In 2013 the Ulster Historical Foundation was commissioned by the Ministerial Advisory Group – Ulster Scots Academy to carry out research into the contribution of Ulster Presbyterian exiles of the 1798 period to political thought in the United States of America. The project was delivered by the Foundation’s team of researchers – Dr Peter Gilmore in Pennsylvania and Trevor Parkhill and Dr William Roulston in Belfast – working in archives and libraries on both sides of the Atlantic.

The research findings were broken down into four principal sections. First of all, introductory essays looked at eighteenth-century migration from Ulster to America and provided an overview of the 1798 Presbyterian exiles in the context of the Irish diaspora in the United States and the shaping of American politics. The second section comprised a series of studies of particular individuals, including David Bailie Warden, John Neilson and James Dinsmore, master builders, Rev. John Glendy, Rev. Thomas Ledlie Birch and Alexander Porter of Louisiana.

Exiles of 98 cover reduced

The third section explored the collective experiences of certain groups in more detail, among them the clergy of the Secession Church and Reformed Presbyterian Church. The fourth section took the form of a ‘Directory’ of Ulster exiles, providing short biographical sketches and brief notices of individuals from Ulster who are known to have left for the United States between c. 1794 and c. 1810 for political reasons linked to their involvement in the United Irishmen and/or the 1798 Rebellion. A final chapter was titled ‘Some Concluding Observations on the Ulster Exiles of ’98’

Subsequently, additional funding was provided to transform the research findings into a book, Exiles of ’98: Ulster Presbyterians and the United States, which was published in 2018. The front cover illustration is of the commemorative jug, now in the custody of Ballymoney Museum, which was commissioned in memory of a local Presbyterian, John Nevin, who died in exile in Tennessee in 1806.

The back cover photograph, reproduced here, is of Summerville Cemetery in Augusta, Georgia, showing the burial place of James Bones, a Presbyterian exile from County Antrim. The inscription on his tombstone records that he ‘took an active part in the unsuccessful struggle for the independence of his native land in the year 1798’.