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

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ish power in America.

When Sir Henry Clinton was assured that the French fleet
had left American waters for good he lost no time in organizing
a new invasion against the South. Leaving Knyphausen in charge
of New York, he sailed from that port on December 26, 1779,
with eight thousand five hundred men and a powerful fleet under
Admiral Arbuthnot, but his voyage was so tempestuous that he
did not land on St. John's Island, thirty miles below Charieston,
until the nth of February following. He came fully resolved that
this third attempt to capture the capital of the South would be
successful, and accordingly he brought with him all the latest
appliances of war, and determined to move slowly but surely to-
ward his goal. It was not unHl the 12th of March that Sir Henry
landed his troops on Charieston Neck, and from that time until
its fall, just two months later, the doomed city was closely m-
vested by land and sea.

The Assembly of South Carolina was in session at the time
the enemy appeared, and Governor Rutledge, a man, as Irving
says, eminent for his talents, patriotism, firmness, and decision,
was immediately clothed with supreme powers. As in the former
sieges, he applied himself with judgment and vigor to the duties
of the hour. He called out the militia, brought three hundred


negroes to build new fortifications, and did all in his power to
place the city in a state of proper defense.

Commodore Whipple, a kinsman of the Irish- American signer
of the Declaration of Independence, commanded an American
squadron of nine vessels within the harbor and he was assigned
the task of preventing the British ships from crossing the bar.
He found out, however, owing to the shallowness of the water,
that he could not bring his ships near enough to defend it, and
took a position where his guns might be abreast the batteries of
Fort Moultrie.

The Commodore afterward moved up to the mouth of
Cooper River and sunk most of his own and some merchant ves-
sels between the town and Shute's Folly, thus forming an effectual
bar to the passage of the British ships up the channel to rake the
American works upon the Neck. ,

General Lincoln commanded the troops within the city, but
as his whole force only amounted to about fourteen hundred men,
lacking in all the required essentials, his first impulse was to
evacuate the city, collect a sufficient army from the upper country,
and then return and drive out the invaders.

The tardy movements of Clinton, however, caused him to
change his views, and he resolved to maintain a siege, doing all
in his power in the meantime to strengthen his position and muster
in reinforcements from the surrounding country.

The condition of Charleston at the time of this third siege could
not have been more gloomy or deplorable. The paper money was
worth literally nothing and it took seven hundred dollars to buy
a pair of shoes. Provisions were short and famine added its grim
visage to the other terrors of the inhabitants. In fact, the patriots
were exceedingly weak in everything but courage and a firm de-
termination to fight to the last ditch.

When the British batteries were opened on the town, the
great object of the Americans was to keep open the channel of
communication with the country by the Cooper River, the last
that remained by which they could receive reinforcements and
supplies, or retreat if necessary.

For this purpose Governor Rutledge, leaving the town in the
care of Lieutenant Governor Gadsden, set off to the country and
endeavored to rouse the militia between the Cooper and Santee
rivers. His success was extremely limited, as he was quickly
followed by detachments of British under Tarleton and others,
who scourged the country and maltreated women and children.
On the 14th of April Tarleton surprised and scattered the Ameri-
cans near Monk's Corners and Governor Rutledge was driven
higher up the Santee.


On the 1 8th of April Cornwallis arrived at Charleston with
three thousand fresh troops from New York. At a council of war
held four days later by the Americans it was proposed to retreat
to the open country, but the inhabitants implored Lincoln to re-
main, as they dreaded the brutalities of the English when the
town was at their mercy. Honorable terms of surrender were pre-
pared, but they were scornfully rejected by Clinton and the bloody
work went on.

The Americans made a gallant sortie on the English, but
apart from killing twenty of their number it had no effect on their
progress. When Clinton had all his works completed he de-
manded a surrender, and his ultimatum was received. He in-
sisted upon a full surrender of the garrison and citizens as pris-
oners of war, all the military works and arms, and the entire ship-
ping in the harbor. These terms were rejected by General Lin-
coln, and at 8 o'clock on the evening of May 9, after a day's ces-
sation, the firing commenced again.

