Welcome to Finding the Maryland 400



The American stand led by Lord Stirling at the Battle of Brooklyn, which included the men of the Maryland 400. Detail, Battle of Long Island, by Alonzo Chappell (1858)

Welcome to Finding the Maryland 400, an effort to discover and explore the lives and stories of Maryland’s first war heroes, led by the Maryland State Archives in partnership with the Maryland Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Raised in early 1776, the First Maryland Regiment joined the rest of the American troops that made up the Continental Army in New York City in August, on the eve of the Battle of Brooklyn. That battle, also called the Battle of Long Island, was the first major engagement of the war, and was an overwhelming British victory. Only the heroic stand by a small group of Marylanders–now known as the Maryland 400–held the British at bay long enough to allow the Continental Army to escape total destruction, at the cost of many Maryland lives.

Learn more about the Marylanders at the Battle of Brooklyn, beginning with the British landing on Long Island a few days before the battle, and moving forward.

There are many ways you can learn more about the First Maryland Regiment:

You may support this project through a donation to the Friends of the Maryland State Archives; indicate “Maryland 400″ under Additional Comments. If you have questions or suggestions, please get in touch with us at msamaryland400@gmail.com.

Scroll down to read our latest posts!

The Last Will and Testament of Edward Sinclair

As a sergeant in the Fifth Company during the Battle of Brooklyn, Edward Sinclair was among those men who heroically covered the retreat of the Continental Army, thus saving the American forces from destruction.[1]


Edward Sinclair’s will. Click to view the entire image.

Little is known about the life or service of Sinclair following his participation at the Battle of Brooklyn, but he did leave behind a will which provides some insight. In early October of 1776, Sinclair was moved to write his will in light of “the uncertainty of human life.”[2] The timing of his will was significant, coming after the disaster in Brooklyn, and the ever looming presence of the British Army.

Sinclair’s ominous outlook however, did not prevent him from reenlisting in late 1776 or early 1777. It is likely that Sinclair died while serving at the Continental Army’s Middlebrook encampment in New Jersey in early January of 1779.

To read more about Edward Sinclair, check out his biography here.


[1] To read more about the experience of the Fifth Company at the Battle of Brooklyn see “The Fate of the Fifth Company,” on the Finding the Maryland 400 blog.

[2] BALTIMORE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Wills, Original) 1778-1780, MdHR 8892-16-1 [MSA C437-19, 2/33/08/015].

Francis Reveley: Insults and Injury

Francis Reveley, the subject of our most recent biography, served the entirety of the Revolutionary war, beginning in 1776, when he enlisted as a sergeant in Nathaniel Ramsey’s Fifth Company. It was there that Reveley saw action at the Battle of Brooklyn, earning him a place of honor among the Maryland 400. In February of 1777, Reveley received a commission and reenlisted as a second lieutenant. By the conclusion of the war, Reveley had risen to the rank of captain.

While Reveley’s war time service is well documented, there is very little information on Reveley following the war aside from a few anecdotes. One in particular is quite riveting. On Saturday June 9, 1787, Reveley became engaged in a confrontation with a man named William Thomson in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Although we do not know the specifics of the dispute, Reveley believed himself “injured by some publications and assertions of Mr. Thomson,” and met Thomson at a town store to confront him.

The altercation turned violent when Reveley took a horse whip to Thomson. Thomson threatened Reveley with a pistol and “lodged the contents of the pistol in[to] his[Reveley’s] breast.” Reveley was initially believed to have been mortally wounded, but later reporting indicated that he was “in a hopeful way of recovery.”[1] Thomson was immediately arrested. Subsequent to his release, Thomson was involved in another duel later that fall in which he “had his arm taken off.”[2]

To read more about Francis Reveley, check out his biography here.


[1] “Fredericksburg, June 13,” Maryland Chronicle, July 4, 1787.

[2] “Fredericksburg, Sept.13,” Pennsylvania Packet, September 24, 1787.

John Brady: Sergeant Turned Fifer

On this day in 1776, the First Maryland Regiment began its trip to New York. Among the men leaving from Baltimore was John Brady, the subject of our most recent biography.

