catholic army

Give me an army saying the Rosary and I will conquer the world.
—  Pope Pius IX

The Irish and the Scots during the American Revolution

Historians should always steer clear of making generalisations but, very broadly speaking, it can be said that the majority of Irish-descended colonists in 1775 supported the American Revolution while the majority of Scots descendants opposed it. There were a number of reasons for this.

The Irish community living in the Thirteen colonies could (again) broadly be divided into the “native” Irish Roman Catholics who had fled their homeland due to famine or persecution. Such a community needed little incentive to join the revolution against the British government, although the fact that most Americans were even more radically Protestant than the British did give many pause for thought. The fact that the British lifted its ban on Catholics serving in the Army further complicated matters.

The other “Irish” element in America were the Ulster-Scots (or Scots-Irish). They were Presbyterian Protestants descended from the hundreds of thousands of Scots who had emigrated to Ulster in the 17th century to help bring it under British control. Many more, finding life in Ireland hard, had journeyed onward to the American colonies. Scots during that period had been persecuted by the English government because, although both sides were Protestant, the English monarchy disliked Presbyterianism because it promoted the idea that Christ alone was king. The “Killing Times” meted out by Charles II had left the emigrant Scots with a negative view of British government control, and a revolutionary streak that put them at the forefront of the Patriots in 1775 (more about the Scottish Covenanter influence on the American Revolution here). 

As for those Scots in America of direct Scottish descent, many were former Jacobites who had fled to the colonies after their cause collapsed in 1746. You would imagine, considering the force with which the British government dealt with the final Jacobite rising in Britain, that these exiles would retain a bitter hatred of King George III. In reality though by the 1770s everyone was aware that the Jacobite cause was dead. Former Jacobites naturally possessed an inclination to support authoritative monarchical control, so the new American republican ideologies were actually the opposite of their own political beliefs. Because of this, ex-Jacobites were almost always loyalists. Nowhere was this seen more clearly than in one of the first battles of the Revolution at Moore’s Creek. Around 600 of the 800 loyalist militia present were Scots, and many of them highlanders.

As mentioned at the start, the general loyalties of the Irish and Scottish colonists during the Revolution included many exceptions. Few are more stark than the Volunteers of Ireland who, with their green facings and Irish harps, were one of Earl Cornwallis’s best loyalist regiments during the British Southern campaign.


The Battle of Sudomer in 1420. Fighting begins at 9.00

From a Czech historical drama made in the 1950’s, this scene accurately depicts the Hussite use of Wagenburg (War Wagon) tactics.  It really shows how small Hussite peasant armies were able to destroy Catholic Anti-Hussite Crusader armies consisting of tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of knights, mercenaries, and professional soldiers on dozens of occasions, fending off 5 successive Anti-Hussite Crusades. 

The man wearing the eyepatch is Jan Zizka, one of only a handful of military leaders known to have never lost a battle. In that same year, he would lead a 12,000 man Hussite army in a decisive victory against a 50,000 - 100,000 man Crusader army.