreme end of the island stood Kingsbridge, the key to the main-
land. At that time King's Bridge, over Spuyten Duyval Creek,
and Dykemans' Bridge over the Harlem, in the same neighbor-
hood, were the only means of crossing from Manhattan Island to
the mainland.

At the other end of the island there was only the one ferry
to Long Island, the present Fulton Ferry, with the exception that
Peck slip was the landing place in New York. At first the ferry
was a scow, with mast and sails, then a horse-boat, propelled by
treadmills and, finally, the steam-ferry of Robert Fulton, the
Irish- American, whose father was a native of Kilkenny, Ireland,
and who came to America early in the eighteenth century.

Originally five towns were laid out on Long Island by the
Dutch— Brooklyn, Flatbush, Flatlands, New Utrecht, and Bush-
wick — but they all refused to grow except Brooklyn, and even
that did not take root where it was planted, but around the ferry
instead. At the opening of the Revolution, with the exception
of the few houses around the ferry, all Kings County, from New-
ton Creek to Gravesend, was farming land, occupied by the de-
scendants of the Dutch, who first settled there. Brooklyn was
originally called Brueckellen, after a town in Holland; it was
entitled Brookland under British rule, and assumed its present
name after American independence was established.

The people of Kings and Queens Counties were nearly all
Tories during the Revolution, while the settlers of the more
distant Suffolk Count>', supposed to be planted by Englishmen
from New England, were loyal to the American cause. Many of
these English families, however, must have been Irish in dis-
guise and belonged to the same race as the Tuthills and other
extensive families of like ancestry who abounded in that region.
One of the Tuthills in recent years, being anxious to trace his
name to its origin and hoping to find himself descended from a
Norman baron, or at least an English earl, was highly astonished
to find that the first of his name on Long Island was an Irishman
named O'Toole, or, as he spelled it in the genuine old Irish way—
0*Tuathal. This will account for much of the American patriot-
ism <rf Suffolk County.


The territory now embraced in Greater New York contained
less than twenty-five thousand inhabitants when Washington and
his patriot army occupied it in 1776. It now contains a popula-
tion of four millions and the straggling settlements of the Revolu-
tionary period have become the second city in the world — soon
destined to be the first.

These figures, without going further into comparisons, en-
able us to perceive what America has gained by the Revolution
and bring out in bold relief the stupendous results she has achieved
by cutting loose from the baleful influences of British rule.

After the British evacuated Boston Washington hastened to
New York, arriving there with his main army of eight thousand
men on April 14, 1776. His first place of residence was in Pearl
street, opposite Cedar, but he remained there only about six
weeks. Toward the end of May he was summoned before Con-
gress in Philadelphia, and on his return he established his head-
?uarters at what is now No. i Broadway, where he lived until
orced to retire from the city in the following September.

During the spring and summer of 1776 Washington's entire
attention was devoted to the erection of forts around the river
fronts of New York and Brooklyn, and the eyes of the young
nation were centered anxiously upon those points, as it was ex-
pected that there the next fighting would take place.

They were not long kept in doubt, for on the 29th of June
General Howe arrived at Sandy Hook, with forty warships and
transports, bearing his recruited army back from Halifax to re-
new the war upon the colonists. On July 8th he landed nine
thousand men on Staten Island and was received with open arms
by the great body of the people there, who formed a corps of
loyalists under Tryon and fought with the British in the battles
which soon ensued. In a few days he was joined by his brother,
Admiral Howe, with Scotch Highlanders, English regulars, and
Hessian hirelings, and these in turn were soon followed by the
broken forces of Sir Peter Parker and Sir Henry Clinton, who
had just been ignominously defeated in Charleston, South Caro-
lina. With other additions which arrived in August, the British
forces numbered thirty thousand men, all encamped on Staten
Island, while a vast fleet of warships lay at anchor along its shores.

While this formidable force caused alarm to the women
and children of New York, who expected daily to have their
houses burned over their heads, it did not dampen the ardor of
the soldiers of liberty encamped around the city.

Lord Howe went through the usual English form of mak-
ing peace by opening the negotiations with an insult in ignoring


Congress and directing his letter to "George Washington, Esq."
He declared that all who would lay down their arms would re-
ceive full and free pardon from their sovereign lord the King.
Washington declined to take the letter, but listened to the ex-
planations of the courier as to its contents, and then repHed that
as the Americans had committed no crimes they did not need
any pardons. The document was received with derision every-
where. "No doubt we all need pardon from heaven," said Gov-
ernor Trumbull, of Connecticut, "for our manifold sins and trans-
gressions, but the American who needs the pardon of his Britan-
nic Majesty is yet to be found,"

When the Declaration of Independence was passed in Con-
gress it was hailed with joy by Washington, and on the 9th of
July he caused it to be read at 6 o'clock in the evening at the head
of each brigade, saying in his orders that he hoped that this im-
portant event would serve as a fresh incentive to every officer
and soldier to act with fidelity and courage.

Neither the people nor the soldiers, however, were content
with the mere reading of the Declaration, the ringing of bells, or
other like demonstrations. That night they rushed upon the
leaden statue of King George in Bowling Green and tore it down
to make bullets for the cause of Independence.

