Copyright
James Haltigan.

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

. (page 7 of 67)
Online LibraryJames HaltiganThe Irish in the American revolution, and their early influence in the colonies → online text (page 7 of 67)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the Alabama, was one of his descendants ; and many of them are
residents of the State still, and proud of the honor paid to the
memory of their respected ancestor. His portrait hangs in the
Governor's Room in the State House.

Connor is a name that is often found in many New Hamp-
shire towns. It is Irish of the Irish, and is borne by many whose
ancestors have been here for generations. J. M. Connor, of Hop-
kinton, in recent years was one of the leading agriculturists and
writers in the State.

Daniel Annis was the first settler in the town of Warner. He
was a descendant of Charles Annis, who came to America in 1666,
and settled in the town of Essex, Mass. According to Harriman's
"History of Warner," Charles Annis was a native of Enniskillen,
in Great Britain ; but as Enniskillen is in Ireland, and not in Great
Britain, the Emerald Isle must be credited with furnishing the
stock from whence sprang Warner's first settler, who raised his
roof-tree in the wilderness in 1762. The same historian states
that from this source have sprung all the Anniscs in New England.
The name of Annis must be an abbreviation of McGinnis or Ennis
(MacAnnis), both of which are common in the North of Ireland.
The race must have been prolific, as the name can be found all over
New England.

Four other distinctive Irish names are found among the first
settlers of Warner — Flood, Kelly, Collins, and Dowlin. In the
expedition against Crown Point, during the Old French War, in
1755, it is recorded that Captain McGinnis, of New Hampshire,
fell on the French at the head of two hundred men and com-
pletely routed them. After turning the fortunes of the day he fell
mortally wounded.

The name of General John Sullivan is well known. His
father was an emigrant from Limerick, of good family and well
educated ; his blood flows in the veins of some of the best New
England stock of to-day, one of whom, Mr. T. C. Amery, his
grandson, of Boston, has written a life of the General. His
brother was Governor of Massachusetts and the descendants of
both have been in every generation up to the present actively
identified with the manufacturing, commercial and mercantile
interests of New England. One of them was the proprietor of
the Middlesex Canal, and its manager up to the building of the
railroads.

James Sullivan represented Massachusetts in Congress in
1788. In 1790 he was made Attorney-General. In 1794 his His-



THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. 63

tory of the District of Maine was ordered to be published by the
Legislature of Massachusetts. In 1807 he was elected Governor,
and re-elected in 1808. In the latter year he died, after having
assisted in the settlement of Maine and written its history, after
governing Massachusetts and defining its boundaries, after hav-
ing studied under the British officials and beaten them with their
own weapons. The son of this eminent statesman was the Hon.
AVilliam Sullivan, for many years a State Senator and United
States Representative for Boston.

The military career of General Sullivan has partially covered
up his civil services, but in that department his name received new
lustre. He was one of the first Presidents of New Hampshire,
and for many years afler the Attorney-General of the State. His
son, George Sullivan, was one of the most accomplished lawyers
in New Hampshire, and it is said to hear him speak men would
walk miles. He was also for many years Attorney-General, in
turn to be followed by his son, the namesake of his grandfather,
John Sullivan, who was holding that position at the outbreak of
the Civil War in 1861.

The small town of Bedford, near Londonderry, supplied no
less than thirteen Irishmen at Bunker Hill.

One of the first settlers of Newport, N. H., was Benjamin
Giles, who was born in Ireland, and was fifty years old when he
came to Newport. In a sketch of his life, in the Granite Monthly,
in March, 1880, the writer said: "The name and character of
Benjamin Giles deserves more than a passing notice. He was the
Nestor of the new settlement. He was a delegate to the Provin-
cial Congress before and during the War of the Revolution. He
was a State Representative and Senator, a member of the Conven-
tion that formed the first Constitution of the State, a Commis-
sioner to settle the boundary line between New Hampshire and
Massachusetts, and when in March, 1781, Newport, with other
towns along the Connecticut River, seceded from New Hampshire
and sought the sovereignty of Vermont, he was elected to the
General Assembly of Vermont, which was to meet at Windsor.
He died December 9, 1787, aged seventy years, and his memory
in Newport is held in as high esteem as that of his fellow-country-
man, Matthew Thornton, at Merrimac.

Another prominent citizen of the town of Newport, Hon.
Edmund Burke, was of Irish stock. He was editor of the New-
port Argus, was elected to Congress at the age of twenty-nine, and
served six years, was Commissioner of Patents under President
Polk, and resumed the practice of law at Newport, where he died.

