Ulstermen in America, many of whom fought and died, in the wars on American & Canadian soil.
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 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 Ulster 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 Capital 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.
In 1719 we find a settlement made by 16 families from Derry on the banks of the Merrimack River. Ever mindful of their Motherland, they named the settlement after their native place and it bears that name today.
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 may be 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 26 original members of the society are as follows ~
Joseph ST. LAWRENCE
In 1737, William HALL was president; in 1740 Robt. ACHMUTY; in 1743 Neil MaclNTYRE; 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, 15 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 1761, 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.
In Baldwin’s ‘Annals 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 Ulster men 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 21st 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.
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 2 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 courthouse and other buildings and never halted, till they reached Boston 30 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 4 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 500 Irish American soldiers, he defeated 1,000 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 Brandywine, and German town, 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 ½ 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 100 men, 15 killed, and the remainder wounded. The British had 63 killed and General JOHNSTON, the commander, with 543 officers and men, were made prisoners. The British ships lying in the river nearby 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 21 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 3rd 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 6th 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 29th July 1804, aged 62 years. Two of his brothers, and three of his sons, also served in the army of the United States.
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-commissioned 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 of 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 1st 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 24 of the Philadelphia City Troop who crossed the Delaware, with the troops under WASHINGTON, when the Hessians were captured. John MEASE was one of 5 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 cooperated 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 28th 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 LAFAYTTE.
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 1st 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 27th 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 24 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 800 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 27th 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 14th 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 Captain’s MacCARTER and MacCLOSKEY, all of these being natives of Ulster, or of that stock. Captain MacCARTER, a mere youth of 22, 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 27th 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 27th 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 today 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 cooperated 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 of 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 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 CONYNHAM, a native of Donegal, under the name of CONYNHAM & 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.
Another illustrious son of Ulster who occupies a prominent place in American history and is better known than the foregoing, was Charles THOMPSON, the ‘perpetual secretary of the Continental Congress’. THOMPSON was born in Maghera County Derry, in 1730, and at the age of 11 years, was brought to America, with his three brothers, by his father who, unfortunately, died while in sight of the capes of the Delaware. When the first Continental Congress met in September 1774, THOMPSON was unanimously chosen secretary and he retained that position until his resignation in 1789. He would accept no pay for his first year’s services and congress presented his wife, the aunt of the first President, HARRISON, with a silver urn as a token of its appreciation of his services and unselfish patriotism. The Declaration of Independence was drawn up by him from JEFFERSON’S rough draft and the only signatures affixed to the document on the 4th July 1776, were his and President HANCOCK’S, the other signatures not being affixed till the 2nd August following. It will, without doubt, be of interest to all Irishmen to learn that John HANCOCK, the President of Congress and the first signer of the Declaration of Independence, came of Ulster stock. It is stated, upon good authority, that the ancestors of President HANCOCK emigrated from near Downpatrick, County Down and settled in Boston towards the end of the 17th century.
Others of the signatories of that famous document came of Ulster parentage. Robert Treat PAINE was one of them. He was the representative from Massachusetts and his lineage was a royal one. According to O’Hart, Henry O’NEILL of Dungannon, born in 1665, sixth in descent from Shane the Proud, Prince of Ulster and cousin of Sir Neal O’NEILL, who received his death wound at the battle of the Boyne, changed his name to PAINE, that of a maternal ancestor, to preserve a portion of his estates. He entered the British army, obtained grants of land in County Cork and other parts of Ireland and was killed in 1698, at Foxford in the County Mayo. His youngest brother, Robert, who also took the name of PAINE, emigrated to America, a little before the occurrence alluded to, and was the grandfather of Robert Treat PAINE, who signed the Declaration. He was born at Boston 11 March 1731, and studied theology at Harvard, accompanying the provincial troops on the northern frontier in 1755, as chaplain. He afterwards studied law and conducted the prosecution of Captain PRESTON and 8 of his soldiers, when they were tried for their part in the ‘Boston Massacre’ of 5th March 1770. In 1773 and the year following, he was elected to the General Assembly of Massachusetts, was sent as a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1778, voted for and signed the Declaration of Independence. When in 1780, the State Constitution of Massachusetts was adopted, he was made Attorney General, which office he held till 1800, when he was made a judge of the Supreme Court. In 1804, he resigned that position on account of infirmities brought on by old age and died in 1814, at the age of eighty-three.
