The Irish In America By Brian Warfield Of The
I was asked by one of our mailing list members if there was proof that the Irish
constituted over 50% of the revolutionary army he had heard me mention at one our shows in New York. He told his
friends in the Firehouse who not all being Irish listened to the story with suspicion and disbelief and of course poked fun
at the idea. Well I hope this little piece of information will suffice and convince all that the statement is true and with
I was also asked about Irish and Scots Irish what it means and why and what is
the difference. There is a tradition that the early colonies where mainly peopled by English blood but it relies on very scanty
evidence. The Irish had a large presence at every stage of the development and progress of the early colonies, and of course
were a major force at the time of the revolution. The Anglo Saxon has hijacked the early history of The Colonies mainly because
they were the ones who wrote it and of course they gave very little credit to any one else, least of all the Irish.
The Historic truths are contrastingly different. They also tagged the Irish into
two groups the Irish and the Scots-Irish graded by religion and region from which they emigrated. Almost all from Ulster
were classified as Presbyterian and pro English and all from the other provinces were Catholic and Celtic and anti-English.
This generalisation of the Irish does not take into account the early relationship between Ireland and the colonies or the
political reasons why people of all provinces left the land of their birth. Splitting a nation of people by bloods infused
into Ireland was not used to describe people of any other Nation...imagine if it was used to describe the English, there would
be many hyphenated prefixes and very few stand alone Englishmen.
Statistically the Presbyterian who are the ones who can claim Scottish Scots-Irish
background to James I plantation are less than 10 % of the population of Ireland. The Catholics of Ulster outnumber them so
it shows that the belief that Ulster is Scots-Irish has little foundation. So to conclude that all migration from Ulster across
the centuries were Scots-Irish has scanty historic evidence.
There were many influences into Ireland, Viking, Danish, Norwegian, English, Norman,
Scottish, Welsh but all answer to the name of Irishmen. The tag of Scots-Irish was used firstly by Irish Loyalists supporting
England during the war to distinguish themselves from the masses of Irish who fought against the crown. It surfaced again
when the hungry exodus of the 1840s and 50's poured millions of impoverished people from Ireland on to the shores of
North America and those already settled wanted to distance themselves from the poor Irish by using the label Scots-Irish.
The society that helped Washington during the revolution was known as the friendly
sons of St Patrick and not the friendly sons of St Andrew and St Patrick. They gave the sum of 103,500 pounds sterling to
relieve the pressure on the revolutionary army at Valley Forge. The president of the society was Stephen Moylan, an Irish
Catholic, Washington’s Aide de Camp and distinguished General in the Continental Army. The Pennsylvanian Line was known
as the line of Ireland, not the line of the Scots-Irish, it couldn’t be, they were all Loyalists. They were all proud
to be called an Irishman regardless of religion and would have been insulted by any other term.
Now lets look at all the Irishmen who played a part in the American revolution
and the debt owed to Irishmen regardless of their religious beliefs. At the hearing before the committee at the house of commons
in 1799 enquiring into the composition of the rebels, John Galloway, a former delegate to the continental congress who had
turned loyalist was asked about the composition of Washington’s army, he replied I can answer that with precision. There
were scarcely one-fourth natives of America , about one-half Irish the other fourth English or Scottish. Major General Robertson
testified before the same committee that General Lee told him that half the rebel Army were Irish, a fourth was English and
Scottish . Lord Mountjoy informed the English Parliament after they received the news of the surrender of Cornwallis that
"England has lost America through the exertions of Irish emigrants".
The total white population at the close of the war was 3,175,000 of which
1,141,990 were Irish who it was said at the investigation that almost all were supporters of the revolution. 841,800 were
English and it was said 3 fourths of them were loyalist.s 427,000 were Dutch or Scandinavian, 761,280 were Welsh, Scots and
French. There was also a black and native American population un-quantified at that time.
There was a reluctance from the very beginning for natives of America to enter
into the service of the rebellion. They had been forced out by heavy fines. For a few months only, the regular army were English,
Scottish or Irish, mostly the latter. It was said that four fifths of Americans would have preferred a union with
England rather than independence.
An official report from Serle to the Earl of Dartmouth, 25th September 1776, stated
that great numbers of emigrants were in the rebel army particularly Irish. Sir Joshua Pell, an English army officer recorded
in his diaries that "the rebels consists chiefly of Irish redemptioners and convicts the most audacious rascals existing".
The pioneering rebel generals were Irish, Thompson and O’Sullivan and Irwin, none of these reports or testimonies refer
at any time to a people called Scots-Irish
That’s convincing evidence that the Irish had played a primary role in the
War of independence and all testified that half the army were Irish. George Washington, Parke Curtis, Washington’s adopted
son revived the memory of Irish services and said “The Shamrock should be intertwined with the Laurels of the revolution.
“Americans!” he exclaimed, "recall to your minds the recollection of this historic time when Irishmen were
your friends and when in the whole world we had not a friend beside."
Eternal gratitude, he said was therefore due ... “the rank grass had
grown over the grave of many a poor Irishman who had died for America , ere the flag of Lilies floated in the field by the
Star Spangled Banner”.