James Haltigan.

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

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General Hand — (Lavin), Luam (Abbot), Luamain, Mac
Giollaim, Gillamb, or William. There is also Lamie or Lamb.

General Knox or Nox — Molynox, IVIolyknox, from St. Aen-
giis; Molens, Crossmolens, etc.

General Lawson — Mac Giolla losa-ain.

St. Eimridth or Geimridh (Winter), hence Maol Geimeridh,
Mulgomery, Mulgomeri, Montgomery, etc.

General Moylan — Maolleathian or Mulyons, hence Lyons
and Moylan.

General and Colonel Allen — MuUallen from St. Mulchallane
or Mullhollin, Holland ; there was also a Hugh Ollen, an O'Niall,
whose descendants were called Allen.

General Greene — In Gaelic Uaitline (Oweney), hence Mac
Giolla an Uaithne, Mac Giollaneney, Elowney, Toney, Teney,
Taney, Tennyson, translated Anthony Mac Greane, Mac Grane,
Mac Greene, Mac Green, etc., from St. Anthony.

From St. Fionntain we get Mac Giolla (Fh)ionntain or Mac
Gillinton, Clinton, Clinton. Many Norman families were called
after Irish saints.

General Cass — St. Cass or Corcass.

General Karson, of Connecticut — Cassin of Clan Caisin.

General J. James — Gill or Fitz James, or Jamisons.

General Maxwell — Macsewill, from St. Sedulius; also
O'Sewil, Oswill.

General Irvine — St. Irvine in Ayshire.

General Dougan — O'Dubhgan.

General Agnew — Giolla Naomh, Gillaneve, O'Guive.

Brigadier-General Mitchell — Mulmitchil, of Balymichela or

General de Ternay (Irish origin) — From SL Tiernain or

General William and Secretary Charles Thomson — From
Tomais Mac Cartan, from St. Cartain or Artain, same coat of

General Moultrie — Maolmertrie, Mac Murtrie Murthagh,
Moriarty, all having the same coat of arms.

General Todd— O'Todha, O'Togdha, St. Todha or Tuda,
from Cu Uladh an t-Siodha, "the Ulster Silken Warrior," now
Sheedy, Silk and Todd.


The descendants of Nial Caoch O'Ralleigh were called Clan
an Caoch, Hancock, Handcock, etc, Clanakee, County Cavan.
George Ross was Rossiter from Ireland, with Lord Baltimore.
Fourteen generals of the Revolution were members of the Friend-
ly Sons of St. Patrick, as were also the Father of his Country,
the Father of the Navy, and the Father of Finance.


As will be seen, Mr. Tiemey claims General John Stark as
of Irish origin. We were for a long time under that impression,
but finding it stated in many accounts that his father was bom
in Scotland, we submitted the matter to the late Colonel Line-
ham, of New Hampshire, an authority on the subject, and he
expressed the opinion that Stark could not be claimed as Irish.
Mr. Tierney, however, may be right as to his origin, especially if
his father's name was Sharkey, as he claims, and as John Kelly
and other writers also assert. But, as we have said many times
before, we do not want to make doubtful claims. We glory in
the name of Stark whether he was Irish or Scotch. It is enough
for us that the great majority of the soldiers who enabled him to
win his great victory at Bennington were men of the Irish race.



Many writers nowadays seem to think that no one fought a
naval battle in the Revolution except Paul Jones. Charles H. Lin-
coln, editor of the Calendar of Jones Manuscripts in the Library
of Congress, is a good example of this class. In his article, in a
recent number of the Review of Reviews, on "John Paul Jones
and Our First Triumphs on the Sea," he asks the questions:
"When had a hostile vessel invaded the Irish Sea before this?
How long had it been since an enemy had set foot on British
soil ?"

If Mr. Lincoln knew anything of history he would not ask
such questions. Long before Paul Jones was heard of in British
waters the name of Captain Gustavus Conyngham. an Irishman,
sailing under the American flag as a commissioned officer of the
United States, was a terror to the naval authorities and marine
nierchants of England. He was the son of Redmund Conyng-
ham, of Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland, and brother of
David Hayfield Conyngham, who succeeded to his father's busi-
ness in Philadelphia after the latter had retired to his estate in

We have before alluded to the Conynghams, as well as to
John M. Nesbitt, who was associated with them in business and
who conducted it in his own name after the opening of the Revo-

As early as 1777 Captain Conyngham ranged the Irish and
English seas as if there were no British navy and enriched the
treasury of the United States by more captures of English ships
than any American of his time. Yet, strange to say, until four
years ago, his name was rarely or never mentioned among Amer-
ican naval heroes.