Thomas MacKEAN, of Delaware, who also signed the Declaration, was President of Congress at the close of the war. He was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, of Ulster parents. In 1765, he was a member for Delaware of the Congress of New York. He was a prominent member of the Congress of 1776, that convened at Philadelphia and remained a member of that body till 1783, being the only one that served all the time. On the 10th July 1781, MacKEAN was elected President of Congress and on the surrender of CORNWALLIS, WASHINGTON despatched a courier to him, with the news. At the close of the war, MacKEAN retired from public life and took up his residence in Philadelphia, where he died 24th June 1817.
In Thomas NELSON, of Virginia, who also signed the Declaration, we find another descendant of the O’NEILLS of Ulster. His grandfather came from Strabane County Tyrone, about the beginning of the last century. The name originally O’NEILL, was changed. That eminent Irish antiquarian Eugene O’CURRY, many years ago, made out the pedigree of this delegate to Congress from Virginia, tracing his descent from Donald O’NEILL, Prince of Ulster, who addressed in 1315, the famous “Remonstrance” to Pope John XXII, in which he denounced the atrocities perpetrated in Ireland and justified the bringing over of Edward BRUCE, brother of King Robert of Scotland, to aid in expelling the English. NELSON was in Congress from 1774 to 1777, when ill health compelled him to resign. When congress called for aid in 1778, he raised a volunteer corps and went, at their head, to join WASHINGTON. He was sent to congress in 1779, but sickness, again, compelled him to withdraw. He succeeded JEFFERSON, as Governor of Virginia in 1781 and as commander-in-chief of the troops of the State, placed himself at their head, joining LAFAYETTE, who was then endeavouring to check CORNWALLIS. He continued in this capacity till the British surrendered at Yorktown, making constantly great personal sacrifices himself, guaranteeing the payment of a loan of two millions of dollars, raised by Virginia and insisting that his house should be shelled, because the British occupied it. Soon after the surrender, he resigned, retiring into private life till his death, which took place in 1789.
James SMITH, another of the subscribers, was born in Ireland and is said to have come from Ulster, but I can find no authority to confirm the assertion.
So the list goes on. The embryo Republic was aided by gifts of money, deeds of arms, active civil service and in many other ways, by the sons and descendants of historic Ulster. The land of Shane the Proud and Hugh of Dungannon, has a lasting monument in the names and fame of those, whose acts so materially assisted, to establish the United States of America and she must also treasure the memory of patriots, less known, but equally true, such as James MOORE of Lurgan, Rev. John MURRAY, born in Antrim 22nd May 1742, Ephraim BLAINE born in County Donegal 1741, the grandfather of the celebrated statesman James G. BLAINE. BLAINE became the quartermaster of WASHINGTON’S army in 1780 and, by his strenuous effort, did much to alleviate the sufferings of the men. John BLEAKLEY, John BROWN born in County Antrim 1753, Hugh HOLMES, Henry BOYLE, William ERSKINE, Robert RAINEY, Alexander NESBITT, Oliver POLLOCK, who procured Spanish gunpowder, for the Revolutionists, Samuel CARSON and many others, about whom little can be discovered save the part they played in the great drama of the Revolution.
The devotion of Ulstermen did not end with this epoch in American history. The great war of 1812, gave opportunity for their heroism and their genius. Among the brightest names in the history of Columbia are those of Andrew JACKSON, victor of New Orleans and President of the United States and Commodore, Thos. MacDONOGH, both sons of Ulster parents.
Besides these two great men, we find such daring spirits as Captain BOYLE, a native of Armagh, whose sea fights read like bits of fiction. He commanded a 12 gun brig ‘The Comet’ and in it attacked 3 British vessels, with a Portuguese convoy of 30 guns. He drove off the convoy, sank one of the British vessels and brought the other two into Pernambuco, as prizes. On the same cruise, he captured the British ship ‘Aberdeen’ of 8 guns and two others, of 10 guns each,
Captain Johnston BLAKELY, was born in Seaforde, County Down in October 1781. He was brought to North Carolina by his parents, who died soon afterwards. A friend educated him, and in 1800, he entered the United States navy as a midshipman and by July 1813, had risen to the rank of a master commander. In the ‘Wasp’, on 28 June 1814 he captured, after a severe engagement, the British warship ‘Reindeer’. The latter vessel made three desperate and unsuccessful attempts to board, in the last, of which, her commander was slain. For this exploit, congress voted Captain BLAKELY a gold medal. On the 21st September 1814 he captured and sent into Savannah, the brig ‘Atalanta’. This was the last direct intelligence ever received of him. The ‘Wasp’, being heavily armed and sparred and deep waisted, probably foundered in a heavy gale. About the time of his death, he was gazetted as a captain. His only child, a daughter, was educated at the expense of the State of North Carolina. If the deeds of these men, as well as those of General DOHERTY and others of the same race, were omitted, what a gap there would be in the history of the United States in those times.
