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Allan Mclane Unknown Hero Of The Revolution
Dashing fighter, daring scout, this romantic trooper played a large part in Washington’s triumph at Yorktown
October 1956 | Volume 7, Issue 6
Actually, the action was a desperate one, raging from 10:30 A.M. to 2:45 P.M. before the Savage surrendered. It was one of the rare instances in which a privateer stood up successfully to a ship of the Royal Navy. The Congress was more powerful, mounting 24 guns to the Savage ’s 16, but what impressed the British skipper even more than the weight of her great guns was the deadliness of her small arms fire. McLane, as a captain of marines, was directing this, and even when the ships drifted into positions where the carriage guns would not bear, “musquetry and pistols still did execution,” the British captain later reported. Finally, with the Savage ’s rigging cut to pieces, her quarter-deck and forecastle swept clear of men, the British skipper struck his colors.
Delayed by this battle and the Congress ” privateering cruise, McLane didn’t get back to the war on land until September, when he found Washington’s troops moving south for the encirclement at Yorktown. He promptly joined them and fought until Cornwallis capitulated. Shortly afterwards, McLane retired from the army, noting in his journal that he had “Received nothing but abuses and Insults from the people then in power as a reward for his sacrifices and faithful services from 1775.”
War’s end found McLane with his once comfortable patrimony swallowed up by debts he had incurred in the patriot cause. He engaged in a trading venture with Robert Morris on the Delaware and in 1797 became collector for the port of Wilmington, a post he retained until his death on May 29, 1829. During his long and ever-active life, he held many public positions, and in the War of 1812 he had command of the defenses of Wilmington. In 1814, when the British captured Washington, McLane was on the scene as an observer. Then 68 and unequal to such feats as he had performed in the winter of Valley Forge, his spirit was still as fierce, as unconquerable—and as critical—as ever. In a sulfurous memorandum the old war horse passed this judgment on the capital’s defenders:
“All was confusion—nothing like spirit—nothing like subordination—universal complaint for want of food, the Militia going off in every direction to seek it. … I most religiously believe, that if I had been at the head of 300 men, such as I led in the attack on Paulus Hook … I should have defeated Genl Ross, when he pressed Genl Winder over the Eastern Branch.” The words of an old fighter to whom the past is even more glorious in recollection than it was in deed? One cannot know, but can only be sure that, to Allan McLane, all things were possible.