Welcome to Finding the Maryland 400

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Battleoflongisland

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 Chappel (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.

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The 240th Anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn

Late on the night of August 26, 1776, the First Maryland Regiment and the rest of the Continental Army began to cross the East River from Manhattan to Long Island. Awaiting them were some 20,000 British and Hessian soldiers.

Earlier that day, Captain Daniel Bowie had written out his will, describing what should happen “If I fall on the field of battle.” Bowie was 20 or 21, commanding a company he had joined only seven weeks earlier.

The Marylanders marched all night, until they encountered the British around sunrise. As they prepared for combat to begin, Lieutenant Joseph Butler,  was moved to consider what fate could hold for him. According to Lieutenant Joseph Ford,

[On] August 27, 1776, when Colonel Smallwood’s Regiment was drawn up on Long Island in expectation to engage with the enemy, Lieut. Joseph Butler called Ensign [sic: Lieutenant] Prall and myself out of the ranks, and desired we remember if he should be so unfortunate as to be killed that it was his desire that his brother or half brother should have his estate…He signified at the time that he did not know where his brother was, or whether he would ever apply [as beneficiary of the estate], as he had not heard from him for some time, and if he should not apply, that Miss Sarah Hall should be possessed of the whole estate…

Later that day, the Continental Army would be swept from the field in defeat. Bowie, Butler, and many other Marylanders would lie dead or dying. Word of the heroism of the Maryland 400, who sacrificed so many lives to save the American Army, was already spreading. But on August 26, all that lay in the future.


Previous commemorations of the Maryland 400:

All known Marylanders killed or captured at the Battle of Brooklyn:

The Battle of Brooklyn, as told in the words of the Maryland troops:

The troop movements of the Americans and the British before and after the Battle of Brooklyn:

The political climate of Baltimore in 1776

An illustration from 1777 drawn by British printmaker Matthew Darly. It is captioned: “Poor old England endeavoring to reclaim his American children and therefore is England marred and forced to go with a staff.” Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Baltimore Town was more than a diverse and pre-industrial port town that sat on the Patapsco River. It had numerous sentiments, ranging from the pro-revolutionary, some of which were militant in their beliefs, to support for the British Crown. This article continues the series about Baltimore Town by focusing on the town’s political climate in 1776. You can read our other posts about Baltimore during the Revolutionary War period here.

The structures governing the town’s 6,700 inhabitants included a board of commissioners which were handpicked by the general assembly in Annapolis, a development which irked Baltimoreans. [1] This was countered by a powerful alliance between merchants and mechanics on efforts for increased local independence for the town and united in the town’s Whig Club. [2] The Baltimore Whig Club was an organization fanatically dedicated to the revolutionary cause and made up of officers of the First Maryland Regiment, mechanics and merchants. Ultimately, inhabitants of Baltimore Town were allowed to vote for representatives of Baltimore County in the Convention of Maryland. [3] Demands for local independence were so strong that state elites gave the town two seats in the assembly, just like the city of Annapolis. [4]

While Baltimore was a “Whig stronghold” and the First Maryland regiment was also stationed in the town, like Annapolis, there were numerous differences. [5] Annapolis, within the rich Anne Arundel County, had a established planter gentry and served as a huge marketing center for the state’s agriculture. [6] The Revolutionary War gave the merchant community an advantage since it became a distribution center for military supplies, and an armed camp, with troops stationed in the city throughout the war. [7] By 1776, the merchants allied with the British Crown had left or were pushed out, leaving Annapolis to give determined and concentrated support to the revolutionary cause. [8]

Baltimore and Annapolis had a feud which was not healed by 1776. For instance, Baltimoreans were mad that the state assembly perceived them as a backwater village.[9] Relatively, Annapolis had a higher level of affluence than Baltimore and not only were merchants “flush with wartime profits” by the end of the war but the city’s maritime culture prospered. [10]  In this commercial and bustling port city, delegates, as part of the Convention of Maryland, met and declared that Marylanders have “no security for their lives or liberties” under the rule of the British Crown. [11]

The Whig Club, which absorbed and represented much of the pro-revolutionary sentiment, was not the only organization with same sentiment in town, or even the first. For example, the Sons of Liberty existed in the town at the same time. [12] As for the Whig Club, its activities ended in April 1777, but it became a manifestation of a new order in Baltimore and set the stage for the post-war environment.

In 1775, the precursor to the club was created by town mechanics. These mechanics were skilled laborers in the clothing, construction, food, and shipbuilding trades. [13] The group was called the Baltimore Mechanical Volunteers. It was the descendant of the Baltimore Mechanical Company, the “closest thing that Baltimore had to representative town government” in the 1760s. [14] The Volunteers was an organization which allowed mechanics to gain confidence in themselves, “their abilities to command and their right to be heard” in the political scene in Baltimore Town. [15]

These Volunteers transformed again as the war progressed forward. In 1775, Baltimoreans proudly organized a Baltimore Mechanical Volunteer Company, a group of militia to defend the town in case of a British invasion, and many of the company’s members were mechanics themselves. [16] This not only politicized the town’s mechanics but the company provided many of the officers who later became part of the Baltimore Whig Club. [17] Later in the war, Baltimorean mechanics also fought as part of the Continental Army.

There were also sentiments favoring the British Crown despite the strong bloc of revolutionary sentiment. Even David McMechen, a member of the town’s Whig Club and a soldier in the First Maryland Regiment, wrote in 1776 that he could not “stay in such a violent place” as Baltimore since he had “too many enemies.” [18]

It is interesting that McMechen said this because in late 1776, supporters of the Crown took up arms after being harassed by the Baltimore Whig Club. [19] British supporters were pushed back until they received support from “the town’s free Negroes who offered protection in their quarters,” and they remained there until they could depart secretly and safely to New York. [20] Still, McMechen could be partially correct. In July 1776, Samuel Purviance, an eminent merchant, wrote that restrictions on trade with Britain were viewed less favorably in Baltimore County, which the town was then part of, than elsewhere. [21]

In the early months of 1777, Baltimore was shaken by disruptions to public order. On January 11, Captain Alexander Furnival complained that his soldiers, including William Grimes, had the “hard duty” of keeping guard in Baltimore Town “over the public Stores,” meaning supplies. [22] As a result, some of the local militia were used to take the place of Furnival’s men. Seven days later, the Baltimore County’s Committee of Observation ordered that the artillery companies commanded by Nathaniel Smith and Alexander Furnival, and William Galbraith’s Company of militia in the Baltimore Town Battallion be put on guard to preserve stability in the town. [23] The Committee gave these companies the duty of ending “all Riots and Tumults within the said County, or Baltimore Town” if necessary. [24] Around this same time, three soldiers of Smith’s Company, two of whom were named David Welsh and a drummer named Harry, searched the house of a wealthy merchant, who favored favoring the British Crown, named Melchior Keener. [25]

In line with the tactics used by militant revolutionaries in the town, the soldiers allegedly came in with muskets and bayonets drawn, searching the house in a “Riotous manner, and were guilty of divers irregularities.” [26] Not long after, the Council of Safety wrote to the Committee, describing the following:

“We are much concerned that we have cause again to trouble you on behalf of Melchior Keener, who hath lately been very ill used as he alleges, by some Soldiers of Capt. Nathl Smith’s  Company, and others who came without any authority or war- rant that he knows of, to search his house, and committed divers irregularities, two of the Soldiers were David Welch [or Welsh] and Harry the drummer…the Whig club…had no hand in this riot. We wrote to Capt Smith, and request you would with his assistance inquire into the affair and see that the peace is preserved. If Keener be guilty of any offence, let him be prosecuted according to law…We must observe once for all that mobbing men of doubtful principles is not the way to gain friends to the cause of America…What you tell us of the people framing a petition to Lord Howe and the Riots complained of in Baltimore Town have induced the Council of Safety to pass an order…inclosed to you and to each of the Captains.” [27]

While David Welsh’s name does not reappear in Volume 16, it is likely that he is the same as David Walsh, one of the 74 enlisted men who said they were committed to defending “libertys of the country.” [28]

Keener, president of the Baltimore Mechanical Company before the war, had experienced similar treatment. In the fall of 1776, The Whig Club had branded him a traitor and faced with their threats, Keener fulfilled their demands, returning to the town that December. Keener was not the only one threatened in this blazon manner. In March 1777, William Goddard, a well-off printer who rhetorically battled with the Whig Club, was “forcibly haled out of his own House and taken down the street to Mr. Rusk’s Tavern” by a pro-revolutionary mob. [29] The militia of William Galbraith, who were supposed to stop this, allying themselves with these militant revolutionaries, who were part of the town’s Whig Club.

