First of all, thank you Lance for starting this thread, which is long overdue considering that this substantial portion of all the American A.G.F. participants are of Scots-Irish origin
Also, the very history of the Scots-Irish race---starting with their rough origins up in Scotland around the time of Christ, through the Middle Ages till the hard fought Wars of Independence, from the ferocious and incessant border conflicts with their Northern English neighbors till the "rough Wooing" of the 1540's, and from the 17th century Ulster Plantations all the way till their journey to the pristine and majestic American frontier all along the Appalachian Mountain chain back throughout much of the 18th century--- is this subject that never ceases to fascinate and amaze me!
Here's this recent book review of mine on James Webb's eloquent and poignant masterpiece, which he entitled "Born Fighting, How the Scots-Irish shaped America," that I wrote for Goodreads roughly 6 weeks ago (please let me know whether or not you found this review well written and compelling, for it should tell you just about everything that you need to know about the Scots-Irish and their outstanding, far-reaching and superhuman achievements
Taylor Ahern rated this book 5 stars.
Born Fighting is simply spectacular, eye-opening & quite revealing in all the various details, larger-than-life personalities & historical events that are woven together within James Webb's splendid, very eloquent masterpiece that thoroughly documents the entire history of the Scots-Irish race. It also fully details how their American off-shoots helped shape & transform the very fabric of not only working class America yet also how they defined the very ethos of our military system & our uniquely populist form of Democratic government. It's quite the read!
For it's no doubt this beautiful ode to the mainly Celtic Scots of the previous 2000 years, as it reveals the turbulent history of the Picts (this race of Celts/stone age tribes who were the ferocious & far-off ancestors of the modern day Scots-Irish)---and how they basically halted the encroaching Roman legions by engaging them in these savage & constant battles.
Because the blue-painted Picts were so wildly persistent the Romans were forced to build Hadrian's Wall in AD 122, this direct result of all those fierce & frequent Pictish raids. It eventually became this symbolic dividing line between two civilizations, and to its immediate north the Picts & all those who came after began to further develop this rather haphazard & clannish society formed from the "bottom up," this unique and populist orientated system that would soon come to define their hardy race.
Yes, those Pictish madmen could fight real well, were very tenacious & quite dexterous with blade weapons, would eat the bark off of trees, & they would rather die in battle than contemplate surrender of any kind (for the Romans had to place close to 10,000 troops along the entire 73 miles of that Wall to keep them out
, as the Wall itself was 15 feet high and 10 feet thick!).
Then Sen. Webb makes this brief mention of all the Irish migrations to Western Scotland throughout the 400's & 500's (when those restless Irish tribes first encountered & gradually intermingled with the long established, previously unconquered Picts!), and how Scotland took its name from all those formidable & vigorous Irish raiders, or Scotti, that spread their powerful influence all along the Western half of Scotland.
He also makes mention of the original British Celts of Northern England, & how that tribe moved north & mixed in with the Picts & the Irish (which only added on to the strong Celtic flavor of Scotland's southwest region, for both the Irish/Picts shared many of the same Celtic/stone age genes with those British tribes!).
Lower Scotland was also invaded by other races, such as the aggressive Germanic Anglo-Saxons, who settled in the southeast part of the country throughout the 600's (for it was the warlike Angles that oozed across the border and conquered that region, yet they were defeated by this formidable military confederation of Irish and Picts in 685 at the ferocious and hard fought Battle of Nechtansmere!), along with this sprinkling of Norse-Viking settlements that dotted the coast. Then after 1066 the French speaking Normans (who also had much Celtic blood!) began migrating north and established this rather small, yet powerful presence, as they eventually came to comprise much of the nobility of Medieval Scotland.
Though the Norse & many of the Normans gradually became fully absorbed by the older inhabitants, adding on to lower Scotland's racial diversity. So Scotland, especially the Lowlands, became this vibrant melting pot of various races that slowly & inexorably, after many battles and conflicts, cohered into one people, proving that Scotland was "born fighting."
Though despite all that mixing & absorbing the older Celtic & stone age elements were, & are, still quite pre-eminent & prevalent (for those modern day Scots-Irish tribes in Appalachia, racially and genetically speaking, have more in common with the ancient Picts than they do those Anglo-Saxon settlers that invaded lower Scotland in the early 600's!).
