Stephen Moylan, First President “Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick”

The Moylan’s, a merchant family from County Cork, were well off. They had Stephen educated by Jesuits in Paris, since Catholics were forbidden by the Penal Laws from obtaining an education in Ireland. He apprenticed in the family shipping business in Lisbon before immigrating to Philadelphia.

Originally settled by Quakers, the City of Brotherly Love became home to Protestant sects not welcome elsewhere, the principle entry port for Scot-Irish, and unlike elsewhere … even Roman Catholics were tolerated. Being a respected business man, Moylan became quickly established, and was one of three Catholics admitted to the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick; Commodore John Barry and Thomas Fitzsimmons being the other two. Moylan was elected as the Society’s first president. The Friendly Sons supplied seven Continental Generals and many regimental commanders. In later years, the Society admitted George Washington and Robert Morris (the Revolutionary War’s financier). The Friendly Sons contributed 35% of the funds, which Morris used to establish the Bank of the U.S.; supplying the Continental Army.

        Not satisfied to sit on the sidelines, Moylan served George Washington from 1775 until taking ill in 1781.

  • In ‘75, he was the Muster-Master, keeping track of the Army’s strength, training, and equipment. Furthermore, he was authorized to hire ships and borrow cannon to raid British supply vessels. The Lexington, commanded by Moylan’s good friend and fellow Irishman, John Barry, became the first battleship he supplied for the Continental Navy.

  • In 1776, now a Lieutenant Colonel, Moylan served as Washington’s aide-de-camp, following which he was named quartermaster general. Being responsible for animal forage, supply lines, shelter, food, wagons, and draft animals proved too much for Moylan, particularly after the loss of supplies following the Battle of Brooklyn.

  • In 1777, he was ordered to organize and outfit the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment, later renamed the 4th Continental Light Regiment of Dragoons. The well armed unit recruited from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia was well armed with pistols, sabers, and a carbine between a musket and pistol in length. Moylan’s Horse’s original uniforms were red-coats captured at Saratoga and covered by green capes.

  • In addition to gathering intelligence, scouting, flanking columns, raiding enemy posts, supporting supply lines, Moylan’s Horse provided shock value against ground troops.

  • After participating in the battles of Princeton and Brooklyn, Moylan was found not guilty of insubordination to General Pulaski. This was followed by Moylan’s involvement in the Battle of Brandywine, and the protection of the encampment at Valley Forge.

  • In ‘78, Moylan succeeded Pulaski as Commander of the Cavalry and fought at Monmouth.

  • In 1779, he saw action at Norwalk.

  • In ‘80, his cavalry fought at Springfield and Bull Ferry’s New Jersey.

  • In 1781, he participated at Yorktown and in the Southern Campaign before ill health forced him to retire. Moylan was named a brevet brigadier general in ’83, and major general of Pennsylvania’s Militia in ’96.

  • Reelected president of the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick in ’96, Moylan was buried in Philadelphia’s Saint Mary’s Churchyard in 1811.

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Tags: America, Cork, Revolutionary, War


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