In this contentious environment in Baltimore, the Continental Congress, still sitting in the town, ordered that signed copies of the Declaration of Independence be printed. These copies were printed by publisher and bookseller Mary Katherine Goddard and distributed across the thirteen colonies. The political climate in Baltimore was undoubtedly lively despite the disappearance of the Whig Club in mid-1777. For example, the mechanics, who had worked with the Whig Club, were forming a “new collective identity.” [30]

As the war continued, Baltimore Town changed with the establishment of a new political order, and gained an important economic position, which situated it well in the postwar environment.

Burkely Hermann, Maryland Society of the Sons of American Revolution Research Fellow, 2016.


Notes

[1] Charles G. Steffen, The Mechanics of Baltimore: Workers and Politics in the Age of Revolution, 1763-1812 (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 4, 10.

[2] Ibid, 11; Paul Kent Walker, ‘Business and commerce in Baltimore on the eve of independence,’ Maryland Historical Magazine Vol. 71, no. 3, fall 1976. pp. 296, 300-301; Tina M. Sheller, ‘Freeman, Servants, and Slaves: Artisans and the craft structure of Revolutionary Baltimore Town,’ American Artisans: Crafting Social Identity, 1750-1830, ed. Howard C. Rock, Paul A. Gilje and Robert Asher (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), 22-23.

[3] Robert Purviance, A Narrative of Events Which Occurred in Baltimore Town During the Revolutionary War (Baltimore: Jos. Robinson, 1849), 43.

[4] Steffen, 10-11, 72.

[5] Purviance, 61; Keith Mason, “Localism, Evangelicalism, and Loyalism: The Sources of Discontent in the Revolutionary Chesapeake.” The Journal of Southern History 56, no. 1 (1990): 24.

[6] Alice Hanson Jones. Wealth Estimates for the Southern Colonies About 1770 (Chicago: Annual Meeting of the Organization of American Historians, 1973), 34; Steffen, 9, 122; Edward C. Papenfuse. In Pursuit of Profit: The Annapolis Merchants in the Era of the American Revolution, 1763-1805 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975), 6. It is also worth noting that in 1776, there was a large amount of British-held debt in Maryland as Papenfuse notes on pages 40-41.

[7] Papenfuse, 2, 78, 80, 86, 83; Rosemary F. Williams, Maritime Annapolis: A History of Watermen, Sails & Midshipmen (London: The History Press, 2009), 24; Elihu S. Riley, “The Ancient City”: History of Annapolis, in Maryland (Annapolis: Record Printing Office, 1887), 182. On July 10th, six companies of the first regiment of Maryland troops commanded by Col. Smallwood headed up the Chesapeake Bay and were joined by three companies in the same regiment stationed in Baltimore.

[8] Papenfuse, 50-51; Williams, 88; Riley, 165.

[9] Steffen, 10, 24, 60, 63.

[10] Papenfuse, 2.

[11] “A Declaration of the Delegates of Maryland July 6,” July 7, 1776, Maryland Journal Vol. III, issue 135, Baltimore, Maryland, pp. 539.

[12] Steffen, 66.

[13] Ibid, xiii, 14, 27, 95-96, 112, 171. Most of the mechanics were propertyless. Like other laborers, mechanics were divided by class position, with some with more wealth than others.

[14] Ibid, 53-54, 57, 171.

[15] Ibid, 53. It is not known if the mechanics, rejected the “selfish principles of corrupt oligarchy” as strongly as the mechanics in the city of New York in June 1776 as noted in the Address of the Mechanics of New York City (June 14, 1776) to the Colonial Congress Principles and Acts of the Revolution in America (Reprint, ed. Hezekiah Miles, New York: A.S. Barnes & Co. Publishers, 1876), 176. In later years, the Volunteers would be a militia unit that defended Baltimore from British invasion during the War of 1812 as noted by the National Park Service, the Historical Marker Database, and other sources. There were other companies of the same name in the 1820s and 1840s. They also were well-honored enough to be mentioned in laws passed by the General Assembly in 1792, 17931797 along with laws passed in 1758, and in 1768.

[16] Ibid, 61.

[17] Ibid, 61, 63, 66, 69. Apparently, some Baltimoreans went further, taking matters into their own hands, possibly engaging in acts of violence, since they felt “pinned between a tyrannical [British] government abroad and a submissive one” in the state itself.

[18] Dunlap’s Maryland Gazette Annapolis, July 9, 1776 Vol. II, issue LXII, pp. 3. For these reasons and others, there was a new police force, made up of adult males, in Baltimore created around the same time which had night watchpersons to preserve “the good order and peace” (Clinton McCabe. History of the Baltimore Police Department (Baltimore: Allied Printers, 1907), 15-16).

[19] Ronald Hoffman, A Spirit of Dissension: Economics, Politics and the Revolution in Maryland (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973), 184.

[20] Ibid. John C. Rainbolt adds on page 435 of his “A Note on the Maryland Declaration of Rights and Constitution of 1776” (Maryland Historical Magazine Vol. 66, no. 4 (Winter 1971)) that later on in 1776 the committee pushing for independence removed a section from the Maryland bill of rights which made a declaration against the slave trade, proving that there was greater reception for newer political values than “racial and religious values of the enlightenment.” This was likely influenced by the fact that the Black community on the Eastern Shore, thanks to Dunmore’s Proclamation, allied with those favoring the British Crown, participating in an insurrection that was put down by “organized military force” (Hoffman, 184-185). As  Donald Marguand Dozer put it in Portrait of the Free State, “in Baltimore…the Whig Club assumed the authority of government and drove the Tories out of Town” (pp. 259). Other writers claim their were “battles” in Baltimore between the Whig Club and “armed loyalists” but never explain if these battles were ideological or pitched street fights (Robert J. Brugger, Maryland: A Middle Temperament, 1634 – 1980, 123).

[21] Purviance, 61.

[22] Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777 Archives of Maryland Online vol. 16, 40, 41.

[23] Heitman, 340, 505; Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777 Archives of Maryland Online vol. 16, 363, 384; Steffen, 70, 72.

[24] Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777 Archives of Maryland Online vol. 16, 58. By August of that year, there is still discussions of whether supplies can be left in Baltimore Town safely “or removed to the Fort” (Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777 Archives of Maryland Online vol. 16, 325). The worries about security in Baltimore continued to even December 1777 (Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777 Archives of Maryland Online vol. 16, 436).

[25] Steffen, 60, 69.

[26] Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777 Archives of Maryland Online vol. 16, 58.

[27] Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777 Archives of Maryland Online vol. 16, 59, 60.

[28] Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777 Archives of Maryland Online vol. 16, 73, 74. All of these men are asking to be discharged, then re-enlist a second time as long as they receive rations they need, have higher wages, and bounty “given in other Companys.” Later on, Smith said his troops were “troublesome” but he was keeping them in order (Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777 Archives of Maryland Online vol. 16, 139).

[29] Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777 Archives of Maryland Online vol. 16, 89190, 225; Steffen, 65, 70-74, 90. The tavern, where Goddard was brought to “stand trial,” was owned by David Rusk who not only was committed to pro-revolutionary sentiment and a member of the Mechanical Company (Steffen, 71-2; George Washington McCreary, The Ancient and Honorable Mechanical Company of Baltimore (Baltimore: Kohn & Polleck, 1901), 25-26). The Whig Club also had meetings in the house of Rusk, who was a member of the club at the time. Goddard bated radicals throughout the war in his newspaper. Due to this environment it isn’t surprising that the Council of Safety said that Scottish prisoners should be removed from Baltimore as soon as possible, that a jailkeeper named Thomas Dewitt was arrested, likely because he was seen as allied with the British Crown, and that there was “an Insurrection in the upper Part of that [Baltimore] County” suppressed, in part, by Andrew Buchanan (Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777 Archives of Maryland Online vol. 16, 229, 231, 246, 272, 388, 389, 390). It is important to note that Goddard is not the same as the Massachusetts printer who has the same name.

[30] Steffen, 70-71, 276. In 1800, the next organization of the mechanics dissolved and they moved into the political arena with candidates (Steffen, 172).

 

“Games of Exercise” During the American Revolution

With the Olympics in full swing, this is a good time to talk about the athletic pastimes of American soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Active campaigning took a relatively small part of the year during the American Revolution, and as a result armies had a considerable amount of downtime in camp. Since the military was made up largely of men in their 20s, sports and games were a fixture of camp life.

