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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Death of John Barry, Father of the American Navy

John Barry, an officer in the Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War and later in the United States Navy, dies on September 13, 1803 in present day Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He comes to be widely credited as “The Father of the American Navy,” a moniker he shares with John Paul Jones and John Adams, and is appointed a captain in the Continental Navy on December 7, 1775. He is the first captain placed in command of a U.S. warship commissioned for service under the Continental flag.

After the war, Barry becomes the first commissioned U.S. naval officer, at the rank of commodore, receiving his commission from President George Washington in 1797.

Barry is born on March 25, 1745, in Tacumshane, County Wexford. When his family is evicted from their home by their British landlord, they move to Rosslare on the coast, where his uncle works a fishing skiff. As a young man, Barry determines upon a life as a seaman and he starts out as a ship’s cabin boy.

Barry receives his first captain’s commission in the Continental Navy on March 14, 1776, signed by John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress. Barry is a religious man and begins each day at sea with a reading from the Bible. He has great regard for his crew and their well being and always makes sure they are properly provisioned while at sea.
During his naval career Barry commands the USS Delaware, USS Lexington, USS Raleigh, and USS Alliance.

On February 22, 1797, he is issued Commission Number 1 by President George Washington, backdated to June 4, 1794. His title is thereafter “commodore.” He is recognized as not only the first American commissioned naval officer but also as its first flag officer.

Appointed senior captain upon the establishment of the U.S. Navy, he commands the frigate USS United States in the Quasi-War with the French Republic. This ship transports commissioners William Richardson Davie and Oliver Ellsworth to France to negotiate a new Franco-American alliance.

Barry’s last day of active duty is March 6, 1801, when he brings USS United States into port, but he remains head of the Navy until his death.

Barry dies of asthma on September 13, 1803, at Strawberry Hill, in present-day Philadelphia, and is buried in the graveyard of Old St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Center City, Philadelphia.

(Pictured: Portrait of Commodore John Barry, US Navy, by V. Zveg, 1972, from the 1801 portrait by Gilbert Stuart.)

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Birth of Major General Thomas Conway

thomas-conwayThomas Conway, a major general in the American Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, is born in Cloghane, County Kerry, on February 27, 1735. He becomes involved with the alleged Conway Cabal with Horatio Gates and later serves with Émigré forces during the French Revolutionary War.

Conway is born to James Conway and his wife Julieanne Conway. As a child, he immigrates to France with his parents. At 14, he enrolls in the Irish Brigade of the French Army and rises rapidly to the rank of colonel by 1772.

Following the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War he volunteers to the Continental Congress for service with the American rebels in 1777. Based on an introduction from Silas Deane, the Congress appoints him a brigadier general on May 13, and sends him on to George Washington.

Conway commands the leading brigade on the American right flank at the Battle of Germantown, and is justly praised for his actions. However, Washington opposes his promotion to major general, believing that many American-born officers with longer and valuable service deserve the rank. This, and Conway’s condescending attitude, lead to continued friction between the men. Congress appoints Conway a major general anyway in December 1777, and makes him inspector general of the army.

When his name is used politically, it is used to describe the infighting known as the Conway Cabal. During the affair, he has written a letter to General Horatio Gates in which he refers to Washington as a “weak general.” The letter is intercepted by Washington and his backers after its delivery is botched by Brigadier General James Wilkinson, and is brought before the Congress for inquiry. When the contents of the letter are made public, Conway loses his command as a result. He tries a ploy that had worked before his promotion, and submits his resignation to Congress in March 1778. This time, however, it is accepted, so he is forced to leave the Continental Army. John Cadwalader shoots him in a duel on July 4, 1778. When he recovers, he writes an apology to Washington and returns to France.

Conway later returns to the French Army. In 1787 he receives promotion to Maréchal-de-camp (Major General) and an appointment as Governor of French colonies in India.

In 1793 he fights with royalist forces in opposition to French Revolution in southern France. Their loss forces him to become an exile from his adopted country.

During the French Revolution he is condemned to death. He is saved only by an appeal to Great Britain, against which he had fought in the American Revolution, but is compelled to flee from France for his life. He supposedly returns to Ireland and remains there until his death.

After that Conway disappears from history. He is believed to have died about 1800 in poverty and exile.


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Death of James Hogun, American Revolutionary War Officer

James Hogun, Irish American military officer who is as one of five generals from North Carolina to serve with the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, dies on January 4, 1781.

Born in Ireland around 1721, Hogun migrates to North Carolina, then a British colony, in 1751. Settling in Halifax County, he raises a family and establishes himself as a prominent local figure.