"I see a village filled with Continental soldiers," writes the
author of "When Old New York Was Young," in describing this
scene, "and all astir with the news that a new nation has been
formed. I hear a far-away shout — it comes from the common
where George Washington is reading the Declaration of Inde-
pendence to the soldiers. The shouts grow louder and louder,
for the townspeople have reached the City Hall in Wall street and
are tearing to tatters the picture of King George which hangs
there. Louder still grow the shouts, for the citizens, quite a mob
now, are coming nearer. They are upon us ; they throng the
Bowling Green ; they tear down the iron railing around King
George's statue ; they batter off the heads of the royal family from
the posts. Now one man has climbed up the base that supports
the leaden horse and its royal master; others throw him a rope
which he puts about the horse's neck. There is a cry that rises
above the general din, a straining at the rope, and the horse and
rider fall to the ground and are dragged away."

Washington frowned upon this demonstration and severely
censured the soldiers for having taken part in it. It was his con-
stant effort to inspire his soldiers with the same high idea of the
cause in which they were engaged as he himself entertained and
to impress upon them the feeling that theirs was a holy war. "The
General hopes and trusts," said he in his orders upon this occa-


sion, "that every officer and man will endeavor to so live and act
as becomes a Christian soldier, defending the dearest rights and
liberties of his country."

The Declaration of Independence must have stirred up the
British, too, for soon after its promulgation two ships of war,
the Phoenix and the Rose, were observed getting under way and
standing toward the city. The patriot troops were immediately
at their alarm posts. The batteries of the city and of Paulus
Hook, as Jersey City was then called, opened fire on them as thej^
passed, which they answered with broadsides, but they did not
pause in their course up the river and soon passed out of view.

Washington was puzzled at this movement of the British,
and all he could do was to warn his troops to the north and ap-
prise the New York Convention, then sitting at White Plains m
Westchester County. His chief anxiety was for the safety of the
forts, Montgomery and Constitution, in the Highlands of the
Hudson. Fortunately George Clinton, the patriotic Irish-Ameri-
can legislator, had recently been appointed brigadier-general of
the militia of Ulster and Orange Counties, most of whom were
the sons and grandsons of the County Longford Irish who had
come to America with his father nearly fifty years before.

Called to his native State by his military duties in this time of
danger George Clinton had only remained in Congress to vote for
the Declaration of Independence and hastened home before he
was able to affix his signature to that immortal document, thus
sacrificing a great honor in order to attend to the more pressing
duties at home.

Washington wrote to him on July 12, 1776, urging him to col-
lect as great a force as possible of the militia for the protection of
the Highlands against the British warships, but long before the
receipt of the letter he had been warned of their approach. At
9 o'clock on the morning of the 13th an alarm gun from his
brother James at Fort Constitution thundered through the echoing
mountains and soon afterwards two river sloops came to anchor
before his residence, from whose captains he learned the real
state of affairs.

He immediately called out the militia and made all the ar-
rangements possible to put the river in a proper state of defense.
Early in the afternoon of the same day, with about forty of his
trusty neighbors, he proceeded to Fort Constitution, in the vicin-
ity of West Point ; leaving some of the volunteers with his brother
he pushed down on the same evening to Fort Montgomery, where
he fixed his headquarters. Here on the following day he re-
ceived Washington's letter, but he had already anticipated its
orders and stirred up the whole country on both banks of the


river. On that same evening three hundred of the Ulster yeomen
marched into Fort Montgomery and early the next morning five
hundred more arrived, while parts of two other regiments were
on the way. This prompt response on the part of the militia
had a most cheering effect on the commander-in-chief.

The warships which caused this alarm lay anchored in the Tap-
pan Sea and Haverstraw Bay, but at length one of their tenders
ventured up within long shot of Fort Montgomery, where General
Clinton with his militia lay in wait. As the tender approached a
thirty-two pounder was brought to bear on her. The ball passed
through her quarter, whereupon she put about and ran around
the point of the Dunderberg, where her crew landed, plundered
a solitary house and left it in flames. The ships soon after moved
up to within six miles of Fort Montgomery, but owing to the
precautions which General Clinton had taken against them, and
being repeatedly attacked by fire-boats and row galleys, they did
not venture farther up the river. After doing all the damage they
could in the way of burning houses and killing inoffensive people
along the shores, they finally returned to New York Bay, barely
escaping destruction at Fort Washington.

To oppose the British army of thirty thousand men, made up
of Scotch Highlanders, Hessians, and the flower of the regular
line, Washington had an army of twenty thousand men, but one-
fourth of these were sick and unfit for service, while the rest were
in the main raw troops who had never seen service, with little or
no discipline and poorly armed. These troops were scattered
from Kingsbridge to the Battery on the Hudson, and from
Throgg's Neck to Fort Hamilton on the Brooklyn side, or nearly
over the same territory now embraced in Greater New York.

In addition to these grave drawbacks the difficulties which
confronted Washington were heightened by the fact that he could
form no idea where the British might attack him. Taking every-
thing into account, it may well be said that he was possessed of
more than human courage and foresight to make a stand at all.
The warships of England alone could destroy New York and
Brooklyn, while her land forces were more than sufficient to scat-
ter his poor army to the winds. But the hand of God guided hia

Online LibraryJames HaltiganThe Irish in the American revolution, and their early influence in the colonies → online text (page 40 of 67)