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The McGills
On American Soil—In the Whirl of Emigration—With the Continental Army

Arthur and Patrick M’Gill came over in their brother’s ship and landed at Baltimore without incident. They were not stowaways in the reeking hold of a crowded emigrant ship, nor sailors before the mast working their passage to the new world, but when they left their father’s door it was to step upon the familiar deck of a brother’s craft where every accommodation was as free to them as if they were in the old home. There were no hardships in store for them in making their way across the sea. The gloom of parting soon gave way to buoyant hope and no lamentations over their wrongs were heard. Everything was conducted in the quiet, orderly manner of two young men out in pursuit of the ordinary business of life.

History is replete with scenes of the migration of nations, peoples, tribes and clans from one country to another, conducted by great Chieftains and world-renowned leaders of men, usually flying from one scene of oppression to another worse than they had left. The migration of the ScotchIrish from Ulster to America was by no means a concerted movement of the clans. There were no Mayflowers or other ships for their exclusive use, such as the Puritans and Quakers enjoyed.

For sixty years before 1770 a continuous stream of Ulstermen had been pouring into this country through Philadelphia and other ports and, after the manner of the Celt, pushing to the frontiers. Each came on his own responsibility - at his own expense - went where he pleased and selected his own place of settlement. They had no leaders, the leaders came afterward, but it is worthy of note that these people of one faith and blood always found one another and built up communities together.

There was nothing worthy of remark about the landing of those two young men. They had left behind them ten of the household-only two came away. They had a relationship, bearing the name, extending over England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but only two stood on the banks of the bay at Baltimore.

They were two well dressed, well behaved, self-reliant Celtic lads, with the self possession of the Scot and the polish of the Irish schools, who expected to meet with adventures and emergencies and were prepared for the encounter-in other words, they believed in themselves.

But they had no time to loiter away. Already they heard the undefinable voice of destiny singing in prophetic strains of the approaching birth of a new nation and they hastened away to join their fellow countrymen at York and Lancaster.

Arrived at their destination they were welcomed by their friends with hearty cheer. Here were men from Antrim, Down and Donegal - from all along the channel and the bay, whom they had known and with whom they had associated in former days. These met them with open arms and hailed them openly as prospective citizens of the coming Republic. As far back as 1770 there was no secret among the Celtic population on the frontier of a fixed purpose to wrest the country from British rule.

The boys were not long idle. Their friends afforded them every available means to engage in business suited to their capabilities and inclinations.

Arthur immediately attested the family predilection for the equine by buying a horse - the first property he owned in America.

The business of transportation from Philadelphia west was in great demand, the flood of emigration pouring into that port flowing westward in search of homes in the wilderness being at high tide. Teams and wagons were procured, and the brothers soon found themselves in the whirl of a paying business. Arthur was in the saddle, directing affairs with an energy that was natural to him, while Patrick managed details with commendable skill and prudence. Their business grew rapidly and they soon had express transportation lines extending from Philadelphia west to the Susquehanna and Cumberland valleys in Pennsylvania and the Piedmont valley in Virginia. Habitations multiplied and communities grew up rapidly, and wherever a group was formed the log church and school house were erected.

But these blithe rebels were not regarded with favor by the ruling powers. The Quakers did not approve of the Scotch-Irish. They complained that they were contentious persons, always stirring up strife, and disturbing the orderly administration of the Province - a pernicious and pugnacious set, who, unless immigration were restrained, or in some way restricted would be assuming control of things, and they petitioned the Crown to curtail emigration from Ulster. The dreamy Quaker thought aright about one thing - the pugnacious Scot intended, when the spirit moved him thereto, to take control in Pennsylvania, and he did.

The Scotch-Irish were tolerated in Virginia. They obtained permission from the Governor to settle in the Piedmont Valley on condition that they defend the Cavaliers in the Eastern counties from the incursions of the savages, with the promise of "such protection as will be consistent with the Act of Toleration" passed by the English Parliament for the benefit of nonconformists in Ulster.

They did not trouble the Puritans of New England much with their presence, preferring a wider scope of religious liberty than had been accorded to Roger Williams and others. Nor did they fancy affiliation with the Dutch of New York, whom they recognized as their hereditary enemies, marauders in ancient times and treacherous treaty breakers in later days. But right through Pennsylvania to Fort Pitt, through the Piedmont Valley of Virginia and into North Carolina they gathered their forces, planted their communities within supporting distance, bided their time and kept their powder dry. The descendants of the men whom Rome in the zenith of her power could not subdue, formed a cordon around the middle and South Country ready to confront destiny in the hour of trial, and they were not silent lookers on, but they were being heard from betimes in no uncertain notes. While others temporized and sought by conciliation to avert immediate danger, the Scotch-Irish assembled in Carlisle and defiantly demanded separation from England.

Over from the Virginia frontier came an echo of like import, and then from Mecklenburg, N. C., in the unmistakable brogue came the first formal Declaration of Independence.