As is usually the case, we know the most about the leisure activities of the officer corps, and most of the sports discussed here were documented as being played by officers. It is not clear if that’s because the officers only wrote about the games they played among themselves and ignored what their subordinates did, or because the enlisted men had their own, different games.

There were plenty of ball games, which would probably seem to us similar to baseball, soccer, and football or rugby. George Washington, one observed noted, “sometimes throws and catches a ball for whole hours with his aides-de-camp.” [1] Cricket and a related game called wicket were both played in camp, as was shinny, whose rules were somewhere between field hockey and hurling. There was also a game called fives, a variant of handball. [2]

Both officers and men participated in gambling-driven sports like billiards, cock fighting, and horse racing, all popular activities in America. [3] These did not meet with universal approval from Washington (or perhaps from local citizens):

Any Officer, non Commission’d Officer, or Soldier, who shall hereafter be detected playing at Toss-up, pitch & hustle, or any other Games of chance, in, or near the Camp or Villages bordering on the encampments; shall without delay be confined and punished for disobedience of orders. …

The General does not mean by the above Order, to discourage sports of exercise and recreation, he only means to discountenance and punish Gaming. [4]

Washington knew what things his soldiers did to pass the time, and complained about men who would sit out military drills because they lacked shoes, yet “were employed at games of exercise much more violent.” [5] Jacob Plumb Martin, a private from Massachusetts, described with horror witnessing one such activity which: boxing. Martin ascribed it only to the “lowbed Europeans, especially Irishmen,” and his account of two men too drunk to actually fight,   stumbling around the ring, carries more than a hint of prejudice. [6]

Men also took part in less organized recreation, like swimming, as well as drinking and general carousing, or sometimes all three at once. General Nathaniel Greene noted in May 1776:

Complaint having been made by the Inhabitants situated near the Mill Pond that some of the Soldiers come there to go into Swiming in the open View of the Women & that they come out of the Water & run to the Houses Naked with a design to insult & wound the Modesty of Female Decency.

Blaming soldiers from Massachusetts, Greene asked “Where is the Modesty Virtue & Sobriety of the New England People for which they have been remarkable?” [7]

Service in the Continental Army was serious business. The many dangers of the battlefield paled in comparison to the illness and starvation marked camp life. Still, even amid the awful conditions of Valley Forge, the soldiers had ways of passing the time. The great Valley Forge snowball fight illustrates this. Isaac Artis, a soldier from Virginia, recalled

“a great quarrel that took place in the winter of 1778 between the Virginia and Pennsylvania troops in Consequence of Throwing snow balls which produced a General Order forbidding on pain of severe punishment any person belonging to the army throwing snow balls at each other.” [8]

If you have any experience playing any of the sports mentioned here, we’d love to hear about it in the comments!

–Owen

References:

  1. Francois Barbe-Marbois, 1779, quoted in Bonnie S. Ledbetter, “Sports and Games of the American Revolution,” Journal of Sport History 6, no. 3 (Winter 1979), 30.
  1. Ledbetter, 30-33.
  1. Ledbetter, 32-34.
  1. “General Orders, 3 October 1775,” Founders Online, National Archives.
  1.  “General Orders, 10 October 1779,” Founders Online, National Archives.
  1. Joseph Plumb Martin, Private Yankee Doodle: Being A Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier (1830; reprint, George F. Scheer, ed., 1962), 145-146.
  1.  General Orders, 18 May 1776, from “The Orderly Books of Colonel William Henshaw, October 1, 1775, through October 5, 1776,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, 57 (1947), 131.
  1. Pension of Isaac Artis, National Archives and Records Administration, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, S 39943.

A Short Fight on Hobkirk’s Hill: Surprise, Blame, and Defeat

A map showing the Battle of Hobkirk's Hill, courtesy of the University of South Florida

A map showing the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill, courtesy of the University of South Florida

At 10 or 11 o’clock in the morning of April 25, 1781, one and half miles from Camden, South Carolina, British troops advanced on Continental Army soldiers, commanded by Major General Nathaniel Greene, who were having their breakfast. The Continentals, camped on a low, but “strong and difficult,” ridge named Hobkirk’s Hill, which extended for about one thousand yards, surrounded by thick woods, and a swamp on the East, were taken by surprise. [1] The British, commanded by Lord Rawdon, had known of Greene’s movements, possibly from a deserter, or from Continentals captured during skirmishes before the battle. [2] Every person in Rawdon’s army, including drummers, was armed with a flintlock gun, including 60 dragoons, and in broad daylight, they marched, led by Irish volunteers, through the swamp and woods undetected, and reached the front of Continental lines. [3] What one North Carolina rifleman, named John Mooney, called a “short fight with…Lord Rawdon at Camden” ensued. [4]

General Greene described that the Continental Army was waiting on the hill for reinforcements, since they did not see it as practicable to storm the town. [5] Advanced regiments of his army were fired upon, with a defensive line quickly forming to repulse the British. Numerous sections of the Continental army were told to attack and advance on British flanks and hold back the British. [6] However, two companies in the Second Maryland Regiment became “disordered” and the regiment’s commander, Colonel John Gunby, gave an order to take a position in the rear, with other Marylanders following behind. [7] While both of these groups were rallying, the British gained Hobkirk’s Hill and turned the American’s flank.

During all this commotion, the Continental Army did not fare well. Numerous regiments were thrown into disarray, Captain William Beatty was killed, Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Ford was shot in the elbow and gravely wounded, and the battle turned in the favor of the British. [8] Irish volunteers pushed back the Continentals from the hill and the British pursued the army for three miles, despite the attacks of Colonel William Washington on British rear. [9] Still, this battle was not a complete defeat for the Continental Army. After all, the Continental cavalry and infantry, in the evening of April 25, charged upon the British who retreated into Camden, and the Continentals kept their artillery intact. [10]

Once the smoke cleared from the battle, which may have only lasted a mere 15 minutes, the British had succeeded in drawing the Continentals away from Camden but at high price. [11] On the British side, 258 were either killed, wounded or missing. [12]

As for the Continentals, it was a different story. The British Parliament’s Annual Register declared that by the end of the battle,

“The enemy’s killed and wounded were scattered over such an extent of ground, that their loss could not be ascertained; Lord Rawdon thinks that the estimate would be too low if it were rated at five hundred; Greene’s account makes it too low…[a] hundred prisoners were taken…a number of their men went to Camden, and claimed protection under the pretence of being deserters.” [13]

After the battle, which Sir Henry Clinton claimed as an victory for the British over General Greene, the casualties were not as severe as British estimates claimed. [14] Lord Rawdon buttressed this figure by saying that the number of Continentals killed or wounded was over 400 soldiers, while other estimates put it at 266 casualties. [15] The total number of wounded, killed, or missing of the Continental Army, during the battle was 247, with only 17 of those known to be killed, showing the British were exaggerating in saying that blood was spilled across the battlefield. [16]. The total number of casualties is nowhere near the British estimate. [17] However, if Greene is right, then the British took “200 prisoners and ten or fifteen officers” in the town itself. [18]

In the months after the battle, each army went their own way. General Greene and his forces moved to a location twelve or fourteen miles from Camden, rallying his troops and receiving reinforcements. [19] In May, Rawdon’s army abandoned Camden, burning his baggage, stores, and numerous other parts of Camden, leaving the town a “little more than a heap of ruins” as Greene put it. [20]

Greene blamed parts of his army for not giving him victory. He claimed that the Continentals had the advantage but it was squandered. [21] He specifically blamed Colonel Gunby for giving “the enemy the advantage of the day,” while admitting that the Marylanders were the “best soldiers in the field.” [22] Greene’s argument was that Gunby’s actions caused the “disorder” and didn’t allow the Continentals to defeat the British on the battlefield.

