Thursday 19 February 2015

Ulster Settlers in America (pt2)

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.


The first marshal of the district of Pennsylvania was Colonel Francis Nichols, who was born at Crieve Hill, Enniskillen, in 1737. He was an officer in the army of the Revolution, and by his gallant conduct rose from the rank of a non-com- missioned officer to that of colonel. He was afterwards elected to Congress.

The three brothers Mease left a record of which all Irishmen may well be proud. Matthew Mease, the eldest, left his native place, Strabane, in the County Tyrone, and landed, a young lad, in Philadelphia, where his uncle, John Mease, also of Strabane, was an eminent and wealthy merchant. Matthew received a commercial training; but at the commencement of hostilities entered the American navy, and became the purser of the Bonhomme Richard. In the desperate encounter between that vessel and H.M.S. Serapis, Matthew Mease, not relishing the thought of being a spectator, obtained from Paul Jones the command of the quarter-deck guns, which were served under him until he was carried below to the cockpit, dangerously wounded on the head by a splinter. He died in Philadelphia in 1787.

James Mease, the second brother, was born in Strabane, and came to America before the Revolution. He was one of those who organised the First Troop of Philadelphia Cavalry, and served in it with gallantry during the war. He was eminent as a merchant, and subscribed £5,000 for supplies to the American army during the winter of 1780.

John Mease, the third son, also born in Strabane, emigrated to America in 1754, and on the ever memorable Christmas night in 1776 was one of twenty-four of the Philadelphia City Troop who crossed the Delaware with the troops under Washington, when the Hessians were captured. John Mease was one of five detailed to keep alive the fires along the line of the American encampment at Trenton, to deceive the British, whilst the Americans marched by a private route to attack their rear guard at Princeton. He served with his troop till the end of the war, suffering great loss of property in his warehouses and dwelling. He subscribed £4,000 to supply the army in 1780.

William Whipple, one of the subscribers to the Declaration of Independence, was born of Ulster parents in Kittery, Maine. In 1777, when Burgoyne was advancing on the colonies by way of Lake Champlain, the State of New Hampshire raised two brigades of militia, one of which was given to Whipple and the other to John Stark. Whipple served with his men under Gates at the battles of Stillwater and Saratoga, doing good service in both engagements, and establishing his own reputation, as well as that of his men, for bravery and determination. In 1778 he co-operated with General Sullivan in the siege of Newport. He was a judge of the Supreme Court of the State of Maine at the time of his death, 28 November, 1785.

In Colonel Enoch Poor we have another famous son of Ulster settlers in New Hampshire. He served as a colonel in the Continental army in the expedition to Canada in 1776, and afterwards at Crown Point. He was appointed Brigadier-General in 1777, and took part in the battles which resulted in the surrender of Burgoyne. He soon afterwards joined Washington in Pennsylvania; was with his command at Valley Forge, and participated in the pursuit of the British on their retreat from Philadelphia, and in the battle of Monmouth which followed. He died in 1780, at Hackensack, N.J., his funeral being attended by Washington and Lafayette.

John Dunlap was born in Strabane, County Tyrone, in 1746. He emigrated at an early age to America, settling in Philadelphia, where, like Franklin, he became a printer, and, by his industry and enterprise, one of the most extensive in the country. In November, 1771, he issued in Philadelphia the first number of The Pennsylvania Packet, or General Advertiser. From September, 1777, to July, 1778, while the British were in possession of Philadelphia, this newspaper was printed in Lancaster. From 1784 it was published daily, being the first daily paper published in the United States. John Dunlap was printer to the Convention which met in Philadelphia before the Revolution, and also to Congress, and was the first person to print and publish The Declaration of Independence. Thus an Irishman, Charles Thompson, Secretary of Congress, first prepared this immortal document for publication from the rough draft of Jefferson; the son of an Irishman, Colonel Nixon, had the honour of first publicly announcing and reading it from the State House; a third Irishman, John Dunlap, first printed and published it, while hosts of Irishmen contributed their property and their lives to sustain it. John Dunlap was one of the original members of the First Troop of Philadelphia Cavalry, and served as Cornet in it during the war. He amassed an immense fortune during his lifetime, and, besides owning considerable property in Philadelphia, he bought 98,000 acres of land from the State of Virginia, as well as large tracts in Kentucky. He died on the 27 November, 1812, in his 66th year, and was buried with military honours. John Dunlap was among the large subscribers to the fund for the purchase of supplies for the army in 1780, giving £4,000 for that purpose.

