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 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.

Scroll down to read our latest posts!

Burkely Hermann’s Introduction

Hello everyone. Welcome back to our blog.

My name is Burkely Hermann and I have the privilege for being the researcher for this wonderful project, Finding the Maryland 400. Less than a week ago, I graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, a small liberal arts college bordering historic St. Mary’s City, with a bachelor of arts in Political Science and a minor in History. Still, I have a lifelong love of history which manifests itself in this project. For the next 6 months, I am excited to work with Owen Lourie, the project director. My work, which will be showcased on this blog, would not be possible without previous research on this project since 2013 by Sean Baker, Taira Sullivan, Emily Huebner, Jeff Truitt, and Daniel Blattau. I would also like to thank the Maryland Society of the Sons of the American Revolution for continuing to fund this project which makes this Staff Researcher position a reality.

I will continue to research and write up biographies of members of the First Maryland Regiment. These posts will be focused, first and foremost, on the remaining commissioned officers of the regiment and then, enlisted men in the Fourth and Fifth Companies. Even with the research so far, there is still much left to uncover about these 400 soldiers, who played a vital role in the Battle of Brooklyn, the first major military engagement of the American Revolutionary War.

This project does not mark the first time I have done in-depth historical research, but it is my first exposure to the historical account of the Maryland 400. In high school, I was a participant in three consecutive Maryland History Days, the first of which was an exhibit on Tench Tilghman, an aide-de-camp to General George Washington. For the paper I wrote accompanying the exhibit, I am forever grateful that the Sons of the American Revolution gave me a college scholarship. At my alma mater, I took numerous classes that focused on different aspects of U.S. history ranging from colonial history to the civil rights movement, and mass culture. For some of these classes, I wrote numerous in-depth papers which used primary sources of varying forms, including first-hand accounts and other documentary evidence.

Using my research and writing skills refined from writing research papers in college, my participation in History Day, and numerous years blogging on WordPress, writing about contemporary political issues, I can adequately continue this project. I look forward to conducting primary source research from online sources and those within the walls of the Archives in order to highlight more about the Maryland 400 which is not already known. As the first post of this blog states, this project’s goal is to find out who the men of the Maryland 400 are and recognize their importance. In the end, I feel that I am well-placed to continue fulfilling the goal of the project to the best of my capacity, based on my skills and previous experience.

Battle of Brooklyn Roll of Honor

On August 27, 1776, after a week of anticipation, and after hours of marching, the Continental Army fought the British at the Battle of Brooklyn, the first large-scale battle of the Revolutionary War. All told, the Americans lost about 300 killed, and another 1,100 captured, out of any army of 10,000. The British estimated they lost around 400 their 22,000 men.

In the latter stages of the battle, as the surrounded Americans were desperately retreating, a portion of the Maryland troops made a daring stand. Facing a much larger, better-trained foe, the “Maryland 400,” as they are now known, made a series of charges, taking heavy casualties but holding the British at bay long enough for the rest of the Americans to escape.

All told, the Marylanders lost 256 officers and men “Kill’d & Missing.” The five companies which were part of that charge, the Third, Fourth, Sixth, Ninth, and Seventh Independent, lost between 60 and 80 percent of their men.

While Col. William Smallwood, commander of the Maryland troops, compiled a list of who the killed and missing were, that list has since disappeared. In fact, the goal of this project is to learn the names and fate of the Maryland soldiers. We have learned the names of four men killed at the battle, and 70 taken prisoner. We know that about 500 of the men who fought at the battle were alive afterwards, although some may have been taken prisoner; there are about 300 others whose fate we do not yet know. Unfortunately, records of non-officers killed or wounded were not kept carefully.

As a tribute, below is a list of the killed and captured Marylanders, with links to biographies.

William Sands, a nineteen-year-old sergeant in the Seventh Company. Sands was a native of Annapolis, and a collection of papers from his brief military career have been donated to the Maryland State Archives, and are available online.

Capt. Daniel Bowie, commander of the Fourth Company. Bowie was 20 or 21 year old, and had been with his company for a little over six weeks when he led them at the Battle of Brooklyn. The night before, Bowie wrote out his will, making provisions “if I fall on the field of battle.” He was wounded and taken prisoner, possibly during the desperate last stand of the Marylanders, and died in captivity a short time later.

Joseph Butler, a lieutenant of the Fourth Company. He was wounded early in the battle, perhaps in the initial assault the Marylanders faced, before the Americans were surrounded. Like Bowie, Butler was captured, and died soon after, while still a prisoner. The night before the battle, as the troops were preparing to march, Butler took some of his fellow soldiers aside and gave them instructions of what to do for his family if he was killed.

