James Haltigan.

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

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at Winnsborough. The other division consisted of about one
thousand men, under General Daniel Morgan, who established


his headquarters on the northern bank of Pacolet River, near
Pacolet Springs.

Morgan's httle army was comprised of four hundred Con-
tinental Infantry, under Lieutenant Colonel Howard, of the Mary-
land Line; one hundred dragoons, under Lieutenant' Colonel Will-
iam Washington ; two companies of Virginia Militia, under Cap-
tains Triplet and Fate, and the balance of North Carolina and
Georgia Militia, under Majors McDowell and Cunningham.

So successful were the attacks of the patriot cavalry on the
predatory Tory bands that Cornwallis became alarmed and de-
termined to disperse Morgan's forces. He thereupon dispatched
T-arleton and eleven hundred men, with orders to force Morgan to
fight or retreat over the Yadkin. As the English forces were su-
perior in numbers; discipline, and military appointments, their
commander felt confident of success. Evidently he had forgotten
Bunker Hill and needed another lesson to refresh his memory.

On learning of Tarleton's superior numbers Morgan retreated
from his camp and took up a more favorable position in the
Thicketty Mountains on a low foothill, covered with heavy forest
trees, but clear of undergrowth. There, on the morning of the
17th, having carefully inspected the ground, he drew up his forces
in battle array and confidently awaited the approach of the enemy.

On the crest of the hill he stationed the Continentals as his
rear line. One hundred and fifty yards in advance of them he
posted the South Carolina Militia, under Pickens, who had joined
him the preceding night. Further down the slope, one hundred
and fifty yards in advance of Pickens, were placed the men of
North Carolina and Georgia, under McDowell and Cunningham.
The reserve, consisting of Washington's troopers and McCall's
mounted militia, occupied a hill in the rear of all.

Tarleton reached the site of Morgan's camp soon after the
latter's departure. Confident of overtaking the patriot forces, he
pressed eagerly forward in his pursuit, riding all night. Early on
the morning of the 17th he captured two American scouts and
compelled them to reveal the place of Morgan's encampment. He
came in sight of the American position a Httle after 8 o'clock,
and, fearing they might yet elude him, he determined to make an
instant attack.

At a signal from Tarleton the English, with loud shouts,
rushed on the Americans. Coming in range of McDowell's and
Cunningham's riflemen, they were met by a shower of bullets,
which .strewed their path with prostrate redcoats. After deliver-
ing this one effective volley the riflemen fell promptly back to the
flank of the line under Pickens. The British rushed forward and
poured in a close volley on the South Carolina men. These re-


turned the fire with effect, but when they were confronted with a
bayonet charge they fell back to the flank of the Continentals.
Their movement was attended with some confusion, but order
was immediately restored by Pickens.

Tarleton now charged with impetuosity on the Continentals,
who met him with equal resolution, and a hot struggle ensued for
some minutes, when the English showed symptoms of giving
ground. In this critical moment the British reserve, under Mc-
Arthur, advanced to the support of their comrades, and while their
movement restored confidence to the latter, McArthur attempted
to outflank Howard. But the American, perceiving his intent,
ordered his first company to charge on the British infantry. His
order was mistaken, and the company, instead of charging, fell
back. This unfortunate movement came near jeopardizing the
American chances of victory, for the whole line gave way at the
same moment. But Morgan was equal to the emergency. He
ordered the line to retreat to the eminence behind which the cav-
alry were posted, out of sight of the enemy. This command was
being executed in good order, when Tarleton. believing it to be
but the commencement of a general retreat, ordered another bayo-
net charge, and his exulting infantry, with loud shouts, rushed
forward in disorder to complete their enemy's supposed dis-

Seldom, in broad daylight, were warriors more completely
surprised. When the struggling pursuers got within a few yards
of the Americans Howard ordered his men to face about and de-
liver a volley at short range. With a promptitude that vouched
for their high state of disciphne, the patriots obeyed, and, as if
struck by a lightning flash, the pursuers were smitten to the earth
in swathes. The astonished survivors of this terrific and totally
unexpected volley were instantly brought to a confused halt, and
before they could recover from their terror and bewilderment
Howard completed their discomfiture by a vigorous bayonet
charge, and they broke and ran for their Uves. The battle was
lost to the British past redemption.