A prominent name in New Hampshire annals of Revolution-
ary days is McClary. At the battle of Bunker Hill Major Andrew



64 THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.

McClary, whose great size and desperate valor made him pecu-
liarly conspicuous, fell while crossing the Neck. Captain Mc-
Clearv', his relative, fell at Bennington. In 1784-5-6 the names
of John McClary and Matthew Thornton are in the Senate, while
from the latter year down to 1819, John McDufi'e, James Mc-
Gregor, MacMiciiael McCleary, Michael McClary, John Orr, John
Duncan, Nathaniel Shannon, Newell Haly, and numerous mem-
bers of the Stark family — all genuine sons of the Celt, were —
many of them several terms — members of the Upper Branch of
the Legislature. The connection was kept up in our day in the
person of Timothy Haley, a well-known manufacturer of knitting
cotton, and who was born in Dunmanway, County of Cork.

Two celebrated schoolmasters in Colonial days were Henry
Parkinson and Edward Evans. Henry Parkinson was born in
Ireland in 1741, and came to America with his parents when quite
young. He was a graduate of Nassau College, New York ; being
a classmate of another Irishman, David Ramsey, historian of
South Carolina. He was one of the first to volunteer from New
Hampshire at the outbreak of the Revolution, and served until
the close of the war as quartermaster under Stark. In 1820 he
died. The following epitaph was written by himself, and is
inscribed in Latin on his tombstone: "Ireland begot me, America
nourished me, Nassau College taught me, I have taught, I have
fought, and labored with my hands. Thus I have finished my
course and now the earth possesses me. With quiet I sleep in
the dust as it were in my mother's bosom. Approach here, my
friend, behold and reflect that you all must certainly die; there-
fore, farewell, and take heed."

Edward Evans, for years leading schoolmaster in Saulsbury,
a most accomplished man, was born and educated in Ireland.

The Moores have ever held a high position in New Hampshire
annals. One of them has traced his ancestry to three brothers
who came to Massachusetts from the County Carlow, in Ireland,
from whom are largely descended the New Hampshire Moores.

The men of Irish origin in Portsmouth celebrated St. Patrick's
Day, 1780, by instituting a Masonic Lodge. Though they were
Protestants, the selection of the day dearest to Catholics, showed
their Irish patriotism and tolerance.

The following New Hampshire men of Irish lineage served
in Congress: S. B. Connor, represented Massachusetts in the
Fourteenth Congress; R. S. Moloney, of Northfield, Illinois, in
the Thirty-second, and Dr. Benjamin Orr, Massachusetts, in the
Fifteenth.

Colonel Linehan disproves the Scotch-Irish claim in New



THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. 65

Hampshire as thoroughly as John H. Campbell does for Penn-
sylvania. The former thus sets the assumption aside :

"Our modern town historians in New Hampshire claim that
Scotch-Irish so-called were different from the Irish 'in language,
blood, morals, and religion.' In view of statements of this kind it
would be well to record here the fact that in 1737, eighteen years
after the Celtic settlement of New Hampshire, forty gentlemen of
the Irish nation residing in Boston formed themselves into a char-
itable society for the relief of their poor indigent countrymen.
Last St. Patrick's Day (1884) this same society celebrated its one
hundred and forty-seventh anniversary, and its present members,
like its founders, pledge themselves anew to the land of their
fathers.

"It is very strange that those people who first settled in New
Hampshire, and who are called Scotch-Irish or Scotch, as their
descendants now begin to call them, should call the places in
which they settled after towns in Ireland, instead of naming them
after Scottish towns.

"Dumbarton is the only town in the State, perhaps, bearing a
Scotch name, while we have Derry, Londonderry, Derryfield,
Antrim, Dublin, and Kilkenny.

"McGee, in his 'Irish Settlers in America,' touches on this
question, and his words will bear repetition. Speaking of the
Londonderry settlement he said : 'It began with sixteen families,
who gave the name of their native place to their new abode. They
were all Presbyterians in religion, and of that Celtic stock first
planted in Scotlan^l from Ireland, then renaturalized in the parent
land previous to its deportment to the sterner, but more inde-
pendent soil of New England.'