Then Born Fighting weaves this bloody & fascinating course through the rest of the middle ages till the pivotal & hard won Scottish victory at Bannockburn in 1314. That was where something like 10,000 Scottish Lowlanders & Highlanders that were fighting together, & who were finely arrayed in their remarkably cohesive & deadly Schiltron formations, defeated roughly 30,000 highly trained & superbly equipped English & Welsh soldiers, mainly through the brutal rigors of vicious hand-to-hand combat!
Moreover, at Bannockburn such merciless close-quarter fighting basically featured these 12 foot Scottish spears being thrust against these 8 foot English bills, along with many ax-hacking Scotsmen & these mounted, sword slashing English knights going at it. Also, those furiously jabbing & indefatigable Scots proved themselves to be the finest & most fearsome soldiers on the planet as they drove off & humiliated King Edward the 2nd's once vaunted and redoubtable Army
. It was quite the feat of arms!
He also goes into some detail on the mind-set & complex motivations of King Robert the Bruce, the man who rallied & led the viciously inspired, hard-charging Scots into battle at Bannockburn (this dramatic & decisive Scottish victory that has powerfully resonated down through the ages till late 18th century America, where the hard-bitten descendants of those early 14th century Scottish warriors basically won the American Revolution through their awesome combat prowess which seemed to be deeply embedded into their DNA, & in which those early Americans drew much inspiration from that long ago Scottish victory achieved by their patriotic forebears!).
Born Fighting also mentions some of the various English & Scottish armed struggles & clashes along the border of each nation till it weaves its way through the seminal Protestant Reformation of the early 1500's (when they began to leave the Catholic Church in droves & adopt the radical theories & ideals of Calvinism!) all the way through the "rough wooing" of Henry the 8th in the 1540's---in which he attempted to subdue the Scots
---till the Ulster Plantation of 1610, which was launched at the behest of James the 1rst of England (who was originally James the 6th of Scotland until 1603.), & which decided the fate of Northern Ireland for the next four centuries.
Though Born Fighting is by far & away dedicated to those sturdy Scots that reside in the Lowlands of that sublime country, those tribes & clans that eagerly followed the magnetic & physically powerful Willaim Wallace into battle back between 1297-1305, as they fought for Scotland's freedom & right to rule itself. James Webb also writes about the surprising Scottish victory at Stirling Bridge in 1297, while going into graphic detail concerning Wallace's capture & sadistic dismemberment 8 years later, which was carried out with the express intent of thoroughly frightening & intimidating the Scots into total submission & subservience. No such chance!
Furthermore, James Webb brilliantly documents the rough religious transition that the Scottish Lowlanders made from pure Catholic doctrine to these new and unprecedented Calvinist policies (as they completely shed their Catholic skin!) during the first half of the 16th century, and how John Knox, this born rebel & ferociously dedicated iconoclast, led that paradigm busting, far-reaching transition from one religious concept to another, more open notion of worship. It was also during that particular time that all the regional religious bodies/organizations found throughout the Scottish Lowlands, which were called the Kirk, became more deeply entrenched & viable, as every congregation began choosing their religious leaders rather than accepting these priests that were appointed from above, as had been the case during the previous generations.
For the very code & sacred belief that was embraced by the great majority of Lowlanders at that time was that no one could lead without the consent of the common people, whether it be in civic, military or church affairs, and the various Feudal lords, high Scottish nobility & religious authorities of that time and of the preceding generations had never really been able to penetrate to the very core of the clan systems, beyond the leaders. For the regular people were far more prone to follow their immediate tribal leaders rather than bending a knee to those at the very top, for according to the common people of the clans those at the very top were subject to their approval & consent.
So in a sense Scotland was formed from the "bottom up," this concept where the people, through the powers granted them by the Kirk, all came together within the clans to choose their leaders, who in turn represented the people of their respective clans & demanded accountability, respect & freedom from those at the very top. For the dynamic Scottish Kirk & the "bottom up" ideal were quite radical for their times, as each concept represented this primitive strain of Democracy in this embryonic form, & such notions of people power would come to symbolize the Scottish Lowlands before it was transplanted to the bloody fields of Ulster in the early 1600's.
For Born Fighting also highlights & describes the flight and fierce exertions of those extremely hardy & rugged Lowlanders that made their way across the Irish sea to the bloodstained battlegrounds of Ulster in the early 1600's, where they and their feisty off-spring established these formidable Presbyterian communities & military forts throughout the 17th century and which still stand till this very day. The various achievements of those Scottish folk, mostly farmers & merchants, were quite impressive to say the least.