Major-General John Stark was born in Londonderry, New Hampshire, 28 August, 1728. His parents emigrated from Ulster in 1719 with the Derry colonists, and in this new settlement John was born. In 1736 the family removed to Derryfield, now Manchester, where John remained until he was twenty-four years old. He served with distinction in the French and Indian wars, and when the news of the battle of Lexington reached him, he immediately set out for the field of action. Receiving the commission of a colonel in Boston, he availed himself of the enthusiasm of the day and his own popularity, and in two hours had enlisted over eight hundred men. He fought at the head of his men in the battle of Bunker Hill, and later on took part in the fight at Three Rivers, in Canada. In the engagement at Trenton, Stark shared largely in the victory, and in the battle of Princeton stood beside Washington and exhibited all that daring and intrepidity so peculiar to himself, and which never failed to inspire his men with confidence and courage. The following March he resigned his commission, and retired to his farm. Insulted by Congress, triumphed over by younger and less able men, justice and self-respect impelled him to this course. But his patriotism still remained burning with undiminished vigour, and when Burgoyne came marching down from Canada all was forgotten, and he took the most active measures in recruiting troops. Rallying around their favourite leader, the militia came pouring in from all directions, and at the head of 1,400 men he marched against the British, and came up with them at Bennington. Here Stark reached the climax of his fame by a victory achieved over the British. He shared in the honours of Saratoga, and assisted in the council which arranged the surrender of Burgoyne. He also served in Rhode Island in 1778, and in New Jersey in 1780. In 1781 he was made Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Department of the American army, and made Saratoga his headquarters. The two following years, though engaged in no battles, his duties were complicated and onerous; nor did he relinquish his valuable services until his country was an independent nation. Stark was on the court-martial that tried Major Andre. He died in 1822, at the age of 94 years.

General William Maxwell was a native of the North of Ireland. He left home for America a few years previous to the Revolution, and settled in New Jersey, where, on receiving his commission as colonel from Congress in 1776, he raised a battalion of infantry. He was with General Schuyler on Lake Champlain, and in October, 1776, was appointed a Brigadier-General in the Continental army. After the battle of Trenton he was engaged in harassing the enemy, and during the winter and spring of 1777 was stationed near the enemy's lines at Elizabethtown. In the autumn of that year he was engaged in the battles of Germantown and Brandywine, and during the succeeding winter he was with the army at Valley Forge. He was active in pursuit of Clinton across New Jersey the following summer, and sustained an important part in the battle of Monmouth. After that engagement he was left with Morgan to annoy the British rear in their retreat towards Sandy Hook. In June, 1780, he was engaged in the action at Springfield, and in August of that year he resigned. He was highly esteemed by Washington, who, on transmitting his resignation to Congress, said "I believe him to be an honest man, a warm friend to his country, and firmly attached to its interests." He died in November, 1798.

Hugh Maxwell, also a distinguished Revolutionary soldier, though no relation to the foregoing, was said to have been born in the County Armagh on the 27 April, 1733. He was brought to America by his father while yet an infant, and served his military apprenticeship in the old French war, on one occasion being taken prisoner at Fort Edward, from whence he escaped in a daring manner. He entered the Continental service at the opening of the campaign, and was a lieutenant at the battle of Bunker Hill, where he was wounded, he was commissioned a major in July, 1777, serving in the battle of Saratoga, and a lieutenant-colonel at the close of the war. He died at sea, on a return voyage from the West Indies, on 14 October, 1799, aged 66 years. Thompson Maxwell, a younger brother, born at New Bedford, Massachusetts, also won distinction as a soldier in the Revolution.

