Edward Hand

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Edward Hand
Edward Hand (NYPL b12349196-420212) (detail).jpg
Born(1744-12-31)31 December 1744
Clyduff, King's County, Ireland
Died3 September 1802(1802-09-03) (aged 57)-->
Rock Ford, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
St. James's Episcopal Cemetery
Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Allegiance United Kingdom of Great Britain
United States United States
Service/branchFlag of the British Army.svg British Army
Continental Army
RankMajor General
UnitRoyal Irish Regiment
Commands held1st Pennsylvania Regiment
Battles/warsSiege of Yorktown

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.

Early life and career[edit]

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. Among his immediate neighbours were the Kearney family, ancestors of U.S. President Barack Obama.[1] He was a descendant of either the families of Mag Fhlaithimh (of south Ulaidh and Mide) or Ó Flaithimhín (of the Síol Muireadaigh) who, through mistranslation (Flaithimh/Flaithimhín into Láimhín; laimh = hand), became Lavin or Hand.[2]

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 Catherine Ewing (born 25 March 1751 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). Lancaster was the region of some of the earliest Irish and Scots-Irish settlements in Pennsylvania; as a people, they were well known for their anti-English and revolutionary convictions. Hand was active in forming the Lancaster County Associators, a colonial militia.

Hand was a 32nd degree Freemason, belonging to the Montgomery Military Lodge number 14.

American Revolution[edit]

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).[3] 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.

Letter from General Edward Hand,1779

In 1778, Hand attacked the Lenape, killing Captain Pipe's mother, brother, and a few of his children during a military campaign.[4] Failing to distinguish among the Native American groups, Hand had attacked the neutral Lenape while trying to reduce the Indian threat to settlers in the Ohio Country, because other tribes, such as the Shawnee, had allied with the British.

After a few months, he was appointed Adjutant General of the Continental Army and served during the siege of Yorktown in that capacity. In recognition of his long and distinguished service, he was, in September 1783, promoted by brevet to major general. He resigned from the Army in November 1783.

He was an original member of the Society of the Cincinnati.[5]

After the Revolution[edit]

Hand returned to Lancaster and resumed the practice of medicine. A Federalist, Hand was active in civil affairs, holding posts that included:

Beginning in 1785, he owned and operated Rock Ford plantation, a 177-acre (0.72 km2) farm on the banks of the Conestoga River, one mile (1.6 km) south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Georgian brick mansion remains today; the farm is a historic site open to the public. Hand is suspected to have died from typhoid, dysentery or pneumonia at Rock Ford in 1802. Medical records are unclear, but some sources state Hand died of cholera. There is no evidence Lancaster County suffered from a cholera epidemic in 1802. Hand is buried in St. James's Episcopal Cemetery in Lancaster, the same church where he had served as a deacon.


  1. ^ Shinrone: birthplace and resting place of Obama’s Irish ancestors
  2. ^ Irish Ancestors/Surnames (search "Lavin")
  3. ^ Hannum, Patrick H. "America's First Company Commanders". Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  4. ^ "Konieschquanoheel", Ohio History Central: An Online Encyclopedia of Ohio History, 1999-2011, accessed 29 January 2011
  5. ^ "The Society of the Cincinnati". www.societyofthecincinnati.org.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Alexander Scammel
Adjutant Generals of the U. S. Army
8 January 1781 – 3 November 1783
Succeeded by
William North