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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 Navy

IN the Naval History of the United States, we find among the many notable men of Scottish birth or descent the following: John Paul Jones, Samuel Nicholson, Richard Dale, Alexander Murray, Charles Stewart, James Barron, John Rodgers, Sr., John Rodgers, Jr., Thomas McDonough,. Matthew Gaibraith Perry, Oliver Hazard Perry, Franklin Buchanan.

John Paul Jones was born at Arbigland, Scotland, July 6, 1747, and died in Paris in the Spring of 1792 at the age of forty-five. He was the son of John and Jennie MacDuff Paul, and the fifth of seven children. He served seven years on a British warship, and after leaving the British Navy was mate on a slave-trader and later captain. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War he became a lieutenant in the American Navy, and was soon promoted to captain. During his four years of service he gave brilliant examples of the kind of navy necessary for the Colonies. His exploits and adventures in France and Scotland are well known. He was a rover from his thirteenth year until his departure, never living five years of his life in any one part of the world excepting America.

Samuel Nicholson (1743-1813), who was with Paul Jones and later became the first commander of the United States frigate Constitution, was the son of a Scot from Berwick-on-Tweed, who received a grant of land and gave name to Nicholson’s Gap, in the Blue Ridge, Virginia. Samuel’s brothers, James Nicholson (1737-1804) and John Nicholson, also distinguished themselves in the early American naval service. Samuel's grandson, James William Augustus Nicholson (1821-1887), maintained the family honours in the Civil War.

Richard Dale, of Virginia (1756-1826), who was also with Paul Jones and afterward served in the Mediterranean against Tripoli, was of Scottish descent on his mother’s side and also in part on his father’s.

• Alexander Murray (1755-1821), was the son of a Scottish physician, of Chestertown, Maryland, and the grandson of a Jacobite who fled to Barbadoes. Young Murray was in command of a vessel at eighteen. In 1776 he was made a lieutenant in the navy, but fought on shore. Upon the re-organization of the navy in 1798, he was placed in command successively of the frigates Insurgent and Constellation in the Mediterranean. In 1820 he fought a flotilla of seventeen Tripolitan gun-boats and chased them into their harbour. His son, also named Alexander (1816-1884), served with distinction in the American navy in the Mexican and Civil Wars, and retired a rear-admiral in 1876.

Charles Stewart (1778-1869), born of Scottish parentage in Philadelphia, entered the merchant service at the age of thirteen and quickly rose to the command of an Indiaman. In the War of 1812 he commanded the Constellation and the Constitution. His daughter, Delia Tudor Stewart, was the mother of Charles Stewart Parnell, the Irish Home Rule leader.

Commodore James Barron (1769-1851) commanded the Chesapeake in the fight with the British frigate Leopard. It was he who killed Commodore Decatur in a duel, in which he himself was seriously wounded.

Thomas McDonough (1783-1825), another Scot, was the victor of the battle of Lake Champlain (or Plattsburg) September 11, 1814, which ranked only second in importance to Commodore Perry’s famous victory on Lake Erie.

Oliver Hazard Perry was born in the little village of South Kingston, R. I., in 1785. His father was Christopher Raymond Perry, of old Devonshire Quaker stock; his mother, Sarah Wallace Alexander (1768-1830), born in Neury, County Down, Ireland, the granddaughter of an officer in the Scottish army, a Covenanter, who had fled from Ayr to Ireland in 1660. Commodore Perry won his famous battle off Put-in-Bay, Lake Erie, September 10, 1813, when he was twenty-eight years old, building his own ships in the wilderness on the bank of the lake. His opponent was a Scot, Captain Robert H. Barclay, one of Nelson’s veterans. The fight was fiercely contested, but at three o ‘clock in the afternoon the British flag was hauled down. For the first time since she had created a navy, Great Britain lost an entire squadron. Perry announced his victory to General William Henry Harrison in the well-known line, "We have met the enemy and they are ours." How important a part the Scottish element played in the makeup of this family of five famous sailor sons is indicated by the fact that the victory of Lake Erie was known, for years afterward as "Mrs. Perry’s victory" among her neighbors in Rhode Island.

Matthew Galbraith Perry (1794-1858), a younger brother of Commodore Perry, organized and commanded the expedition that broke down the walls of Japan and let in the light of western civilization in 1853, and in 1854 had the honour of signing with that country the first treaty opening her ports to the commerce of the world. He also served with distinction in the War of 1812 and in the war with Mexico.

Franklin Buchanan (1800-1874), born in Baltimore of Scottish descent, organized the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1845, and was its first superintendent. He entered the Confederate navy in 1861 and was in command of the ironclad Merrimac at Hampton Roads. He was wounded, however, the day before and could not participate in her battle with the Monitor. But Ericsson, the builder of the Monitor, had a Scottish mother, and on the Monitor itself, in charge of her engines and turrets, was Isaac Newton, a Scot; so Scotland was not without representation in the strange sea-battle that opened a new chapter in the naval history of the world.

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