But their cavalry were destined to share in the disgrace of
the infantry, for while the main bodies were engaged on the hill-
side Tarleton's horsemen gained the rear of the American position
and fell furiously on McCall's mounted militia. But they had
more than the Georgians to deal with. The veteran Virginia dra-
goons, with the gallant Colonel Washington at their head, dashed
down on them with a cheer. Their shock was irresistible, and the
British recoiled and fled, hotly pursued by the avengers. Infantry
and cavalry got inextricably intermingled, and such as escaped
being killed or captured never cried halt till they crossed the

the; IRISH IN the; American revolution. 557

Broad River at Hamiltons' Ford and gained Comwallis' en-
campment, twenty-five miles from the Cowpens.

The British loss in this decisive battle was nearly equal to the
entire American force engaged, and consisted of 300 killed and
wounded and 600 prisoners, 2 pieces of artillery, 800 muskets, 100
dragoon horses, and 35 baggage wagons. Only 270 escaped,
among them Tarleton, who barely saved himself in a furious
single combat with Colonel Washington. The American loss in
thi-s astonishing action was 12 killed and 61 wounded. Some of
the highest authorities assert that in point of tactics it was the
most brilliant battle of the Revolutionary War, and it still appears
brilliant when judged by the standards of the greatest masters of
the military art. All its movements, though sometimes seemingly
the result of stress, were deliberately planned beforehand by Gen-
eral Morgan.

The result of the battle of the Cowpens was received with
exultation throughout the length and breadth of the land. The
news reached Congress on February 8, and on the day following
that body awarded a gold medal to General Morgan, a silver medal
to Colonels Howard and Washington, a sword to Colonel Pickens,
promotion to Captain Giles, General Morgan's aid, and a vote of
thanks to the other officers and soldiers who participated in the

A mere glance at the names of the commanding officers in
this battle will show the great predominance of our countrymen.
General Morgan, Colonel Pickens, Majors McCall, McDowell, and
Cunningham and Captain Giles were all men of the Irish race.
Even Colonel Howard had Irish blood in his veins, his grand-
mother being Johanna Carroll, one of the Carrolls of Maryland.

The following poem on the battle of the Cowpens was pub-
lished in Harper's Magazine in 1861. As a descriptive ballad we
have seldom read anything that surpasses it, either in the reahstic
picture of the times which it presents or in the stirrmg patriotism
which it breathes. It is a noble production, and we print it here
not only for its literary merit, but as a worthy tribute to the brave
men who fought and won the battle of the Cowpens :

January 17, 1781.
To the Cowpens, riding proudly, boasting loudly, rebels scornins,

Tarleton hurried, hot and eager for the fight;
From the Cowpens, sore confounded, on that January corning.
Tarleton hurried, somewhat faster, fain to save himself by lUgnt.

In the morn he scorned us rarely, but he fairly found his error.

When his force was made our ready blows to feel;
When his horsemen and his footmen fled in wild and pallid terror,

At the leaping of our bullets and the sweeping of our steel.


All the day before we fl«d them, and we led them to pursue us,
Then at night on Thicketty Mountain made our camp ;

There we lay upon our rifles, slumber quickly coming to us.

Spite the crackling of our campfires, and our sentries' heavy tramp.

Morning on the mountain border ranged in order found our forces.

Ere our scouts announced the coming of the foe;
While the hoar frost lying near us, and the distant watercourses,

Gleamed like silver in the sunlight, seemed like silver in their glow.

Morgan ranged us there to meet them, and to greet them with such favor

That they scarce would care to follow us again.
In the rear the Continentals — none were readier or braver ;

In the van, with ready rifles, steady, stern, our mountain men.

Washington, our trooper peerless, gay and fearless, with his forces

Waiting pantherlike upon the foe to fall,
Formed upon the slope behind us, where, on rawboned country horses,

Sat the sudden-summoned levies brought from Georgia by McCall.

Soon we heard a distant drumming, nearer coming, slow advancing—

It was then upon the very nick of nine —
Soon upon the road from Spartanburg we saw their bayonets glancing,

And the morning sunlight played on their swaying scarlet line.