The possible reasons for the American’s defeat are numerous. The injuring of Ford and death of Beatty may have thrown their troops into disorder. [23] However, the Continental troops were already on the defensive, surprised by an open attack from the British. The Annual Register addressed this directly, saying the defeat was because of British surprise:

“This defeat was attributed by Gen. Greene to the misconduct of a part of the Maryland Regiment. This may be true. But it is plain that his army was surprised. The American discipline…is far from perfect…the facility with which Greene rallied and formed his troops under the circumstances of their surprise…sufficiently shewed him to be a brave and able officer” [24]

Gunby, as some have argued, saved the Continental Army from being routed by the British. [25] No matter who is blamed, there is no doubt that the Americans were outflanked, and that Gunby’s move was possibly modeled after a similar move at the Battle of Cowpens in January 1781, which was successful. [26] Another factor for Gunby’s direction could be that his horse was shot from under him, and the retreat of cavalry under Colonel Washington. [27]

The reason the Continental Army did not win at the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill can be continually debated. What is clear is that the Continental Army soldiers could have been “worne out with fatigue” as they were during the siege of Ninety-Six, a month or so after Hobkirk’s Hill battle. [28] However, after the battle in April, the Continentals were “in good spirits.” [29] In the following months, there was a string of victories in Southern Campaign, including at the Battle of Eutaw Springs in August, when Greene felt his army had “enough strength to again confront the British. [30] By September, the British fleet arrived and began the evacuation of Charleston, another step to the end of the Revolutionary War.

– Burkely Hermann, Maryland Society of the Sons of American Revolution Research Fellow, 2016

Notes

[1] Andrew Augustus Gunby, Colonel John Gunby of the Maryland Line: Being Some Account of His Contribution to American Liberty (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke Company, 1902), 68-69; The Annual Register or a View of the History, Politics, and Literature for the Year 1781 (London, J. Dodsley, 1782), 81-82.

[2] Chronicle of America (Mount Kisco: Chronicle Publications, 1988), 177; The Annual Register, 81.

[3] The Annual Register, 81-2

[4] Pension of John Mooney, p. 13, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, Record Group 15, Roll 1751, Pension Number R.7,306. Courtesy of Fold3.com.

[5] Letter from Nathaniel Greene to Samuel Huntington, April 27, 1781, p. 47, Letters from Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Greene, 1776-85. Papers of the Continental Congress. National Archives. NARA M247. Record Group 360. Roll pcc_418178_0001. Item number 155. Courtesy of Fold3.com.

[6] Andrew Augustus Gunby, Colonel John Gunby of the Maryland Line, 71; Letter from Nathaniel Greene to Samuel Huntington, April 27, 1781, p. 48

[7] Letter from Nathaniel Greene to Samuel Huntington, April 27, 1781, p. 47-48.

[8] Gunby, 71-72; Steven E. Siry, Greene: Revolutionary General (Washington D.C.: Potomac Books, 2006), 78; Otho Holland Williams, List of Commissioned and Captured in the Action before Camden April 25th, p. 133, Transcripts of Letters from Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Greene, 1780-82, Vol I, National Archives, NARA M247, Record Group 360, Roll pcc_217696_0001. Courtesy of Fold3.com. Other than Ford, three other Maryland officers were wounded.

[9] Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton, A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781, in the Southern Provinces of North America (Dublin: Colles, Exshaw, White, H. Whitestone, Burton, Byrne, Moore, Jones, and Dornin, 1787), 480-1; The Annual Register, 82

[10] Tarleton, A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781, 480-1; Letter from Nathaniel Greene to Samuel Huntington, April 27, 1781, p. 49-50; The Annual Register, 82.

[11] Tarleton, 475.

[12] The Annual Register, 83; Tarleton, 481.

[13] The Annual Register, 83.

[14] Report on American Manuscripts in the Royal Institution of Great Britain Vol. II (Boston: Gregg Press, 1972), 283.

[15] Tarleton, 481;Chronicle of America, 177.

[16] Otho Holland Williams, Field Return of Infantry in the Southern Army of the United States Commanded by Major General Greene accounting for the killed in the action of the 25th inst, p. 132, Transcripts of Letters from Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Greene, 1780-82, Vol I, National Archives, Papers of the Continental Congress, NARA M247, Record Group 360, Roll pcc_217696_0001. Courtesy of Fold3.com. It is possible that since the battle was apparently a short affair that the British came to the conclusion noted in the Annual Register.

[17] Otho Holland Williams, Return of cavalry and artillery casualties at Hobkirks Hill, p. 163, Letters from Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Greene, 1776-85, Vol. II, National Archives, Papers of the Continental Congress, NARA M247, Record Group 360, Roll pcc_418178_0001. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Williams, List of Commissioned and Captured in the Action before Camden April 25th, p. 133.

[18] Letter from Nathaniel Greene to Samuel Huntington, April 27, 1781, p. 49. Later on there was a prisoner exchange by Greene of Camden prisoners (*, 260-262)

[19] Tarleton, 481; The Annual Register, 83.

[20] Letter from Thomas Buchanan, June 20, 1781, Intercepted Letters, 1775-81, p. 613, National Archives, Papers of the Continental Congress, NARA M247, Record Group 360, Roll pcc_405131_0001, Item 51. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Tarleton, 483, 488; The Annual Register, 83. Rawdon’s strategy was strange. Greene’s May 14, 1781 letter from Nathaniel Greene to Samuel Huntington shows this to be true, in which he said that: “Lord Rawdon burn the greatest part of his baggage, stores, and…[belongings of] the inhabitants [of Camden]; he set fire…to the prison, mill and several other buildings, and left the town a little better than a heap of ruins: he left behind…people [of his, Rawdon’s, army] who had been wounded [at Hobkirk’s hill].” This could also be because, as the Annual Register said,  “…Lord Rawdon’s force was far too weak” to attack Greene and defeat him fully (The Annual Register, 84)

[21] Letter from Nathaniel Greene to Samuel Huntington, May 5, 1781, p. 51, Letters from Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Greene, 1776-85, Vol. II, National Archives, Papers of the Continental Congress, NARA M247, Record Group 360, Roll pcc_418178_0001, Item 155. Courtesy of Fold3.com.

[22] Letter from Nathaniel Greene to Samuel Huntington, May 5, 1781, p. 51, 53-4.

[23] Ibid, 81-90. Gunby asked for a court of inquiry on the battle, with numerous people looking into the conduct of Col. Gunby during the battle (Gunby, 109). The court declared that Gunby received orders to advance and charge by bayonet with firing…soon after this order two companies on the right of his regiment gave way and Gunby gave Lt. Col. Howard orders to bring off the other four companies to join Col. Gunby at tthe foot of the hill in order to reorganize (Gunby, 110). The Court of inquiry decided, from certain testimony, that Gunby was active in rallying and forming his troops…and it appears that Gunby’s “spirit and activity were unexceptionable” but that his order for the regiment to retire, breaking the line, was imporper and not military-like which was “the only cause why we did not obtain a complete victory” (Gunby, 111) Gunby observed the flight of the Second Maryland Regiment and ordered Colonel Greene to take a position in the rear in order to recover the retreat of the two regiments on the field itself (John Marshall. The Life of George Washington (New York: Derby & Jackson, 1857), 199).

[24] The Annual Register, 82-83.

[25] Gunby, 74.

[26] Gunby, 76, 79, 106, 93-94, 99.

[27] Ibid, 94.

[28] Nathaniel Greene to to the President of Congress, June 4, 1781, p. 182-3; Transcripts of Letters from Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Greene, 1780-82, Vol. I, National Archives, NARA M247, Record Group 360, roll pccc_21796_001, item number 172. Courtesy of fold3.com.

[29] Letter from Nathaniel Greene to Samuel Huntington, April 27, 1781, p. 49. In the same breath, Greene declares that “Captain Beatty of the Maryland Line [was killed], a most excellent officer and ornament to his profession.”

[30] Mark Andrew Tacyn, “‘To The End:’ The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution” (PhD Diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 242.

“Anxious of showing my zeal for the love of my Country, I entered myself as a Cadet…”

When Maryland put together its regiment as directed by the Continental Congress in 1776, it needed officers to command the troops. The regiment had nine companies, as well as seven independent companies. Each company had a captain and three lieutenants, totaling 64 officers. While that may seem like a large number of officers (it does not even include the officers Maryland provided to the Flying Camp), there were more men wanting to become an officer than the number of officer commissions available. In addition to their captain and lieutenants, some companies also had cadets.

Cadets were young members of the gentry who did not receive commissions as officers and so remained with the army as officers-in-waiting, hoping that officer positions would become available. As they waited, cadets lobbied for commissions. For example, William Courts of the Fourth Company of the Maryland Regiment wrote to the Maryland Convention in June 1776:

William Courts to Convention of Maryland, 20 June 1776

Anxious of showing my zeal for the love of my Country, I entered myself as a Cadet; and as I have been at a considerable expense in the support of myself in that character, and being informed that there are several vacancies in the Battalion, and that your Honours hath it under consideration to raise more Troops for the use of the United Colonies, I take this Opportunity of applying to your Honours, in hopes that you will take this… into your Consideration, and grant… a Commission in the Troops already raised, or those which are to be raised; submitting the rank of such Commission wholly to your Honours. Should your Honours be in any doubt with respect to my conduct since a Cadet, I pray you to enquire of Captain John H. Stone, which Gentleman will, I doubt not, give such account of me as will seem to your Honours worthy of a Commission.

