The Irish Experience in the American Revolution

Richard Bell – University of Maryland

The Irish In The American Revolution

Giving testimony to the British Parliament in 1779, Joseph Galloway estimated that Irishmen composed perhaps one-half of the Continental Army. Five years later, after Washington’s army won the war, another expert witness told Parliament that “the Irish language was as commonly spoken in the American ranks as English” and that Irish valor “determined the contest.” While exaggerated, those claims contained an essential truth: that men of Irish heritage played crucial roles in fighting the American Revolution. Irish-Americans sided with the patriots against the British Army in overwhelming numbers and shouldered muskets at every significant military encounter over the eight long years of war. Their numbers included general, colonels, thousands of enlisted men, and even spies. In this lecture, Professor Richard Bell explores the Revolution from the perspective of the Irish and their descendants in America, as well as the all-important political and economic impact of the American Revolution on Ireland itself.

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