Moylan, Stephen

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Moylan, Stephen

MOYLAN, STEPHEN. (1737–1811). Continental officer. Ireland and Pennsylvania. Born in Cork in 1737, Moylan was the son of a prosperous Catholic merchant. Following in his father's trade, he too became a widely traveled merchant before settling in Philadelphia in 1768. On the recommendation of a friend, John Dickinson, he became muster-master general of the Continental army on 11 August 1775. He joined General George Washington at Cambridge, where his duties included the fitting-out of privateers. On 5 March 1776 he became secretary to Washington, and on 5 June Congress elected him quartermaster general, with the rank of colonel. He succeeded Thomas Mifflin in this new post.

Moylan was not successful as quartermaster general, although it must be pointed out that his difficulties were virtually insurmountable. Washington blamed him for failing to get more of the army's matérial away from Long Island and New York City during the American army's retreat in the summer of 1776. Moylan resigned as quartermaster general on 28 September 1776, and Mifflin was reappointed to the post. Moylan remained on Washington's staff as a volunteer, however, and served with distinction in the victory at Princeton on 3 January 1777. He responded to a request from Washington to raise a mounted regiment, which started as a Pennsylvania volunteer unit, the First Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment. This later became the Fourth Continental Dragoons. Moylan was commissioned colonel of this unit on 5 January, an assignment he held for the rest of the war.

Casimir Pulaski's appointment as over-all cavalry commander on 21 September 1777 raised problems of cooperation that came to a head in the next month. Acquitted of court-martial charges pressed by Pulaski in October, Moylan spent the winter at Valley Forge and became temporary commander of the four mounted regiments when Pulaski resigned this post in March 1778. For the next three years he served on the Hudson River and in Connecticut, taking part in the battle of Monmouth on 28 June 1778. He also participated in Anthony Wayne's expedition to Bull's Ferry, New Jersey in July 1780 and the Southern campaign of 1780 and 1781. After Charles Cornwallis surrendered in the name of the British forces, Moylan's health forced him to return to Philadelphia. He was brevetted as a brigadier general on 3 November 1783, the date he left the army. After the war Moylan again became a merchant. Washington appointed him commissioner of loans in Philadelphia in 1793. He died in Philadelphia on 11 April, 1811.

SEE ALSO Mifflin, Thomas; Monmouth, New Jersey; Princeton, New Jersey.


Griffin, Martin I. J. Stephen Moylan: Muster-Master General, Secretary and Aide-de-Camp to Washington. Philadelphia: printed for the author, 1909.

                              revised by Michael Bellesiles