James Haltigan.

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

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Till at last the gallant fellow
Dead beside his cannon fell.

With a bitter cry of sorrow.

And a dark and angry frown,
Looked that band of gallant

At their gimner stricken down.
"Fall back, comrades; it is folly

Thus to strive against the foe."
"No! Not so," cried Irish Molly;

"We can strike another blow.

"In the bloody breech of Limerick,

I have heard my mother tell
How the fairest maids of Ireland

Fought and for their country fell,
And within that breach of danger

Feared not gun or cannon's
And at last in blood and terror

Drove the tyrant William back.

"We fight 'gainst the same red
And the same red hireling band;
George or William, 'tis no mat-
Both hail from the same false
Down with tyrants ! No surrender I
Here I'll stand beside this gun
Till we beat them and defeat
them ;
Come, I'll show you how tis

Quickly leaped she to the cannon

In her fallen husband's place.
Sponged and rammed it fast and
Fired it in the focman s face.
Flashed another ringing volley,
Roardcd another from the gun ;
"Boys, hurrah!" cried gallant
"For the flag of Washmgton.



Gretne's brigade, tho' torn and


Slain and bleieding half their


When they hear that Irish slogan.

Turn and charge the foe again.

Knox, and Wayne, and Morgan

To the front they forward wheel,
And before their rushing onset,

Clinton's English columns reel.

Still the cannon's voice in anger

Rolled and rattled o'er the plain.
Till there lay in swarms around it

Mangled heaps of Hessian slaia
"Forward I Charge them with the
bayonet !"

'Twas the voice of Washington;
And there burst a fiery greeting

From the Irishwoman's gun.

Moncton falls ; against his columns

Leap the troops of Wayne and
And before their reeking bay-

Clinton's red battalions flee.
IMorgan's rifles, fiercely flashing.

Thin the foe's retreating ranks,
And behind them, onward dashing,

Ogden ho\iers on their flanks.

Fast they fly, those boasting

Who in all their glory came,

With their brutal Hessian hire-

To wipe out our country's name.
Proudly floats the starry banner,

IMonmouth's glorious field is
And in triumph Irish Molly

Stands beside her smoking gun.



The arrival of the French fleet at the mouth of the Delaware
on July 8, 1778, was the occasion of much rejoicings on the part
of the Americans, though many lamented the fact that it did not
arrive a few weeks earlier, when it could have brought the war to
a close by hemming in the British in Philadelphia and destroying
their inferior fleet.

The fleet consisted of twelve ships of the line and six frigates,
with a land force of 4,000 men. It was under the command of
the Count d'Estaing, a man who had seen much service both on
sea and land and who had fought in India under Count Lally,
the Franco-Irish hero of Fontenoy. He was taken prisoner at
Madras in 1759, but was released on parole.

He soon after joined the navy, was given command of two
ships, and inflicted great damage on the English while in the east,
but on his return was captured by British cruisers. He was im-
prisoned in Portsmouth and subjected to cruel treatment. Ad-
miral Boscawen, who was chief commander of the British forces
in India, often said that if ever he should get "the villain in his
power again" he would chain him upon the quarter deck and treat
him like a baboon.

D'Estaing returned these bitter feelings with interest, and
long afterward, when about to be guillotined by the French revo-
lutionists, he said: "Send my head to the English; they will pay
you well for it."

Count d'Estaing was a sincere friend of the American cause.
Through the aid of Marie Antoinette he placed in the King's
hands a memoir against the timid policy of the French ministers
and aided considerably in bringing about the alliance with Amer-
ica. While in American waters the fates seemed to be against
him, and, though he entered into the war with spirit, his eflforts
were generally doomed to defeat. t. • • t,

Tlie moral effect of his presence, however, drove the British
out of Philadelphia and eventually out of Newport, and other-
wise helped the cause of the patriots in many material ways.


Even when he returned to France he endeavored to persuade
the ministry to send 12,000 men to America as the best way of
pursuing the war, and his advocacy, united with that of Lafayette
to the same end, resulted in the sending of the Count de Rocham-
beau and 6,000 men to aid in the struggle for independence.