It was an awful night in Charleston and was never forgotten
by those who experienced its terrible trials. The thunder of
two hundred cannon shook the city like an earthquake, clouds of
lurid smoke shut out the moon and stars, shells whirled through
the air, and houses were already burning in five different places.

"It appeared," says Moultrie in his description, "as if the
stars were tumbling down. The fire was incessant almost the
whole night, cannon balls whizzing and shells hissing continually
among us, ammunition chests and temporary magazines blowing
up, great guns bursting, and wounded men groaning along the
lines. It was a dreadful night."

The leading citizens, headed by Lieutenant Governor Gads-
den, at 2 o'clock on the morning of the nth, requested Lincoln to
accept Clinton's tenns and that noble American reluctantly con-
sented to do so. The firing ceased at dawn, and just before noon
on the next day the Americans marched out and laid down their

After the fall of Charleston the real misery of the inhabitants
began. Every stipulation made by Sir Henry Clinton for their
welfare was not only grossly violated, but he sent out expeditions
in various sections to plunder and kill the inhabitants and scourge
the country generally. One of these under Tarleton surprised
Colonel Buford and his Virginia regiment at Waxhaw, N. C. and,
while negotiations were pending for a surrender, the Americans,
without notice, were suddenly attacked and massacred in cold
blood. Colonel Buford and one hundred of his men saved them-
selves by flight. Though the rest sued for quarter, one hundred
and thirteen of them were killed on the spot and one hundred and


fifty more were so badly hacked by Tarleton's dragoons that they
could not be removed. Only fifty-three out of the entire regiment
were spared and taken prisoners. "Tarleton's quarter" there-
after became the synonym for barbarity.

On the 5th of June, flattering himself that the South was ef-
fectually conquered, Sir Henry Clinton set sail for New York
with Arbuthnot and his ships and a large part of his troops, leav-
ing the South under the tender mercies of Cornwallis. This latter
gentleman was even more cruel than Clinton, and more flagrant
in his violations of the conditions of capitulation. Feeling the
silent influence of the eminent citizens under parole to be restor-
ing patriotic sentiment, he resolved to expatriate them to Florida.

Lieutenant Governor Gadsden and seventy-seven other public
and influential men were taken from their beds by armed parties,
before dawn on the morning of the 27th of August, hurried on
board the Sandwich prison ship, without being allowed to bid
adieu to their families, and were conveyed to St. Augustine.

The pretense for this measure, by which the British authori-
ties attempted to justify it, was the false accusation that these men
were concerting a scheme for burning the town and massacring
the loyal inhabitants. Nobody believed the tale, and the act was
made more flagrant by this wicked calumny. Arrived at St. Au-
gustine, the prisoners were oiTered paroles to enjoy liberty within
the precincts of the town. Gadsden, the sturdy patriot, refused
acquiescence, for he disdained making further terms with a power
that did not regard the sanctity of a solemn treaty. He was de-
termined not to be deceived the second time.

"Had the British commanders," he said, "regarded the terms
of capitulation at Charleston I might now, although a prisoner,
enjoy the smiles and consolations of my family under my own
roof ; but even without a shadow of accusation preferred against
me, for any act inconsistent with my plighted faith, I am torn
from them, and here, in a distant land, invited to enter into new
engagements. I will give no parole."

"Think better of it," said Governor Tonyn, who was in com-
mand; "a second refusal of it will fix your destiny — a dungeon
will be your future habitation."

"Prepare it, then," replied the inflexible patriot. "I will give
no parole, so help me God!"

And the petty tyrant did prepare it ; and for forty-two weeks
that patriot, of almost threescore years of age, never saw the light
of the blessed sun, but lay incarcerated in the dungeon of the
castle of St. Augustine. All the other prisoners accepted paroles,
but they were exposed to indignities more harrowing to the sen-
sitive soul than close confinement. When they were exchanged,


in June, 1781, they were not allowed to even touch at Charleston,
but were sent to Philadelphia, whither their families had been
banished when the prisoners were taken to the Sandwich. More
than a thousand persons were thus exiled, and husbands and wives,
fathers and children, first met in a distant State after a separation
of ten months.