A member of the county’s Committee of Safety, he represents it at the North Carolina Provincial Congress and helps to draft the first Constitution of North Carolina. When North Carolina decides to raise three more regiments for George Washington’s Continental Army, James Hogun is appointed colonel of one of them, the 7th North Carolina. He participates in the battles of Brandywine and Germantown in 1777, where Hogun is cited for “distinguished intrepidity.” The Continental Congress promotes Hogun to brigadier general in 1779, although several congressmen and the North Carolina General Assembly wish to see Thomas Clark of North Carolina promoted instead.

In November 1779, Hogun is sent south in command of the North Carolina Brigade to the aid of General Benjamin Lincoln, who is facing an anticipated British assault at Charleston, South Carolina. The march south, through one of the worst winters ever, is a severe one and Hogun’s numbers are reduced by the time he reached Charleston on March 3, 1780. Before the end of the month, British General Henry Clinton’s men are besieging the city. The Americans, though outnumbered more than two to one, have a few successes but soon they are running low on food and ammunition.

At a council of war May 11, the decision is made to surrender. The surrender the following day is one of the worst American defeats of the war — more than 2,500 men become British prisoners. The British hastily build a prison on Haddrel’s Point, a peninsula in Charleston’s harbor, to hold the prisoners, but the site is incomplete and conditions are harsh.

Generals McIntosh, Lincoln, and Scott, and other high-ranking officers accept parole from the British and depart. Generals William Moultrie and Hogun refuse, preferring to stay with their men. The British are trying to recruit colonial soldiers to serve them in the West Indies. In spite of his flagging health, Hogun fears some of his men might weaken if he departs.

As winter sets in, Hogun’s condition worsens. On January 4, 1781, he passes away and was buried near the prison. Like so many other Irish-born soldiers before and after him, James Hogun had given his last full measure of devotion to his adopted country.


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Hercules Mulligan Cleared of Suspicions by George Washington

hercules-mulliganHercules Mulligan, tailor and spy during the American Revolutionary War, is cleared of suspicions of possible Loyalist sympathies when George Washington has breakfast with him on November 25, 1783, the day after the British evacuate New York City and Washington enters it at the end of the war.

Mulligan is born in Coleraine, County Londonderry to Hugh and Sarah Mulligan. The family immigrates to North America in 1746, settling in New York City. Mulligan attends King’s College, now Columbia University, in New York City. After graduating, Mulligan works as a clerk for his father’s accounting business. He later goes on to open a tailoring and haberdashery business, catering to wealthy British Crown force officers.

Mulligan is introduced to Alexander Hamilton shortly after Hamilton arrives in New York. Mulligan helps Hamilton enroll at the Elizabethtown Academy in New Jersey, and later, the College of New Jersey at Princeton, now Princeton University. After Hamilton enrolls at King’s College, he lives with Mulligan in New York City. Mulligan has a profound impact on Hamilton’s desire for revolution.

In 1765, Mulligan is one of the first colonists to join the Sons of Liberty, a secret society formed to protect the rights of the colonists and to fight British taxation. He also helps to mob British soldiers in the Battle of Golden Hill. He is a member of the New York Committee of Correspondence, a group that rallies opposition to the British through written communications. In August 1775, he and the Corsicans, a New York volunteer militia company, under fire from HMS Asia, successfully raid four British cannons in the Battery. In 1776, Mulligan and the Sons of Liberty knock down a statue of King George III in Bowling Green, melting the lead in the center to cast bullets to use against the British. Mulligan continues to fight for liberty following the Declaration of Independence.

While staying with the Mulligan family, Alexander Hamilton comes to share Mulligan’s views. Initially siding with the British before coming to New York, Hamilton is persuaded to change his views and join the Sons of Liberty. As a result, Hamilton writes an essay in 1775 in favor of independence, which causes a sensation and helps hasten the Revolution. When George Washington speaks of his need for reliable information from within New York City in 1776, after the Continental Army is driven out, Hamilton recommends Mulligan due to his placement as tailor to British soldiers and higher-ups.

This proves to be incredibly successful, with Mulligan saving Washington’s life on two occasions. The first occurs when a British officer, who requests a watch coat late one evening, tells Mulligan of their plans. “Before another day, we’ll have the rebel general in our hands.” Mulligan quickly informs Washington, who changes his plans and avoids capture.

Mulligan’s slave, Cato, is a Black Patriot who serves as spy together with Mulligan, and often acts the role of courier, in part through British-held territory, by exploiting his status as a slave, letting him pass on intelligence to the Continental Army without being stopped.

It is not known what happened to Mulligan’s slave Cato. However, on January 25, 1785, Mulligan becomes one of the 19 founding members, along with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, of the New York Manumission Society, an early American organization founded to promote abolition of slaves.

Following the Revolution, Mulligan’s tailoring business prospers. He retires at the age of 80 and dies five years later on March 4, 1825. Mulligan is buried in the Sanders tomb behind Trinity Church. When the church is enlarged, the Sanders tomb is covered. Today, there is a tombstone located in the southwest quadrant of the churchyard bearing Mulligan’s name.