Thursday 12 February 2015

Ulster Settlers in America

Some of the early colonists – their services in the American Revolution.

by M. I. MURPHY, Bay City, Michigan, U.S.

With note by Francis Joseph Bigger, Editor.

TO render a really good account of the important part taken by the colonists from the North of Ireland in the American War of Independence, would require not one book, but an entire series of them.

When William and Mary, in the first year of their reign, were called upon by both Houses of Parliament to discourage the manufactures of Ireland which competed with those of England, the restrictions which were then placed upon Irish industries were the means, according to Lord Fitzwilliam, of driving fully 100,000 emigrants from the country. Some of these people went to Germany, more went to Spain, but the vast majority emigrated to that new world across the water, contented to face the rigours of a climate to which they were totally unused, and to risk their lives in contact with the Red Indians, who had inhabited the wilds for centuries, and who looked upon the incursions of the white man into their territory as the invasion of an enemy.

Most of the wealth of the colonists came with the Ulstermen, who settled in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and a few in New York State, in little colonies which were often named after the place of their nativity. Thus we find a Belfast, Derry, Londonderry, South Londonderry, Antrim, Ballymoney, and similar names among those given to the various settlements founded by these people.

One of the earliest attempts at founding an Irish settlement in America was in the year 1636, when the Eagle Wing, with 140 passengers, left Carrickfergus to found a colony on the Merrimack River, "considering how precious a thing the public liberty of pure ordinances was." The Eagle Wing was fated never to carry out its mission, for, meeting heavy weather, the emigrants were obliged to turn back and give up their journey. Towards the end of Charles II's reign, Rev. Francis Mackenzie, one of the founders of Presbyterianism, left Uster for the colonies, and he was soon followed by Rev. William Tail, of Ballindruit, and by many others, both clergy and laity.

The first important settlement of Irishmen in the colonies was made in 1699, when James Logan, of Lurgan, with others from that place, accompanied William Penn to his new plantation, and there received a hearty welcome. Logan became one of the most important men of the colony, which he governed for two years after the death of Penn, and whose Capitol he enriched by bequeathing to it the most considerable library that had been opened up to its inhabitants up till that time. He was, for that age, a most tolerant man – even more so than his friend Penn, who wrote him as follows from London in 1708:– "There is a complaint against your government that you suffer public mass in a scandalous manner. Pray, send me the matter of fact, for ill use is made of it against us here."

The warmth of the reception which greeted Logan and his companions induced many emigrants, chiefly from the North of Ireland, to follow them to Pennsylvania, in the interior of which State we find townships called Derry, Tyrone, Coleraine, and Donegal as early as the year 1730.

From this time on, the influx of Irish immigrants was considerable. The arrivals at the port of Philadelphia for the year ending December, 1729, are set down as follows:–
English and Welsh ... ... ... 267
Scotch ... ... ... ... ... ... ...   43
Palatines (Germans) ... ...  343
Irish ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 5,655
Or a proportion of nearly ten Irish emigrants to one from all the other European countries. This statement will be found in Holmes' Anna's of America, vol. i. This influx, though not in as great disproportion to other arrivals, recurred annually at the same port till the end of the century.

In 1719 we find a settlement made by sixteen families from Derry on the banks of the Merrimack River. Ever mindful of the Motherland, they named the settlement after their native place, and it bears that name to-day. (See Note by Editor.)

Boston, too, early afforded a haven for Irish exiles. We find that in 1737 a number of "gentlemen of the Irish Nation" residing in that city adopted the following programme of association:– "Whereas, several gentlemen, merchants and others, of the Irish Nation, residing in Boston, in New England, from an affectionate and compassionate concern for their countrymen in these parts who maybe reduced by sickness, shipwreck, old age, and other infirmities and unforeseen accidents, have thought fit to form themselves into a Charitable Society for the relief of such of their poor, indigent countrymen, without any design of not contributing towards the provision of the town poor in general, as usual," &c.

The names of the twenty-six original members of the society are as follows:– Robert Duncan, Andrew Knox, Nathaniel Walsh, Joseph St. Lawrence, Daniel MacFall, William Drummond, William Freeland, Daniel Gibbs, John Noble, Adam Boyd, William Stewart, Daniel Neal, James Maynes, Samuel Moor, Philip Mortimer, James Egart, George Glen, Peter Pelham, John Little, Archibald Thomas, Edward Alderchurch, James Clark, John Clark, Thomas Bennett, and Patrick Walker. In 1737, William Hall was president; in 1740, Robt. Achmuty; in 1743, Neil MacIntyre; in 1757, Samuel Elliott; in 1784, Moses Black; in 1791, Thomas English; in the same year General Simon Elliott, jun., was elected; in 1797, Andrew Dunlap; and in 1810, Captain James MacGee.