In the distance seen so dimly, they looked grimly — coming nearer

There was naught .nbout them fearful after all.
Until some one near me spoke in a voice than falling water clearer —

"Tarleton's quarter is the sword-blade — Tarleton's mercy is the ball."

Then the memory came unto me, heavy, gloomy, of my brother

Who was slain while asking (quarter at their hand ;
Of that morning when were dnven forth my sister and my mother

Prom our cabin in the valley by the spoilers of the land.

I remembered of my brother slain, my mother spurned and beaten,

Of my sister in her beauty brought to shame;
Of the wretches' jeers and laughter, as from mudsill up to rafter

Of the stripped and plundered cabin leapt the fierce consuming flame.

But that memory had no power there in that hour to depress me —

No! it stirred within my spirit fiercer ire;
And I gripped my sword hilt firmer, and my arm and heart grew stronger,

And I longed to meet the wronger on the sea of steel and fire.

On they came, our might disdaining, when the raining bullets leaden

Pattered fast from scattered rifles on each wing.
Here and there went dowTi a foeman, and the ground began to redden.

And they drew them back a moment, like the tiger ere his spring.

Then said Morgan, "Ball and powder kill much prouder men than

On your rifles and a careful aim rely;
Thfiy were trained in many battles— we in workshops, fields, and forges,

But we have our homes to fight for, and we do not fear to die."


Though our leader's words we cheered not, yet we feared not — we awaittd,

Strong o'f heart, the threatened onset, and it came.
Up the sloping hillside swiftly rushed the foe so fiercely hated ;

On they came with gleaming bayonet, 'mid the cannon's smoke and flame.

At their head rode Tarleton proudly — ringing loudly o'er the yelling

Of his men w^e heard his voice's brazen tone —
With his dark eyes flashing fiercely, and his somber features telling

In their look the pride that filled him as the champion of the throne.

On they pressed, when sudden flashing, ringing, crashing, came the firing

Of our forward line upon their close-set ranks;
Then at coming of their steel, which moved with steadiness untiring,

Fled our mountaineers, reforming in good order on our flanks.

Then the combat's raging anger, din and clangor, round and o'er us
Pilled the forest, stirred the air and shook the ground ;

Charged with thunder-tramp the horsemen, while their sabers shone be-
fore us.
Gleaming lightly, streaming brightly through the smoky cloud around.

Through the pines and oaks resounding, madly bounding from the moun-

Leapt the rattle of the battle and the roar;
Fierce the hand-to-hand engaging, and the human freshet raging,

Of the surging current urging past a dark and bloody shore.

Soon the course of fight was altered ; soon they faltered at the leaden
Storm that smote them; and we saw their center swerve;

Tarletpn's eye flashed fierce in anger ! Tarleton's face began to redden ;
'Tarleton gave the closing order, "Bring to action the reserve i"

Up the slope his legion thundered, full three hundred ! fiercely spurring,

Cheering lustily, they fell upon our flanks;
And their worn and wearied comrades, at the sound so spirit-stirring,

Felt a thrill of hope and courage pass along their shattered ranks.

By the wind the smoke-cloud lifted, lightly drifted to the nor'ward,

And displayed in all their pride the scarlet foe;
We beheld them, with a steady tramp and fearless, movfng forward,

With their banners proudly waving, and their bayonets leveled low.

Morgan gave his order clearly, "Fall back nearly to the border

Of the hill, and let the enemy come nighcr !"
Oh, thev thought we had retreated, and they charged in fierce disorder.

When out rang the voice of Howard, "To the right about face ! Fire !

Tken upon our very wheeling came the pealing of our volley,

And our balls made red a pathway down the hill ;
Broke the foe and shrank and cowered; rang again the wice of Howard,

"Give the hireling dogs the bayonet I"— and we did it with a will.

In the meanwhile one red-coated troop, unnoted, riding faster

Than their oomrade», on our rear in fur>' bore ;
But the light horse led by Washington soon brought it to disaster,

For they shattered it, and scattered it, and smote it fast and sore.


Like a herd of startled cattle from the battlefield we drove them;

In disorder down the Mill-gap road they fled;
Tarleton led them in the racing, fast he fled before our chasing.

And he stopped not for the dying, and h« stayed not for the dead.