As mentioned at the end of Courts’ letter, other men and officers would advocate on a cadet’s behalf. Samuel Love wrote to Colonel William Smallwood on behalf of “Billey”:

[I] Am now informed that three battalions is to be Raised in this province. Billey is anxious to be in the service, therefore must beg the favour of you to use your Interest for him, if it is not too late, and inform me by next post. He will come immediately up should it be Necessary.

Not wanting to push too hard, Love ended the lobbying effort by noting that “A Lieutenancy he will be well satisfied with and not wish to be higher at present.” Court’s own letter sought to downplay his ambition as well, as he ended it by declaring “I assure you my ambition does not lead me to wish to Command a Company.”

Captain John Allen Thomas of the Fifth Independent Company wrote of Robert Chesley and Henry Carberry as “two young Gent who have entered Cadets in my Company and who will fill (in my opinion) it very well the stations [sic] of third Lieutenants.”

These letters allow us to see what were considered good qualities for an officer. As officers often needed to spend their own money to outfit their units, men of wealth and property were looked upon favorably for commissions. Love mentions “[Court’s] property you know is very Considerable which should be one inducement for the Convention to prefer him.” While a young man at the start of the Revolution, Courts inherited land from his father, who died in 1758 when William was young (Robert Chesley was in a similar situation, as his father died in 1767, leaving to young Robert most of the land). A second letter by Love on behalf of Courts declared him to be “a young man of sober and humane disposition with a frame of mind capable of great improvement.”

For these men their lobbying paid off. Courts, Chesley and Carberry all received commissions as lieutenants in the Continental Army by the end of January 1777. Courts survived captivity following the Battle of Brooklyn, returned to the army and served until 1778. Chesley became a captain, was captured during a raid on Staten Island, was paroled and served until late October of 1781, soon after the Battle of Yorktown. Carberry resigned and returned to the army twice. He was promoted to and served as a captain during and after the Revolution, and he served as colonel of the U.S Thirty-Sixth Infantry during the War of 1812. Carberry was also the first Adjutant General of Maryland.

Nick Couto

Sources:

John Allen Thomas to Maryland Council of Safety, 8 March 1776, Archives of Maryland Online, Vol. 11, 221-222.

Reiman Steuart, The Maryland Line (The Society of the Cincinnati, 1971), 3-9, 64, 66, 69.

Samuel Love to William Smallwood, 26 December 1775, Maryland State Papers, Red Book 19: 120.

Will of Robert Chesley, 1768, Prerogative Court, Wills, Liber 36, p. 312 MdHR 1316 [MSA S538-52 1/11/2/1]

William Courts to Convention of Maryland, 20 June 1776, Maryland State Papers, Red Book 19: 10.

Project update: A Company Completed!

We are very pleased to be able to announce that we have written biographies of all the known soldiers of the Fifth Company! This is an important step towards the goal of the project: writing biographies of all the Marylanders who fought at the Battle of Brooklyn (900 men, in twelve companies). We first focused on the Fifth Company in 2014, beginning with this blog post.

The Fifth Company is one of several that has only partial enlistment records. The original muster roll from early 1776, as published in Archives of Maryland Online vol. 18, includes only 36 men, while a full-strength company, like the Fifth was, had 74 officers and men. Of the names that are included, two were not even in the company when it traveled to New York: Walker Muse, listed as the company’s ensign, was made a third lieutenant and transferred to the Ninth Company, while Private John Marr was discharged on May 18, 1776.

Our research was able to uncover the names of 13 additional members of the Fifth Company (one of whom, Henry Williams, deserted as the soldiers marched into Philadelphia on July 31, 1776). These soldiers were identified from a range of sources. Some later applied for veteran’s pensions, and others were mentioned in the pension applications of the comrades. William Nevitt, captured at the Battle of Brooklyn, was identified through records of prisoners. Christian Castler’s enlistment came to light only because he was accused of shooting at one of his officers. Michael Nowland was recorded as being part of the company in a list of sick American soldiers in Philadelphia in December 1776. Two men, David McMechen and William Hammond are tentatively included in the company because they were witnesses of Edward Sinclair’s will, written in camp in October 1776. McMechen was later a part of the Whig Club, a militant revolutionary organization in Baltimore that included a number of other members of the Fifth Company. You can check out all of the biographies of the Fifth Company soldiers, and the rest of the First Maryland Regiment (182 and counting!) here.

We still have a long way to go before we are finished, of course. Our current round of funding from the Maryland Society of the Sons of the American Revolution will allow us to complete work on the Fourth Company, and hopefully a good amount beyond that.

If you would like to support the project, you may do so though a donation to the Friends of the Maryland State Archives. Please be sure to list Maryland 400 under “Additional Comments.” Thank you very much!

Many thanks to the SAR, as well as former Finding the Maryland 400 researcher Taira Sullivan, whose work on the Fifth Company was excellent.

Thank you also to all of our readers and supporters over the years. Your interest and support has helped us keep the project moving forward, and we look forward to bringing you even more new blog posts and biographies soon!

A “dull place” on the Patapsco: Baltimore and the Marr Brothers

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In 1776, Baltimore’s population was just over 6,000. This zoomed-in version of a map, courtesy of the Library of Congress, shows how Baltimore was portrayed in 1776.

In May 1776, the Revolution had been raging for almost a year with skirmishes between the British imperial army and the rag-tag revolutionaries. William Marr, probably with his brothers Nicholas and James, enlisted in the Continental Army in Capt. Nathaniel Ramsey’s Fifth Company, a section of the First Maryland Regiment, at Whetstone Point. [1] It was not uncommon for multiple men of the same immediate family to enlist in the Revolutionary War. Many company members were young and residents from the Baltimore area. The Fifth Company included the Marr brothers at Whetstone Point, fortified with 38 cannons and earthworks, two miles below Baltimore, to defend it from British attack. [2] They were joined by Daniel Bowie’s Fourth Company and Samuel Smith’s Eighth Company, as we have noted on this blog in the past. The Marr brothers and members of the three companies of the First Maryland Regiment would have seen a Baltimore that few of us can imagine today. This article is the beginning of a series about Baltimore.

In 1776, Baltimore was a small, pre-industrial town on the Patapsco River. It was officially called Baltimore Town until a city charter was received in 1797. [3] The Revolution caused difficulties by ending trade of exports such as wheat, flour, and tobacco with the British West Indies, but due to the war, Baltimore still grew economically and by population beyond 6,000 residents. [4] John Adams, in his stay in late 1776 and early 1777 as part of the Continental Congress, described the town as “very pretty” with revolutionary sentiments, but having dirty, mirey, and foul streets, a “monstrous price of things,” unhealthy air and a “dull place” not even worth defending from the British. [5] Still, Baltimore Town was a bustling and growing commercial port with a job market open to immigrants containing more than 500 dwellings. [6] 

Baltimore Town was not as big as Philadelphia, in terms of population. However, the seventy-four enlisted soldiers in the Fifth Company would have seen people of varying backgrounds. There were people from many trades ranging from blacksmiths, shipbuilders at Fells Point, cabinetmakers, bricklayers, shoemakers, among others. [7] Many of these local artisans supplied common amenities and engaged in craft services in Baltimore and neighboring counties, working in a town economy “dominated by commerce.” [8]

Many of these craftspeople relied on unpaid labor such as indentured servants, mostly comprised of male English convicts, thousands of whom were trafficked into the Chesapeake Bay from the early 1700s up until 1776. [9] However, convict trade was brought to a halt due to ending of trade between Britain and colonial America as a result of the beginning of the Revolution. The enlistment of servants to the Continental Army created a labor shortage addressed by an increase of slave importation by master craftspeople. [10] At the time, others entering Baltimore included those of a “middling sort,” German immigrants, and Irish immigrants. [11] In describing Baltimore, John Adams once said that there were a few planters and farmers, who were also merchants, with lands cultivated and trades exercised by convicts and enslaved Blacks. [12] He further described these planters and farmers as having “little public spirit” as they held their enslaved Blacks and convicts “in contempt” and thought of themselves “a distinct order of beings.” [13] It is possible Adams thought lowly of these planters and farmers because they were not contributing to the revolutionary cause as much as he wanted. Still, the attitudes and actions of the planters and farmers was not unique to Baltimore.