Londonderry, on the Merrimack, grew to be one of the most prosperous of the New England settlements, and produced some of the greatest men of the revolutionary period. It sent colonies out to found new settlements. In Barstow's New Hampshire, page 130, we find the following significant remark:– "In process of time the descendants of the Derry settlers spread over Windham, Chester, Litchfield, Manchester, Bedford, Goffstown, New Boston, Antrim, Peterborough, and Ackworth, in New Hampshire, and Barnet, in Vermont. They were also the first settlers of many towns in Massachusetts, Maine, and Nova Scotia. They are now, to the number of 20,000, scattered over all the States of the Union." With this statement of Barstow we may add that Cherry Valley, celebrated in American history for the terrible massacre of its inhabitants by the Indians in 1778, was also in part settled by people from Derry.

The Irish settlement of Belfast, in Maine, was established in 1723 by a small number of emigrants who came mainly from the Irish city of the same name. Among them, however, was a Limerick schoolmaster named Sullivan, who, on the outward voyage, courted a female fellow-passenger, a native of Cork, whom he married shortly after his arrival in America. Later on they settled in New Hampshire, and lived to see two of their sons, John and James, at the highest pinnacle of civil and military authority. John Sullivan, afterwards Brigadier-General John Sullivan, made the battle of Bunker Hill possible by capturing the fort of William and Mary, near Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and carrying off one hundred barrels of gunpowder, fifteen light cannon, and the entire store of small arms, all of which were used in the fight at Bunker Hill. It was he who was the officer of the day in charge of the Continental Army on that memorable St. Patrick's Day, 1776, when the British left Boston never more to return.

It would be an utter impossibility to keep track of the emigrants from Ulster who settled in New England, or, for that matter, in any other section; they seemed to scatter in all directions. In the old burial-place in Worcester were to be seen, a few years ago, and they may be there even yet, two old tombstones. One of them bore the name of John Young, who died in 1730, aged 107 years; he was a native of Derry. The other was inscribed with the name of David Young, a native of Donegal, who died in 1776, aged 94 years.

In I761, Irish emigrants, to the number of about two hundred, settled in Nova Scotia. The town of Londonderry and the county of Dublin were in all probability named by them.

The coming of the Rev. George Berkeley, Dean of Derry, to America, for the purpose of founding a college for the conversion of the noble red man, in 1729, is one of the most interesting episodes in the early annals of our Irish settlers. In January of that year he, with his faculty, arrived at Newport, R.I., after a long and stormy voyage. Here, while waiting for the money voted him by Parliament, it was that he wrote his Minute Philosopher: here his son was born; and here it was that he composed those grand lines, so prophetic in theme and poetical in conception:–
"Westward the course of Empire takes its way,–
 The four first acts already past;
 The fifth shall close the drama with the day,–
 Time's noblest offspring is the last."

From Baldwin's Annuals of Yale College we learn that, when about to return to Ireland in 1732, he bequeathed his farm to Yale College, then in its infancy, and also presented it with his library, the finest collection of books that ever came at one time into America.

It would not do to pass over the period from the early settlements to the great struggle for independence without a few words on the campaign against Canada in 1755. It was in this war the men who afterwards led the Continentals to victory were trained in military science, and received the experience which in later days proved invaluable. Some of the prominent figures in this campaign were Ulstermen and their sons.

The first blow against the French was inflicted at Crown Point, on Lake George. Against this fort Captain MacGuinness, a son of one of the Derry settlers, marched with 200 men, surprised the garrison, and, after a sharp battle, put them to flight. In the very moment of victory the gallant MacGuinness fell, mortally wounded. The two other expeditions which were sent out at the same time utterly failed. That sent against Louisburg was cut to pieces in Indian ambuscades. The other, sent against Fort Du Quesne, shared the same fate; but it is worthy of note that, in covering the retreat of the soldiers in this event, George Washington, then young, first distinguished himself in arms.

In 1758 and 1759 fortune again rested on the banners of the British army. Louisburg, Fort Du Quesne, Quebec, Ticonderoga, and Niagara were all carried by British arms, and in 1760 the latter were complete masters of Canada.

Among the officers who commanded under Wolfe at Quebec was an Irish gentleman, Richard Montgomery, then in his twenty-first year. He held the commission of colonel. Montgomery was a native of Raphoe, in the County Donegal, and the son of Thomas Montgomery, at one time M.P. for Lifford. In this same Canadian war we find John Stark, of Londonderry, New Hampshire, and John Sullivan, already mentioned, undergoing that apprenticeship which afterwards served them so well.

