top of page

The Irish Contribution to America

The Irish have been coming to this country for fully 300 years.  In Hotten’s list of emigrants who arrived in Virginia between 1616 and 1623 we find a number of distinctively Gaelic names and we know that the Irish began to come to New England a few years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620.  The Irish have been in Maryland since 1634, and there were Irishmen in Manhattan Island now a part of the imperial city of New York as early as 1650.

In 1728 over 5,000 Irish emigrants arrived in Philadelphia, and during the year 1729 the classification of European emigration to the Province of Pennsylvania was as follows:   English and Welsh, 276; Scotch, 43; Germans, 243; Irish, 5,655.  During the first two weeks of August, 1773, according to the official record, 3,500 exiles of Erin arrived at the Port of Philadelphia alone.   The population of Pennsylvania in 1701 was only 20,000, and in 1749 it had increased to 250,000, largely  due to Irish emigration.  Over 25,000 Irish emigrants came to this country during the year 1771, 1772, and 1773.

(Ed note:  the next paragraph is omitted due to the lack of clarity and missing portions.)

Froude and Leck have both directed attention to the volume of Irish emigration to the American Colonies during the first 70 years of the eighteenth century.  The emigration began afer the ruin of the woolen manufacture by the English legislation of 1699.  According to Hely Hutchinson, within two years after that date 20,000 Prebysterians left Ulster for America.  During the eighteenth century three times as many Catholics as Protestants came from Ireland to America.

When the American Revolution began there was a very large Irish element in New England, the Carolinas and Maryland, New York, Virginia and New Jersey, but Pennsylvania was more distinctively Irish than any other colony.  An Irish Catholic, Thomas Dongan, was Colonial Governor of New York from 1683 to 1688. the Carrolls came from Ireland to Maryland in 1689, and they played a glorous part in American history.  Charles Carroll of Carrollton and Archbishop John Carroll of Baltimore contributed more than their share to the success of the American Revolution, and no man realized that as fully as did George Washington.  The Clintons of New York also played a very important part in civil and military affairs during and after the Revolution.

Six months before the skirmish of Lexington two Irish-Americans — John Sullivan and John Langdon of New Hampshire – captured the arms and ammunition of Fort William and Mary, which were used with good effect on the British at Bunker Hill.  General John Sullivan and his brother, James Sullivan, afterwards Governor of Massachusetts, and William Sullivan, Governor Vermont, (Ed note, unable to verify as being a governor — the next section of the published article is missing, see above, and remaining text difficult to read, providing readable portions) were the sons of a Limerick schoolmaster, ….Joseph Reed of New Jersey, Washington’s private secretary and …was the son of an Irish…British Government official……….and General Stephen Moyian, the Murat (sic) of the Continental Army, was born in Cork.

General Daniel Morgan, the hero of Cowpens, according to some authorities, was born in Derry.  He is represented in a splendid painting in the rotunda of the Capitol of the Nation, dressed in a white hunting shirt.

Twelve of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence were Irishmen and the sons of Irishmen.  John Hancock of Boston, the first Signer of that immortal document, was of Irish descent.  He and Charles Carroll were the two wealthiest  men in America at that time.

General Anthony Wayne of Pennsylvania was the son of Irish parents.  His victory over the British at Stony Point, on the Hudson, was one of the greatest achievements of the Revolution.  Henry Knox, one of Washington’s greatest generals, was also the son of Irish parents.  General Andrew Lewis of old Donegal was one of the great figures of the Continental Army.

John Barry, the first commodore of the American Navy, was an Irishman from Wexford.  He, and not (John) Paul Jones, was the Father of the American Navy.   The late Martin I. J. Griffin made Barry’s fame secure for all time.  Admiral Stewart of the War of 1812, and grandfather of the late Charles Stewart Parnell, was protégé of “Saucy Jack Barry.”  The O’Briens of Machias, Maine, the stalwart and daring sons of a Corkman, were the organizers of the Sons of Liberty, and they were instrumental in winning the first naval battle of the Revolution.

Ramsay in his history of the United States say:  “The Irish in America were almost to a man on the side of independence.”