Owing to the mysterious disappearance of his commission,
which was delivered to him in Paris on May i, 1777, by Benja-
min Franklin, he was treated as a pirate by England and held
in barbarous captivity for many years. For the same reason, on
his return to America, after escaping from the clutches of Eng-
land, he was refused acknowledgement by his own government,
and although his story was believed by the people generally and
vouched for by Franklin and the other American Commissioners


in Paris, his claims were never officially allowed. As a conse-
qnence his name and brave deeds faded out of sight and both
would have remained in oblivion but for the accidental finding
of his commission one hundred and twenty-five years after its
disappearance. This providential discovery brought Conyng-
ham's name to the attention of James Barnes, the distinguished
American writer, and he has done ample justice to his memory.

In his story of "With the Flag in the Channel, or the Ad-
ventures of Captain Gustavus Conyngham," published by the Ap-
pletons in 1902, Mr. Barnes presents the career of the brave sea-
man in the most interesting manner. As his book is one which
should be read by all Irish-Americans, we will pause here to re-
view it and quote as copiously as we can from its deeply interesting
pages — showing, on the unquestionable testimony which he pro-
duces, how the American flag was upheld in British waters before
Paul Jones ever sailed there.

Before the Revolution Captain Conyngham was engaged in
the merchant service of Philadelphia, and the first chapter of Mr.
Barnes' story depicts him in the grill room of the Old Clock
Tavern in Philadelphia making arrangements with his brother,
David H. Conyngham, and John M. Nesbitt, to take command of
the Charming Peggy, a vessel which the firm was about to send
to Holland for war supplies for the struggling colonies.

The three men spoke in low voices, for they were watched by
two English spies — Lester, the Tory, and Flackman, the lawyer,
who were seated some distance from them and were known to all
three. Here is the scene as described by Mr. Barnes :

"I knew your father and all your family," said Mr. Nesbitt,
addressing Captain Conyngham.

"By the Powers, you know half the County of Donegal
then, and more than I do," laughed the sailor, with a touch of a
rich rolling brogue.

As the young captain seated himself his glance fell for a
moment upon the two men, Lester and Fladanan. He half
nodded toward them and the action called his brother's attention.

"So, Captain Gustavus, you know our friend Lester," said
David quickly.

"Just well enough to keep an eye on him," was the rejoinder.
"I saw him talking with the mate of that old Dutch Indiaman
that lies astern of the Charming Peggy. I judged from the way
he was talking that she was the subject of conversation, so I
hove to and asked him a few silent questions."

"What did you do that for?" asked David Conyngham.


"Sure, to find out how little they know " answered the cap-
tain roguishly. "It is as good to know how little a man knows as
how much, sometimes."

"And what was that little?" asked Mr. Nesbitt.

"That he knows who bought her in Baltimore," was the reply.

"Did he say so?"

"Not in words spoken to me, for he would have denied that
he had any interest in the matter, but by means of a little trick
that I learned when a schoolboy and that I have cultivated since
for my own amusement. It served me a good turn more than
once. I got it from an Irish schoolmaster in Letterkenny. It
was the one thing he taught me without knowing how he did it.
Whisht," went on the captain, "listen, and I'll prove it to ye.
There's a man sitting with his back to you, but facing me. Cfan
you hear what he says?"

"He's at the other end of the room," responded Mr. Nesbitt.
"No man could hear what he says at that distance."

"But I can see what he says," answered Conyngham, "and
he has just uttered a speech that would make King George shud-
der. Being a believer in soft language, I will not repeat it. It's
all in watching a man's lips. Sure, this old schoolmaster was
deaf as a post, but he could hear what you were thinking of if
you only whispered it. Many a good licking I got before I was
sure of it. But now for business," he added, "if you're going to
talk of it this day."

"Well, Mr. Conyngham," returned Mr. Nesbitt, "we want
you to take command of the Charming Peggy. You arc to pick a
crew as quick as possible and sail for Holland."

"With what cargo ?" asked the captain.

"In ballast," was the reply. "It's of no importance what you
bring over; it's what you shall bring back."

"And that would be easy guessing, sir. I could write it out

"Perhaps so; but of that more to-morrow, when we will
meet in my counting-house. We won't detain you longer."