Nearly all the soldiers taken prisoners at Charleston were con-
fined in prison ships in the harbor, where foul air, bad food, filth,
and disease killed hundreds of them. Those confined at Haddrell's
Point also sufifered terribly. Many of them had been nurtured in
affluence ; now, far from friends and entirely without means, they
were reduced to the greatest straits. They were not even allowed
to fish for their support, but were obliged to perform the most
menial services. After tJiirteen months' captivity, Cornwallis or-
dered them to be sent to the West Indies, and this cruel order
would have been carried out but for the general exchange of pris-
oners which took place soon afterward.

England displayed her real civilization in the South while
that section was under the heel of her despotic power. She spread
ruin on every hand and resorted to the most inhuman methods of

According to Garden's Revolutionary Anecdotes, Governor
Rutledge, in speaking before the South Carolina Assembly at
Jacksonboro, thus eloquentlv referred to the rigorous and unjus-
tifiable conduct of the British authorities:

"Regardless of the sacred ties of honor, destitute of the feel-
ings of humanity, and determined to extinguish, if possible, every
spark of freedom in this country, the enemy, with the insolent
pride of conquerors, gave unbounded scope to the exercise of
their tyrannical disposition, infringed their public engagements,
and violated their most solemn treaties. Many of our worthiest
citizens, without cause, were long and closely confined — some on
board prison ships and others in the town and castle of St. Au-
gustine. Their properties were disposed of at the will and caprice
of the enemy, and their families sent to a different and distant
part of the continent without the means of support. Many who
had surrendered prisoners of war were killed in cold blood. Sev-
eral suffered death in the most ignominous manner, and others
were delivered up to savages and put to tortures, under which
they expired. Thus the lives, liberties, and properties of the peo-
ple were dependent solely on the pleasure of the British officers,
who deprived them of either or all on the most frivolous pretenses.
Indians, slaves, and a desperate banditti of the most profligate
characters were caressed and employed by the enemy t(^ execute
their infamous purposes. Devastation and ruin marked their


progress and that of their adherents ; nor were their violences re-
strained by the charms or influence of beauty and innocence ; even
the fair sex, whom it is the duty of all and the pleasure and pride
of the brave to protect, they, and their tender offspring, were vic-
tims to the inveterate malice of an unrelenting foe. Neither the
tears of mothers nor the cries of infants could excite in their
breasts pity or compassion. Not only the peaceful habitation of
the widow, the aged, and the infirm, but the holy temples of the
Most High were consumed in flames, kindled by their sacrilegious
hands. They have tarnished the glory of the British army, dis-
graced the profession of a British soldier, and fixed indelible stig-
mas of rapine, cruelty, perfidy, and profaneness on the British

General Lincoln, though he accomplished all that a brave
and able officer could do, was severely censured by the unthinking
for his failure at Charleston. He was sent to prison in New York
immediately after his surrender, and General Gates was appointed
in his place as American comamnder in the South, assuming com-
mand on July 25.

This appointment was made without the consent of Wash-
ington, who had grave fears as to its results, and was the occa-
sion of much unfavorable comment. Yet the advent of Gates gave
courage to the wavering. The South was far from being dead or
conquered, and even a Gates could still inspire her with renewed
hope and call back her surviving soldiers to their old posts of duty.

Governor Rutled^e, still afield in the cause of his country
and as strong as ever m patriotic fervor, met and welcomed Gates
as he crossed the line into South Carolina. Francis Marion, ar-
dent and full of hope, but who now had only twenty followers,
with their clothes torn to tatters, also appeared at the camp of
Gates and excited the laughter of the soldiers by the grotesque
appearance of himself and his ragged men.

Gates, too, would have joined in the ridicule had not Gov-
ernor Rutledge, who knew Marion's sterling worth, recommended
him in the highest manner, but even then Gates was too conceited
to regard Marion seriously or offer him a place in his army.

But here an opportunity offered whereby Governor Rutledge
could show his appreciation of Marion and at the same time ad-
minister a rebuke to the quandom hero, Gates.

The patriots of the Williamsburg district, who had again
risen in arms, sent for Marion to command them, and there and
then Governor Rutledge appointed him a brigadier general and
sent him to the men of Williamsburg with the full authority of
the State.


