6/1/11 - scots-irish come to america

In today's excerpt - Scotch-Irish, also known as Scots-Irish or Ulster Scots, were among the toughest frontiersmen in American history, and included such legends as David Crockett and Andrew Jackson. They were first transplanted from Scotland to the province of Ulster in Ireland in the early 1600s by England's King James for two reasons--first as a way to remove troublesome Anglo-Scottish border raiding clans, and also to provide fighting men who could help subjugate the native Irish in Ireland. Some 200,000 then migrated to America during colonial times to escape the conflicts they faced in Ireland. They were religious dissidents--Protestants opposed to England's official Anglican religion--and they fought in England against the crown in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, against the crown again in the American Revolution, they were fierce Indian fighters, and they fought against the North in the American Civil War: 

"The [forbears of David] Crockett came to America just as other Ulster Scots did, aboard a heaving and crowded immigrant ship. Some Ulstermen and their families, weary of warfare and religious persecution, were so desperate for free and fertile land that they paid their way by signing on as indentured servants. But first they had to survive the dangerous Atlantic crossing, which, depending on the winds, could take anywhere from three weeks to three months. Not only were the ships overloaded, but rations were short, the food vermin-ridden, and the water stagnant. The entire vessel, especially lower decks, reeked from the stench of dysentery, vomit, sweat, and rot. Every soul aboard suffered from lice infestations and a multitude of other maladies. Hunger and thirst were constant, and some passengers died by drinking saltwater or their own urine. Burial at sea was particularly difficult; survivors had to watch the shrouded corpses of loved ones cast into the sea. The despair and tension often erupted into brawls, even between family members.

"Yet, even with all the horrors that had to be endured aboard ship, the weary and bedraggled passengers believed they had arrived in the Promised Land when the journey to American shores finally ended. Immigrant ships docked at various ports of entry, where enticing advertisements urged the new arrivals to help settle the lands opening up in the west. Philadelphia became the Scots-Irish favored port of entry, since the Pennsylvania colony, established by Quakers, appeared to welcome them. The puritanical New England colonies were less tolerant of the newcomers and had no use for either Scots or Irish.  

"The first of the Ulster settlements appeared at Donegal, Pennsylvania, not far from the larger town of Lancaster. Others sprang up beyond, in the rich Cumberland Valley. The Ulster Scots, mostly tenant farmers, were motivated to find a place of their own where land was cheap and they could achieve a reasonable measure of economic freedom and opportunity. The primary pattern of their western migration took them out of Pennsylvania along the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, continuing south and west into what would become Tennessee, or, as the Crocketts did, into North Carolina and then to Tennessee.

"Many of the Scots-Irish migrated as whole congregations, or family groups, just as they had done with their Presbyterian ministers from Scotland to Ireland to America. The extended family unit was extremely tight-knit, and it was common for entire communities of these pioneers to migrate along the same route, stopping at the same places along the way. ... 

"An ethnic melange of settlers followed the Great Wagon Road and the well-trodden routes of the [frontiersman], including English, Welsh, Irish, German, Swiss, French Huguenot, and some African slaves. Most of the newcomers, however, were Scots-Irish, such as the Crocketts. Reflecting early class division in the fledgling Republic, all of them had long detested the autocratic power of the British king and resented what they considered a conspiracy to take away their God-given freedom."



Michael Wallis


David Crockett: The Lion of the West


W.W. Norton & Company


Copyright 2011 by Michael Wallis


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