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Scots and Scots Descendant in America
Part I - Scots in the Settlement and Development of The United States
Scots in the War of Independence


WE have already referred to the part played by the Scots as a race and as a moral force in the American Revolution; it remains to dwell particularly upon some of the individual characters in the great drama, which resulted in the separation of the Colonies from the mother country.

Of Washington’s major-generals at the time of discharge, the following were Scottish: Henry Knox (Mass.) ; William Alexander (N. J.) ; Alexander MacDougall (N. Y.) ; and Arthur St. Clair (Pa.).

Of twenty-two brigadier-generals, these were of Scottish blood: William Irvine (Pa.) ; Lachlan MacIntosh (Ga.) ; John Paterson (Mass.) ; Charles Scott (Va.) ; and John Stark (N. H.). Of English and Scottish decent, George and James Clinton (N. Y.); Edward Hand (Pa.); and Anthony Wayne (Pa.).

Other generals of Scottish blood during the Revolutionary period were: John Armstrong (Pa.) ; Francis Barber (N. J.) ; William Campbell (Va.) ; George Rogers Clark (Va.); William Davidson (N. C.); John Douglas (Conn.); James Ewing (Pa.); Robert Lawson (Va.); Andrew Lewis (Va.); William Maxwell (N. J.) ; Hugh Mercer (Pa.) ; James Moore (N. C.) ; John Nixon (Pa.) ; Andrew Pickens (S. C.) ; James Porter (Pa.) ; Joseph Reed (Pa.); Griffith Rutherford (N. C.); John Mori.n Scott (N. Y.); Adam Stephen (Va.); and William Thompson (Pa.).

General Hugh Mercer

General Hugh Mercer (1720-1777) was born in Aberdeen, and served as assistant surgeon in the army of the Young Pretender in the ‘45. In 1747 he emigrated to this country, and settled in what is now Mercersburg, Pa. He took an active part and saw much service in the French and Indian wars of 1755, and was severely wounded in Braddock's campaign. On the outbreak of hostilities with the mother country he was chosen, at Washington's request, brigadier-general (June, 1776). He led the patriots, who crossing from Perth Amboy, October 16, 1776, fought the successful engagement at Richmond, Staten Island; accompanied the commander-in-chief in his retreat through New Jersey; and was severely wounded in the battle of Princeton January 3, 1777, and died January 12. A sword that he handed to his friend, General Jacob Morgan, after he had received his mortal wounds, was presented by General Morgan's daughter-in-law, Mrs. George W. Morgan, to the St. Andrew’s Society of Philadelphia, November 30, 1841, and is one of the treasures of the society. A monument to his memory was erected by the St. Andrew’s Society of Philadelphia in Laurel Hill Cemetery. Mercersburg and Mercer County, Kentucky, are so named in his honour.

Robert Erskine, geographer and chief engineer on General George Washington's staff, was a son of Ralph Erskine of Dunfermline, Scotland. After his death Washington personally placed a stone over his grave in Ringwood, N. J.

Richard Montgomery, the first American general killed in the war, December 31, 1775, was an Ulster-Scot. With him fell the talented young Major John Macpherson, Jr., of Philadelphia, who accompanied him to Quebec. Macpherson was a graduate of Princeton and admitted to the bar, though but twenty-one years old when the war began. His father, Captain John Macpherson (1726-1792), son of William Macpherson and Jean Adamson of Edinburgh, was notable in the British navy and afterward settled in Philadelphia. Another son, General William Macpherson (1756-1813), was serving as a lieutenant in the British army at the outbreak of the war. He resigned his commission and in the Colonial service received the highest commendation from Washington and Lafayette. The father and two sons were honored members of the Philadelphia St. Andrew’s Society.

