Allan McLane: Continental Officer

Allan McLane was born in Philadelphia in 1746 to Allan McLean or Maclean who had arrived in America from the Isle of Coll, Scotland, in 1738. His father was a merchant in Philadelphia and later Wilmington, DE. His upbringing was quite aristocratic since he was able to tour Europe and visiting relatives in Scotland in 1767-1769. Allan himself settled near Smyrna in 1774 to begin a trading business. He changed his name to McLane in July of 1775 "to avoid confusion with that renegade Scot serving the Hanoverian King" he wrote! Around the same time, his father passed away, leaving the son with property valued at more than $15,000.

Allan fought as a volunteer at Great Bridge, VA in December of 1775, Norfolk in January of 1776 and served in Washington's army in New York under commission of September 11, 1775 as Lieutenant and Adjutant of Caesar Rodney's militia regiment. He captured a British patrol at Long Island on August 27, 1776.

He was involved at White Plains, Trenton and promoted for gallantry on January 3, 1777 at Princeton. A few days later he joined the "Additional Continental Regiments" with Col. John Patton. He saw action at Cooch's Bridge and Brandywine.

After Brandywine he was detached to raise a company of his own in Delaware.

Supposedly, he used his entire personal fortune to fund the equipage and payment of his regiment.

At Germantown, McLane served as the advance guard of the main column under the Commander in Chief. He was commissioned to screen the army as it prepared to make quarters for the winter at Valley Forge. December 3, 1777 he warned George Washington of a large scale party from Philadelphia which enable the successful defense of the men at White Marsh a few days later.

McLane and his men were so successful at Valley Forge in harassing the enemy convoys and foraging parties that they were given the nickname "market stoppers."

During the first couple of months in 1778, they gathered livestock from Delaware and Maryland for the troops at Valley Forge as well as Smallwood's troops located at Wilmington. McLane rejoined the army with about 100 to 150 mounted men — who were also supplemented on occasion by 50 Oneida Indians.

On May 19, 1778, as the Mischianza was ending up in Philadelphia, McLane's company, with support from a company of dragoons had red-eyed redcoats running to repel an fake attack simulated at the enemy's outpost. The men were dropping iron pots full of gunpowder and scrap metal from their galloping steeds along the line of the British outposts. His scouts aided in detecting the British "surprise" at Barren Hill with Lafayette. He narrowly escaped and ambush on June 8, and may even be the first American to enter Philadelphia after the evacuation of the British on the 18th.

McLane was very wary of Benedict Arnold's loyalties and he went to Washington to inform him of some of his profiteering soon after Arnold took command of Philadelphia. Arnold's treason actually occurred a year later, so he may have been a bit premature — although instinctive. Washington gave McLane a stinging rebuke for his pains nonetheless.

At Monmouth, McLane and his company operated with Dickinson's militia. In later reorganization McLane's command was made a part of the Delaware Regiment December 16 and by July 13 1779 he was attached to the "Partisan Corps" under Henry Lee.

He was heavily involved with action at Stony Point and later Paulus Hook. Lee and McLane developed difficulties in working together, so Washington solved the tension by sending McLane to reinforce Lincoln down in Charleston, South Carolina. He just missed being captured when the city was taken, and fell under the command of von Stueben instead. There he was promoted to Major.

After returning north, he left Philadelphia in 1781 to accompany messages for the Comte de Grasse to leave the West Indies to support Washington and Rochembeau. The return voyage found McLane in command of the privateer "Congress."

They captured the sloop, the "Savage." His commission during the Yorktown Campaign was to scout New York City from Long Island and keep the Commander in Chief informed on whether the British were detaching troops to aid Cornwallis in the south. McLane left the army on December 31, 1781. Some records are confused as to his rank and retirement.

McLane had given away his personal fortune. He entered a mercantile business venture with Robert Morris. In 1789 he was appointed a marshal of Delaware and became a collector for the port of Delaware in 1797. He held that post until his death in 1829. He was politically active in Delaware. During the War of 1812, and at the age of 68, he commanded the defenses of Wilmington.

Three of his fourteen children survived past infancy.

Courtesy National Center for the American Revolution/Valley Forge Historical Society

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