"He adds : 'It may be out of place to append here what I
have been obliged to establish in detail elsewhere — the inaccuracy
of certain New Hampshire orators and others in inventing a
mixed race, whom they call the Scotch-Irish. To each of them
we say, when you assert that the McClellands, Campbells, Mc-
Donalds, McGills, Fergusons, McGregors, etc., of Ulster, Scot-
land, and New Hampshire, are a race entirely distinct from the
O'Flinns, Murphys, and Sullivans of the same or adjoining set-
tlements, you are, I repeat, in error. We are the same people,
our original language is the same. Our fathers, speaking a com-
mon Gaelic tongue, fought, intermarried and prayed together.
The Mac is our joint inheritance, as the Norman prefix "De" or
the Saxon affix "son." Time and ignorance have obscured the
early connection of the two Scottish Kingdoms.'

"In an address delivered by the Marquis of Lome at Ottawa,
on his arrival as ruler of the Dominion of Canada, he very pleas-



66 THE IRISH IX THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.

antly alluded to the ancient relationship between the Irish and the
Scots, and, unlike our New Hampshire Anglomaniacs, not only
acknowledged the Irish origin of his countrymen, but expressed
himself as being proud of it.

"With the recollection of the names of Sullivan, Fitzgerald,
Fitzsimmons, Barry, O'Brien, Blakely, Moylan, Carroll, Thorn*
ton, McDonough, Gibbons, Shields, Sheridan, Mathew Carey,
Charles O'Connor, Thomas Addis Emmet, Gilmore, Logan, But-
lers of Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Massachusetts ; Cal-
houn, Fulton, Gorman. Geary, Cavanagh, Lynches, without num-
ber ; IMoores, innumerable, and tens of thousands of others, who
had either in the army or navy, the civil service or the legal pro-
fession, helped to establish or assisted in the maintenance of this
Republic, the American of Irish origin can afford to stand these
attacks and strike boldly for what he believes to be true, and that
is true, that the men who came to this country from Ireland and
settled in New Hampshire in 171 9 were of the same original stock
as those whose names appear above.

"Benjamin F. Butler, who has made his mark in the war, in
Congress, and who has stirred up old Massachusetts as she was
never stirred before, is of the Celtic stock. His bright record will
be appreciated in the years to come. The new Irish element,
which has grown up since 1848, like that which preceded it in '76,
responded promptly to the call of duty in 1861, and not a battle-
field in which a New Hampshire regiment was engaged, but that
the soil was reddened with the blood of both elements.

"Wolfe Tone, Kmmet, McCracken, and their associates in '98
were of the same creed and race as those Londonderry settlers,
yet they called themselves Irish, fought and died for their coun-
try, and left a legacy for her sons in a love of liberty that can
never die, and their descendants, the Butts, Parnells, Nelsons, etc.,
are hand in hand with Healy, Dillon, O'Connor, and McCarthy,
in upholding the honor of the Irish name to-day."

In an article in the Boston Pilot, of June 20. 1903, Colonel
Linehan gives the history of more than one hundred Irishmen who
took a prominent part in the American Revolution, many of whose
names are now published for the first time, and all of whom will
receive due credit in these chronicles.

Charles K. Bolton recently published an admirable book enti-
tled the "Private Soldier Under Washington," the very last sen-
tence in which is as follows :

"Whether France or Washington or the Patriot army con-
tributed most to bring about the peace of Paris in 1783 is of little
moment. France and Washington long ago had their due ; but
it has been the purpose of these pages to give the private soldier



THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. 67

under Washington whatever share in the victory v^as his by right
of the danger, privation, and toil that he endured."

There is only one drawback to Mr. Bolton's book. He does
not give any idea of who the private soldier was. But here and
there a name unmistakably Irish shows the preponderance of
that element among the rank and file. The last survivor of the
Revolution, according to Mr. Bolton, was an Irish-American, Sam-
uel Downing, a private in the New Hampshire Line, who died
February 18, 1869, at the age of 107.

"The Life of Captain Jeremiah O'Brien, of Machias, Maine,"
by the Rev. Andrew M. Sherman, of Morristown, N. J., not only
throws light on the Irish people who settled in the District of
Maine in the colonial days, but it pays a just tribute to a brave and
devoted patriot who worked with the greatest zeal in the cause
of American independence. For the publication of this book the
Rev. Mr. Sherman deserves the warmest thanks of the American
public — especially that large portion of it which claims the pride
of descent from the Irish race, of which Captain Jeremiah O'Brien
was such a shining light.

