Chapter X
The Eighth Pennsylvania


The activities of the tories and the excessive malignity of the Indian attacks on the frontier, in the spring of 1778, alarmed the Continental Congress. It recommended to Washington that more vigorous measures be taken to defend the western border. The Commander-in-Chief, hard pressed as he was in the East, responded promptly to the appeal. Congress voted the recall of General Hand on May 2, and on the same day Washington appointed Brigadier General Lachlan McIntosh to succeed in the command at Fort Pitt(1) Three weeks later the Eighth Pennsylvania and the Thirteenth Virginia were detached from the army at Valley Forge-an army already too small-and ordered to march to the Ohio river.(2)

McIntosh was a Scotch Highlander, 53 years old. He was born near Inverness, the son of the head of the Borlam branch of the Clan McIntosh. When the boy was 11 years, old, his father and mother, with other Highlanders, left their native land and joined General Oglethorpe's new colony of Georgia. The McIntosh settled a plantation near the mouth of the Altamaha river, in what is now McIntosh county. A few years later the father was captured by the Spaniards, and died in a prison at St. Augustine.

Lachlan McIntosh owed most of his education to his excellent mother. At 17 he entered a mercantile house in Charleston, but an indoor life was not to his liking. As soon as he was a man, he returned to the plantation, learned the trade of surveyor, and took an active interest in the militia. He married a Highland woman, and became a leader in his part of the colony.

While many of the Scots of Georgia adhered to the cause of King and Parliament, McIntosh was an enthusiastic American, and at the outburst of the Revolution became a colonel in the colonial service. In 1776 he was made a brigadier general. In 1777 he became involved in a quarrel with Button Gwinnett, one of the signers of the Declaration. Gwinnett challenged McIntosh to a duel, and the challenger was mortally wounded. McIntosh was tried for murder and acquitted, but the resulting feud rendered life in Georgia unpleasant and unprofitable. He asked for a transfer, and early in 1778 was ordered to join Washington at Valley Forge. The Georgia Scotchman at once made a good impression on the great Commander-in-Chief. In writing to Congress of his appointment of McIntosh to the western command, Washington said: "I part with this gentleman with much reluctance, as I esteem him an officer of great worth and merit, and as I know his services here are and will be materially wanted. His firm disposition and equal justice, his assiduity and good understanding, added to his being a stranger to all parties in that quarter, point him out as a proper person."(3) Such was the man who went, with high expectations, to succeed Hand as the defender of the Pennsylvania frontier.

It was at the request of the Board of War that Washington ordered two regiments of regulars to Fort Pitt, and the regiments chosen were the two that had been raised about the headwaters of the Ohio. In marching to what was then the far West, the men of these commands were simply marching home. Because they were frontiersmen; already acquainted with Indian warfare, Washington believed that they would be the most effective defenders of the border.(4)

The Eighth Pennsylvania was one of the notable organizations of the Revolution, and well deserves to be remembered by succeeding generations, especially in Western Pennsylvania, where live many of the descendants of its brave officers and privates. Seven of its companies were raised in Westmoreland, and the eighth in Bedford county. The names of most of its officers are still familiar names in Westmoreland, Allegheny, Washington and Fayette. The original staff officers, commissioned by Congress in the summer of 1776, were: Colonel, Aeneas Mackay, of Pittsburg; Lieutenant Colonel, George Wilson, of George's creek, Fayette county; Major, Richard Butler, Indian agent at Pittsburg; Quartermaster, Ephraim Douglass, a Pittsburg trader; Commissary, Ephraim Blaine, great-grandfather of James G. Blaine; Adjutant, Michael Huffnagle, of Hannastown; Chaplain, David McClure; Paymaster, John Boyd, of Pittsburg.(5)