Down the Mill-gap road they scurried and they hurried with such fleetness —

We had never seen such running in our lives ;
Ran they swifter than if seeking homes to taste domestic sweetness,^

Having many years been parted from their children and their wives.

Ah ! for some, no wife to meet them, child to greet them, friend to shield
them !

To their home o'er ocean never sailing back;
After them the red avengers, bitter hate for death had sealed them,

Yelped the dark and red-eyed sleuth-hound unrelenting on their track.

In their midst I saw one trooper, and around his waist I noted

Tied a simple silken scarf of blue and while ;
When my vision grasped it clearly to my hatred I devoted

Him, from all the hireling wretches who were mingled there in flight

For that token in the summer had been from our cabin taken

By the robber hands of wrongers of my kin ;
'Twas my sister's — for the moment things around me were forsaken —

I was blind to fleeing foeman, I was deaf to battle's din.

Olden comrades round me lying dead or dying were unheeded —

Vain to me they looked for succor in their need.
O'er the corpses of the soldiers, through the gory pools I speeded,

Driving rowel-decp my spurs within my madly bounding steed.

As I came he turned, and staring at my glaring eyes he shivered ;

Pallid fear went quickly o'er his features grim;
As he grasped his sword in terror, every nerve within him quivered —

For his guilty spirit told him why I solely sought for him.

Though the blow I dealt he parried, onward carried down I bore him.
Horse and rider down together went the twain.

"Quarter?" — HE? That scarf had doomed him; stood a son and brother
o'er him;
Down through plume and brass and leather went my saber to the brain —
Never music like that crashing through the skullbone to the brain.


Greene's retreat through north Carolina and his second
campaign in the south — the battles of guildford court


The brilliant victory of Morgan at the Cowpens filled Corn-
wallis with rage, and he at once took the field himself to retrieve
the losses incurred by the utter defeat of Tarleton. Leaving be-
hind everything that might impede the swiftness of his march, he
set out in pursuit of Morgan, but that able officer succeeded in
crossing the Catawba before Cornwallis could overtake him. He
was soon joined by General Greene, and then commenced the great
military retreat of two hundred and fifty miles, clean across North
Carolina, from the Catawba to the Dan. Cornwallis did his ut-
most to overtake and crush the Americans, but he was outgener-
aled by the ever watchful Greene.

The American army during this retreat was in a sad and de-
plorable condition. Half clad and many of them barefoot, with
only one blanket for every four men, they toiled through the mire
or left their blood on the frozen ground. At night when they
snatched a few moments' repose three soldiers would stretch
themselves on the damp ground under one blanket, while a fourth
kept watch. But they pressed forward with undying hope and
bore their sufferings like true patriots. Over hills, through for-
ests, across three large rivers, and innumerable streams, they
pursued their toilsome march, drenched by the rains and chilled
by the water through which they waded, with no way of drying
their scanty clothing except by the heat of their famished bodies.

For twenty days Greene thus retreated, baffling ever\' attenipt
of his more powerful enemy to force him to decisive action. For
the skill in which it was planned, the resolution and energy with
which it was carried through, and the distance traversed it stands
alone in the history of the country and covers Greene with more
glory than any victory could have done.

It was only when Greene was safely across the Dan and
among the more fertile fields of Virginia that Cornwallis gave
up the pursuit and doubled back on his march to Hillsborough,



N. C Here he set up his headquarters and issued proclamations
in the usual vainglorious style to the inhabitants, announcing that
the rebels were driven from the State, and inviting all to jom the
standard of the King.

But his glory was only temporary. As soon as Greene had
rested his wear>' army in Virginia and received necessary rein-
forcements and provisions he recrossed the river Dan, and this
time became the pursuer instead of the pursued, resolved to give
battle to the English enemy at Guildford Court House. The first
move of Greene after crossing into North Carolina was to send
General Pickens and Light Horse Harry Lee after Tarleton, who
was at his old work of scourging the country in the neighborhood
of the Haw. Though they did not catch up with Tarleton, they
met and scattered a band of four hundred Tories while on their
way to join the English, killing their commander. Colonel Pyle,
and one hundred of his men, and teaching a lesson to the loyalists
generally that prevented them from rallying to the royal standard.