Major-General Arthur St. Clair (1734-1818) was a native of Thurso, studied at the University of Edinburgh, and after trying the medical profession left it for the army. He came to America in 1758 with his command and served as a lieutenant under Geheral Amherst and under General Wolfe at Quebec. in 1864 he married and settled in Bedford, Pennsylvania. He was an ardent and enthusiastic patriot and was commissioned colonel, 1775; brigadier-general, 1776; and major-general, February 19, 1777, after the battle of Princeton. He served with distinction throughout the war. When he received the news of the Declaration of Independence, at Ticonderoga, he had it read after divine service, and then said: "God save the Free and Independent States of America." He spent almost his entire fortune in raising volunteers and in aiding Washington and his army. General St. Clair was president of the Continental Congress of 1787, and from 1788-1802 was the first Governor of the Northwest Territory.

Thomas Leiper (1745-1825), a native of Strathaven, Lanarkshire, Scotland, and a resident of Philadelphia, was a noted Revolutionary soldier, patriot, merchant and philanthropist. He was one of the organizers of the First City Troop, Philadelphia, and served in action at Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth and in special service at Yorktown. He was for sixty years identified with the business and civic life of Phila

delphia; was President of the Common Council, 1801-1805, 1809-1810; and built the first experimental horse-railway in America in 1809.

Major-General William Alexander (1726-1783), who claimed to be the Earl of Stirling, was one of Washington’s most trusted and loyal aides. He was born in New York City, son of James Alexander, who came from Scotland in 1716, and Mary Sprott, daughter of John Sprott, of Wigtown, Scotland. William Alexander, as major, commanded the first regiment of militia raised in the Province of New York, and was placed in chief command of the city in 1776. He fought in the battles of Long Island, Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth, and was in command at Albany at the surrender of the British army at Yorktown. General Alexander was one of the first governors of King’s College (now Columbia), a mathematician and astronomer of repute and fifth president of the New York St. Andrew’s Society, 1761-1764.

William Moultrie (1731-1805), a distinguished patriot and one of the most prominent generals of the Revolution, was born in England, the son of Dr. John Moultrie of Cuiross. He was brought to Charleston by his parents when two years of age. At the outbreak of the Revolution he espoused the side of the colonists. For his brave defence of Charleston against the British fleet under Sir Peter Parker he received the thanks of Congress in 1776, and Fort Sullivan, at the mouth of the harbour, which he had successfully held, was renamed in his honour Fort Moultrie. In 1782 Congress made him a major-general, and in 1785 and again in 1794 he was elected Governor of South Carolina. In 1802 he published in New York his Memoirs of the American Revolution so far as it Related to the States of North and South Carolina and Georgia. The author's position as governor afforded him ample facilities to consult original authorities, and the result of his researches is an extremely interesting book.

When Washington bade farewell to his generals, General Knox, it is stated, was the first to rush forward and grasp his hand, and the two firm friends wept at the parting. Washington, when he became President, made him a member of his first Cabinet. Henry Knox was born in Massachusetts in 1750 and was descended from those Ulster-Scots who came to New England under the Rev. Boyd in 1718 and founded Londonderry, N. H. He died in 1806. He was brilliant and impulsive and held the highest confidences of his chief.

Brigadier-General Lachlan McIntosh (1727-1806), born in Iverness and emigrated to the Scotch colony in Georgia, was appointed by General George Washington commander-in-chief of the western department in 1778, with headquarters at Pittsburgh. He fought with great distinction throughout the war.

The Scottish communities of the South, Georgia, North and South Carolina and their frontiers, contributed a large amount of fine fighting material to the cause of the Colonies. General Daniel Morgan, though of probably Welsh descent, was a Presbyterian elder, General Andrew Pickens was a Scot and an elder in the Presbyterian Church, and nearly all the soldiers who fought under them at Cowpens and elsewhere were Presbyterians. Hanna states that at the battle of King’s Mountain, Colonel Campbell, Col. James Williams (who was killed), Colonel Cleaveland, Colonel Shelby and Colonel Sevier were all Presbyterian elders. At Huck's Defeat, Colonel Bratton and Major Dickson were both elders in the Presbyterian Church. Major Samuel Morrow; who was with Colonel Sumter at King’s Mountain, Blackstock and other engagements, and who served in the army to the end of the war, was for nearly fifty years a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church. (Hanna, v. 1, p. 29.).


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