With the exceptions of Ephraim Blaine and David McClure, the officers and men were frontiersmen. Blaine was an Ulsterman, of the Cumberland Valley, a merchant and landed proprietor, a man of great energy, who became afterward commissary general of the revolutionary army. Rev. David McClure was a native of Rhode Island, of Ulster parentage, who went as a missionary to the Delaware Indians in the Tuscarawas valley in 1772. Being rejected by the savages, he remained in Westmoreland county as an itinerant preacher until June, 1773, when he returned to New England, and there spent the remainder of his life. He never joined the regiment to which he was appointed chaplain.(6)

The captains were Van Swearingen, Moses Carson, Samuel Miller, James Piggott, Wendel Curry, David Killgore, Eliezer Myers and Andrew Mann. Of these, Carson was the only one who proved false to his country.(7)

The nucleus of the regiment was the company of riflemen formed by Van Swearingen, in May, 1776, for defense against the Indians. Swearingen was one of the noted characters of the border. With his father and brothers, he moved from Virginia and became a pioneer of the upper Monongahela valley. He was of great stature and fearless spirit. By the time of the Revolution he had acquired on the frontier the name of "Indian Van." One of his brothers was captured by the Indians, and became a chief of the Shawnee nation.

Swearingen's company was stationed at Kittanning for two months and then joined the new continental battalion, ordered by Congress on July 11, 1776. The purpose of the organization of this battalion or regiment was to garrison the western posts and protect the frontier. It was an easy matter to recruit the borderers for the defense of their own homes, and the very best men of Westmoreland joined the organization. Between August 9 and December 16, 1776, 630 men were enlisted.

Mackay's battalion, as it was formed, went into camp at Kittanning, where the men built their own rude cabins for the winter. They had settled down for the cold season, sending out scouting parties up and down the river, when, on December 4, the regiment was surprised by the receipt of an order from the Continental Congress to march to New Jersey and join the army of General Washington. At that time the Commander-in-Chief was being driven, by the British, across New Jersey to the Delaware river, Philadelphia was in danger, the Revolution seemed to be at its lowest ebb, great alarm prevailed in the East, and the call for aid went out to all parts of the colonies. The Eighth Pennsylvania, encamped on the Allegheny river, was the most distant command summoned to the support of the patriot cause.

The order caused much discontent in Mackay's battalion, for officers and men felt it a hardship to be called away from the duty for which they had enlisted, leaving their families unprotected in the face of an impending Indian warfare. The regiment, moreover, was badly provided for a mid-winter march over the mountain ranges. It was without uniforms or tents, and was scantily furnished with blankets and cooking utensils. Yet there was little hesitation. The scouting parties were called in, pack horses were collected, and the command began its desperate journey on January 6, 1777, at the very worst period of the Pennsylvania winter.(8)

This was a trying march across the state, along bad roads, amid deep snows, by mountain passes, through desolate forests, without tents or sufficient food or clothing. The whole distance exceeded 300 miles, of which more than loo was through a region of rough mountains and their intervening valleys. Encampments were made in the most sheltered places, amid heavy timber, and great fires were kept going all night, that the men might not perish from the cold. Hunting parties procured some meat, but for most of the journey the only food consisted of cakes and bread. Arnold's winter toil through the Maine woods into Canada was the only march of the Revolution that exceeded this in severity.

It is not surprising that some of the men deserted and returned to their homes. Toward the end of February the regiment reached Quibbletown, near Philadelphia, and went into camp in miserable quarters. One-third of the men were ill, and within two weeks there were so deaths. Among those who died as the result of their terrible privations were Colonel Mackay and Lieutenant Colonel Wilson.(9)

While this perilous march was making, Washington had won the victories of Trenton and Princeton, had relieved Pennsylvania from the danger of immediate invasion, and had taken post, with his little army, north of the Raritan river, in New Jersey. To that place, after a short rest, the Eighth proceeded, and there it received new officers. Daniel Brodhead became colonel; Richard Butler was promoted to be lieutenant colonel, and Stephen Bayard, a son-in-law of Aeneas Mackay, was made major. The regiment was placed in the second brigade of General Anthony Wayne's Pennsylvania division.

