The Jacob Milligan Story

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Captain Jacob Milligan - American Patriot - 1747 - 1796

Notes on Jacob Milligan

Compiled in 1969 by Lester Milligan of NY and Florence Milligan of Charleston SC

(Correction - these early notes did not have the correct birth and death years, they are listed above, for for the sake of making the original available it is reprinted below as originally shared.)

  From "The Milligan Family History", March 1969 by Lester S. Milligan:

 Occasionally we wonder who our ancestors were and from what sort of people we descended.  My grandfather, William Milligan (1844-1911) was one to keep a diary and record such information.  A distant cousin in Charleston SC, Miss Florence E. Milligan, is another such person who takes pride in her family name and has furnished a great deal of the history and lineage back to the American Revolution.  My Uncle William also furnished information, together with my Aunt Bessie and cousin Albertina (Mrs. Jordan).

 By referring to the chart or Tree, you will see that we start with the revolutionary hero Captain Jacob Milligan.  We do not know that he was the first to come to this country, but we do know that our source is in Scotland where many Milligans are recorded in the permanent war memorial in Edinburgh with the Seaforth, Southerland and Argyle Highlanders.

 Captain Jacob can best be described by quoting from Carolina history.  There are several pages and numerous references furnished by Florence Milligan.  I will attempt to summarize them.

On the 28th of June 1776 a fleet of British ships under Sir Peter Parker attacked Ft. Sullivan (now Ft. Moultrie) in Charleston harbor.  Being unfamiliar with the waters, three of them ran aground.  Two were able to get free but the frigate Actaeon was hard aground the next morning.  There was a fleet of small boats called gallies operated by the Americans that were suitable for use in shallow coastal waters.  Now from Dr. Joseph Johnson's Traditions and Reminiscences,

 Charleston 1851, pp. 114-116, says "the gallies proved to be very useful in guarding the coast and inland trade, at that time constantly going on. One of them was that commanded by Jacob Milligan, a very brave, active man who kept a watchful eye over the movements of the enemy.  During the interval between the arrival of Sir Peter Parker's fleet and their attack on Ft. Moultrie, an active partizan warfare was kept up by the flotilla commanded by Whipple, Tufts, Milligan and others.  Some firing from then took place almost every day.  On the morning after the battle of Ft. Moultrie the gallies, or rather their boats, under the command of Milligan, aided by volunteers, among whom were Captain William Hall and Captain George Warren Cross, boarded the Actaeon frigate, while she lay grounded on the shoal where Ft. Sumter now stands.  The crew of the frigate seeing the movement, set fire to her and escaped in their boats.  Our flotilla took the flag and the bell and other movables.  Milligan then turned the guns of the frigate against the other British vessels, fired on them, and left the guns loaded and pointed so as to be discharged against them when the fire approaching would ignite the powder."

And again we have from THE HISTORY OF SOUTH CAROLINA by Edward McGrady:  McMillan Co. NY, pp 159-160....."When the morning of the 29th of June broke upon the scene the Actaeon lay fast ashore.  The garrison at Fort Moultrie fired a few shots at the Acteon, which were promptly and gallantly returned from her by Captain Atkins, when to prevent her from falling into the hands of the Americans, he set fire to her, taking off her crew in small boats, leaving her colors flying and her guns loaded.  But this did not prevent a party under Lieutenant Jacob Milligan of the Carolina ship of War Prosper from boarding her while on fire.  This party pointed and fired three of her guns at the British commodore, and stripping her of what the pressing moments permitted brought off her colors, ship's bell, and as much of her sails and stores as his boats could contain.  Milligan had scarcely done this when the Actaeon blew up with an awful explosion"

NOTE:  Jacob Milligan was made Captain as a result of the Actaeon engagement and was referred to as Captain in several other history books of which there are seven that refer to this action.  Capt Jacob was also a member of the reception committee of 13 members who met George Washington when he visited Charleston about April 27, 1781. 

There are several more history books with similar accounts of the Actaeon.  The British took Charleston in 1780 and held it until the following....(from Dr. Johnson's Reminiscences.....)  "Milligan had by this time left the service and taken command of a privateer, with which he cruised, very successfully, in the West Indies.  He captured many British vessels, took them into Spanish ports, but from the want of responsibility of Spanish agents at the time, or from some other cause, he did not appear to have profited by his adventures.  Milligan was captured in the schooner Margery, his privateer, on the 21st May, 1778, by the ship Levant of 28 guns when off the coast of Georgia.  He lost everything that he was worth, but thought that he got off very well, in not being confined in the British prison ship.  Capt. Martin of the Levant treated him very civilly, and put him on shore at Bloddy Point, on parole.  As soon as Milligan could be exchanged, he went on privateering, but returned to Charleston a little before the siege, and was again put in command of one of the State armed vessels. 

While in command of this vessel, a suitable quantity of powder was delivered to him for her stores and use when occasion should arise. Milligan stored the powder in the arch under the west portico of the Exchange, and converted it into a magazine.  It was stipulated in the surrender that all the arms and ammunition in the garrison should be delivered up to the British authorities; but this did not set well with Milligan's stomach, and instead of doing so, he took out the doors and frames of the magazine, and boarded up all the open spaces, so that the charge could not be discovered.  When the Americans retook the city, Milligan went to look for his powder; it appeared to be just as he left it, But had become damp from the dampness of the closed vault, and was totally ruined.  Milligan, however, consoled himself by saying that the devil might have it rather that the British.  (Footnote:   The Acts of the Provincial Revolutionary Houses of Assembly with the records of the State were secreted and preserved in the same vault.)  Milligan was made the Harbor Master after the revolution, and continued in office, I believe, to the end of his life."

Lester Milligan footnote:  "While working in England, I visited the war memorial in Edinburgh, where the names of many Milligans are listed that fought and died in the Highland regiments, Seaforth, Argyle, etc.  Our forefathers were Scottish"



Our common ancestor, Jacob Milligan, was no common man.  He was a member of the American Navy, rising to the rank of Captain, in the service of his country during the Revolutionary war period. He was the first cousin to Brig. Major Keating Simons I (by marriage) who was the aide of Gen. Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox.

Milligan served as owner of the Intelligence Office, Harbor Master of Charleston SC, compiler of the first Charleston City Directory 1790.  In 1792 he was recognized in the State Gazette of South Carolina (Charleston) as "received the unanimous thanks of the legislature, for his efforts to save the city during the dreadful conflagration in 1778".  He is most noted for his heroic action in the Battle of Sullivan's Island at the beginning of the revolution. During this important battle, Jacob was noted in the history books for a heroic action and given the rank of Captain (prior to this he was a Lieutenant) for his heroism.  He was one of 13 to meet with President George Washington during his southern tour visit to Charleston in 1791.













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