Throughout and after the war, Baltimore Town continued to expand. Evidence suggests the Marr brothers likely settled in the Baltimore area, among other surviving soldiers. Meanwhile, Baltimore Town continued to grow by population and export of commodities, such as wheat, although there were price increases, and became an important market. [14] Despite increases in trade and availability of agricultural products, many of the tradespeople could not afford to become property owners as the town was building its unique identity. [15] As 1800 approached and Baltimore developed into more of a maritime city, the town continued to change demographically. [16]

– Burkely Hermann, Maryland Society of the Sons of American Revolution Research Fellow, 2016

Notes

[1] National Archives, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, Record Group 15, Roll 1631, William Marr, Pension number W. 3838. courtesy of fold3.com; Order to give back pay of Nicholas Marr, William Marr’s brother, to Lewis Lee. MdHR 19970-05-01-07 [MSA S997-5-7, 1/7/3/11].

[2] Neal A. Brooks and Eric G. Rockel. A History of Baltimore County. Towson: Friends of the Towson Library, 1979. pp. 85, 101; Richard C. Medford. Book Review: ‘Mirror of Americans,’ Maryland Historical Magazine Vol. XXXIX, March 1949, no. 1. pp. 90; S. Synthes Bradford. ‘In Fort McHenry 1814: The outworks in 1814,’ Maryland Historical Magazine Vol. 52, no. 2, June 1959. pp. 188-189, 191; Christopher T. George. ‘Book Review of Fort McHenry,’ Maryland Historical Magazine Vol. 9, no. 6, 1996. pp. 224; Hamilton Owens. Baltimore on the Chesapeake. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran and Company, 1991. pp. 85. Years later, in 1814, Whetstone Point, like during the during the Revolution, then the site of Fort McHenry (‘Notes and queries: The President visits Maryland, 1817,’ Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. XLIX, June 1954, no. 2. pp. 168), held off the British destruction of the “”very pretty town.”

[3] Charles Francis Adams. Familiar Letters of John Adams and his wife Abigail Adams During the Revolution with a memoir of Mrs. Adams. New York: Hund and Houghton, 1876. pp. 296; Charles G. Steffen, The Mechanics of Baltimore: Workers and Politics in the Age of Revolution, 1763-1812. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1984. pp. 3; Kathryn Allamong Jacob. ‘The Women’s Lot in Baltimore Town: 1729-1797.’ Maryland Historical Magazine Vol. 71, no. 3, fall 1976. pp. 263.

[4] Edward J. Perkins. The Economy of Colonial America. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988, 135; Steffen, The Mechanics of Baltimore, 4; Matson, Cathy. “The Atlantic Economy in an Era of Revolutions: An Introduction.” The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, 62, no. 3 (2005): 360; US Census. A Century of population growth from the first census to the twelfth. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1909. pp. 30; Paul Kent Walker, ‘Business and commerce in Baltimore on the eve of independence,’ 296; Jacob Harry Hollander. The Financial History of Baltimore vol. 20. Baltimore: The John Hopkins Press, 1899. pp. 17; Arthur M. Schlesinger. ‘Maryland’s share in the last intercontinental war.’ Maryland Historical Magazine Vol. VIII June 1912, no. 2. pp. 125; Sherry H. Olson. Baltimore: The Building of an American City. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. pp. 15; Henry C. Ward. The War for Independence and Transformation of American Society: War and Society in the United States, 1775-85. New York: Routledge, 1999. pp. 152.

[5] Owens, Baltimore on the Chesapeake, 110; Charles Francis Adams. The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States Vol. III. Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1851. pp. 25, 198; Tina M. Sheller. ‘Freeman, Servants, and Slaves: Artisans and the craft structure of Revolutionary Baltimore Town.’ American Artisans: Crafting Social Identity, 1750-1830 (ed. Howard C. Rock, Paul A. Gilje and Robert Asher). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995. pp. 26; Adams, Familiar Letters of John Adams and his wife Abigail Adams During the Revolution with a memoir of Mrs. Adams, 237; Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 18 February 1777Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society; Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 7 March 1777Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society; John Adams diary 28, 6 February – 21 November 1777Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society (entry for Feb. 9, 1777); Jacob, ‘The Women’s Lot in Baltimore Town: 1729-1797,’ 291.

[6] Lawrence C. Wroth, ‘A Maryland Merchant and his friends in 1750,’ Maryland Historical Magazine Vol. VI, Sept. 1911, no. 3. pp. 215, 219; Sheller, ‘Freeman, Servants, and Slaves,’ 18; George W. Howard. The Monumental City, Its Past History and Present Resources. Baltimore: J.D. Ehlers and Co., 1873. pp. 20.

[7] Daniels, Christine. “”WANTED: A Blacksmith Who Understands Plantation Work”: Artisans in Maryland, 1700-1810.” The William and Mary Quarterly 50, no. 4 (1993): 760-761, 766; Mariana L.R. Darlas. Black Townsmen: Urban Slavery and Freedom in the Eighteenth Century Americas. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008. pp. 90; Adams, Familiar Letters of John Adams and his wife Abigail Adams During the Revolution with a memoir of Mrs. Adams, 18; Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 10 February 1777Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society; Sheller, ‘Freeman, Servants, and Slaves: Artisans and the craft structure of Revolutionary Baltimore Town,’ 18, 25.

[8] Sheller, ‘Freeman, Servants, and Slaves: Artisans and the craft structure of Revolutionary Baltimore Town,’ 19-20.

[9] Daniels, ‘Artisans in Maryland, 1700-1810,’ 752; Morgan, Kenneth. “The Organization of the Convict Trade to Maryland: Stevenson, Randolph and Cheston, 1768-1775.” The William and Mary Quarterly 42, no. 2 (1985): 203, 205, 211, 217; M. Darlas. Black Townsmen: Urban Slavery and Freedom in Eighteenth Century Americas. pp. 40-41.

[10] Morgan, “The Organization of the Convict Trade to Maryland: Stevenson, Randolph and Cheston, 1768-1775,” 202, 222; Darlas, Black Townsmen, 75; Ward, The War for Independence and Transformation of American Society, 215; Sheller, ‘Freeman, Servants, and Slaves: Artisans and the craft structure of Revolutionary Baltimore Town,’ 27.

[11] Eugene Irving McCormac. White servitude in Maryland, 1634-1820. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1902. pp. 32; Middleton, Simon, and Smith Billy G. “Class and Early America: An Introduction.” The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, 63, no. 2 (2006): 219; Allan Kulikoff. Tobacco and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680-1800. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1986. pp. 425; Olson, Baltimore, 15.

[12] John Adams diary 28, 6 February – 21 November 1777 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society (entry for Feb. 23, 1777).

[13] John Adams diary 28, 6 February – 21 November 1777 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society (entry for Feb. 28, 1777).

[14] Brooks and Rockel, A History of Baltimore County, 107; Hunter, Brooke. “Wheat, War, and the American Economy during the Age of Revolution.” The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, 62, no. 3 (2005): 510, 516, 522, 524; Cometti, Elizabeth. “Inflation in Revolutionary Maryland.” The William and Mary Quarterly 8, no. 2 (1951): 230; George W. Howard. The Monumental City, Its Past History and Present Resources. Baltimore: J.D. Ehlers and Co., 1873. pp. 25; Steffen, The Mechanics of Baltimore, 10-11; Olson, Baltimore, 10; Shammas, Carole. “The Space Problem in Early United States Cities.” The William and Mary Quarterly 57, no. 3 (2000): 505-506, 509.

[15] Steffen, Charles G. “Changes in the Organization of Artisan Production in Baltimore, 1790 to 1820.” The William and Mary Quarterly 36, no. 1 (1979): 103, 113.

[16] Mark N. Ozer. Baltimore: Persons and Places. Baltimore: Garden Publishing, 2013. pp. 37; Olson, Baltimore, 10.

A Young Soldier Prepares to Leave for War

“Ordered, That colonel Smallwood immediately proceed with his battalion to the city of Philadelphia, and put himself under the continental officer commanding there,” wrote the Convention of Maryland, the state’s Revolutionary legislature, on July 6, 1776. The men of the First Maryland Regiment were to depart three days later.