For those poverty-stricken, clannish Scots were sent by their King, James the 1rst of England, in 1610 to settle, farm, pacify & hold down the rebellious & volatile Ulster region of N. Ireland, where the land was more conducive to proper agricultural cultivation than over in lower Scotland, which was quite barren. Those frugal & adventurous Scots were also renowned for their outstanding military skills & readiness, which would soon come in handy, & they were much more reliable & resilient than all other British Protestants back then.
Also, as had been the case over in the Scottish Lowlands along the border with England, as they were often engaged in constant battle with their slightly less aggressive Northern English neighbors for centuries (and who were in many ways kind of like their cross border cousins!), that new breed of Ulster settlers had to invariably maintain their vigilance & often fight off these repeated attacks from their enraged & utterly savage native Irish foes
, who inadvertently made the Ulster Scots even tougher & better prepared for battle.
Also, the very term "No Surrender" can trace its illustrious genesis to the terrible & trying siege of Londonderry back in 1689 (though it began on December 7th of 1688!), at the start of the Williamite Wars of 1688-1691. That was where the mainly Scottish Protestant settlers (for they deeply cherished their faith!) held out for months behind the formidable walls of that venerated city against the besieging, overwhelming Catholic forces, which devastated the city through cutting it off from resupply and rescue, & by this furious bombardment that levelled most of the buildings & certainly battered morale. Yet the ever indomitable Scots held on & prevailed, as they gave this new & fresh meaning to that sacred & glorious term of "No Surrender!"
James Webb than goes on to chart the course of the eventual migration of those famously irrepressible Ulster Scots to the wild & untamed frontier of the American colonies throughout much of the 18th century, from the 1720's till right before the start of the Revolution in 1775. Though it was the absurdly repressive "Test Acts" that were enacted at the behest of Queen Ann in 1703 (which prevented non-Anglican Protestants from holding any official positions of power & responsibility in government.) along with the draconian & unfair "rack renting" of their usually absentee English landlords that drove them there in the first place, along with much drought & famine.
For once in America those fiery & ferociously independent "pioneers and radicals" established themselves as this force to be reckoned with, as they mostly gravitated to the far, unsettled wilderness of the American frontier---all along the Appalachian Mountain range, from the very edge of Western Pennsylvannia & down along the spine of Virginia, the Carolina backwoods & much of Georgia---in order to establish these effective buffer zones so as to protect the mostly English and German settlements & coastal cities against these surprise & sudden Indian attacks (also, they were usually too poor to live anywhere else save the frontier).
Then he goes on to fully detail & trace how those deeply religious, yet practical & tough-as-nails, Scots-Irish settled within the wilderness & established these solid, log cabin communities, in the process becoming these wild & uncontrollable problem children while solidifying & embracing their own peculiar cultural traits that they brought over from Ulster (and which were brought over from the Scottish Lowlands 4 to 7 generations previously!) & which had been germinating & taking root for the previous 20 or so centuries.
Quite the feat, for those mostly Celtic/stone age Scots-Irish always held true to their ancient & revered traditions (yet as I've already stated they were comprised of many races!). They also became widely renowned & feared as these highly effective and superbly trained Indian fighters who not only held down the fort, so to say, they kept pushing ever westward, plunging into the wilderness, clearing the forests and incorporating these altogether new techniques into their fine repertoire of battle skills (like engaging in stealth warfare and fighting with tomahawks
Moreover, once war broke out between Britain and the American colonies they soon became the very impetus behind, and backbone of, the American Revolution, as those patriotic & warlike Ulster Scots provided Washington with up to half his fighting men at certain times during that protracted struggle (during the brutal Winter of Valley Forge in 1777, as James Webb points out, it was Washington's unbreakable Scots-Irish, Irish & Scottish elements that remained fervently loyal to the cause and flat-out refused to desert when most others lost heart & quit!). They were also the best, toughest & fiercest fighters that the Americans had at their disposal, as the unbending Scots-Irish derived much of their considerable combat valor & resiliency from their far-off Ulster & Scottish ancestors, who would be proud of their tenacious American off-spring
Furthermore, James Webb goes into great detail concerning that race's vitally important contribution to the embryonic American political system & how the vigorous Scots-Irish spread their rather irresistible and contagious influence throughout the ever expanding American frontier, pushing ever westward and producing the likes of Davy Crocket, Daniel Boone, Sam Houston, and this assortment of other charismatic and larger-than-life characters that helped define, epitomize and symbolize the very image and perception of the early American and his place in the World. Though it was the Hero of the Battle of New Orleans, our 7th President, that made the deepest & most far-reaching impression.