On July 13, while encamped at Paramus, Washington re-
ceived a letter from Congress informing him of the arrival of the
French fleet and instructing him to concert measures with the
commander, the Count d'Estaing, for offensive operations by sea
and land.

The count also wrote to Washington imparting the object
of his mission. "Nothing will be wanting to my happiness," he
concluded, "if I can succeed in it. It is augmented by the con-
sideration of concerting my operations with a general such as
your excellency. The talents and great actions of General Wash-
ington have insured him, in the eyes of all Europe, the trifly sub-
lime title of Deliverer of America."

In the correspondence which followed it was at first de-
cided that the count should enter New York bay and capture
or destroy the British fleet. Should he succeed in this, which
his greatly superior force rendered more than probable, he was
to proceed against the city, with the co-operation of the Ameri-
can forces.

To be close at hand for such a purpose, Washington crossed
the Hudson with his army at King's Ferry and took up his head-
quarters at White Plains on July 20, filled with high hopes for his

The discovery that the French ships could not cross the bar
at Sandy Hook compelled Washington and D'Estaing to change
their programme and transfer the scene of their operations from
New York to Rhode Island, where the British, to the number of
6,000 men under General Pigot, with headquarters at Newport,
on Rhode Island proper, were strongly fortified.

General John Sullivan was in command of the Americans in
Rhode Island, with headquarters at Providence, having been ap-
pointed to that important post in the spring of 1778.

The French fleet appeared off the harbor of Newport on July
29, and the next morning, to the great joy of the inhabitants,
anchored near Breton's Reef, where General Sullivan had a con-
ference with the admiral and a plan of operations was agreed
upon. Washington had previously directed Sullivan to call on
the New England States for 4,000 militia, and the victors of
Bunker Hill and Bennington nobly responded to the summons.
The IMassachusetts militia marched under John Hancock as gen-
eral, while the heroes of Bennington were commanded by William


Whipple. Two brigades of Continental infantry, under Lafayette,
was sent from the main army, and the whole force, 10,000 strong,
was arranged in two divisions, under Greene and Lafayette, with
Sullivan in supreme command.

On the morning of the 5th of August d'Estaing commenced
operations. Two of his vessels approached to the attack of four
British frigates and some smaller vessels lying near Providence
Island. Fearing to fight the Frenchman, and unable to escape,
the British burned all their ships to prevent d'Estaing from cap-
turing them. Had the Americans been prepared to co-operate
with d'Estaing at this juncture the whole British force at Newport
would have been compelled to surrender. Although General
Sullivan had everything in readiness at Providence, delays in the
arrival of troops prevented his departure for Newport, and
it was nearly a week before he was able to advance upon it. This
unavoidable delay proved fatal to the enterprise.

On the loth of August Sullivan landed his forces on Rhode
Island proper and encamped upon the high ground known as
Quaker Hill, about ten miles north of Newport. The British
retreated before him and strongly entrenched themselves three
miles north of that city.

Two days after d'Estaing left Sandy Hook four British men-
of-war arrived there under Admiral Byron. With this reinforce-
ment Howe determined to proceed to the relief of the King's
forces at Newport, and on the afternoon of the 9th of August,
with a fleet of twenty-five sails, appeared off that harbor.

The next morning, instead of landing his marines to co-oper-
ate with Sullivan, who was then on the ground, d'Estaing sailed
out of the harbor to give battle to the British in the open sea,
where he thought he could fight to the best advantage. The first
day was spent by both fleets in maneuvering for position, and on
the next a terrific storm occurred, which scattered the belliger-
ents and postponed all thought of action.

The same storm inflicted terrible injury on Sullivan's army,
exposed as they were to all its fury. Not a tent or marquee
could be kept standing, several soldiers perished, many horses
died, and all the powder delivered to the troops was destroyed
by the fierce rain. The troops were in a deplorable state when the
storm ceased, but in a day or two they were on the alert again,
and, expecting the prompt return of the French fleet, they
marched forward to within two miles of the enemy's lines and
took up their position on Honeymoon Hill, where they began to
construct batteries and make regular approaches.

