Welcome to Finding the Maryland 400


The stand of the Maryland 400 at the Battle of Brooklyn.
Detail, Alonzo Chappel, The Battle of Long Island, 1858, oil on canvas; M1986.29.1. Brooklyn Historical Society.

Welcome to Finding the Maryland 400, a website dedicated to Maryland’s first Revolutionary War soldiers, who saved the Continental Army in 1776.

This project is a partnership between the Maryland State Archives and the Maryland Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, studying the First Maryland Regiment. At the Battle of Brooklyn (also called the Battle of Long Island), the heroic stand of the “Maryland 400” held back the British Army, allowing the rest of the Americans to escape total destruction, at the cost of many Maryland lives.

You can learn more about the lives of these soldiers, their military service, and their communities by:

Please support this project through a donation to the Friends of the Maryland State Archives; indicate “Maryland 400” under Additional Comments. You may also join the Maryland SAR’s Honorary Regiment.

If you have questions or suggestions, please get in touch with us at msamaryland400@gmail.com.

Scroll down to read our latest posts!

Posted in Maryland 400

Rebel Quakers: The Struggle Between Faith and Liberty

Last week, I began researching Richard Besswick, a private in the First Maryland Regiment and a member of the Maryland 400. In the course of my search for information about his life, I came across the will of Nathan Besswick from 1778. I had a hunch that this could possibly be Richard’s father, so I went to the stacks and pulled the record to find out. Sure enough, Nathan Besswick mentioned a son named Richard who was about the same age as the Richard Besswick I was looking for. More interesting, however, was something I found at the end of the will. I almost didn’t read it, since I had already gathered all of the information that can typically be found in a will. Luckily, I did decide to read it, and what I found deepened Richard Besswick’s story significantly. Continue reading

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A Tale of Two Jeffers: How Pension Information Differentiates Revolutionary War Soldiers

The first biography I wrote for Finding the Maryland 400 covered the life of Jacob Jeffers, a soldier who served in Maryland’s Fourth Independent Company during the Battle of Brooklyn. Jeffers later served in the Second Maryland Regiment until his discharge from the service in 1780. Most of the important information used in his biography came from various muster rolls. Research derived from other sources is sometimes left out because that information cannot be connected to soldiers who served in the Maryland Line. Census information, for example, is useful for corroborating information from other sources, but is often too vague to connect to a specific soldier. There are multiple people named Jacob Jeffers in the 1790 federal census, but none of them can be definitively linked to the Fourth Independent Company. This also means that we are often able to trace the movements of more than one person through our research. My post today will discuss the history of another Jacob Jeffers who also served in the Maryland Line. [1]

Unlike the Jacob Jeffers who served in the Fourth Independent Company, this Jacob Jeffers—a free African-American Maryland soldier—applied for a federal pension as a Revolutionary War veteran. Pension applications are extremely useful in learning about a soldier’s wartime service as well as their personal life. Because of his pension, more information about this Jacob Jeffers is available than the Jacob Jeffers who served in the Fourth Independent. [2] Continue reading

Posted in Biographies, Maryland 400, Revolutionary Veterans | 2 Comments

The Nailor Connection: Descendant of Maryland 400 Veterans to Visit

On Wednesday, June 19, Debra Naylor, a descendant of Maryland 400 veterans Alexander and Nicholas Nailor, and one of her co-authors Frank Robinson will be visiting the Maryland State Archives at noon to discuss their book The Naylors of Woodborough. This book is a collection of research of the local family’s 350-year history that now serves as the primary source for Naylor information in America. One of Debra Naylor’s ancestors is a soldier that I spent the better part of a year working on – Alexander Nailor. [1]
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James’s Introduction


My name is James Schmitt and I am a recent graduate from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. I am interning with the Maryland State Archives throughout summer 2019. I will specifically be working on the Finding the Maryland 400 project as a Maryland Society Sons of the American Revolution Research Fellow.

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Jillian’s Introduction


My name is Jillian Curran and I am an intern on the Maryland 400 Project for this summer. I am originally from Kennett Square, Pennsylvania and am now a rising sophomore at Washington College, where I major in history. At school, I am involved with the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. I have worked on both the Chesapeake Heartland Project, which researches the experiences of African-Americans on the Eastern Shore, and the World War II National Home Front Project, which collects oral histories of those who lived during the conflict. I hope to continue my historical studies and one day become a museum curator or professor.

For as long as I can remember, the past has always fascinated me.

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Posted in Maryland 400 | 11 Comments

Maryland’s Senate Honors the Maryland 400

On March 7, the Maryland Senate unanimously passed a resolution honoring the First Maryland Regiment for its heroic and dedicated service during the Revolutionary War. Continue reading

Posted in Maryland 400

Happy Birthday Mordecai Gist

Although we formally celebrated the life of George Washington on President’s Day, which was on Monday, his actual birthday is today, February 22. Closer to home, today is also the birthday of Mordecai Gist, the distinguished soldier and Revolutionary leader who lead the Marylanders at the Battle of Brooklyn.

Mordecai Gist (1742/43-1792) Peter Egeli (b. 1934), after Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), 1975 MSA SC 1545-1066

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“The Ides of January:” Facing the New Year in the Continental Army

The end of the year was often an anxious time for the leaders of the Continental Army. As the end of 1780 approached, General “Mad” Anthony Wayne spoke for many when he wrote “I sincerely wish the Ides of January was come & past.”

The cause of Wayne’s “disagreeable ideas about that period” was that the soldiers’ enlistments often expired at the end of December, and there were few guarantees that they would reenlist or that they would be replaced soon—or at all. At the end of 1776, when the Continental Army had seen just one victory, at Trenton on December 26, and many months of defeat, a great many soldiers walked away when their terms ended on December 31. Continue reading

Posted in Maryland 400

The amazing story of Charles Thompson, who “agreed to enlist with the Enemy–and by that Means made his escape”

The life and career of Charles Thompson is perhaps the most remarkable that we have come across in all of our biographical research for this project. Thompson showed immense courage and determination during his time in the army. In addition, piecing together the facts about his life was possible only with the assistance of some amazing partners. We’re very fortunate that we were able to work with them to bring Thompson’s story to you. Continue reading

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Cassy’s Introduction


My name is Cassy Sottile and I am a junior at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. This fall, I will be writing biographies for the Maryland 400 project.

I am currently double majoring in English and history, with a double minor in journalism and theatre. During the academic year, I am the news editor for our college newspaper The Elm, stage manage for the theatre department, tutor history and academic skills at our campus tutoring center, and participate in the Peer Mentor program.  I am from Frederick, Maryland, though most of my family is originally from New York. Continue reading

Posted in Maryland 400 | 3 Comments