For his chapter that is dedicated solely to President Andrew Jackson---aka "Old Hickory"---should no doubt inspire, educate, empower & arouse any buried hopes & aspirations of anyone searching for this genuine hero & powerful role model who stood up to the entrenched elites & privileged few of this world & who in the process triumphed against all odds & this extremely daunting adversity that would have certainly cowed many others (he was this orphan by 13, &, as James Webb makes clear, by the time he became President he had to stand against much of the long established Federal system virtually alone!).
Andrew Jackson was the man, and he was the first true populist leader in American history that stood up for the little guy & gave the proletariat this firm & solid voice that generated these long festering social & cultural waves that basically transformed the American political system in many ways, & for the better. Jackson was the quintessential Scots-Irishmen, that's for sure, and he never backed down from a fight or a challenge (as James Webb makes quite clear!)!
Yes, Born Fighting is this great, exciting & unforgettable read that will take you on this remarkable & illuminating journey throughout the vast cultural, social and political landscapes of early Scotland (where the crazy & unbridled Picts reigned supreme!) and the Scottish Lowlands of the middle ages (which was dominated largely by the exploits, unmatched leadership and respective legends of both William Wallace and Robert the Bruce!).
Also, James Webb continues to write with great skill & clarity about that famously incendiary & surging region and how it was from the early 1400's till the late 1500's, when the Scottish Lowlands were going through many momentous changes, much political upheaval & these various evolutions that often entailed this effusion of blood spattered violence, before he goes into the 17th century Ulster migrations & settlements that forever changed the character of N. Ireland.
Once again, he describes with vivid detail the mass exodus of that race to the 18th century American frontier, as James Webb writes about their various experiences through much of the 19th century till this day (he also highlights the very heavy Scots-Irish contribution to the Southern cause during the A.C.W., and on how they made up the bulk of the Confederate forces and in the process of fighting this rightfully perceived invasion from outside forces sustained this God-awful casualty rate unsurpassed in modern military history while engaging in this furious and reckless "Celtic War!"
For Sen. Webb provides the reader with this brilliant, magnificently researched, finely detailed, well balanced and ceaselessly eloquent rendering of this exceptionally courageous, persistent, fiercely independent, unapologetically anti-aristocratic (for they've always been this continuous thorn in the side of all elites!), populist, deeply religious, individualistic, outspoken and proudly warlike race of people.
The bloody and fascinating history of the Scots-Irish race, which has rarely been delved into, is fully presented by the author, as it's also filled with many moving accounts and personal reflections that stir the soul, bring about some sadness and lift the spirit in so many ways.
Moreover, their undeniable contribution to---and hard-hitting impact upon---the cultural and social underpinnings of ancient Scotland, Northern Ireland and the U.S.A., especially in the American South and Appalachian Mountains, is vividly and beautifully revealed, often in this flowing and easy-to-follow prose (also, the South is where many of the Scots-Irish settled, farmed and planted their genetical and cultural seeds before they dispersed far and wide and spread their appealing customs and rock-solid beliefs).
Born Fighting will no doubt rivet your undivided attention, as it's this often poignant, sweeping, utterly mesmerizing, very well written and wonderfully insightful read that will further amplify and expand upon the overall historical context from which the often invisible, yet profoundly important, Scots-Irish people arose from. For they eventually became the most reliably patriotic and indomitable element of the American population, fighting all of our wars with much enthusiasm and bravery, as the book's scholarly author James Webb---this larger-than-life, yet truly selfless and humble, American hero/highly decorated Vietnam veteran
---will gladly attest to.
For James Webb is this proud member of that powerfully influential, viscerally driven and divinely ordained race that has always---and will continue to---carry and wave the banner of American populism and democracy, even if it means giving their sacred lives in the process of defending such sublime and noble ideals! Scots-Irish #1!
Well, there you have it, this broad review of the definitive and fascinating history (as written down by the ceaselessly dedicated and brilliant Senator James Webb!) of the Scots-Irish race and all their remarkable accomplishments, trials and tribulations over in Scotland since the dawn of Christ, up in 17th century Ulster and all throughout America since the early 18th century---(where they were irrefutably instrumental and totally pivotal in expanding and defending the frontier of colonial America, as they were at the forefront and the cutting edge of that unrelenting westward expansion into the great wide unknown American Continent, whereby they eventually became known and famous as the prototypical embodiment of the "Western" and, inevitably, the "American" type!). "Born Fighting" is this great read indeed, and tough to put down