Like many noncommissioned officers, there is little known about John Brady other than what is found in his military service records. Brady served through the entire Revolutionary War. Brady began his service as a sergeant in Nathaniel Ramsey’s Fifth Company where he saw action at the Battle of Brooklyn.[1] During his time of service, Brady moved back and forth between the ranks, spending much of his time as a fifer.[2] By the conclusion of the war, he had resumed the position of sergeant.

Following the war, Brady was awarded fifty acres of bounty land in Western Maryland near the border of modern day West Virginia, which he never claimed.[3] While there were several John Bradys in the Baltimore and surrounding areas, there is not enough evidence to provide a clear indication as to which man was the John Brady who earned a place among the heroic Maryland 400 at the Battle of Brooklyn.[4]

To read more about the military service of John Brady, check out his biography here.



[1] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 369 (hereafter cited as AOMOL vol. 18)

[2] John Brady, Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, 0399, fold3.

[3] LAND OFFICE (Military Lot Plats) 1787-1935, Map of Military Lots, Tracts, and Escheats, MdHR 50,823 [MSA S451-1, OR/04/18/000]; COMMISSIONERS FOR RESERVE LAND WESTWARD OF FORT CUMBERLAND (Bounty Land Soldiers) 1789,MdHR 17,301-1 [MSA S162-1, 01/27/01/031]; LAND OFFICE (Lots Westward of Fort Cumberland) 1793-1903, p. 140, MdHR 17,302 [MSA SE1-1].

[4] There was a John Brady of Baltimore serving in the artillery during the Revolutionary War who died in 1784. This is not the same John Brady whose biography is written above. BALTIMORE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Wills) Will of John Brady,1784, Box 19, Folder 10, MdHR 8892-19-10 [MSA C437-23, 2/33/8/17]; AOMOL vol. 18, p. 564, 567, 569, 574, 579, 582, and 583; John Brady Matross Second/Third Maryland Artillery, Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, 0408, fold3; John Mullin, Cornelius William Stafford, and William Fry, The Baltimore City Directory for 1799 (Baltimore: Warner & Hanna, 1799), 9.

Persistence is Key: Petitions of John Gassaway

John Gassaway, of the prominent Gassaway family in Anne Arundel County, was a tenacious man whose persistence served him well both during and after the Revolutionary War. As soon as it became evident that the colonists were going to war with Britain for American independence, Gassaway applied for a commission, which he did not receive. Undeterred, Gassaway enlisted in Smallwood’s Regiment as a sergeant, and petitioned the Convention again for a commission in May of 1776.


Gassaway’s petition for a military commission. Click to view the entire image.

We have, in the Archives collection of Maryland State Papers, Gassaway’s second petition for a military commission. In his letter to the Convention, Gassaway attributed his lack of previous appointment to “being a little stranger to the Majority of the Delegates,” and his consequent “want of friends to mediate on…[his] behalf.” Gassaway pointed to his current enlistment as testimony of his devotion to the American cause, while pushing for a promotion to a commissioned officer stating,

Alas there are now two vacancies in the Companies here in Baltimore for Promotion. I hope you will Endeavor to put me in one of them… you sir are well acquainted with my father and family and I am sure you can use a great deal of influence with the Council of Safety to promote me. Pray do not forget me. [1]

Gassaway’s persistence was rewarded with a commission as an ensign in the newly formed Flying Camp in June 1776. Gassaway went on to serve in Ramsey’s Fifth Company at the Battle of Brooklyn, earning him a place of distinction among the heroic Maryland 400.

After the conclusion of the Revolutionary War in 1783, John Gassaway returned to Maryland where he worked for a time under his older half-brother Thomas Gassaway, who was Register of Wills in Anne Arundel County. Upon Thomas’s death, John Gassaway petitioned the House of Delegates for appointment as Register of Wills. John was not a resident of Anne Arundel County at the time, which should have made him ineligible for the position, but this did not deter him in the least. Upon being informed that his lack of residency made him ineligible, Gassaway replied, rather presumptuously,

I was informed that the honorable Council were of [the] opinion that I was ineligible for want of residence in this county… I cannot think myself ineligible when all circumstances come to be fully considered.[2]

Gassaway also noted that, “I have not the least wish to [discount] the …services of the Gentleman who is my competition for the office, nor to put myself in comparison with him, [but] my character for integrity is unimpeached.”