Colonel James Patton, who came from County Donegal in 1750, obtained a grant of 120,000 acres of land from the Governor of Virginia, upon which a large number of his countrymen settled. He left a splendid military record as a soldier.

Richard MacAllister was born in the North of Ireland in 1725, and emigrated to America at an early age. In 1764 he founded MacAllister's Town, now Hanover, Pennsylvania. In 1776, MacAllister was colonel of the 2nd Battalion York County (Pennsylvania) Volunteers, which marched to New Jersey, and was embodied in the "Flying Camp" ordered to be raised by Congress on the 3 June of that year. This 2nd Battalion was commanded mostly by Irishmen. David Kennedy was lieutenant-colonel, John Clark was major, and there were Captains MacCarter and MacCloskey, all of these being natives of Ulster, or of that stock. Captain MacCarter, a mere youth of twenty-two, was killed at Fort Washington while fighting gallantly.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Grier was born in the County Donegal, near the borders of Derry, on the 27 June, 1741. He settled in York, Pennsylvania, when quite young, studied law, and was called to the Bar in 1771. He was commissioned a captain of a Pennsylvania company by Congress on 9 January, 1776, and finally commissioned Lieutenant-Colonel of the 7th Battalion of Pennsylvania, receiving a severe wound at the battle of Paoli in the fall of 1777, which barred him from further activity in the field; but, returning to York, he was engaged in the War Office. At the close of the war he resumed his legal practice, and ranked as one of the ablest lawyers of Pennsylvania. Grier died in 1790, of consumption, the result of his wound.

General John Clark, the son of an Antrim weaver, was born in Lancaster County, Pa., in 1751. At the first sound of war he laid aside his books and donned his sword, proving himself a man of extraordinary ability, attracting the attention of Congress; was commissioned a major by that body, and appointed an aide to General Greene. In 1776 he marched his detachment to join Washington on the Delaware, and, though surrounded by the British on all sides, brought his men through in safety, and joined his commander at Trenton. By this daring act he gained the confidence of Washington to such a degree that he was afterwards employed by him in duties for which no one would be selected who was not as true as steel. Disabled by a dangerous wound, he became ineligible for field service, and in January, 1779, he was appointed Auditor of Accounts for the army, acting in this capacity until the following November, when his failing health, much to his reluctance, forced him to quit the service. He died quite suddenly, on the 27 December, 1819, at York, Pa., and was buried in the Episcopalian graveyard, without a headstone to mark his last resting-place.

The list of Ulstermen who, by the force of arms, helped to make a foundation for the Republic seems almost inexhaustible. All professions, trades, and creeds are represented amongst them. The spirit which to-day animates that wonderful nation sprang into being during that epoch. Side by side with the clergyman, the doctor, and the lawyer, we find the rugged frontiersman, the farmer, and the artisan. The same impulse that thrilled the hearts of John M'Clure and his "Chester Creek Rocky Irish," a set of sturdy North Carolina farmers, swelled in the breasts of such characters as the Rev. James Caldwell, whose determined patriotism won for him the title of "The Fighting Parson;" Rev. John Craighead, the fighting clergyman of Chambersburg; Doctors Sheill and Cochran; William MacCree, of North Carolina; Andrew Pickens; William Gregg, who commanded the vanguard at Bennington; Colonel John White, of Georgia, and a host of others too numerous to mention.