Joseph Galloway, an American journalist, was examined before a special committee of the English House of Commons.  Edmund Burke whose speech on American taxation is known to every American schoolboy, was a member of that committee.  Mr. Galloway when questioned as to the nationality of the Continental  Army replied: “The … ..places of their nativity being …….one half were Irish and the other  fourth were principally Scotch and English.”  (Lonergan’s note – See the Royal Gazette, October, 1779)

In 1829 Parke Custis, the adopted son of the immortel Washington, said that up to the coming of the French, Ireland furnished to the Continental Army in the ratio of 100 to 1 of any other nation whatever.  “Then honored,” said he, “be the good old services of the sons of Erin in the War of Independence.  Let the Shamrock be entwined with the laurels of the Revolution and truth and justice guiding the pen of history inscribe on the tablet of America’s remembrance eternal gratitutde to Irishmen.”

It is well to remember that 10 of the Presidents of these Untied States have had more or less of Irish blood in their veins.  Jackson, Buchanan and Arthur were sons of Irish parents.  Madison, Monroe, Polk, Cleveland, McKinley and Roosevelt were part Irish and Wilson‘s grandfather was an Irishman by birth.

The parents of Andrew Jackson, the hero of New Orleans, came to this country from county Antrim, Ireland, in 1765, and he was born in North Carolina in 1767.  He was elected President of the United States in 1828 and re-elected in 1832.  Andrew Jackson was one of the most remarkable men that this country has ever produced.  His name and fame are part and parcel of American history.

Three monumnets stand in St. Paul’s churchyard on lower Broadway, New York city, erected to the memory of three famous Irishmen – Richard Montgomery, who died for American liberty; Thomas Addis Emmet, who for 20 years was head of the New York Bar, and Dr. William J. McNevin, the foremost scientific chemist of his day.

Let us also bear in mind that eight of the framers of the Constitiution of the United States were of Irish blood and two of those were Catholics, and that the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of Philadelphia contributed $500,000 for the maintenance and support of Washinton’s ravage and ragged army at Valley Forge………..believe that had the American Revolution failed this country would most probably be a province of the British Empire today, and we would be British subjects, and instead of having 110,000,000 people we would have like Canada, 8,000,000 people.

The Civil War proved conclusively the devotion and loyalty of the Irish to the Stars and Stripes.  Every regiment in the Union Army had its quota of Irish soldiers.  Every good American, regardless of race or creed is or ought  to be proud of the military genius and Spartan patriotism of Sheridan and Meade, Corcoran and Kearney, Shields and Meagher. The Sixty-ninth Regiment of New York  which was exclusively Irish, lost more men in killed and wounded than any other regiment from the Empire State, and the Irish Brigade from Fair Oaks to Chancellorsville added new laurels of immortal glory to the fame of the Fighting Race.  Fully 150,000 native born Irishmen enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War, not to speak of the countless thousands of Irish descends  who came forward to defend the flag and save the Union.

The Irish Brigade at the Battle of Fredericksburg under the command of General Thomas Francis Meagher consisted of 1,323 offices and men.  Only 200 answered the roll call that following morning.  The losses of the Brigade in that battle were much greater than that of the Light Brigade at Balaklava.  Such a record worthy of notice in all American school histories, which is only giving credit to whom credit is due.

Archbishop John Hughes of New York, the devoted friend and admirer of President Lincoln, was instrumental in preventing the French Government from recognizing the Southern Confederacy at a time when the liberties of this republic were trembling in the balance, and when England gave every possible aid to the Confederacy and at the same time destroyed our merchant marine.

General James Shields, the one man who ever defeated Stonewall Jackson, was Irish of the Irish.  He had the unique distinction of being United States Senator from three states at three different periods.  Shields possessed much of the military genius of his race.  He was the hero of two wars.

General Philip H. Sheridan was the son of Irish parents.  He was one of the three greatest generals of the Union Army.  The names of Grant, Sheridan and Sherman will live forever in American annals as glorious types of American soldiers and patriots.

Irish Banner

Irish Banner

Since 1820, alsmost 5,000,000 irish emigrants have landed on these shores.  Men of Irish birth and parentage today are to be found in every walk of life and in every field of intellectual activity, contributing by their brain and muscle their full share to the progress and greatness of the republic.

As has been well said by a distinguished American writer, “The Irish have been “structural” in the making of this nation.  In the clearing of forests, the building of railroads and the extension of commerce they have contributed incalculable services to the land of their adoption.”

