Men Of The Revolution: 15. Frederick Mackenzie

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As military history is customarily reckoned, Frederick Mackenzie was not a figure of much significance in the American Revolution. Yet he deserves a higher place in those annals for the understanding of the conflict he bequeathed to succeeding generations. Even on those rare occasions when his lines betray a trace of chauvinism, Mackenzie is invariably interesting. At a time when the rebel cause was at low ebb, during the demoralizing retreat across New Jersey, Mackenzie was preoccupied with the dilemma of the American command, a command that might soon have no men left in the ranks. Fascinated by the problem, he came to the rather unusual conclusion that the only sure, reliable troops Washington could count on were the former Europeans—Irishmen in particular. These fellows, he believed, were “much better able to go through the fatigues of a Campaign, and live in the manner they at present do, than the Americans.” Mackenzie knew his Irishmen, and he judged their tenacity and fighting spirit as far superior to those of the average American. They would, he said, fight “for the sake of a present subsistence, Clothing, & plunder; and the prospect of acquiring some property, and becoming men of some consequence, in case they are successful.” All things considered, it is not a bad description of rank-and-file revolutionists, then and now.