Their situation, however, was growing critical. On the even-
ing of the 19th they descried the expected fleet standing in towards


the harbor. All was exultation in the camp. Should the French
with their, ships and troops attack the town by sea and land on one
side, while the Americans assailed it on the other, the surrender
of Newport was inevitable.

But their hopes were doomed to disappointment. D'Estaing
came back, according to his promise, but his ships were in such a
dismantled state after the storm that he felt it his duty to retire
to Boston for repairs. All remonstrances with him were in vain,
and he left the Americans to carry on the fight alone. Lafayette
even followed him to Boston to induce him to come back, riding
the entire distance of seventy miles in six and a half hours, but
only succeeded in getting a promise that he would march his
troops by land to aid the Americans in the siege if requested.

Thus left to his own resources, and fearing the return of the
British fleet, which could cut off his retreat to the mainland, Sul-
livan deemed it prudent to retire to the north end of the island.
Being pursued by the British, he made a stand at Quaker Hill,
and there, on August 29, from 7 in the morning to the same hour
in the evening, he fought what Lafayette pronounced the best con-
tested battle of the war and succeeded in driving back the British
with great loss.

Taking advantage of their confusion and under cover of
darkness, Sullivan marched down to the ferry, and before midnight
the whole American army had crossed in flat-bottomed boats to
the mainland in good order and without the loss of a man. Much
dissatisfaction was expressed at the failure of the Americans in
Rhode Island, and d'Estaing and Sullivan were subjected to some
severe criticism, but both were not only exonerated but warmly
thanked by Washington and Congress for their action in the
matter. Washington knew Sullivan too well to attach any blame
to him and wrote as follows to d'Estaing :

"If the deepest regret that the best concerted enterprise and
bravest exertions should have been rendered fruitless by a disaster
which human prudence was incapable of foreseeing, or prevent-
ing, can alleviate disappointment, you may be assured that the
whole continent sympathizes with you. It will be a consolation
for you to reflect that the thinking part of mankind do not form
their judgment from events, and that their equity will ever attach
equal glory to those actions which deserve success, as well as those
which have been crowned with it. It is in the trying circumstances
to which your excellency has been exposed that the virtues of a
great mind are displayed in their brightest luster and that a gen-
eral's character is better known than in the hour of victory. It
was yours by every title which can give it, and the adverse ele-


ments which robbed you of your prize can never deprive you of
the glory due to you."

While the British occupied Rhode Island the whole eastern
seaboard was at their mercy. Warships patrolled up and down
Long Island Sound, capturing almost every craft that came along
and sending its crew to the prison ships. Sometimes, however,
the fates went against them and they fell a prey to Yankee inge-
nuity, victory being wrenched from them by ships far inferior to
their own. This was the case with a British warship stationed
in the neighborhood of New London. A Yankee captain, who
had previously suffered at her hands, resolved to square the ac-
count if possible. He conceived a scheme to capture the big war-
ship with his little brig and prevailed upon an American colonel
to grant him the use of one hundred soldiers for the enterprise.
These he secreted in his hold and started on his voyage. He was
hailed as usual by the warship and asked what he had on board.

"Vegetables, garden sass, and lots of other sass," he re-

This unusual answer aroused the curiosity of the English-
men, and they nearly all crowded on board the little Yankee to
view the strange cargo. At a signal from the captain the hatches
were thrown open, the American soldiers rushed on deck and
made prisoners of all the Britishers. There being only a few men
left on board the warship, she was easily seized by the Americans
and brought back to New London in triumph, to the great joy
of all the inhabitants.

As related by Crimmins, Captain Melally, the Irish com-
mander of an American privateer, captured another Bntish war-
ship through a stroke of good fortune. He was with his ship at
Newport after the enemy had evacuated it when the British sloop-
of-war Crawford sailed into the harbor, her captain supposing
the place to be still in the possession of the King's troops. Cap-
tain Melally soon made him realize his mistake and seized the
valuable prize without firing a gun or the loss of a single man.
The British held possession of Rhode Island until October
25 1770 During their three years' stay they desolated the entire
State, and their last act was to burn the barracks at Fort Adams
and the Hghthouse upon Beavertail Point, the flaming torch mark-
ing their exit as well as their entrance and their stay.

