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The Irish and the American Revolution

Evening Program

Monday, December 7, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. ET
Code: 1H0551
$20 - Member
$25 - Non-Member
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"The Death of General Montgomery in the Attack on Quebec, December 31, 1775" by John Trumbull, 1786, detail (Yale University Art Gallery)


  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
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Giving testimony to the British House of Commons in 1779, American politician-turned- loyalist 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.”

Those claims contained a fair degree of exaggeration, but they capture an essential truth: 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 Lexington and Concord, during the Battle of Bunker Hill, and at every other significant military encounter over the eight long years of war. Their numbers included general, colonels, thousands of enlisted men, and even spies—notably Hercules Mulligan, a major character in Hamilton: An American Musical.

Richard Bell, professor of history at University of Maryland College Park, explores the Revolution from the perspective of the Irish and their descendants in America. Drawing on the latest scholarship, he reconstructs the history of English and Irish antagonism, the role of Roman Catholic faith in decisions about loyalty and affiliation, and the political and economic impact of the American Revolution on Ireland itself.


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This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.