"Our fine gentlemen yonder," said Captain Conyngham, as he
prepared to go, "have put two and two together, as why shouldn't
they? And the man with the fat jowls, whom you call Lester,
has just made a remark that it is a good thing to remember, for
he has just said that he would keep an eye on the Charming
Peggy and mark the time of her sailing. By the same token
there are two English men-of-war just off the capes of the Dela-
ware. I sailed by them in the fog."

"Forewarned is forearmed, Captain Conyngham," returned
Mr. Nesbitt, "and we'll keep an eye on Mr. Lester."


"If he comes down by my ship let's pray he's a good swim-
mer," responded the captain as he went out into the storm.

For a minute or two Mr. David Conyngham and the senior
partner remained silent, and then the latter spoke. "An odd
character," he said suggestively. "Might I say without any of-
fense that he has a certain amount of assurance."

"Better call it self-reliance," responded David. "It waa al-
ways so with him as a boy. But mark you this, sir, behind it all
he has the courage that is daunted at nothing, and ask any sea-
man with whom he has sailed if he knows of a better or more
resourceful man in emergencies."

"He comes of a good stock," rejoined Mr. Nesbitt: "eh,

The younger man caught the elder's twinkling eve and
bowed. "We've all been kings in Ireland," he returned, and to
quote Gustavus, surely one king is as good as another. But the
news that you had for me has not been told. What is it ?"

"A secret of state, my friend, and one that must be kept as
quiet as the grave." He leaned toward Conyngham as he spoke.
"Our good Dr. Franklin is going to France to represent the cause
of the colonies at the court of the French king, and by the time
he does so we shall no longer be in the category of rebels, for
there are great doings afoot."

"I know, I understand," answered the younger man, his face
lighting. "God prosper the new nation."

"God prosper the new nation," repeated Mr. Nesbitt, "and
confusion to the enemies of liberty !"

Captain Conyngham took command of the Charming Peggy
and in his voyage across the Atlantic had several very narrow
escapes from the English men-of-war. While trying to out-
maneuver one of them, and while his fate was still in doubt, Con-
yngham discovered, through his old knack of reading the move-
ments of men's lips, that he had two English spies on board.
Seeing them whispering together and knowing that they were
plannmg to betray him, he immediately ordered them below.

"Higgins," cried Captain Conyngham suddenly to one of
them, "below with you and fetch me one of the broadaxes from
the carpenter's chest. And bring me a dozen nails, two of each
kind." The man hesitated.

"Below with you there," the captain repeated, half fiercely,
"and no questions." Reluctantly the tall sailor went down the

"McCarthy," called the captain to the other conspirator, "go
to my cabin and tell the bov to send me up my trumpet, and stay
below until I send for you.


When he had left his EngUsb pursuer far behind and the
threatened danger was over, the captain, with a stern look on his
face, ordered 3iat the men he had told to go below should be
sent up to him at once. The two men appeared and, hat in hand,
stood at the mast. Higgins carried in one hand a bundle of iron
nails and in the other the ax, one side of which was flat, like a

Captain Conyngham ordered him to step forward and he
handed the nails and ax to Mr. Jarvis, the first mate, who stood
wonderingly by his side.

"Higgins," asked Captain Conyngham sternly, "do you know
what I want these for?"

"No, sir." The man was pale, but over his face there flick-
ered a smile of affected amusement or bravado.

"I'll show you. McCarthy, step up here." The two men
stood before him.

"Now, Higgins," said Conyngham sternly, "I'll tell you want
I wanted the nails for. I wanted to nail the lies that you are
going to tell me."

The man began to protest feebly and the captain stopped him.
"What were you saying just as the cutter came within hail-
ing distance?" ,

"I was saying nothing, sir."

'Xie number one; you were." The captain changed one of
the nails from one hand to the other.

"You, McCarthy, what did you say to Higgins ?"
"I said nothing, sir."

"Lie number two." The captain looked from one to the
other with his piercing eyes, and then, almost without a movement
of preparation, his bare fists shot out from left to right, and the
men dropped where they stood like knackered beeves.

It had all come so suddenly that the crew were held spell-
bound in astonishment. Even Mr. Jarvis looked frightened. ,
"Here, pick these men up, some of you, and put them on
their feet," ordered Conyngham. Half dazed, the two men were
propped against the railing.

What are you doing aboard this vessel?"
"Sailing as honest seamen," responded the Englishman, Hig-
gins, who had recovered his equilibrium in a measure.