After the battle of Rhode Island they directed their main ef-
forts towards the subjugation of the South, but they continued to
rack the eastern and middle States with predatory expeditions
and massacres unequaled for fiendishness in the whole history of
war The threat of the peace commissioners that the country


would be laid waste was carried out to tlie letter whenever pos-

The peaceful valley of Wyoming, in Pennsylvania, was one
of the first places selected for these murderous assaults. The
British and Tories of Central New York, allied with a band of
Indians nearly one thousand strong and commanded by John But-
ler, made a descent upon it in July, 1778.

This John Butler was one of the Ormondes of Ireland, the
most treacherous of all the English servitors in that country, and
he carried out in Wyoming the same bloody policy by which his
ancestors had desolated Ireland for ages.

At the beginning of July, 1778, Butler and his band of mur-
derers appeared in Wyoming. There was no one to oppose them
but old men and children, all the fighting men being absent in
the patriot army. Colonel Zebulon Butler, of the Continental
army, an Irish Butler, who was no relative of the Tory, happened
to be home on leave of absence at the time and defended the place
as best he could, but without avail. His little army of boys and
their grandfathers was easily defeated by the white and red sav-
ages, who outnumbered them three to one, and then commenced
a reign of terror which depopulated the whole valley. Every
house was burned to the ground and all the inhabitants were either
murdered in cold blood or driven into the swamps and mountains.

"The Indians flung away their guns," writes Newcome, in
his vivid description of the awful scenes, "and resorted to the
spear, the scalping knife, and tomahawk. Soon they had strewn
the plain with the bodies of 160 victims, reserving others, includ-
ing the captains of the six Wyoming companies, for the torture
fires which were kindled on the river bank as soon as night fell.
The vanquished patriots to whom life remained fled through the
fields of ripening grain to the Susquehanna River and flung them-
selves into the flood, where many were scalped and slain. A few
swam to Monokasy Island, but were pursued and butchered there.

"One of the wildest scenes of the fateful day had Queen
Esther, the Amazonian ruler of the Senecas, for its central figure.
Some twenty of the Connecticut settlers who were taken prisoners
bv the British and Indians were ranged around in a circle. Out-
side this ring of death a row of savages stood with drawn spears,
making escape impossible. Then Queen Esther entered the circle,
armed with a death maul, and crushed in the skulls of her victims,
whose scalps were afterward fastened to her golden girdle in
ghastly adornment.

"The most fearful scenes of all were witnessed as night fell.
Then more than a thousand homes of the settlers were set on fire
and tlie valley became one red scene of ruin from Dial Rock to


Nanticoke, below Wilkes Barre. At Fort Forty, where most of the
women and children of the settlement had been placed for safety,
the wildest panic prevailed and hundreds fled in terror before the
cry, 'The savages are coming.' Many of the women were drowned
in the Susquehanna, others went down the river in canoes, and on
rafts, but the greatest number made their way to the wilderness
known as the Great Swamp and plunged into its depth to escape
the nameless horrors which they dreaded.

"The saddest, most pathetic phase of all that terrible chapter
is the story of the sufferings endured by those refugees. They
perished pitifully in scores, and the region now called the Pocous
was strewn with their famished bodies. For years the place was
known as 'the shades of death.' History has never done full jus-
tice to the sacrifices and sufferings of the people of Wyoming or
given their sad story its proper perspective. They were as much
the victims of the revolutionary war as were those who died fight-
ing by the side of Washington. The immortal Washington him-
self evidently recognized this fact when he sent a force of 4,000
men a year later, under command of General John Sullivan, of
New Hampshire, to chastise the Six Nations in their stronghold
and destroy their homes and fields as a fitting reprisal for the
devastation of Wyoming."