In June Washington formed Morgan's famous rifle corps, of the best sharp-shooters to be found in the whole army. There is a general impression that this corps of 500 dead-shots was made up of Virginians, but this is an error. Virginia contributed only 163 men. More were chosen from the Eighth Pennsylvania than from any other command. It furnished 139, including Lieutenant Colonel Butler and Captain Swearingen. The First Pennsylvania furnished 54 men, from that part of the regiment recruited on the upper Susquehanna, among the number being the celebrated Lieutenant Samuel Brady.(10) This corps was sent to the northern army under General Gates. It did the most effective fighting at Stillwater and Saratoga, and participated in the triumph when Burgoyne surrendered.

Late in the fall Morgan rejoined Washington near Philadelphia. The men of the Eighth Pennsylvania returned to their regiment, and Lieutenant Brady was transferred to that organization. Thus he obtained the opportunity which gave him lasting fame on the western border. The portion of the regiment which had remained with Washington's army had been engaged, under Wayne, in the defeats of Brandywine, Paoli and Germantown, and the reunited command passed the winter of 1777-78 in the distressful encampment of Valley Forge.

Daniel Brodhead, who led the Eighth Pennsylvania back to the West and subsequently acted an important part in the history of the frontier, was the son of a pioneer tavern-keeper living near the Delaware Water Gap. He had early experience in Indian war, learned surveying, settled in Reading, and took a prominent part in the agitation against the oppressions of the British Parliament. He was a member of the Pennsylvania convention in 1775, raised soldiers for the revolutionary army, and in 1776 became a lieutenant colonel in the Pennsylvania service. He acquitted himself gallantly in the battle of Long Island, August 27, 1776, and won promotion. He was a man of energy and persistence, bold in planning, fearless in executing, keen to assert his authority, well set in his opinions and of hasty temper.

The other regiment ordered to Fort Pitt, the Thirteenth Virginia, had been raised by Colonel William Crawford in the territory now included in the counties of Fayette, Washington and Greene. Its formation in 1977 had been somewhat slow, and before it was completed about Zoo of the men were ordered to the East. The remainder of the command, about loo men, when enlisted, was detained at Fort Pitt, and was still there, under Colonel William Russell, when the eastern detachment, with Washington's army, was ordered to return to the West.

Lieutenant Colonel John Gibson was promoted to the rank of colonel, went west with the main part of the regiment, and took command of the reunited force under McIntosh. Colonel Russell was called to the East.(11)

1 Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. vi., pp. 460, 461, 467, 526

2 Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. vi., pp. 556, 564.

3 Washington's Letters to the American Congress, New York, 1796, vol. ii., p. 224.

4 Washington-Crawford Letters, Washington to the Board of War, May 23, 1778.

5 American Archives, Fifth Series, vol. i., pp. 1574, 1578, 1583, 1588; vol. ii., pp. 1383, 1838, 1405.

8 See Diary of David McClure, New York, 1899.

7 American Archives, Fifth Series, vol. Ii., p. 1340.

8 Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. v., p. 93. For the early history of the regiment, its winter march and service in the east, see 4 Pennsylvania Archives, Second Series, vol. x., pp. 641-648.

9 Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. v., p. 283. Many writers have identified Colonel Aeneas Mackay with the Captain James Mackay, of South Carolina, who assisted Washington In the defense of Ft. Necessity In 1754. This Is a mistake. Aeneas Mackay came to America about 1767 as a commissary with the Royal Irish regiment (Eighteenth Foot). For a sketch of the life of Lieutenant Colonel George Wilson, see Veech's Monongahela of Old.

10 Pennsylvania Archives, Second Series, vol. a., pp. 811-313, 315, 043.

11 Washington's Letters to the American Congress, vol. n., pp. 229, 28Z

SOURCE:  Page(s) 60-66: Old Westmoreland, A History of Western Pennsylvania During the Revolution by Edgar W. Hassler, J.R. Weldon & Co, Pittsburgh, 1900

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