In countering objections to his appointment, Gassaway attempted to strengthen his petition by arguing that his motives were of the highest moral caliber. In his petition, Gassaway stated,

I was not urged to ask the appointment from a desire to promote my own interest…more powerful motives influenced my conduct. My Brother has left behind him a Widow and six helpless children without any means for their support and my intention was to apply a great part of the [income] of the office to their maintenance.

Just as he did in his application for a military commission, Gassaway ended his letter to the House of Delegates with dramatic flare, stating “The bread of the widows and orphans depend on your [the House of Delegates] decision.”

Whether for this reason of others, John Gassaway was appointed Register of Wills in Anne Arundel County, a position he would hold from 1787 to his death in 1820. Gassaway’s undaunted persistence and tenacity served him well, resulting in both his military commission during the Revolutionary War and his appointment as Register of Wills in Anne Arundel County later in life.

For more information on the life of John Gassaway see his recently created biography here.



[1] MARYLAND STATE PAPERS (Series A) Application for Military Commission, May 6, 1776, MdHR 6636-2-35 [MSA S1004-2-565, 1/7/3/25].

[2] MARYLAND STATE PAPERS (Red Books) Gassaway to the House of Delegates, November 19, 1787, MdHR 4602 [MSA S989-46, 1/6/4/34].

David Plunket: A Radical Rebel

As Second Lieutenant of the Fifth Maryland Regiment at the time of the Battle of Brooklyn, David Plunket fought bravely and resolutely amidst heavy cannon and mortar fire to hold off the British Army, while the body of the Continental Army retreated to safety, thus earning himself a place of honor as one of the Maryland 400. From early on Plunket championed American independence and republican ideology. His involvement in radical politics began in 1774, when he joined Mordecai Gist’s Baltimore Independent Cadets, foreshadowing his later involvement in the Whig Club in Baltimore. As a member of the Baltimore Independent Cadets it is likely that Plunket participated in the infamous burning of the Peggy Stewart, in which a ship carrying over 2,000 pounds of smuggled tea was burned in the Annapolis harbor.[1]

Regular readers of Finding the Maryland 400 will be familiar with the Whig Club in Baltimore, the radical para-police organization who, with the silent support of the Committee of Observation, combated toryism in Baltimore. Unsurprisingly, several officers from the First Maryland Regiment were members of the Whig Club including Nathaniel Ramsey and David Plunket of the Fifth Company.[2]

David Plunket joined the Whig Club in June of 1777, shortly after its founding, while he was in the area recruiting for Moylan’s Fourth Continental Dragoons. Following his resignation in 1779, Plunket was involved in a mob attack on William Goddard, which was organized by the Whig Club. Goddard, co-owner and publicist of the Maryland Journal caught the ire of the Whig club when he refused to supply the name of the author referred to as Tom-Tell-Truth.[3] The Whig club believed that this author, and by extension Goddard, was proliferating a subversive Tory agenda. Goddard was dragged from his house by six men “with positive orders to use force if required,” and compelled to stand trial before the club.[4] Goddard was found guilty of crimes against the American cause and sentenced to banishment by the club.

David Plunket was a staunch believer in American independence and later the Federalist Party. Both before and after the Revolution he was involved in radical organizations which supported these causes. His continued unwavering support of American nationalism earned him various minor offices and appointments in the 1780’s and early 1790’s, which he held until his death.

For a deeper look into the life of David Plunket, check out his recently posted bio.


[1] Daniel Blattau, “Mordecia Gist,” Archives of Maryland: Biographical Series, last modified August 13, 2013.

[2] Charles G. Steffen, The Mechanics of Baltimore: Working and Politics in the Age of Revolution, 1763-1812 (Chicago: University of Illinois, 1984), 67.

[3] William Goddard, “The Prowess of the Whig Club” (Baltimore: printed for the author, 1777), 4-5.

[4] Goddard, 6.