In the Mexican War of 1846, Dungannon was represented by two of the most illustrious soldiers under the Stars and Stripes. General James SHIELDS and Major MacREYNOLDS. Among other officers, under SCOTT, were Captain MAGRUDER, of the artillery, Captain CASEY and Lieutenant NEIL, of the regular infantry, all of whom were distinguished for their bravery. All were Ulstermen.
One lamentable fact about the Irish American heroes who fought under the American flag, is the paucity of information regarding their ancestry. Even the birthplace of many an illustrious Irishman is unknown to us. All the information we can get from records is, ‘He was born in Ireland’, or, ‘he was born in the North of Ireland’. The prejudice against Irish people in general, during the early days of the colonies, is responsible, without a doubt, for the meagre records kept of these gallant men.
Excellent work could be rendered by the literary and archaeological societies in various parts of Ireland by taking up the records of the families of these men. A connecting chain could be obtained in American records and many facts of international interest might be gleaned. It is not merely a matter of pastime, it is an imperative duty, that a complete biographical encyclopaedia should be compiled and presented to the world, wherein the history of these men would be preserved for all time. The recounting of their deeds, without exaggeration and without bombast, would be a grander and more lasting monument, than bronze, or stone, an example for generations to come and an eternal proof of the Ulsterman’s fealty to the country of his adoption.
NOTE BY F.J.B. Editor –
Through the kindness of an American correspondent, we have been able to peruse ‘The History of Londonderry, United States’ by Rev. Edward PARKER, Boston, 1851. No more interesting local history than this, could be produced, comprising as it does not only a full account of the early settlers of the place, but copious references to their Ulster origin and Scottish pedigrees.
The lists of names in the appendix viz: the original subscribers to the petition, to Governor SHUTE of Massachusetts, praying for “incouragement” to transport themselves to the colonies, the original list of ‘proprietors’ of Londonderry and finally, the list appended to the following portentous document.
“We, the subscribers, do hereby solemnly engage and promise that we will, to the utmost of our power, at the Risque of our Lives and Fortunes, with arms, oppose the Hostile proceedings of the British Fleets and Armies against the United American Colonies”, all these lists are composed of names exactly similar to those of our own Presbyterian communities, whilst their manners, customs and mode of speech, till after the Revolution, were the same as those of their brethren in Antrim and Derry. We read of their minister’s ordinations and their communion seasons, when communion tokens were used, even their disputes are alike.
For instance, we read of a deceased minister’s son being preferred to a stranger, who had been ordained and a rival meeting-house being built for him. Then again, when a disagreement arose amongst the Presbyterians, a rival Independent meeting-house was built in the district. Again we read of a Court of session for the trial of moral offences, just like our own. Temple patrick session where the offenders were ‘admonished’ and ‘ordered to appear before the congregation on the next succeeding sabbath.’ One James DOAKE, was accused of beating his father, but the session considered the offence not proven, nevertheless, they “rebuked James DOAKE for giving his father the lie.”
These early colonists left Derry in five ships, landing in Boston on the 4 August 1718, previous to which, they had sent one of their number, the Rev. William BOYD, as a deputation to Governor SHUTE, with authority to make terms for their settlement, which he succeeded in doing. The petition to Governor SHUTE has 319 signatures, only 13 of whom were marksmen. Nine of the subscribers were Presbyterian ministers and three were Scottish graduates.
Such names as the following occur in the list;
KNOX, &c. &c.
The following were the reasons given for their emigration;
1 To avoid oppression and cruel bondage
2 To shun persecution and designed ruin
3 To withdraw from the communion of idolaters
4 To have an opportunity of worshipping God, according to the dictates of conscience and the rules of His inspired Word.
After these emigrants had landed in the colonies, they experienced some privations, but soon obtained a grant of suitable land and afterwards a royal charter was granted enabling them to establish what was practically a Presbyterian republic, where the civil and ecclesiastical jurisdiction were one and the same. This was the first Presbyterian congregation in New England. The meeting-house was the head of the commune and the governing circles widened from its centre. At the time of the Revolution, very few of these settlers, or their descendants, did not take side with the Revolutionists, still there were some.
