High Plains Drifter

Revelation 6: 8: "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him."





Thursday, October 21, 2010

Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America






















 


Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America
By James Webb

Page 121: “‘Call this war by whatever name you may, only call it not an American rebellion; it is nothing more or less than a Scotch Irish Presbyterian rebellion.’

--A Hessian officer, writing home during the War of the American Revolution.”

Page 149: “They built churches, the Scots-Irish first following the Presbyterian faith, but over time becoming more and more inclined to adopt the evangelical Baptist and Methodist denominations, again possibly to draw a line between their communities and the tamer form of Presbyterianism being brought directly from an increasingly enlightened Scotland.”

Page 150: “The Tidewater Aristocracy that had allowed such settlements looked askance at these new Americans, often snidely belittling them for their coarseness and their backward, nonintellectual ways. But their ferocious performance against a variety of Indian attacks that began in 1754 and continued even after the seven years of the French and Indian War gained them not only respect but also an enduring legitimacy. They fought and played by their own rules, expecting no quarter from any enemy and giving none in return. And by the eve of the American Revolution in 1775, they had become a political force in their own right.”

Page 152: “But the migration to America was raising far more dangerous concerns in political circles. The English ruling class, which had begun the century seeking strong people to settle in the colonies, slowly began to see unintended consequences. The Ulster Scots had brought with them not only a desire for a better life, but also a determination to live under their own rules. The democracy of the Presbyterian Kirk, and ancient mistrust of higher authority, and a burning resentment of the English hierarchy that had given them so much trouble in Ulster all fueled their interactions with other cultures from their first days in America. Seasoned observers on both sides of the Atlantic began watching the dynamic of the Scots-Irish migration with increasing concern. The out-migration was causing economic troubles in Ireland, but an even greater problem was percolating across the seas—the very survival of the British colonial system on the new continent. Trouble had almost immediately been set loose in the colonies as a result of the Scots-Irish arrival in America for although political disagreements had been building in the colonies for some time, the ever disagreeable Ulster Scots were injecting a new and violent tone to the debate.”

Page 153: “The first Great Celtic Migration from Ireland [by 1775] was complete, and the people who had traveled to America were now largely positioned in a broad swath of mountains that marked the geographic—and political—boundary between an aristocratic, colonial past and a future so wide and promising that its dimensions were unfathomable. And although it was mainly the English-American aristocracy that framed the intellectual arguments for the movement toward independence, it would be the Scots-Irish who would bring the fire of revolution to the pulpits of almost every frontier church and also would provide a disproportionate share of guns and soldiers to the battlefield once war broke out.

“As the eminent English historian James Anthony Fronde put it in 1872, ‘The resentment which they carried with them continued to burn in their new homes; and, in the War of Independence, England had no fiercer enemies than the grandsons and great-grandsons of the Presbyterians who had held Ulster against Tyrconnell.’”

Page 156: “Just as important, the churches became vital centers of religious, social, and even political activity. From those pulpits, decade after decade, strong men preached about the power of the individual, decried the evil of a government that sought to interpose itself between man and God, and reminded parishioners of the two centuries of discrimination by the Anglican English aristocracy against their people, a discrimination that in many ways still existed in America.”

Page 157 & 158: “The power of numbers and the strength of the rhetoric began to tell. In the late 1740s and early 1750s a wave of religious tolerance swept the region, becoming known as the Great Awakening. This movement was led not so much by the Presbyterians as by the Baptists, who slowly gained great favor in Scots-Irish communities by echoing the strongest edicts of John Calvin that no government had the right to stand between God and His people. Evangelical revivals filled the backcountry. Governments themselves softened, slowly allowing religious freedoms. Transitional figures such as the legendary orator Patrick Henry, whose Scottish father was ‘properly’ Anglican but whose mother was an ardent Presbyterian, took up the cudgel and worked to remove ‘established religion’ from the realm of government. This issue, forced heavily by Scots-Irish and other ‘dissenting’ mountain communities, was a major factor in the creation of the First Amendment to the Constitution, which begins ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’”

Page 161: “As the American colonies moved toward declaring independence from Great Britain, the Scots-Irish were all but unanimous in their desire to be free of the English government. Although the trained minds of New England’s Puritan culture and Virginia’s Cavalier aristocracy had shaped the finer intellectual points of the argument for political disunion, the true passion for individual rights emanated from the radical individualism of the Presbyterian and, increasingly, Baptist pulpits. New political theories of democracy and federal systems were being tested and debated in the learned salons and legislative chambers along the coast. But for the people in the mountains, two centuries of Kirk-dominated Calvinism had already nurtured a raw yet powerful concept—the individual’s moral right to rebel against the unjust policies of any government. This concept, which for the moment dovetailed neatly with the aristocratic forces of revolution in the East, would later form the basis for a more inclusive brand of populism first characterized by the presidency of Andrew Jackson.”

Page 162: “It was reported that King George III characterized the Revolution as ‘a Presbyterian War,’ and that Horace Walpole remarked in Parliament, ‘There is no use crying about it. Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson, and that is the end of it.’”

“A New Englander who opposed the rupture with England declared the Scotch-Irish to be, with few exceptions, ‘The most God-provoking democrats on this side of Hell.’”