"Lie number three. But we won't go on. I'll tell you what
you said. When you saw that we were outpointing that cutter
you said that when she was near enough to hail yon v/ould take
your knife and cut away the sheets, and that McCarthy here

would let go the jib-halyards, and that you would then "

He paused suddenly. "Open your shirt," he ordered.


The men's faces were white and terrified. Higgins fumbled
weakly at his breast and then, all at once, collapse] forward on
the deck. He had fainted dead away.

Acting on Conyngham's orders, Mr. Tarvis bent over the
prostrate man and drew forth and displayed, to the astonishment

The crew fell to murmuring. Captain Conyngham was all
smiles again. He waited until Higgins had been revived by a
dash of cold water. Then he spoke to the two frightened and
now trembling men.

"Your conduct shall be reported," he said, "to Messrs. Lester
and Flackman, secret agents of the British crown. They should
not employ such joltheads. Now below with these rascals. Put
them in irons, Mr. Jarvis."

The next day in a fog the Charming Peggy drifted right
under the guns of a huge English frigate, and while the two ves-
sels lay side by side the former was boarded by ten English sea-
men, headed by a young lieutenant. The jig was plainly up, but
Conyngham never lost his nerve. Quietly, with his arms folded,
in answer to the lieutenant, he gave the name of the Charming
Pe&gy> adding that she was merely a merchant vessel from Phil-
adelphia in ballast, proceeding to Holland to be sold.

The youn^ lieutenant thought he had boarded a Yankee
rebel and so hailed to his commander. "Examine into her papers,"
he was instructed in return, "and if she's all right let her pro-
ceed. If not, we'll put a prize crew on her and send her to Ports-

Conyngham hoped that the young lieutenant's search would
not be a diligent one and that the presence of the two spies would
not be discovered. When the Englishman insisted on looking
into the hold his hopes fell, however, but he boldly announced
that he had two deserters from His Majesty's service there whom
he would be glad to turn over to him. When the lieutenant heard
the stories of the spies, which were ridiculed by Conyngham, ho
seemed uncertain as to his course, but he was partially reassured
when the Yankee captain freely announced that he was ready to
proceed to Portsmouth.

"We'll run close to the frigate, Mr. Holden, and you can tell
vour captain what you've done," said Conyngham quietly. "I'll
be glad to look into Portsmouth myself, for I have some friends
there, and a cargo of sand won't spoil for a few days' longer

In a few minutes the fog-blurred form of the frigate could
be made out now on the port hand.


"Pray the Lord that the fog holds four hours longer," mut-
tered Captam Conyngham to himself.

Mr. Holden, for that was the lieutenant's name, hailed the
frigate through the trumpet. "On board the Minervii," he
shouted. "We're going into Portsmouth, sir."

"Very good," was the reply ; "wait there for us."

"And now, Mr. Holden," spoke Conyngham quietly, "will
you take command of the brig, or shall I continue ?"

The lieutenant hesitated. Before he could answer. Captain
Conyngham continued. "It's a straight run, sir, and with this
wind she'd make it with her helm lashed ; and now if you'll allow
me, I should propose that we'd go below and have some break-
fast. There's one thing this little craft can boast, and that a fa-
mous Virginia cook. Mr. Jarvis," he added, "see that the men
are fed and send Socrates to me in a few minutes. You'll hold
the same course, sir, until we return on deck."

The mate saluted and Captain Conyngham and his guest
went down to the cabin.

Five minutes later the negro cook knocked at the cabin door
and was bidden to enter. There at the table sat Captain Conyng-
ham and in the big chair beside him sat the lieutenant.

The negro's eyes opened in astonishment, for the English-
man was tied fast to the seat, and a gag made of the captain's
handkerchief was strapped across his mouth.

Captain Conyngham was breathing as if from some very hard
exertion. The lieutenant's face and eyes were suffused with
angry red.

"Now, Socrates," said Conyngham slowly, "}-ou will cook
us the very best breakfast that you can and serve it here in the
cabin in half an hour. But, in the meantime, take a message to
Mr. Jarvis on deck and hand him this quietly. There are ten
Britishers within us and we still number thirteen. Tell the boat-
swain, without any one seeing you, what vou have seen here in
the cabin. Attract no suspicion and try whether you can live up
to your name. Now go forward quietly."

He handed a pistol to the negro, who slipped it under his
apron and w«nt up on deck.

The English sailors did not seem to be in the least suspicious
and the Americans fell in rapidly wltfi the apparent position of
affairs. But as one after another was called to the galley on some
pretext, they soon were cognizant of the captain's plot.