Colonel Stephen HOLLAND, a gentleman of education, remained loyal and his estate was confiscated and sold. Londonderry paid for bounties; a larger sum than any other town and it is believed, contributed a larger number of revolutionary soldiers and so bitter were they to any loyalists, who sought to return after the Revolution and recover their possessions, that they decreed in the public assembly “that nothing may ever be done for those infernal wretches by this State, further than to provide a gallows halter and hangman for every one, that dare to show their vile countenances amongst us.”
Their first minister, the Rev. James MacGREGOR, was ordained in Derry and the succeeding minister, the Rev. Matthew CLERK, left his charge in Kilrea. His successor, the Rev. Thos. THOMPSON, was ordained by the Presbytery of Tyrone. Other ministers were brought from the mother country as vacancies occurred, indeed the original settlers were largely augmented, from time to time, by friends and acquaintances from Antrim and Derry. The Rev. J. MacGREGOR was amongst the defenders of Derry in 1688 and had assisted in firing the large gun from the cathedral tower that announced the approach of the relieving ships. He was afterwards minister at Aghadowey. His remains were borne to the grave in that new Derry, beyond the seas, by those who had been his fellow defenders, in the memorable siege of the city by the Foyle.
Colonel William GREGG, was the son of Captain John GREGG, who emigrated from Antrim, with his father, Captain James GREGG. At the commencement of the Revolution, Colonel GREGG commanded a company of minutemen in Londonderry (U.S.) and was most active during the campaign, commanding the vanguard at the battle of Bennington and received at its loss, the thanks of the legislature. Another GREGG, was Alexander, who made several privateering voyages during the Revolution.
The Rev. Joseph MacKEEN D.D of Londonderry (U.S.) was the grandson of James MacKEEN, one of the original settlers, who was born 13 April 1715, in Ballymoney, County Antrim. At the Revolution, he laid aside his studies and enlisted as a private soldier under General SULLIVAN, being present at the retreat from Rhode Island.
The Hon. Matthew THORNTON was born in Ireland and whilst a child, left for the colonies with his father, where he studied medicine, acting as a surgeon in the expedition against Cape Breton in 1745. He held the rank of colonel in the Revolution, and was also a Justice of the Peace. Subsequently, he was appointed a delegate to congress and signed the Declaration of Independence. He was a judge of the Superior court and then raised to the Chief Justiceship of the Court of Common Pleas.
John BELL was born near Coleraine in 1678 and left for the colonies in 1719. His son, Samuel, with his two sons and two brothers-in-law were taken prisoners during the war by BURGOYNE’S army and his house burned.
Captain Arthur NESMITH was at the battle of Bunker’s Hill and afterwards commanded a company in the Canada service. His father, James NESMITH, emigrated from the Valley of the Bann in 1718.
The above are, but a few, of the many incidents connected with the names of Ulstermen, who settled at an early period in the colonies. It is quite evident that these pioneer colonists left on religious grounds, preferring to risk their lives in a new country to exercise to the fullest extent their religious opinions, rather than live in Ireland, where their own sect was not the dominant party. The subsequent settlers left Ulster, rather upon agrarian grounds, but their exodus must be dealt with in a subsequent article.
Transcribed by Teena from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology 1895 Vol. 1
- The Eagle Wing –
The ship “Eagle Wing” sailed from Carrickfergus Ireland in 1636, with some 140 men, women and children on board. The vessel was of about 115 tons, the passengers “purposing (if God pleased) to pitch their tents in the plantations of New England.” They were Irish Presbyterians, and among them were two ministers BLAIR and LIVINGSTON. They experienced a tempestuous voyage, during which “much of the bread not being well baked, was thrown overboard.”
Reaching the vicinity of Newfoundland, they encountered such fierce hurricanes that their ship was seriously damaged. Becoming bewildered and disheartened, they put about and returned to Ireland. On the voyage a child was born aboard the “Eagle Wing”, to whom the name SEABORN was given.
Irish- American Historical Miscellany – relating largely to New York City and vicinity, … by John Daniel Crimmins 1905