The Fate of the Fifth Company

As mentioned in my last post, I am researching the lives of soldiers who fought in the Fifth Company at the Battle of Brooklyn. We have several accounts of the battle by members of the Fifth Company and other members of the Maryland Regiment. These accounts contain vivid descriptions of the retreat at the battle, which gives invaluable insight into the challenges faced by the heroic soldiers of the Maryland 400.

A mixture of inaccurate intelligence reports, a misjudgment of British troop strength, and ineffective troop deployment in preparation for the Battle of Brooklyn proved almost fatal for the entire Continental Army. At three o’clock in the morning on August 27, 1776, the British attack began with a frontal assault in which the Marylanders engaged in “a pretty severe fight with Jagers [Hessians].”[1] Following this initial act of aggression, the frontal assault by the British came to a halt, giving a sense of relief to the American troops.

"A plan of New York Island, with part of Long Island, Staten Island & east New Jersey, with a particular description of the engagement on the woody heights of Long Island, between Flatbush and Brooklyn, on the 27th of August 1776 between His Majesty's forces commanded by General Howe and the Americans under Major General Putnam, shewing also the landing of the British Army on New-York Island, and the taking of the city of New-York &c. on the 15th of September following, with the subsequent disposition of both the armies." William Fadden, 1776. Image from the Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

“A plan of New York Island, with part of Long Island, Staten Island & east New Jersey, with a particular description of the engagement on the woody heights of Long Island, between Flatbush and Brooklyn, on the 27th of August 1776 between His Majesty’s forces commanded by General Howe and the Americans under Major General Putnam, shewing also the landing of the British Army on New-York Island, and the taking of the city of New-York &c. on the 15th of September following, with the subsequent disposition of both the armies.” William Fadden, 1776. Image from the Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

Their relief however, was short lived. This attack was a diversionary tactic to draw American focus away from the approaching British Army. Under the cover of darkness on the night of August 26, the British had moved 10,000 troops into position to flank the American troops using the unprotected Jamaica Road.[2] Soon after the British stopped their frontal attack, the body of the British Army flanked the American left, attacking the Continental Army in the rear. The Maryland troops positioned on the right of the American wing “were surrounded by Healanders [Highlanders] on one side, [and] Hessians on the other.”[3] Taken by surprise by the British use of “a route we never dreamed of [being used],” General John Sullivan’s line broke almost immediately.[4] Seeing this, General Stirling ordered an immediate retreat. Quickly organizing two of his best regiments, the First Maryland and Delaware Continentals, General Stirling led six successive thrusts against the advancing British troops enabling the body of the Continental Army to retreat.[5] Sustaining heavy cannon and mortar fire every “now and then taking off a head,” the men of Maryland and Delaware stood “coolly and resolutely,” while they followed orders to hold their fire until the British were within fifty yards.[6] The Marylanders fought with “more than Roman courage,” in the face of an enemy whose force far outnumbered their own.[7] Such a display of courage prompted the exclamation “Good God! What brave fellows I must this day lose!,” from General Washington who stood watching the battle unfold.[8]

Stirling’s troops held off the British advance long enough for the body of the Continental Army to successfully retreat before falling back themselves. While retreating, the Maryland Regiment, led by the Fifth Company, was ambushed by an advanced company of British troops. Out of the woods “a British officer appeared, as if alone, and waved his hat,” in apparent surrender.[9] As the Maryland troops approached, the officer “clapped his hands three times,” and an entire company rose and fired.[10] Captain Nathaniel Ramsey and Lieutenant David Plunket of the Fifth Company “were foremost within forty yards of the enemy’s muzzles,” during the ambush.[11] Neither was hit since most of the fire overshot the retreating soldiers. An anonymous soldier from the Fifth Company recounted that he “had the satisfaction of dropping one of them [a British soldier] the first fire I made.”[12] Generals Stirling and Sullivan were both taken captive as their men forced their way towards Gowanus Creek. There the companies divided.