By a series of maneuvers Greene succeeded in eluding Corn-
wallls until he found himself in a favorable position for battle at
Guildford Court House. Greene had over four thousand men, but
most of them were raw militia who had never been in a set battle
before. Comwallis' forces amounted to only 2,200, but they were
all veterans to a man and equipped in the most thorough manner.

Greene deployed his forces into tliree separate lines, the
first being the North Carolina Militia, the second the Virginia
Militia, and the third the old reliable Continentals from Maryland
and Virginia. At the first shock of battle the North Carolina
Militia were routed, but the second line offered a stubborn resist-
ance, and was only pushed back after a most desperate struggle.
When the Continentals came into action their right wing was vic-
torious, but their left was held in check until Colonel Washing-
ton's cavalry came to its assistance and drove the English back
to the court house, where they established themselves in a position
from which they could not be dislodged. At evening Greene re-
tired with a loss of four hundred men, leaving the English with a
nominal victory which cost them six hundred killed and wounded.

The English achieved this nominal victory at Guildford, inas-
much as thev retained their position, but it was far worse than an
ordinary defeat, and made Fox declare in the British Parliament
that "another such victory would ruin the English army."

The battle was one of the most obstinate in the war. After
losing nearly one-third of his forces, Cornwallis barely succeeded
in keeping possession of the field, but found it necessary next day
to retreat, leaving his wounded behind. He fell back to Wilming-
ton, on the coast, where he could get support from the fleet.


Greene pursued him as far as Ramsay's Mills, on the Deep
River, and then faced about and marched rapidly back to South
Carolina to undertake once more the reconquest of that State.
Cornwallis did not pursue him this time. He was so crippled by
his recent defeats at King's Mountain and the Cowpens, his long
march after Greene, and his supposed victory at Guildford Court
House that after a while he had to return to Virginia branded
with humiliation and defeat.

Having already alluded to the services of Irishmen at King's
Mountain and the Cowpens, we will here recount a few of their
achievements along the line of Greene's dreary march and at the
battle of Guildford Court House.

Captain Joseph Graham and his North Carolina riflemen op-
posed the passage of the British over the Catawba at Cowan's
Ford, as did also Colonel William Polk, one of the descendants
of Robert Pollock, the Irish founder of the Polk family. Colonel
Polk commanded a regiment of North Carolina Militia and was
accompanied by the Reverend Thomas McCaule as chaplain.

While on his retreat General Greene organized a light army
designed to operate between his own main body and that of the
British. The command of this army was tendered to General
Morgan, but he was compelled to decline it and returned to his
home on account of his sufferings from rheumatism. It was made
up of a body of militia under General Pickens, a corps of cavalry
under Colonel Washington, Virginia militia under Colonel Camp-
bell, the hero of King's Mountain ; the regular Maryland infantry
under Colonel Howard, who distinguished himself at the Cow-
pens, and Colonel William Preston and his riflemen. The latter,
with some of Lee's legion, succeeded in defeating Tarleton on
March 2, 1781, killing and wounding thirty of his force without
the loss of a single man. While fighting bravely at the battle of
Guildford Court House Colonel Preston received a wound from
which he never recovered. We have before alluded to his services
and those of the noble family which survived him. , , , .

The Virginians who made up the second line at the battle ot
Guildford Court House were chiefly from Augusta and Rock-
bridge counties, and were the descendants of the Irish who firs
settled that portion of the State. One company was composed
principally of the congregation of the Rev. James Waddell. ulio
was afterward known as the Blind Preacher of the w|U1e ncs
along the eastern base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He gave
them a farewell address when they were ""; '^'^ ,^^!"%^"jl,';f,^;^>^^^^
march, and many of them were left upon the field of Guildfcml
The Blind Preacher, who was pronounced by Pa rick Henry o
be one of the greatest orators he had ever heard, was born m
Newry, Ireland, in 1739.


Colonel Cliarles Lynch, who, with his brother John, founded
Lynchburg, Va., also commanded a rifle regiment at the battle of
Guildford Court House. He was the son of John Lynch, an emi-
grant from Ireland.

Wlien Greene returned to South Carolina he intended to in-
vest the English at Camden under Lord Rawdon, but found his
small army inadequate for such a purpose. He took up his posi-

Online LibraryJames HaltiganThe Irish in the American revolution, and their early influence in the colonies → online text (page 59 of 67)