It was not alone in the battle-field that the men of Ulster played a prominent part. On searching the annals, we find the men who stayed at home in the cities lending important aid to the Revolutionists, and one of the first who deserves to be mentioned in this respect is Blair MacClenachan, a native of Donegal, some say Antrim. He was a merchant of Philadelphia, and, when the war broke out, engaged in privateering, in which he was successful, accumulating great wealth. MacClenachan was an ardent patriot, and co-operated most liberally in all the patriotic exertions and schemes of Robert Morris and his compatriots in urging on, sustaining, and establishing the cause of American Independence. When the army of Washington was starving at Valley Forge in the winter of 1780, MacClenachan subscribed £10,000 for their relief. One of his daughters married General Walter Stewart.

Sharp Delaney, a native of the County Monaghan, was a druggist in Philadelphia at the  commencement of the Revolution. He subscribed £5,000 to the army relief fund in 1780. After the war he became a member of the Legislature, and George Washington appointed him Collector of the Port of Philadelphia, which office he held until his death.

John Donaldson, the son of Hugh Donaldson, of Dungannon, was a merchant of Philadelphia, and subscribed £2,000 for the relief of Washington's army in 1780.

John Murray, born in Belfast in 1731, was a member of the firm of Bunner, Murray & Co., dry goods merchants of Philadelphia, which subscribed £6,000 to supply the army at Valley Forge.

James Caldwell, a native of the North of Ireland, and a merchant of Philadelphia, subscribed £2,000 for the same purpose.

George Campbell was a native of Stewartstown, in the County Tyrone, where the family had long been settled. He was admitted to practice at the Armagh assizes in 1751, and pursued the profession of law until 1765, when he emigrated to Philadelphia, and spent the remainder of his life in that city. Campbell subscribed £2,000 to buy provisions for the army in 1780.

Thomas Barclay, another Ulsterman, gave £5,000 in 1780. Some years later he was appointed Consul-General from the United States to the Barbary Powers, but died at Lisbon on his way to the North of Africa. Richard Lalor Shiel was connected with the Barclay family.

Samuel Caldwell, a native of the North of Ireland, was an eminent shipping merchant of Philadelphia, and a partner of James Mease, mentioned earlier in this article, constituting with him in the firm of Mease & Caldwell. When the army fund of the Bank of Pennsylvania was started in 1780, Caldwell was a subscriber to the amount of £1,000.

The name of John Maxwell Nesbitt stands eminent amongst those of the American patriots. He was a native of the North of Ireland. During the war, he conducted one of the most extensive mercantile houses in Philadelphia, under the name of J. M. Nesbitt & Co., and afterwards, in conjunction with David Hayfield Conyngham, a native of Donegal, under the name of Conyngham & Nesbitt. He embarked his all in the cause of Independence, and, with a devoted patriotism not exceeded in history, staked his life, his fortune, and, what he valued more than both, his honour on the success of America. His benefactions to her cause were most liberal. When the Bank of Pennsylvania was formed for the purpose of supplying the Continental army with provisions, J. M. Nesbitt & Co. subscribed £5,000; but before that event Nesbitt had rendered most essential service to the army. This is related in Hazard's Register of Pennsylvania, vol. vi. page 28 – "So great was the distress of the American army in 1780, that General Washington was apprehensive that they would not be able to keep the field. The army, however, was saved by a combination of providential circumstances. General Washington having written to Richard Peters, giving him full information of the state of the army, that gentleman immediately called on J. M. Nesbitt, and explained to him the distress of the army, and the wishes of the General." Nesbitt replied "that a certain Mr. Howe, of Trenton, had offered to put up pork for him if he could be paid in hard money. He contracted with Howe to put up all the pork and beef he could obtain, for which he should be paid in gold." Howe performed his engagement, and J. M. Nesbitt & Co. paid him accordingly. Nesbitt told Peters he might have this beef and pork, and, in addition, a valuable prize just arrived to Bunner, Murray & Co. laden with provisions. Peters was delighted with the result of application; the provisions were sent, and the army was saved. Had the army disbanded at Valley Forge, it might have meant the failure of the American cause, therefore let the credit of this timely aid be given to Ireland, and to Ulster.

To be continued...

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

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