Pages 162 & 163: “Estimates vary, but it is undeniable that the Scots-Irish comprised at least one-third and as many as one-half of the ‘rebel’ soldiers during the Revolutionary War. They became quickly known not only for their battlefield tenacity, but also for their loyalty during the brutal winter of 1777 at Valley Forge, where they remained steadfast while large numbers of soldiers deserted George Washington.”

Page 165: “The great majority of the population in the Carolinas was in the mountains, and the bulk of the people in the mountains were Scots-Irish with long memories, deep hatreds, and battle skills that had been continuously honed against the Indians. Blindly—some might say arrogantly—the British ignored that reality as they pressed their campaign further inland. Having toppled the Continentals so easily along the coastline, their leaders reasoned that a policy of terror and intimidation in the western communities would quickly bring the rest of the Carolinas into the fold.

“This misjudgment proved to be perhaps the most costly error of the war. By launching a campaign that in its tone was chillingly reminiscent of Proud Edward’s attempt to hammer Scotland and Henry VIII’s ‘rough wooing’ of the Scottish lowlands in centuries past, the British and their Tory cohorts provoked the anger of the very people who were capable of smashing their advance. And smash it they would.”

Page 169: “From their gathering point at Sycamore Shoals, the over-mountain militias headed southeast, toward the North Carolina Piedmont. In early October they picked up the trail of Ferguson’s meandering battalion and began tracking him. Shortly, other militia units joined them, one coming up from South Carolina, another traveling down from North Carolina’s Piedmont. They now numbered more than 1,000, almost even in size with Ferguson’s 1,300 Redcoats. And on October 7, 1780, they found Ferguson on a narrow ridge that the locals called King’s Mountain.”

Page 170: “The battlefield was small; the length of six football fields on top of a mountain a few hundred feet high. The numbers involved were not huge; a thousand or so on each side. The battle did not last long; little more than an hour. But the victory was so stunning and the differences in military style so complete that one can say without exaggeration that Colonial America, with all its stylistic dependence on European forms of propriety, began conclusively to die along with Ferguson’s soldiers on King’s Mountain. And it was being replaced by the raw individualism of an uneducated and testy group that the Europeans, perhaps always, would quizzically view as ‘mongrels.’ This was not the carefully replicated English society along the coast that was mangling Ferguson on the mountain. Rather, it was something fresh and new, occasionally even ugly, that could not yet even be defined.”

Page 171: “Rock by rock, slope by slope, fighting sometimes so close that a rifle went off into the belly of a Redcoat whose bayonet had pierced the same rifleman’s arm, the buckskin and linen-clad militiamen used every skill that a generation of Indian warfare had taught them. The volleys of Ferguson’s ever more nervous soldiers went repeatedly high, over their heads, while the individual shots from well-used long rifles were seldom off the mark.”

“The over-mountain men had not merely defeated the Redcoats at King’s Mountain, they had totally destroyed them. At a cost of 28 killed and 62 wounded, ‘Ferguson’s detachment of 1,100 men was annihilated.’ Indeed, ‘only 200 Tories sent out earlier on a foraging expedition were able to escape. Hearing of Ferguson’s defeat, Cornwallis began backpedaling into South Carolina.’”

Page 172: “Mindful of Tarleton’s butchery and Cornwallis’s early promise to hang them, they held court on a number of Redcoats who were recognized as local Tory leaders, sentencing thirty-six to death and hanging nine of them before growing tired of the killing. Other prisoners were shot in individual incidents, and still others were left on the trail to die. And then the militiamen who had changed the course of the Revolutionary War simply went home.”

Page 173: “These men and others, great-great-great-grandsons all, fought with purpose on behalf of concepts that were older that the Scottish Kirk, views of human dignity that in time, in many places, became America itself.”

Page 182: “The power—and ultimately the attractiveness—of the Scots-Irish culture stemmed from its insistence on the dignity of the individual in the face of power, regardless of one’s place or rank in society.”

Pages 182 & 183: “The ideas that fueled the concept had been adapted into its religious base through the Scottish Kirk and were further refined in Ireland as the notions of nonconformity evolved, asserting that every individual had the moral right to resist any government that did not respect his beliefs.”

Page 289: “For nearly two thousand years, in one form or another, this culture’s unbending individualism—and its ingrained hatred of aristocracy—has been in conflict with a variety of authoritarian power structures, and it remains so in today’s American.”

Page 343: “We helped build this nation from the bottom up. We face the world on our feet and not on our knees. We were born fighting. And if the cause is right, we will never retreat.”


Freedom to Bear Arms

2 comments:

  1. Been thinking about you! How are you? Where are you traveling now?

    Lots of cool stuff about Scots/Irish in this post, I'll have to come back later and read it more carefully, very interesting!

    -T

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am doing just fine.

    This past week I hitchhiked from Wyoming to Washington state. I am staying with some friends here in Dayton. I have been helping them move to their new house. It was all perfect timing because they needed the extra help and all of a sudden I showed up. I got one ride from Helena, Montana all the way to their farm. Sometimes you get these really great rides.

    I read James Webb's book around four years ago. I liked it a lot. I am half German and half Irish--but I am not Scots-Irish. The Scots-Irish came from lowland Scotland and Northern Ireland. My people came from County Kerry (O'Shea and Malone) and County Roscommon (Cruise and McGarry) in the southwest and west of Ireland.

    James Webb is now a U.S. Senator from the state of Virginia.

    ReplyDelete