Irish-Born Edward Hand Is Appointed a Brigadier General in the Continental Army

  • April 1, 1776

Edward Hand (31 December 1744 – 3 September 1802) was an Irish soldier, physician, and politician who served in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, rising to the rank of general, and later was a member of several Pennsylvania governmental bodies.

Hand was born in Clyduff, King’s County (now County Offaly), Ireland, on 31 December 1744, and was baptised in Shinrone. His father was John Hand.

Hand earned a medical certificate from Trinity College, Dublin. In 1767, Hand enlisted as a Surgeon’s Mate in the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot. On 20 May 1767, he sailed with the regiment from Cobh, Cork, Ireland, arriving at Philadelphia on 11 July 1767. In 1772, he was commissioned an ensign. He marched with the regiment to Fort Pitt, on the forks of the Ohio River, returning to Philadelphia in 1774, where he resigned his commission.

In 1774, Hand moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he practiced medicine. On 13 March 1775, he married Katherine Ewing (born 25 March 1751 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). Lancaster was the region of some of the earliest Irish and Scots-Irish settlements in Pennsylvania. Hand was active in forming the Lancaster County Associators, a colonial militia.

Hand entered the Continental Army in 1775 as a lieutenant colonel in the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment under Colonel William Thompson. He was promoted to colonel in 1776 and placed in command of the 1st Continental (then designated the 1st Pennsylvania).

Promoted to brigadier general in March 1777, he served as the commander of Fort Pitt, fighting British loyalists and their Indian allies. He was recalled, after over two years at Fort Pitt, to serve as a brigade commander in Major General La Fayette’s division.