As the reverend author says in his preface, "With the excep-
tion of casual references here and there upon the pages of United
States History, very little is recorded concerning the stirring life
of Captain Jeremiah O'Brien, beyond the story of his two bril-
liant naval victories in Machias Bay, in the summer of 1775."
And even as to these victories, owing to the cause we have already
stated, very little has been said in recent years. To such an extent
had the memory of this brave man faded from public view that
when a torpedo boat was recently named after him, through the
thoughtfulness and patriotism of Ex-Secretary of the Navy Long,
very few persons knew on whom the honor was bestowed.

At the time of the launching of the boat, as Mj. Sherman tells
us, the American people were not a little startled by the announce-
ment that a naval vessel was to be named the "O'Brien." Even
United States naval officers began at once to inquire: "O'Brien,
O'Brien ? who is he ? What did he do to entitle him to the honor
of having one of our most formidable torpedo boats named after
him ?"

Not only was his memory thus forgotten, but attempts were
made to deprive him of the credit and honor which justly belonged
to him. Even Lossing, who is as fair as most authors in this
respect, does gross injustice to O'Brien in reference to his cap-
ture of the Margaretta, a British armed schooner in the first naval
engagement of the Revolution.

"The honor of this enterprise," writes Lossing, "belongs to
Joseph Wheaton, a native of New York, then residing at Machias.



68 THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.

He was an energetic young man of twenty years. He proposed
the expedition, but modestly named O'Brien as commander. He
was active in the whole affair, and in person seized the colors of
the Margaretta."

The exhaustive investigations made by the Rev. Mr. Sher-
man thoroughly disprove this assertion, and give full credit to
O'Brien for the daring achievement. Even Lossing's own words
betray the inaccuracy of his statement, as a mere youth of twenty
would never be entrusted with the command of such a desperate
enterprise.

According to Appleton's American Biography, Morris
O'Brien, the father of Jeremiah, was born in Cork, Ireland. The
Rev. Mr. Sherman, however, states he was born in Dublin in 171 5,
and came to this country in 1738. Mr. Sherman is no doubt cor-
rect in this matter, as he made a deep and special study of the
whole subject.

The year after his arrival he married Mary Cain, supposed to
be a widow, and the marriage was blessed with nine children,
three of whom — Jeremiah, Mary, and Gideon — were born in Kit-
tery, Mc., and the remaining six — John, William, Denis, Joseph,
Mary, and Joana, in Scarboro, in the same State. Maurice O'Brien
was engaged in the tailoring business in those towns, but also
spent some time as a soldier, and was present at the surrender
of Louisburg on June 28, 1745.

In 1765 the entire family removed to Machias, where the elder
O'Brien established a sawmill and engaged in the lumber trade.
This mill was called the Dublin Mill, in commemoration of the
fact that its founder was born and bred in the city of Dublin. For
the same reason and because a great number of Irish families set-
tled in it, the entire section of Machias lying on the southerly side
of the river has for many years also borne the name of Dublin.

"During the few years preceding the War of the Revolution,"
the Rev. Mr. Sherman writes, "Maurice O'Brien was one of the
most earnest protestants against the repeated encroachments of
Great Britain upon the liberties of the American colonists, and into
the hearts of his six stalwart sons he infused the spirit of free-
dom. When in the month of June, 1775, it was decided by the
ardent patriots of Machias to attempt the capture of the British
armed vessel Margaretta, Maurice O'Brien, then sixty-five years
of age, was prevented from active participation in the hazardous
undertaking only by the earnest remonstrance of his boys. After
his eldest son. Captain Jeremiah O'Brien, had started down the
Machias River in the Machias Liberty for the attack upon the
British armed cruiser Diligent and her tender, the Tapnaquish,
Maurice O'Brien, anticipating bloodshed, procured a surgeon, and



THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. 69

in a row boat was on his way to the scene of action when he met
the captured British vessels as they were being brought in triumph
by his gallant son up to Machias. That must have been a happy
hour for the proud father !"

Maurice O'Brien died on June 4, 1799, in the eighty- fourth
year of his age, his faithful wife surviving him six years.

Maurice O'Brien was a type of the Irish pioneer then numer-
ous in the American colonies — men of large heart and active brain,
who were ever foremost in popular works, and whose personal
attributes and private worth rendered them dear to their neighbors
and made them loved and respected at home and abroad— -who
bequeathed to their numerous sons and daughters the priceless
legacy of strong intellects and unspotted names.