The Convention’s order came amid rapid and dramatic developments in Maryland. The province’s governor, Robert Eden, had left Annapolis just a days earlier. A few hours before it ordered the troops were ordered to march, the Convention formally declared independence from Great Britain, and a few days later, news arrived from Philadelphia that Congress had done the same.

As these events unfolded, a young corporal named Andrew Ferguson sat down on the very day his unit was ordered to deploy and, in neat and clear handwriting, wrote out his will:

“I, Andrew Ferguson, Corporal in Captain John Day Scott’s Company of the first Battalion of Maryland Troops, now stationed in the City of Annapolis, Being now in perfect Health, sound in Mind & Memory, and having the fear of god before my Eyes and not knowing how soon I may be call’d from this World, do I now make…this my last will and Testament…this sixth Day of July, one Thousand seven Hundred and Seventy Six”

Ferguson lived in Londontowne, a town just south of Annapolis. His father, a successful tailor and corset maker, had died in 1770, leaving Andrew and his six siblings in the care of their mother Elizabeth. Andrew made provisions in his will for the support of his mother and siblings, particularly his youngest sister Elizabeth, who was then only twelve years old.

Andrew Ferguson survived the Battle of Brooklyn unscathed: his company was spared the worst of the fighting, and lost only nine men. When his enlistment ended in December, after six months grueling combat and marching, he returned home to his family in Londontowne.  Sadly, while Andrew Ferguson survived his military service, he died in 1778, just a year and a half later.

Many readers will recall that we have featured several other wills by soldiers in the First Maryland Regiment. You can see a compilation here.

-Owen

Many thanks to Kyle Dalton at Historic London Town for first telling us about Ferguson’s will.

“He had never gave them an inch before he found that he had nothing left to keep them off with”

In late August 1777, the American Army planned a raid on Staten Island. Intelligence available to the Americans suggested that the British forces there were primarily American Loyalist militia rather than British regular troops. Furthermore, the inexperienced Tories were stealing food and supplies from the local residents. A raid presented the opportunity to generate local goodwill as well as disrupt British raiding along the New Jersey coast.

About one thousand men partook in the raid, which began well. Surprised Loyalists fled the advancing Americans, who helped themselves to the arms and equipment left behind. The day was full of surprises as the Americans soon ran into a regiment of British Regulars, who quickly retreated to their fortifications. Thinking they had won the day, the American raiders turned to raiding, ceasing to be an effective fighting force. Meanwhile the British regulars had regrouped and went on the offensive, causing a general American rout.

Staten Island fort LOC

Plan of the redoubts at Richmond on Staten Island later in the war. Click image to view full size. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Major John Steward, a veteran of the Battle of Brooklyn led the rear guard, and rallied his men to buy time for the Americans to escape. A Marylander by the name of Captain William Wilmot described the scene in a letter:

thay came down on us with about 1000 of their herows, and attacked us with about 500 of their new troopes and hesions [Hessians] expecting I believe that thay should not receive one fire from us but to their grate surprise thay received many as we had to spair and had we had as many more thay should have been welcome to them, thay maid two or three attempts to rush on us, but we kept up such a blaze on them, that thay were repulsed every time, and not withstanding we was shure that we must very soon fall into their handes.

With the rear guard, numbering about 150 men, delaying the British, the bulk of the American force managed to escape. Wilmot continues:

When we see them running back from our fire there was such a houraw or hussaw from the one end of our little line to the other that thay could hear us quight across the river, but what grieved me after seeing that it was not the lot of many of us to fall and our ammunition being expended, that such brave men were obliged to surrender them selves Prisioners to a dasterley, new band of Murderrers, natives of the land [Loyalists], when our ammunition was all spent Major Sturd [Steward] took a whight hankerchief and stuck it on the point of his Sword, and then ordered the men to retreet whilste he went over to their [the British] ground, and surrendered, for he had never gave them an inch before he found that he had nothing left to keep them of[f] with.

Steward and the other captured Americans were put on the British prison barges and ships in New York Harbor. Such ships were notorious for their wretched conditions. An account from a Connecticut soldier turned prisoner Robert Shefield gives detail to the horror:

The heat was so intense that (the hot sun shining all day on deck) they were all naked, which also served the well to get rid of vermin, but the sick were eaten up alive. Their sickly countenances, and ghastly looks were truly horrible; some swearing and blaspheming; others crying, praying, and wringing their hands; and stalking about like ghosts; others delirious, raving and storming,—all panting for breath; some dead, and corrupting. The air was so foul that at times a lamp could not be kept burning, by reason of which the bodies were not missed until they had been dead ten days.

Steward would not endure the horror for long. Purportedly by bribing a British officer, the major managed to escape his prison ship, fled to New Jersey and was back with the Continental Army by the end of October.

Click here to read Stewards full biography, and here for an incident involving Steward when he was a Lieutenant.

Nick Couto

Sources:

“General Sullivan’s Descent Upon The British On Staten Island—The Escape Of William Wilmot.” Maryland Historical Magazine, 6, no.2 (June 1911) p. 141-142; Some spelling modified for readability.

Patrick O’Donnell, Washington’s Immortals, The Untold Story of an Elite Regiment Who Changed the Course of the Revolution (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2016), 137-140;

Charles Royster, A Revolutionary People at War (Chapel Hill, N.C: University of North Carolina Press, 1979), 95.

Danske Dandridge, American Prisoners of the Revolution, ch.14 (1910) Project Gutenberg

Col. Gaither: Seven years on Georgia’s frontier

Map, courtesy of the Library of Congress, that shows Georgia's frontier in 1795.

Map, courtesy of the Library of Congress, that shows Georgia’s frontier in 1795.

A new biography expands on previous writing on this blog about Henry Chew Gaither, a Revolutionary War captain of the First and Fourth Maryland Regiments. On the eve of the Battle of Brooklyn, he served as a witness for Daniel Bowie’s will. Unlike most Revolutionary War veterans, Gaither remained in the military after the war, serving two years in Ohio [2], seven years on the Georgian frontier, and two years in the Mississippi Territory as a U.S. Army officer. [3] In August 1792, Gaither, 41 years old at the time, received nine pages of instructions for his service in Georgia from Secretary of War Henry Knox, telling him to obtain a “healthy” place for his troops, be cordial to the Spanish and Georgian governments, and avoid a “heated” incident with their governments. [4]

Gaither was involved in many incidents in Georgian frontier [5] which involved the inhabitants of Georgia, the Creek Nation (Muskogee), and other indigenous nations. The Creek were divided into the Lower Creek, who intermarried with Whites, and the Upper Creek who were traditional and “less effected by European influences.” In one such incident, in the first months of 1793, inhabitants of Georgia’s upper frontier drove cattle to the fork of the Tallahatchie River. [6] Interpreter Timothy Bernard, a US Army major and the son of Timopochee Barnard, the chief of the Creek Nation, wrote Gaither, worrying that since the cattle would likely be driven away and killed by local indigenous people, including the Creek, bloodshed would result if the cattle were not withdrawn. [6] Despite this warning, Georgians continued to move cattle near the Tallahatchie River’s forks and the King of the Cussetah, part of the Creek Confederacy, blamed the Coweta, also part of the Confederacy, for stealing horses of Georgian inhabitants. [7]

In April and May 1793, Gaither relayed reports to Knox of the robbery and murder of two Whites on the St. Mary’s River and that James Seagrove, the Agent/Ambassador to the Creek Nation demanded retribution from the Creek Nation. [8] Hoboithle Micco, the Halfway House King, of the Upper Creek, and his loyal warriors responded to Seagrove’s demand for the supposed Creek perpetrators to turn themselves over to the appropriate authorities with a call to kill Whites, resulting in Gaither telling Georgia militia officers to stand guard. [9] Despite this call from the Upper Creek, Bird King, a chief of the Creek Nation, told Gaither that the “bad” town of Halfway House King caused trouble and that the Creeks did not want war. [10] Bernard confirmed this to Gaither, saying that three-quarters of the Creek Nation favored peace but he feared that some White men would not discriminate between innocent and guilty Creek people in an attempt to enact retribution. [11] While it seemed, at the time, that blood spilled across the frontier meant a “general war with the Creek and Cherokee Indians,” Gaither was still told by Knox to take efforts to “calm every attempt to raise a storm.” [12] Ultimately a war didn’t break out, and a treaty was signed three years later, in 1796, between the Creek Nation and the United States, with Gaither as a witness.

