Stephen Moylan, Irish American patriot leader during the American Revolutionary War, is appointed colonel in the Continental Army on January 5, 1777. He has several positions in the Continental Army including Muster-Master General, Secretary and Aide to General George Washington, 2nd Quartermaster General, Commander of The Fourth Continental Light Dragoons and Commander of the Cavalry of the Continental Army.
Moylan is born to a Catholic family in Cork, County Cork, in 1737. His father, John Moylan, is a well-to-do merchant in Shandon, County Cork. His older brother Francis becomes Bishop of Cork. His family sends him to be educated in Paris. He then works in Lisbon for three years in the family shipping firm. He settles in Philadelphia in 1768 to organize his own firm. He is one of the organizers of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, an Irish American fraternal organization, and serves as its first president.
Moylan joins the American Continental Army in 1775 and upon the recommendation of John Dickinson, is appointed Muster-Master General on August 11, 1775. His brother John acts as United States Clothier General during the war. His experience in the shipping industry affords the United States a well qualified ship outfitter, who helps fit out the first ships of the Continental Navy. On March 5, 1776, he becomes secretary to General George Washington with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He is appointed Quartermaster General in the American Continental Army on June 5, 1776, succeeding Thomas Mifflin. He resigns from this office on September 28, 1776. However, he continues to serve as a volunteer of General Washington’s staff through December 1776.
In January 1776, Moylan writes a letter using the term “United States of America,” the earliest known use of that phrase.
Moylan then raises a troop of light dragoons, the 4th Continental Light Dragoons, also known as Moylan’s Horse, on January 3, 1777, at Philadelphia. The regiment is be noted for taking the field in captured British red coats. However, they see action in green coats at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777, and the Battle of Germantown on October 4, 1777, and end the year by protecting the Cantonment at Valley Forge. He succeeds General Casimir Pulaski as Commander of the Cavalry in March 1778. Moylan’s Horse sees action at the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778.
In the campaign of 1779 Moylan and the 4th Dragoons are stationed at Pound Ridge, New York, and see action when the British raid Norwalk, Connecticut, on July 11, 1779. He and the 4th Dragoons take part in the Battle of Springfield in New Jersey, on June 23, 1780, and General Anthony Wayne‘s expedition at Bull’s Ferry, New Jersey, on July 20, 1780. He commands his Dragoons at the Siege of Yorktown in October 1781, after which he is to take the cavalry to the Southern Campaign. However, his failing health causes him to leave the field and return to Philadelphia, where he constantly appeals to the Continental Congress to man, equip and maintain the Continental Dragoon Regiments.
Moylan is rewarded for his service by being breveted to brigadier general on November 3, 1783.
Moylan is married to Mary Ricketts Van Horne on September 12, 1778, and has two daughters, Elizabeth Catherine, and Maria. His two sons die as children. He dies in Philadelphia on April 11, 1811, and is buried there in the churchyard at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church.