I has been …. by good authorities that 25,000,000 of our present population have more or less of Irish blood coursing in their veins.  More that one-half of the population of the United States  today is of Irish and German blood, yet we are frequently told that we are “Anglo-Saxon,” and that England is our “Mother Country.”  Now as a matter of fact, we are no more Anglo-Saxon than we are Hindoos (sic).   Europe, not England, is the mother country of these Untited States.

This compound word “Anglo-Saxon” is entirely misleading.  It was never used by British writers before the middle of the eighteenth century.  The phase (sic)  “Anglo-Saxon,” like the phase (sic)  “Scotch-Irish,” is a misnomer.  The true American type is not a hybrid Anglo-Saxon, but although bred Celtic-Teutonic race, as our language, or physique and our versatile genius prove.  Less that 10 per cent of our present  population is of England origin and about four per cent Anglo-Saxon.

As a matter of fact, no American writer of distinction has yet done justice  to the Irish element in these United States.  American historians and biographers so far have given  very little credit to the Irish.  They have exaggerated their faults and minimized their virtues.  My indictment against them is not so much for sins of commission as for sins of omission.  Our American school histories will bear testimony to that fact.  The Irish do not desire to take a jot of tittle from the achievements of any other race in our cosmopolitan population, but they do demand and deserve credit whre credit is due.

The Irish in American respectfully demand only a fair field and no favor.  They glory in the panoply of American citizenship and fully appreciated  the value of the civil and religious liberty which they enjoy.  They have never been found wanting in their loyalty and devotion to American in situtations because they recognize to the full that this country has been for more than a century and a quarter an asylum for the poor and oppressed of every race and every creed, especially for the exiles of Erin.

Gov. George Clinton

Gov. George Clinton

“The first Governor of the state of New York was George  Clinton, son of Charles Clinton of Longford; the first Mayor of the city of New York after the Revolution was James Duane, son of Anthony Duane of Cong, County of Galway; the first Governor of Illinois was John Boyle, born in Virginia, of Irish parents, in 1774; the first Governor of Georgia after the adoption of the Constitution was John Houston, son of Patrick Houston of Donegal; the first governor of Kansas was John W. Denver, son Patrick Denver, an immigrant of Winchester, Va., in 1795; the first Governor of the Mississippi Territory was William McGuire, who had served as an officer of the Virginia Artillery in the War of the Revolution; the first Governor of Montana was Thomas Francis Meagher.”

The foregoing facts and figures prove conclusively that the Irish have contributed more than their share to the independence, the preservation and the up building of this republic America was more to Ireland than …. nation on earth.  The hour has struck for the Government of the United States to recognize officially the existing Republic of Ireland, which would be in keeping with the traditional policy of the land of Washington and Jefferson and Lincoln.

Thomas Francis Lonergan & wife nee Carrie Elizabeth McKee circa 1910

Thomas Francis Lonergan & wife nee Carrie Elizabeth McKee circa 1910

By Thomas S. Lonergan, Publicity Committee, Ticonderoga Council, Association for Recognition of Irish Republic.  As published in the Ticonderoga Sentinel, June 23, 1921.  The author is the grandfather of  Craig Lonergan, a trustee of the Ticonderoga Historical Society.

We take no responsibility for the content, or accuracy,  of this newspaper article.  It is re-publish here as being part of the archival research done as documentation, and  in conjunction with,  our new 2016 featured exhibit “A Terrible Beauty.”  A centennial observation of the 1916 Irish Rebellion and the historical path, Irish-Americans of Ticonderoga, the Adirondack Region and in New York State provided support  to the fight for Irish independence and subsequent creation of the Irish Free State.  It is “a look back” to the  beginning as with the Fenian Raids of 1860s and 1870s and the later interest of the 1920s.

An open invitation to the public for a one-night only sneak preview of the new 2016 exhibit — “A Terrible Beauty” – Friday, March 18th — 7 PM.  The Hancock House, 2nd Floor Harmon Gallery.    Presentation and curated by ~~ Diane O’Connor.   

When we re-open for the season late May until the end of December, this Irish-theme exhibit will be one of three major new exhibits for this 2016.  It is our “Irish Wish” that you have an opportunity to visit us this year.

Please consider being part of the Ticonderoga Historical Society, if not already.  We have several membership levels, all very affordable.  Your membership and/or donations are the mainstay for keeping us, and the upkeep of the Hancock House, a going concern Like to volunteer, please contact us.

3/13/16 wgd

83 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page