In mid-1794, Major General Elijah Clarke tried to launch an expedition to invade Spanish territory in Louisiana. [13] Letters show that Gaither, then established as lieutenant colonel commandant, was notified of this by Knox who told him to work with Georgia Governor George Matthews to suppress this “illegal combination of men.” Later, Clarke was apprehended after he refused to move his soldiers from the banks of the Oconee River, apparently in preparation for his expedition. [14] This incident was serious enough to merit concern from Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton and have it addressed publicly by President George Washington. In May, Washington told members of the House and Senate about “certain hostile threats against territories of Spain in our neighborhood” and that the expedition, “projected against the Spanish dominions,” was relinquished. If Clarke’s expedition had succeeded, it is possible that Spain may have not signed Pinckney’s Treaty the following year which dropped duties on “American trade passing through New Orleans” and voided “Spanish guarantees of military support…to Native Americans in the disputed region.” This treaty ended the supposed instigation of indigenous nations such as the Cherokee by “Spanish agents” in earlier years and served as a motivation for White settlers to continue their expansion westward. [15]

Our story ends by tying together loose ends. In 1800, Gaither was ordered to replace Senior Army Officer James Wilkinson at Fort Adams, on the Mississippi River, where Gaither served as a witness to a Treaty with the Choctaw in 1801 and gave a valedictory address to soldiers at the Fort the same year, until 1802, when he was honorably discharged. [16] In 1811, Gaither died at the age of 61, dying on a plantation in present-day Washington, D.C. owning a few enslaved Blacks, and a funeral procession in Washington, D.C. which had much fanfare. [17] As for the indigenous nations, they didn’t fare as well. The Creek were defeated at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814 by Andrew Jackson, forcing them to acquiesce much of their land, and were forcibly removed in the brutal ‘Trail of Tears,’ along with other indigenous peoples. In the end, it is clear that Gaither was part of a history of indigenous people in North America and a post-revolutionary early republic.

Burkely Hermann, Maryland Society of the Sons of American Revolution Research Fellow, 2016.


Notes

[1] Specifically, the locations on this map show where Gaither was stationed or are mentioned in the 76 letters I looked at, some of which are highlighted in this post.

[2] The National Archives. M233. Registers of Enlistments in the United States Army, 1798-1914. NARA Record Group 94 National Archives Catalog ID: NARA M233. Registers of Enlistments in the United States Army, 1798-1914. Roll: MIUSA1798_102864. Roll Number: 5. Fold 3. In his two years in Ohio, he served in one of the final phases of Little Turtle’s War (1785-1795), included participating in the disastrous “St. Clair’s Defeat” in November 1791 in which an army led by Arthur St. Clair, assisted by the Choctaw and Chickasaw, was defeated by the British-allied Western Confederacy, later memorized in a ballad of the same name.

[3] June 7, 1792, The Federal Gazette and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, page 2; “To George Washington from Henry Knox, 24 September 1791,” Founders Online, National Archives.

[4] “Orders for Deployment to Georgia,” Henry Knox to Henry Gaither, 11 August 1792, Papers of the War Department 1794 to 1800, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media.

[5]  It is worth remembering that the State of Georgia originally “claimed its western boundary extended to the Mississippi River” which includes the upper parts of the present-day states of Mississippi and Alabama.

[6] “A warning about the effect of white settler encroachments on Indian land,” Timothy Bernard and Henry Gaither, 18 February 1793, Papers of the War Department 1794 to 1800, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media.

[7] “Letter from Timothy Barnard [Bernard] to Major Henry Gaither regarding translator Mr George Cornells, son of Joseph Cornells,” Timothy Bernard and Henry Gaither, 4 March 1793, Papers of the War Department 1794 to 1800, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. Letters that appear in searches for the terms Buzzard’s Roast, Tullapatchee River and Tallahatchee River reveal what happened next.

[8] This action by Seagrove divided the Creek Nation. “Letter from Major Henry Gaither to Secretary of War Henry Knox regarding murder and robbery at Traders Hill on St Marys,” Henry Gaither to Henry Knox, 7 April 1793, Papers of the War Department 1794 to 1800, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media; “Letter from Major Henry Gaither to Secretary of War Henry Knox on the robbery and murder at Traders Hill St Marys,” 17 April 1793,  Papers of the War Department 1794 to 1800, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media.

[9] “To George Washington from Henry Knox, 18 April 1793,” Founders Online, National Archives; “His Warriors are Determined to Spill Human Blood,” Henry Gaither to Henry Knox, 19 April 1793, Papers of the War Department 1794 to 1800, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media; “Letter from Major Henry Gaither to Secretary of War Henry Knox on the robbery and murder at Traders Hill St Marys,” Henry Gaither to Henry Knox, 19 April 1793, Papers of the War Department 1794 to 1800, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media; According to pages 90, 158, 215-216 of Andrew K. Frank’s Peculiar breed of whites“: race, culture, and identity in the Creek Confederacy, Micco was originally a mixed individual and pioneer named James McQueen who later changed his name after integrating himself enough with the Creek.

[10] “Letter from Bird King Cussetas King to Major Gaither on trouble caused by Halfway King,” Bird King to Henry Gaither, 13 April 1793, Papers of the War Department 1794 to 1800, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. Also referred to as Bird Tail King.

[11] “Letter from Timothy Barnard [Bernard] to Major Henry Gaither regarding meeting with Cussetahs, scalpings, robbery and murder at Robert Seagrove’s store Traders Hill on St Mary’s River, Spaniard Dons,” Timothy Bernard to Henry Gaither, 8 April 1793, Papers of the War Department 1794 to 1800, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media; “Letter from Timothy Bernard to Major Gaither regarding Major James Seagrove’s demands in aftemath of violations,” Timothy Bernard to Henry Gaither, 20 April 1793, Papers of the War Department 1794 to 1800, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media.

[12] U.S. Senate. Report by Mr. Elliott to the Military Committee. 17th Cong., 1st Sess. (S.Doc.64). Washington: Gales & Seaton, April 15, 1822. pp. 3. (Serial Set 60); “Conducting the Security of the Frontier in Georgia,” Henry Knox to Henry Gaither, 29 April 1793, Papers of the War Department 1794 to 1800, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media; “Letter from Major Henry Gaither to Secretary of War Henry Knox on Indian theft and murder,” Henry Gaither to Henry Knox, 6 May 1793, Papers of the War Department 1794 to 1800, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. John Elliott was a U.S. Senator representing Georgia at the time.

[13] Correspondence of Clark and Genet: Selections from the Draper Collection in the Possession of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin to Elucidate the Proposed French Expedition Under George Rogers Clark Against Louisiana, in the Years 1793-94. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1897, 936-943; “To George Washington from Henry Knox, 14 May 1794,” Founders Online, National Archives; “Extract of a letter from the Secretary of War, to Lieut. Col. Gaither, dated 14th May, 1794,” Henry Knox to Henry Gaither, 14 May 1794, Papers of the War Department 1794 to 1800, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media; “Suppressing the Illegal Combination of Men,” Henry Knox to Henry Gaither, 14 May 1794,  Papers of the War Department 1794 to 1800, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media.

[14] “From Alexander Hamilton to George Mathews, 25 September 1794,” Founders Online, National Archives.

[15] Report by Mr. Elliott to the Military Committee, 2.

[16] The Territorial papers of the United States: The Territory of Mississippi 1798-1817 (vol. 5, ed. Clarence Edwin Carter). Washington, DC: GPO, 1937. 124-5.; “To Alexander Hamilton from James Wilkinson, 25 February 1800,” Founders Online, National Archives; “To Alexander Hamilton from James Wilkinson, 7 March 1800,” Founders Online, National Archives.

[17] Assessments of 1793, 1795, 1796 and 1797, Montgomery County Commissioners of the Tax, Assessment Record, MdHR 20015-1-1, p. 115-116, 159, 228, 256, 268 (MSA C1110-1, 1/18/14/17); Assessments of 1813 and 1816, Montgomery County Commissioners of the Tax, Assessment Record, MdHR 20015-3-1, p. 53, 99, 130 (MSA C1110-3, 1/18/14/19); Assessments of 1798, 1801, 1802, 1804, 1811, Montgomery County Commissioners of the Tax, Assessment Record, MdHR 20015-2-1, p. 94, 33, 138, 146, 151, 163, 205, 265, 406, 424 (MSA C1110-2, 1/18/14/18); General Assembly House of Delegates, Assessment Records, 1783, 3-4, 18 (MSA S1161-78, 1/4/5/51).