The Third, Fourth, Sixth, Ninth, and Seventh Independent Companies temporarily drove back the British troops, giving the First, Second, Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth Companies time to wade through the swamp. Ramsey’s six foot three inch frame which made him “a fine Mark for a shot,” as far as his family was concerned, saved him from drowning while crossing the swamp.[13] Ramsey had “happened to take so deep a part [of the swamp] that he was obliged to hold up his chin to keep the water from running into his mouth.”[14] James Peale, Ramsey’s brother-in-law who also successfully escaped through the swamp, lost his shoes in the process.[15] Captain Samuel Smith of the Eighth Company led his troops through the swamp. With the help of one of his sergeants, Smith heroically “swam over and got two slabs [of wood] into the water, on the ends of which they ferried over all who could not swim.”[16] In the process of crossing the Gowanus Creek three men from the Maryland companies drowned and one was shot.[17]

The Third, Fourth, Sixth, Ninth, and Seventh Independent Companies skirted the edge of the swamp as opposed to risking drowning in the swamp.[18] Blocked from rejoining the body of the Continental Army by General Cornwallis’s troops, the remaining companies were forced to engage the enemy in one last stand at the Old Stone House and sustained severe casualties as a result. The bravery and sacrifice shown by the Maryland 400 saved the Continental Army from demolition at the Battle of Brooklyn and helped to earn Maryland the title the “Old Line State.”


[1] Letter, William McMillan to “Secretary of Treasury,” ca. October 1828, Pension of William McMillan, National Archives and Records Administration, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, S 2806, 33-35.

[2] David Hackett Fischer, Washington’s Crossing (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 95.

[3] Pension of William McMillan, 33-35.

[4] Extract of a letter from New-York: Account of the battle on Long-Island, September 1, 1776, American Archives Online, Series 5, vol. 2, 107.

[5] Ross M. Kimmel “In Perspective: William Smallwood,” (Maryland: Smallwood Foundation, Inc., 2000), 8.

[6] Extract of a letter from New-York: Account of the battle on Long-Island, 107.

[7] Extract of a letter from New-York: Account of the battle on Long-Island, 107.

[8] Fischer, 95.

[9] “A Sketch of the Life of General Samuel Smith During the War of the Revolution,” 1834, Samuel Smith Papers, Library of Congress, Box 7, Reel 5. Maryland State Archives, Special Collections MSA SC 3958, SCM 5993-1. Published as “The Papers of General Samuel Smith. The General’s Autobiography. From the Original Manuscripts.” The Historical Magazine, 2nd Ser., Vol. VIII, no. 2, 82.

[10]Autobiography of Samuel Smith 82.

[11] Extract of a letter from New-York: Account of the battle on Long-Island, 108.

[12] Extract of a letter from New-York: Account of the battle on Long-Island, 108.

[13] Charles Willson Peale, The Autobiography of Charles Willson Peale, vol. 5 of The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family, ed Lillian B. Miller and Sidney Hart (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 200), 123.

[14] Peale,123.

[15] Peale, 123.

[16] Autobiography of Samuel Smith 83.

[17] Mark Andrew Tacyn “’ To the End:’ The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 59.

[18] Tacyn, 56.

Taira’s Introduction

Hello Readers,

My name is Taira Sullivan and I am this summer’s intern for the Finding the Maryland 400 project. I am a senior History major at Washington College in Chestertown, MD. While I enjoy studying history in its entirety, I have always had a special interest in American history. As a Maryland native, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to explore Maryland’s role in the Revolutionary War through researching the lives of individuals who were part of the First Maryland Regiment.

This summer I will be to conducting further research on the lives of those individuals who served in the Fifth Company. Previous research conducted by former interns Emily, Jeff, and Daniel worked to create a cohesive picture of who the Maryland 400 were as a group and explored in depth the Marylanders’ involvement in the Battle of Brooklyn. At the Battle of Brooklyn on August 27, 1776, the entire Continental Army came under threat when the army was badly routed. Of the companies covering the retreat, the Fifth Company was among those who were able to cross the swampy Gowanus Creek and rejoin the body of the Continental Army. The remaining companies were forced to skirt the swamp and make one last stand at Old Stone House suffering severe casualties in the process. Without the bravery shown by the Maryland 400 it is likely that the Continental Army would have been demolished.