Even in then far distant Maine Maurice O'Brien had many of
his countrymen for companions, one of whom, at least, deserves
especial mention. He was no less a person than Owen Sullivan,
the founder of a family in America, the members of which not
only distinguished themselves in the early days of the repubUc,
but continue to shed luster on their countrymen even to the pres-
ent day.

Owen Sullivan was born in the city of Limerick, when the
historic siege was going on, in 1691, while his father was nobly
fighting the battles of Ireland. He was the lineal descendant of
Dermod O' Sullivan, chief of Beare and Bantry, who was killed
in his castle of Dunboy in 1549. Having such blood in his veins
it is no wonder that Owen Sullivan raised a family of famous sol-
diers and statesmen.

At the centennial celebration of the Battle of Newton (Elmira,
N. Y.), on August 29, 1879, the Hon. Judge Dana, of Concord,
N. H., thus spoke of Owen SulUvan :

"The father of General John Sullivan, Owen Sullivan, be-
longed to an Irish family in the higher walks of life, and emigrated
to this country early in the last century. On his passage he formed
the acquaintance of a young woman who subsequently became his
wife. Having received an excellent education, he became on his
arrival in America a teacher of youth, and so remained during
the entire period of his active life, at Somerworth, New Hamp-
shire, and in the adjacent town of Berwick, Maine. He lived in
these places to the great age of 105 years, retaining his faculties
till his last sickness. He had five sons, of whom four participated
in the Revolution, the eldest having died previous to its com-
mencement."

Owen Sullivan came to America in 1723. From that time
until his death in 1796, during the long period of seventy-three
years, he conducted select schools in the places mentioned by



70 THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.

Judge Dana and educated many of the most distinguished men in
America, all of whom loved him as a father and always spoke of
him in the most reverent manner.

Is it not strange that the President of Harvard never heard
of such a man, who must have prepared thousands of students
for his college, and whose name during three-fourths of a cen-
tury was a household word in Xew England?

' Honorable men can not help looking with a suspicious eye
on such a plea of ignorance.



CHAPTER VI.

VERMONT AND MATTHEW LYON.

What the Rev. Mr. Sherman did for Maine in his "Life of
Captain O'Brien," the late lamented John Fairfax McLaughlin
did for Connecticut and Vermont in his "Matthew Lyon, the
Hampden of Congress."

McLaughlin found the memory of Lyon not only neglected,
but misrepresented. Where he was remembered at all it was in
the most uncharitable manner, the Hes of his unscrupulous polit-
ical adversaries being accepted as true pictures of his character.

Lyon was really a great man, and rose from the humblest
beginning to a front rank in the affairs of the nation. A century
ago he was known throughout the length and breadth of the land,
but when Mr. McLaughlin had written his life he couldn't find a
publisher in New York who remembered his name. "Who was
Matthew Lyon ?" they asked. They did not know anything about
him ; the public was not interested in him. From the commercial
point of view they saw no money in such a book. Lyon was an
Irishman, and that settled it in their prejudiced estimation.

In this McLaughlin's experience was somewhat like Dr.
Emmet's. For reasons which we have before explained, through
the efforts of the agents sent out here by England, there was no
longer a place for Irish or Irish-American books in the literature
of America. The old-time preference with which the intellectual
efforts of Irishmen were received in America no doubt stili existed
in the hearts of real Americans, but the publishers in control of
the literary output were led to think otherwise by the specious
pleas of those who worked for England and by the false theories
preached by Anglo-American newspapers.

McLaughlin was reluctantly compelled to put his work aside,
and it would have never seen the light but for the devotion of a
lineal descendant of the old Revolutionary hero, whose attention
was called to the matter by the merest accident. "He chanced to
read an article of mine," writes Mr. McLaughlin in his introduc-
tion, "on the late Hon. John Randolph Tucker, a few days after
the death of that brilliant Virginian, and surmised that the writer
per adventure might know something about his own great-grand-
father, Matthew Lyon. This haphazard conjecture was brought
to my notice by a letter from the gentleman in question. Colonel
Edward Chittenden Machen, of New York City. Great was his
surprise when he learned that I had written a Matthew Lyon

71



72 THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.

biography. He called upon me, I handed him the manuscript for
perusal, negotiations were opened for its publication, and in this
strange, almost romantic manner the book has been brought to
light. Colonel Machen not only paid me for my work, but



Online LibraryJames HaltiganThe Irish in the American revolution, and their early influence in the colonies → online text (page 7 of 67)