As the guest of the Catholic Total Abstinence Union, Presi-
dent Roosevelt recently visited the scene of these horrors, and his
blood must have coursed swiftly through his veins as he read
the following inscription on the monument which marks the
resting place of the martyrs :

"Near this spot was fought, on the afternoon of Friday, the
3d of July, 1778, the battle of Wyoming, in which a small
band of patriotic Americans, chiefly the undisciplined, the youth-
ful, and the aged, spared by inefficiency from the distant ranks
of the republic, led by Colonel Zebulon Butler and Colonel Nathan
Denison, with a courage that deserved success, boldly met and
bravely fought a combined British, Tory, and Indian force of
thrice their number. Numerical superiority alone gave success
to the invader, and widespread havoc, desolation, and ruin marked
his savage and bloody footsteps through the valley. This monu-
ment commemorative of these events and the actors in them, has
been 'erected over the bones of the slain by their descendants and
others who gratefully appreciate the services and sacnhces ot
their patriotic ancestors." . ,u u

One of the most pathetic incidents of Wyoming was the ab-
duction of Frances Slocum, a little girl of five years of age. Her
mother, bereft of husband and father in the massacre inourned
the lost one until she went to her grave, but never could be con-


vinced that she was dead. Search after search resulted in sad
failure, and it was not until the summer of 1837, fifty-nine years
after her capture, that truthful tidings of the lost Frances were

Colonel Ewing, a son of the Irish-American revolutionary
general of that name and Indian agent at Logansport, Ind., was
the means of proving her complete identity. Under date of Jan-
uary 20, 1835, he wrote as follows to the postmaster of Lancaster,
Pa., with a request that his communication be published in a
Pennsylvania newspaper:

"There is now living near this place among the Miami tribe
of Indians an aged woman, who a few days ago told me she was
taken away from her father's house on or near the Susquehanna
River when she was very voung. She says hed father's name was
Slocum. She is old and feeble and thinks she shall not live long.
These considerations induced her to give the present history of
herself, which she never would before, fearing her kindred would
come and force her away. She has lived long and happily as an
Indian, is vcr>' respectable, wealthy, sober, and honest. Her
name is without reproach."

This letter was thrown aside by the postmaster, who believed
it to be a hoax but a year and a half later his wife unearthed it
from a mass 01 papers and had it published in the Lancaster In-
telligencer, through which it finally reached the Slocum family.

Joseph Slocum, the brother of Frances, and a surviving sister,
journeyed to Log^nspor^ and Colonel Ewing sent for the woman
of whom he had written, whose home was some twelve miles away.
Toward evening the next day she came into the town riding a
spirited young horse, accompanied by two daughters in full In-
dian costume.

Having lost all knowledge of her native tongue an inter-
preter was procured and she listened seriously to what her people
had to say. She remained almost silent at the interview, but
proinised to return next morning. She was true to her appoint-
ment, and her brother then alluded to a mark of recognition which
his mother said would be a sure test. While playing one day with
a hammer Joseph, then two and a half years old, gave Frances a
blow upon the middle finger of the left hand, which crushed the
bone and destroyed the nail. The aged woman became greatly
excited during his recital, and with tears streaming down her face
she held up uie wounded finger, thus banishing all doubt. Her
feelings for her kindred were aroused and scenes long since for-
gotten flitted before her mind. She made earnest inquiries for
the members of her family and told the story of her own life.

She said the first night of her captivity was the unhappiest in


her memory. She was kindly treated and brought up in an In-
dian family as their daughter. She became expert in all the em-
ployments of Indian life and married a young chief of her nation.
So happy was she in her domestic relations that the chance of be-
ing compelled to return among the whites was the greatest evil
that she feared, for she had been taught that they were the im-
placable enemies of the Indians, whom she loved. She told the
whole story of her life, and when she concluded she lifted her
right hand in a solemn manner and said : "All this is as true as
that there is a Great Spirit in the heavens." She continued to
live with the Indians, surrounded by her children and grand-
children. The affecting story of her life was laid before Con-
gress, and John Quincy Adams pleaded her cause so eloquently
that he drew tears from the eyes of his listeners. Congress gave
her a tract of land a mile square and there her descendants still

Online LibraryJames HaltiganThe Irish in the American revolution, and their early influence in the colonies → online text (page 53 of 67)