The English sailors had discarded their cutlasses and were
grouped with the others about the mess-kits that had been brought
up on deck, when suddenly the captain appeared alone from the
the cabin. Mr. Jarvis joined him, and both stepped quickly for-


ward toward the forecastle. The men, seeing the officers ap-
proach, arose to their feet. The English sailors glanced sus-
piciously about them, and a glance was enough to convince them
that they were trapped. At the elbow of each man stood one
of their whilom hosts. A few of the Americans were armed with
pistols, and the negro cook, with a big carving knife, stood guard
over the pile of cutlasses that they had left on the deck.

"Now, men," said Conyngham quietly, "we want no cutting,
slashing or shooting, and you're our prisoners. But don't be
afraid," he added, as he saw a look of fear come into the Eng-
lishmen's eyes. "We are no pirates. You'll get to Portsmouth
all right, where you can join your ship. You'll have a good joke
to tell them of the Yankee-Irish trick that was played on you.
Take the prisoners below, Mr. Corkin," he continued, addressing
the boatswain. "Put them in the hold and mount a guard over
them. And now, Socrates," he added, turning to the grinning
cook, "we'll have our breakfast in the cabin."

The English lieutenant, released from his bonds, sat at first
in sulky silence and would not even touch a bit of the savory
rasher that Socrates had placed before him. When he went on
deck later at Captain Conyngham's invitation he looked off to the
eastward. The Minerva, almost hull down, was holding a course
toward the French coast. At the masthead of the Charming
Peggy fluttered the English flag, and in the distance to the west-
ward, plain above the horizon, rose the English shores.

"We'll go in a little closer, Mr. Holden," said Captain Con-
yngham, "and then we'll part company, sir."

He turned to the first mate. "Mr, Jarvis," he went on, "pre-
pare to lower the cutter; put in a beaker of water, two bags of
biscuit, and a bottle of port."

After half an hour's more sailing the brig was hove to and
the prisoners, with Hig^ins and McCarthy, now freed from their
irons, pushed out from the brig's side. In the stern sheets sat
the lieutenant disconsolately.

He turned to watch the brig as she came about and headed off
shore. At that moment down came the English flag and the Span-
ish took its place. And it was just at this minute that Captain
Conyngham, loc^ng aloft, spoke to his first mate.

"We'll have a flag of our own soon," he said, "and avast with
this masquerading, say I."

The crew, as if they had heard his words, suddenly burst
into a spontaneous cheer. Their voices, carried by the wind,
reached the Englishmen slowly pulling in for the distant head-


The Charming Peggy, after other exciting adventures,
reached The Hague in safety and was loaded with war supplies
for the return journey, but the port was so jguarded by English
warships that Conyngham cound not venture out and was com-
pelled to sell his vessel and cargo in order to save both from con-

Out of occupation and without immediate hope, but with his
buoyant spirit still undismayed, Conyngham drifted to Dunkirk,
France. There he met a former friend named Thomas Ross,
who introduced him to his brother and to two other Americans
named Hodge and Allan. The exiled Americans had many
friendly conferences, with the result that Conyngham, warmly
asserting that he was with the movement for American independ-
ence, mind, soul, and body, accompanied Mr. Hodge to Paris and
was introduced to Benjamin Franklin. We will let Mr. Barnes
describe his first meeting with that patriot and philosopher:

When they met in Paris Franklin advanced toward Mr.
Hodge with his hand outstretched and greeted him warmly in
his deep musical voice.

"Ah, friend Hodge," he said, "back so soon? And you have
brought some one with you, I see. From our side of the water ?"
he asked.

"Yes," returned Mr. Hodge; "at least from the right side
of the water. Allow me to present to you, sir, Captain Gustavus
Conyngham, late commander of the Charming Peggy."

"Of Philadelphia, owned by J. M. Nesbitt & Company, was
she not, and confiscated in Holland?" interjected Dr. Franklin,
looking at Conyngham over the tops of his round spectacles.

"The same, sir," replied the young captain.

"I would that she had managed to get away with her cargo,"
continued Dr. Franklin, "and I was distressed and sorrowed that
I could not help you. But Holland, I fear, is under the thumb of
Great Britain. I could pray again for the days of Van Tromp,
but I fear me it is not to be. Now, Captain Conyngham," he

Online LibraryJames HaltiganThe Irish in the American revolution, and their early influence in the colonies → online text (page 46 of 67)