Among the bold, energetic, and faithful patriots of the South,
Lossing truly says that none holds a firmer place in the affections
of the American people than General Francis Marion. The gal-
lant Jasper was the first man he enrolled in his company when the
call to arms was sounded, and the brave Major James, the "Swamp
Fox" of his brigade, another sterling Irishman, was always at
his side.

We cannot here follow all the great exploits of Marion, but
we must give, for the benefit of our young readers, the glorious
"Song of Marion's Men," by the gifted Cullen Bryant :


Our band is few, but true and tried,

Our leader frank and bold;
The British soldier trembles

When Marion's name is told.
Our fortress is the good greenwood,

Out tent the cypress tree;
We know the fonsst round us

As seamen know the sea.
We know its walls of throny vines.

Its glades of reedy grass;
Its safe and silent islands

Within the dark morass.

Woe to the English soldiery

That little dread us near!
On them shall light at midnight

A strange and sudden fear;
When, waking to their tents on fire,

They grasp their arms in vain.
And they who stand to face us

Are beat to earth again ;
And they who fly in terror deem

A mighty host behind,
And hear the tramp of thousands

Upon the hollow wind.

Then sweet the hour that brings release

From danger and from toil.
We talk the battle o\-er

And share the battle's spoil.
The woodland rings with laugh and shout.

As if a hunt were up,
And woodland flowers are gather'd

To crown the .soldier's cup.
With merry songs we mock the wind

That in the pine top grieves,
And slumber long and sweetly

On beds of oaken leaves.


Well knows the fair and friendly moon

The band that Marion leads—
The glitter of their rifles.

The scampering of their steeds.
'Tis life to guide the fiery barb

Across the moonlight plain ;
'Tis life to feel the night wind

That lifts his tossing mane.
A moment in the British camp—

A moment — and away,
Back to the pathless forest

Before the peep of day.

Grave men there are by broad Santee,

Grave men, with hoary hairs,
Their hearts are all with MARION.

For MARION are their prayers.
And lovely ladies greet our band

With kindliest welcoming,
With smiles like those of summer.

And tears like those o'f spring.
For them we wear these trusty arms.

And lay them down no more.
Till wie have driven the Briton


When Sir Henry Clinton wrote to the British government,
after the fall of Charleston, that there were few men in South
Carolina who were not either prisoners or carrying arms with
him, he was counting without his host. His braggart letter had
not yet arrived in England before Rutherford, Sumter, Marion,
Pickens, Lacy, Neill, and hosts of minor leaders were again in the
field to give battle to the Tories and the English regulars who
were scourging the country with fire and sword.

The border districts between North and South Carolina were
almost wholly settled by Irishmen, and these were the first to
emerge from their fastnesses and oppose the destroyers of their

Captain John McClure, whose men were known as the
"Chester Rocky Creek Irish," struck the first blow at Beckham-
ville early in June, as we have described, and now, with others of
his race, like the Gastons, the Crawfords, the Winns, and the
Jackaons, he hastened to join Sumter, who had temporarily retired
to Mecklenburg, in North Carolina.

Colonel Sumter was one of the most daring patriot leaders
in the South. While we cannot positively substantiate the asser-
tion that he was of Irish origin, all the evidence in cur possession
points to that assumption, and all the traits of his character are
unmistakably Celtic. He was courageous and tactful as an officer,
and generous, high-minded, and patriotic in his nature.


Early in July, 1780, Sumter crossed the line into South Caro-
lina and soon gave evidence that all patriotic Americans were not
on the English prison ships or in the English army.

He found the Tories rallying in great numbers to the Eng-
lish standard and growing bolder and more overbearing as their
strength increased. The affair at Beckhamville and another de-
feat of a like nature which the Tories suffered at the hands of
McClure alarmed Colonel Turnbull, the English commander at
Rocky Mount, and he sent out Captain Christian Huck, one of the
most unscrupulous officers in his command, to chastise the offend-
ing rebels. Huck was noted for his cruelty and profanity. Ram-
say says that he had been often heard to say that "God Almighty
had turnel rebel, but if there were twenty Gods on their side they
should all be conquered."