The most glorious day in American history is perhaps the 19 April, 1775, when, near the village of Concord, Massachusetts,
"By that rude bridge that arched the flood,
 Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
 Here once the embattled farmers stood
 And fired the shot heard round the world." – EMERSON.

The British regulars had fired upon and dispersed the minutemen at Lexington, and, hearing of military stores being concealed at Concord, marched to capture them. They were met at the little bridge by the Concord farmers, who had previous warning of their coming. As the regulars beheld the farmers drawn up to oppose their passage, they fired upon them. Several of the men dropped – some dead, some badly wounded. Major Buttrick, of the minutemen, then gave the order to fire, and two of the regulars dropped dead. The fire of the farmers then became so rapid that the soldiery were forced to retreat. On their way through the town they set fire to the Court-House and other buildings, and never halted till they reached Boston, thirty miles away.

Among those who stood at the bridge and shared in firing that initial volley for independence was gallant Hugh Cargill, born in Ballyshannon in 1739, and who emigrated to America just one year before the battle of Concord. He, together with a Concord citizen named Bullock, saved the records of the town from the soldiery. Cargill, on his arrival in America, was entirely destitute; but, by industry and careful economy, was a rich man at the time of his death, on 12 January, 1799.

During that long and terrible struggle the sons and grandsons of Ulster were ever to the front. The noble young Montgomery, who had returned to settle in America in 1772, laid down his life at Quebec. He was one of the first generals to fall on the American side, and this, combined with his youth and sympathy for his young wife, has endeared him to the American people of all races and creeds. Andrew Lewis is another prominent figure in Revolutionary annals. He was born in County Donegal. His father, John Lewis, had a quarrel with his landlord, in which the latter was killed, and the Lewis family fled, first to France and then to America. They landed in Virginia, where they founded the town of Staunton. Andrew and his four brothers distinguished themselves in aiding the Revolution, and it looked at one time as if Andrew would become Commander-in-Chief of the American troops, and take the position in American history which Washington so admirably filled. His brother, William Lewis, also born in Donegal, won distinction in the campaign. He was in command of a regiment of Virginians, in which two of his sons enlisted; one of them was afterwards killed, and the other maimed for life.

Daniel Morgan, the renowned hero of the Cowpens, was born in Ballinascreen, County Derry, Ireland. His victory over General Tarleton in this battle is one of the greatest episodes in the history of the war. With five hundred Irish-American soldiers he defeated a thousand English troops, and each one of his men brought home a prisoner.

General Henry Knox was the son of a Donegal Irishman, and was born in Boston. He was perhaps the most illustrious soldier of the Revolution next to Washington. Knox was the creator and organiser of Washington's artillery, and fought in every battle under Washington. He fought at Bunker Hill, and, when the American Government took shape, was appointed by President Washington' Secretary of War and of the Navy.

Anthony Wayne was born of North of Ireland parents in Pennsylvania. At the beginning of the war he was made colonel of one of the Pennsylvania Irish regiments. In 1777, Congress made him a general. When the British retreated from Philadelphia, and Washington desired to send a body of troops in pursuit, he picked out the corps commanded by Wayne, Morgan, Sullivan, and Maxwell – two Irishmen and two sons of Irishmen – for the work. At Brandy wine and Germantown, Wayne did good service. In the latter battle the right was commanded by two Irish-Americans – Wayne and Sullivan. Wayne carried his part on the field, his horse being shot under him in the charge. Wayne and Ramsey, the latter also of Ulster parentage, saved the army from Lee's disaster at Monmouth, and the history of that battle was written by the artillery of Knox, the bayonets of Wayne, and the rifles of Morgan all Irish. At Yorktown nothing could withstand the charge of Wayne. By the quickness and impetuosity of his movements he carried everything before him.

The greatest achievement of Wayne, however, and the one by which he will ever be best known to historical students, was the storming and capturing of Stony Point, on the Hudson.