The little tea party at Boston harbor was a pleasant affair and caused much merriment, but when Patrick Henry thundered from the forum "Give me Liberty or give me Death," it went down into the hearts of men and stirred the blood of the ancient Gaul, and the die was cast. Then the hand of Jefferson moved and the immortal Declaration appeared; then John Witherspoon cried, "Let my gray head be given to the executioner rather than that the cause of human liberty fail." Then John Hancock wrote his colossal signature upon the parchment, and the deed was done. Scotch-Irishmen every one of them.

The dotard government of the Penns tumbled over with the Declaration and a Provisional Government was set up instead, and a Committee of Safety appointed (Sept. 1776), with Benjamin Franklin for chairman, who was thus for the time being vested with supreme authority. There was no longer an English Colony - no more a peaceful Province - these had disappeared in a day - and in place we had a new state enrolling men - organizing battalions and making every preparation for the war which was already on. Emigrants no longer crowded our ports seeking transportation to the West.

Arthur and Patrick were alert to the situation all along the line, and they called in their teams, had their wagons painted, the harness oiled and wheels greased ready for another line of operations. They then lined up in the presence of the great Statesman and Philosopher - now clothed with absolute power - and tendered the services of themselves and their entire outfit to the use of the young republic. There was no hesitancy with the Government about accepting the offer, and satisfactory terms were soon agreed upon and the young men entered into the employment of the country with every thing they possessed staked on the venture. They had been six years in the country and in that time had acquired some wealth. Fortune favored them at every turn, and they could now marshal a train of vehicles and teams of considerable proportions, exactly suited to the wants of the army and all ready for immediate service. The transaction was of far greater importance to the country than the enrollment of a company of men in the ranks.

In all war operations the problem of transportation is one of the most difficult to solve. There is always friction and exasperating trouble about organizing a wagon train and getting it to move with that uniform and reliable precision so essential to successful campaigning, and the animals are not always the most troublesome factor.

Trained and competent men are what is most needed-and I say it advisedly-the most difficult to obtain. It requires experience, brains, application and a peculiar adaptation to the equine to make a successful wagonmaster, and there are few men who possess these qualities combined. He must have courage, patience, grit, commanding force and influence over man and beast, or he will not be a successful manipulator of an army wagon train.

Arthur M'Gill seemed to be endowed with mental and physical characteristics suited to the emergency to which they had been called. He was a large man of commanding presence, powerful sinew and nerve, and a grip firm as a blacksmith's vice. His disposition was kindly, but his will inflexible. His innate sense of justice and right was not alone directed to the human family, but extended to the animal as well. His horses were his pets and playfellows, all his lifetime, and he always had plenty of them, and the poor beasts seemed to understand and reciprocate the kindness and enjoy the association. He never "broke" his horses, but tamed them and taught them to understand him and their prompt obedience to his will was remarkable; and all this, without seeming effort on his part; it was the quiet assertion of a strong mind over a weaker organism. Nor was this dominant peculiarity evidenced alone on the brute creation. Men as well as animals deferred to his superior judgment on most occasions and if any enterprise were on hand requiring commanding energy and skill and Arthur M'Gill appeared upon the field he was at once summoned by consent to take direction of affairs. He was one of the most unassuming men living and this uniform preference of his fellowmen was a natural tribute to his peculiar genius. Perhaps no better fitted man could have been found at that crisis in revolutionary affairs to fill the place assigned him than Arthur M'Gill.

And Patrick, though in a less conspicuous capacity, was an equally indispensable factor in the management and adjustment of the large transactions inseparable from their relations to the Continental forces. In almost every respect, then and thereafter, the brothers supplemented each other. What the one lacked the other supplied. The vigor, push and energy of Arthur making things move by sheer force was balanced and held in trim by the skilled hand of the younger brother whose diplomacy often shaped matters to their mutual advantage. Each needed the other and they both knew it; and all their lives they were inseparable.

The boys were not slow in finding their places. Things were humming and they plunged into the swim. From the start to finish there was no cessation from the movements of supplies, of munitions of war, or of the movements of men to and from the field of battle, or from one point of vantage to another as dictated by strategy, or forced by reverses, and the trains trundled along with the column, whether rushing to the assault or being hurled back by the red blast of adversity.

They were with Washington at Brandywine in the retreat across the jerseys-at the crossing of the Raritan - over the Pennsylvania hills and into the winter's gloom at Valley Forge. They scoured the country for supplies and brought in forage and food for the famishing soldiers. Those were dark days for the Republic. The Army was reduced to a skeleton. Terms of enlistment were expiring and men were going home. Troops were clamoring for pay and no money in sight. Hunger and cold were doing their work and mutiny threatened; all malignant forces seemed to be closing in to cap the climax of ruin. Many were glad to escape the impending crash, and good men and true were held only to duty by the obligations of their enlistment. Among the on-looking nations there were none who at that particular time believed that our country would succeed in her purposes.

Our two Irish lads were not enlisted men. They were civil employes of the state forming a contingent to the subsistence and transportation departments of the Army, and were rendering very valuable service. They could at any time retire without breach of faith, but they never entertained the thought for a moment. For them it was a fight to the finish for all time and they remained to realize the crowning glory of the humiliation of their ancient enemy and the upbuilding of a mighty nation of free people.

It may here be remarked, incidentally, that these men were paid for their services in Continental Currency, which depreciated to one cent on the dollar and was never redeemed.

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