The names of forty-one men from the Fifth Company are currently known. Approximately thirty soldiers remain to be identified. This summer I will be furthering this research through writing biographies for known members of the Fifth Company and, if possible, determining the names of those unknown. Biographies of some members of the company including Captain Nathaniel Ramsey, First Lieutenant Levin Winder, and James Marle have already been completed. My goal this summer is to research and create comprehensive biographies for the remaining soldiers of the Fifth Company to establish a more comprehensive picture of what happened to individual Marylanders who served at the Battle of Brooklyn.

During the summer of 2013 I interned at the United States Naval Academy Museum here in Annapolis. While there I worked extensively with the collections, notably a chest of personal and military correspondence spanning the entirety of the life of Rear Admiral Ludlow Case, who served with distinction during the Civil War. I have experience deciphering and reading early 19th century handwriting as a result of this work, which I believe will aid immensely in my research for Finding the Maryland 400.

Revolutionary Veterans VI: The Long and Eventful Life of William McMillan

Regular readers of Finding the Maryland 400 will already know about William McMillan. As a 20 year old sergeant at the Battle of Brooklyn, McMillan survived a battle where “My captain was killed, first lieutenant was killed, second lieutenant shot through the hand, two sergeants was killed; one in front of me… two corporals killed.” McMillan was taken prisoner, along with his brother Samuel. The two later escapes from a British prison in Nova Scotia and returned to fight for the rest of the war.

McMillan’s life before and after the Revolutionary War is equally fascinating. He was a Scottish immigrant who came to America only a few years before the Revolution began, and serves as an illustration of a veteran who later migrated from the state and achieved a level of prosperity that he could have never found in Maryland.

It is unclear what status he had upon arriving in America with his brother, but neither he nor anyone else in his family owned any land between their arrival and the war. Living in Harford County, Maryland, he enlisted into the Continental Army in 1776 to fight for a country that he had only known for a few years. There is too little information to know conclusively what happened to him in the years immediately following the war, but he likely returned to Maryland for a short time before his eventual relocation. McMillan and his brother settled in western Pennsylvania, a place where land was available and easy to acquire, and he began to make a life for himself in his new home. He was successful in his pursuit; throughout the first decades of the nineteenth century, McMillan bought, sold, and traded land, something there was little opportunity to do if he had remained in Maryland.

Beginning his life in America as a tenant or an indentured servant, McMillan joined the Continental Army and had an incredible experience. He was eventually promoted to lieutenant, putting him in his first position of real authority in his life. After the war, he was unable to attain the same social significance or a desirable level of economic prosperity, so he left Maryland for a place that could offer what he desired. His move was successful, and he became prosperous through the trade of land, which in turn improved his social status.

Read William McMillan’s full biography here. His brother Samuel’s is here.

Thank you for reading about the lives of these Maryland veterans of the American Revolution! Much more new content is coming soon!

Revolutionary Veterans V: Thomas Stockett Brewer of Annapolis

Thomas Stockett Brewer also remained in his home state after the war. Brewer hailed from Anne Arundel County and likely lived in Annapolis before the war, where he was surrounded by patriotic sentiment. He likely worked as an apprentice or servant early in his life to learn the craft of shoemaking, but he came of age just in time to enter his community as it was filled with other craftsmen who could do the same work. Seeing these conditions, Brewer enlisted and fought in the Revolutionary War. A man with little means, he joined the army and fought in the Revolution from 1776 to 1780, when he was discharged.

Returning to his home, Brewer was able to purchase a small tract of land in the state capital and worked as a shoemaker. He eventually acquired the rights to a somewhat larger lot in Annapolis, and he likely spent the rest of his life there with his family. Like Leonard Watkins, Brewer was not especially successful after the war. However, neither was he a complete failure or burdened by severe debt.

Brewer illustrates what likely was the norm for the veterans remaining in Maryland. They did not have the success of the men who migrated from the state, but they also did not suffer the severe consequences that could result from the move. There was more opportunity for him upon his return home, but he still remained near the bottom of the social order throughout his life. He had more success than in his pre-war life, but he remained in the lower class.

Read Thomas Stockett Brewer’s full biography here.

Next: William McMillan