Sunday, 28 April 2013

Tim Murphy - Rifleman

Timothy Murphy, was an American Revolutionary War hero and was the most famous marksman of his day. He served with distinction on the frontier, and then with famed General Daniel Morgan as a rifleman. Murphy was said to be responsible for one of the turning points of the Revolutionary War.

It was October 7, 1777 and a heavily Scots-Irish contingent of the Continental Army was advancing on the British soldiers in the second battle of Saratoga.  British Brigadier General Simon Fraser, in charge of 2,000 men, was attempting to rally his harried troops. In a tree, 300 yards away, sat Timothy Murphy, a sharpshooter in the 1st Continental Regiment, also known as The Kentucky Riflemen, under the command of Colonel Daniel Morgan.

Murphy took aim at General Fraser with his Kentucky long rifle and fired off four shots — the first barely missed, the second went through the General's horse's mane, and the third hit General Fraser in the stomach, knocking him off his horse. Sir Francis Clarke, British General John Burgoyne's aide, rode out onto the battlefield to deliver a message. Murphy's fourth shot felled Clarke, killing him instantly.

the mainly Scotch-Irish riflemen at Saratoga

Murphy's fatal shots directly resulted in Burgoyne's demoralizing surrender of his entire army, an event unheard of in the annals of British military history. General Burgoyne was reported to have told Colonel Morgan, "Your Scotch-Irish rifles are the finest in the world".

Little is known about the early life of Timothy Murphy other than the fact he was born in the vicinity of the Delaware Water Gap in 1751 to Ulster Presbyterian emigrants from Donegal. 
Many of the soldiers who served the patriot cause throughout the war were Ulstermen from the western frontiers of the colonies so it is not surprising that Tim Murphy found himself with the Northern army.

by Roy F. Chandler

In his book 'Timothy Murphy - Rifleman', Roy Chandler claims that Murphy was born William Baskins. During an Indian raid on his family's homestead when he was three years old William's father was killed and he, along with his mother and sister (aged seven) were taken by the raiding party. The family was split up and young William  was adopted by the Iroquois Indians. A few years later he was brought under the tutelage of Sir William Johnson, an English gentlemen who's job was to keep the peace between colonists and natives. On learning the boy had been abducted from an area of Scots-Irish settlement Johnson decided to call the boy Timothy Murphy. 

Murphy's grave marker

While dedicating a new grave monument to Murphy in 1926 Franklin D. Roosevelt said:
"This country has been made by Timothy Murphys, the men in the ranks. Conditions here called for the qualities of the heart and head that Tim Murphy had in abundance. Our histories should tell us more of the men in the ranks, for it was to them, more than to the generals, that we were indebted for our military victories."

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