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Covenanter Presbyterians in America

In our book, “The Rifle and the Rose,” the main characters in the book were Covenanter Presbyterians and today lay buried in the Covenanter Cemetery on Walnut Ridge outside Salem in Washington County, Indiana, and a family cemetery on a plantation outside Richburg in Chester County, South Carolina.

Many readers may ask themselves, “Who were the Covenanters?” The answer would be plain and simple. They were Scottish and Irish Americans whose ancestors migrated to America in the latter 1600s and the 1700s. Most were farmers and plantation owners in the South, and many were impoverished Scots and Irish who were sold on the auction block as debtors and prisoners by the English Crown.

These Scottish and Irish debtors and prisoners in English jails were sold as slaves in the English colonies in America, the Caribbean Islands controlled by England, Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania. There have been many movies made about this situation including Cecil B. DeMille’s movie, “Unconquered,” with Gary Cooper and Paulette Goddard, and Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, “Under Capricorn,” with Joseph Cotten and Ingrid Bergman. There is even a swashbuckler movie with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland called “Captain Blood” that touches on this treatment of the Scots and Irish by the English in the 1600s and 1700s.

It is no wonder that the American Scottish and Irish Covenanter Presbyterian Church members were the most vocal agitators for independence from Great Britain and volunteered in very large numbers as soldiers in the Revolutionary Continental Army of George Washington and later in the War of 1812, the United States’ second War of Independence. The Covenanter Presbyterian Church in America in 1800 voted unanimously to outlaw slave holding among its members, and instead they gave blacks their freedom and share cropped with them or paid them as hired hands on their farms and plantations. These free blacks in America were called freedmen.

The Covenanters and the Quakers in America even enthusiastically participated in the “Underground Railroad” to assist runaway slaves in their quest for freedom in the North and Canada.

In our book, “The Rifle and the Rose,” we noted that many of the soldiers who fought against the British in the War of 1812 were black freedmen and native American Indians as well as Covenanter Presbyterians, and in particular a freedman who was a major hero in General Andrew Jackson’s army that demolished the British army at the Battle of New Orleans!

The Scots and the Irish who were sold into slavery in America as well as the free migrant Covenanters who came to America retained their deep desire for freedom and individualism to a point that reflected their nature and desire for education and knowledge, particularly history, which is a bulwark of freedom!

This centuries-old quest of the Scots and Irish for freedom and responsibility is reflected in their traditions and especially in their wedding ceremonies and household duties. But that is another story for another time!


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