When he started on his marauding mission on the night of
July II the first stop he made was at the residence of Captain
Bratton, a brother officer of McClure. There he rudely demanded
of Mrs. Bratton the whereabouts of her husband. "In Sumter's
army," was her prompt reply. Huck at first tried to win her to
the royal cause and then resorted to threats to make her disclose
her husband's retreat, but she firmly refused all information, even
when a sharp reaping hook was at her throat, in the hands of a
brutal soldier. This was not the first brave deed of Airs. Brat-
ton. After the fall of Charleston she was intrusted with the safe-
keeping of some gunpowder by Governor Rutledge, and she de-
liberately blew it up with her own hands when it was in danger
of capture by the enemy. She was a noble woman, and her forti-
tude and patriotism are still remembered in the South.

The score against Huck was a long and bloody one. He had
already burned the iron works of Colonel Hill and the dweling of
a Presbyterian minister and had murdered an innocent young
man on his way to church on Sunday morning with his Bible in
his hand. Now he was about to pay the penalty of his crimes.

After leaving the house of Mrs. Bratton he encamped for the
night about a half mile distant in the middle of a lane. At a little
past midnight Colonel Neill and the companies of Captains Mc-
Clure and Bratton cautiously aproached their sleeping enemy. At
dawn they entered each end of the lane and fell upon Hucks' party
with fury. The surprise was complete, and for an hour a hcrce
battle ensued. Huck and Colonel Ferguson, of the Tory inihtia,
were killed, and all their forces dispersed. McClure and his com-
pany pursued the fugitive to Rocky Mount, and only one American
was lost in this successful encounter. , , • 1 1

About the same time the notorious Cunningham and lus band,
called the "bloody scout," were spreading terror in the present


counties of Union and Spartanburg, and far south of the Enoree.
Against this desperate gang the trusted John McClure was also
dispatched, and he not only chased them out of the district, but
captured four of the ruffians and brought them back to Sumter's
camp upon the Waxhaw.

These successes, together with strong feelings of revenge
against the English for their barbarous conduct of the war, daily
strengthened Sumter's hands, and presently, with six hundred
brave men, most of whom were Irish, and a commission as briga-
dier general, promptly sent him by the ever watchful Rutledge,
he felt himself strong enough to attack the English post at Rocky
Mount, though in numbers and appointments they were far su-
perior to his own command.



On July 30, 1780, Sumter crossed the Catawba at Blair's
Ford and advanced on Rocky Mount. He was accompanied by
Colonels Neil, Irvine, and Lacy, with Captain John McClure and
the nine sons of the venerable Judge Gaston.

At an early hour he appeared on the crown of the hill over-
looking the British position. Leaping the abatis after three as-
saults the Americans drove the British into the houses at the foot
of the slope, but from these they were unable to dislodge them,
having no artillery. Loading a wagon with dry brush and straw
and igniting it, they rolled it down on the houses, whereupon the
British hoisted a flag. Thinking they intended to surrender, Sum-
ter ordered his men to cease firing, but just then a shower of rain
extinguished the burning wagon and the British defied him. Hav-
ing no other means to drive them from the houses, Sumter was
compelled to withdraw. The gallant Colonel Neil was killed in
the first assault.

Seven days afterwards Sumter again attacked the English
at Hanging Rock, twelve miles from Rocky Mount. At first he
drove the EngUsh before him and captured two of their strongest
positions, but his men, flushed with the prospect of an easy victory,
dallied too long in the British positions already seized and became
disordered. Of his six hundred men Sumter could only rally two
hundred for his final attack on the English, but even with these
he was forcing the enemy back until fresh troops came to their
aid, when he thought it prudent to retreat. The engagement
lasted about four hours and was one of the best fought battles of
the war between raw American militia and English regulars, the
latter being so severely handled that they were unable to follow
Sumter when he retired. The brave Captain John McClure and
Captain Read, of North Carolina, were killed in this battle, while

Online LibraryJames HaltiganThe Irish in the American revolution, and their early influence in the colonies → online text (page 57 of 67)