This fortress had been considered almost impregnable, and an attempt at assault synonymous with insanity. Washington deemed the capture of the fort a matter of the utmost importance, and, knowing the dare-devil spirit of Wayne, selected him from among all his generals to undertake the expedition. Wayne proposed to take Stony Point by storm. "Can you do it?" asked Washington. "I'll storm hell, if you'll only plan it, General," answered Wayne. On the evening of the 15th of July, 1779, Wayne advanced to within half-a-mile of the garrison with a few hundred men whom he had led secretly through the mountains from Fort Montgomery. Stealthily they approached the fort at midnight, arranged in two columns. The greater part of the little force crossed a narrow causeway over a morass in the rere, and with unloaded muskets and fixed bayonets marched to the assault. A forlorn hope of picked men led the way to make openings in the abatis at the two points of attack. The alarmed sentinels fired their muskets, and the aroused garrison flew to arms. The stillness of night was suddenly broken by the rattle of musketry and the roar of cannon from the ramparts. In the face of a terrible storm of bullets and grape-shot the assailants forced their way into the fort at the point of the bayonet. Wayne, who led one of the divisions in person, had been brought to his knees by a stunning blow of a musket ball on the head. Believing himself to be mortally wounded, he exclaimed – "March on! Carry me into the fort, for I will die at the head of my column." He soon recovered, and at two o'clock in the morning he wrote to Washington – "The fort and garrison, with General Johnston, are ours. Our officers and men behaved like men determined to be free." In this assault the Americans lost about one hundred men – fifteen killed and the remainder wounded. The British had sixty-three killed; and General Johnston, the commander, with five hundred and forty-three officers and men, were made prisoners. The British ships, lying in the river near by, slipped their anchors and moved down the stream.

This exploit of Wayne's was called by General Charles Lee not only the most brilliant assault in the whole war on either side, but one of the most brilliant in history. The assault of Schiveidnitz by Marshal Laudohn he considered inferior to it.

A brother-in-law of General Wayne, Colonel John Stewart, a native of Ulster, commanded one of the main divisions in the charge at Stony Point. He distinguished himself by his gallantry to such an extent that Congress awarded him a gold medal.

Another of the same name, General Walter Stewart, is a prominent figure in the annals of that period. He was born in Derry, and came to the colonies while a mere boy. At the age of twenty-one he was appointed a colonel of infantry, to the great annoyance of many native American officers of greater age and longer standing. Stewart was called the "Boy Colonel." Later on his conduct justified the choice, and he rose to the rank of Brigadier-General. He married the daughter of Blair MacClenachan, of Philadelphia. General Stewart was remarkable for his beauty and his excellent manners.

Brigadier-General Thos. Robinson, who emigrated from the North of Ireland just previous to the Revolutionary war and settled in Philadelphia, was also a brother-in-law of General Wayne. General Robinson was one of the first American officers who visited England after the war, and, appearing in a box at Drury Lane Theatre in his full uniform, was received by the audience with loud cheers. A few moments later, another officer entered an adjoining box in the British uniform, and was greeted by a storm of hisses. That officer was the traitor, Benedict Arnold.

One of the most fiery and chivalrous of the American officers, and one whose patriotism was equal to his courage, was General William Thompson, a brother of the Secretary of the Continental Congress. Born in Maghera, County Derry, in the year 1727, he settled in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, on his arrival there. Thompson accompanied Montgomery on the Quebec expedition, was promoted to the rank of General, and commanded the American forces at the battle of Three Rivers, or Trois Rivieres, as it was then called, in Canada, June, 1776. Wayne and Irvine served under him in this engagement, and Generals Thompson and Irvine were taken prisoners. They were afterwards exchanged, and served during the remainder of the war. General Thompson died shortly after its conclusion.

William Irvine, a Brigadier-General in the Continental army, was born in Enniskillen on the 3 November, 1741. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, studied medicine, was for some time a surgeon in the English Navy, and in 1763 removed to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he settled down to the practice of medicine. He was a member of the Convention which met at Philadelphia in 1774, and recommended a general Congress; he was representative for Carlisle in the Continental Congress till 1776. In that year, receiving authority from Congress, he raised and equipped the Sixth Pennsylvania Regiment; was taken prisoner at Three Rivers, Canada, and exchanged in 1778. After minor commands, he was, in the autumn of 1781, entrusted with the defence of the north-western frontier, which was threatened by the British and Indians; a charge not only requiring courage and firmness, but great prudence and judgment, and which was executed in a manner which fully justified the choice of General Washington. In 1785 he was appointed to examine the public lands of Pennsylvania, and suggested the purchase of the "Triangle," which gave to that State an outlet on Lake Erie. He was a member of the old Congress of 1786-8, of the Convention that revised the constitution of Pennsylvania, and of Congress, 1793-5. He died in Philadelphia, 29 July, 1804, aged 62 years. Two of his brothers and three of his sons also served in the army of the United States.

To be continued...

Reproduced from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology Vol. 2, No.1, Series 2, 1895.

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