Capt. Edward Veazey, leader of the Seventh Independent Company. Veazey was also killed early in the battle. His company was later part of the heroic stand of the Marylanders.


Pvt. Alexander Allen Pvt. John Hughes
Pvt. John Armstrong Pvt. James Hurdle
Pvt. William Baker Pvt. Alexander Jackson
Pvt. William Basford Pvt. Philip Jinkins
Pvt. Thomas Barker Pvt. Philip Kern
Pvt. Joseph Barry Pvt. George Knott
Pvt. James Berry Pvt. William Locke
Pvt. Christopher Beall Pvt. John Lowry
Pvt. Joseph Bigs Pvt. Valentine Lynn
Capt. Daniel Bowie [died in captivity] Pvt. Thomas Mason
1st Lt. Joseph Butler [died in captivity] Pvt. John McClain
Pvt. Crisenberry Clift Pvt. Daniel McKay
Pvt. John Cobeth Sgt. Thomas McKeel
Pvt. Francis Cole Sgt. Samuel McMillan
Pvt. Timothy Collins Cpl. William McMillan
Pvt. John Cooper Pvt. Joseph Merchant
Pvt. Thomas Cooper Pvt. James Murphy
Ens. William Courts 3rd Lt. Walker Muse
Pvt. Robert Crafford Pvt. Frederick Myre
3rd Lt. Edward De Coursey Pvt. William Nevitt
Pvt. Samuel Denny Pvt. Jeremiah Owings
2nd Lt. Hatch Dent, Jr. Pvt. William Pearce
Sgt. Daniel Dwigens Sgt. Alexander Porter [Naylor]
Cpl. Samuel Dwigens 2nd Lt. Edward Prall
Pvt. John Enright Pvt. Isaac Rice
Ens. James Farnandis 2nd Lt. William Ridgely
Pvt. Thomas Fisher Pvt. Charles Riely
Sgt. David Giveny Pvt. Charles Simms
Pvt. Samuel Glasgow Pvt. James Smith
Pvt. John Good 1st Lt. William Sterrett
Cpl. Zachariah Gray Pvt. Greenbury Watts
Pvt. Jacob Greenwald Pvt. Philip Weller
Cpl. Samuel Hamilton Pvt. Richard Whelan
Cpl. Basil Holland Pvt. Zachariah Willing
Pvt. William Holms 2nd Lt. Samuel Turbutt Wright


Upcoming Battle of Brooklyn Commemorations

The 239th anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn is next week, and we will have new material to commemorate the battle and the Marylanders’ sacrifices there. Until then, you can read our previous posts about the battle.

In 2014, we published a series which brought together all of the known first-person accounts of the Battle of Brooklyn by Maryland troops.

You can also follow the troop movements in the days leading up to the battle as they happened.

If you are able to be in New York, there are lots of events beginning this weekend, including a ceremony honoring the Maryland 400 on August 29. Check out the Old Stone House’s website for more details!

The story of Walter Brooke Cox in the Continental Army

Walter Brooke Cox joined the army, like many other men at the time, with the hope of making a name for himself.

Commissioned on January 3, 1776 as a cadet, Cox joined Captain Patrick Sim’s Second Company of the First Maryland Regiment. [1] Under Captain Sim’s guidance, Cox’s first engagement with the British occurred during the Battle of Brooklyn on August 27, 1776. During the battle, the Continental Army attempted to defend itself New York from the British. However, the British Army outflanked the Americans.[2]

As they retreated, Sim’s company was ambushed by a platoon of British soldiers. However, “fighting with more than Roman courage,” the First Maryland Regiment forced the British back, allowing Scott and his company to escape across Gowanus Creek to the fortified American lines, while other companies were forced to travel up stream. Those companies ultimately confronted and fought another British platoon. These charges by the Marylanders and the bravery they showed earned them the title of the “Maryland 400.”[3]

Like the soldiers featured in past posts, Cox subsequently fought in the Battle of White Plains, where the Americans once again suffered a debilitating defeat.[4]

In December of 1776, with the might of the British military overpowering the Continental Army, George Washington appealed to the Continental Congress for more soldiers. With approval, Washington created additional regiments, commissioning Thomas Hartley as Colonel of one regiment.[5]

Hartley was put in charge of recruiting soldiers for his regiment. On February 5th, 1776, Hartley chose Cox to serve as captain. One month prior, Cox had been offered a position as first lieutenant of Sim’s company. With the ability to rise further in rank, Cox ultimately joined Hartley’s additional regiment. [6]

In Hartley’s regiment, Cox, on September 11, 1777, fought at the Battle of Brandywine. The battle took place near the Brandywine creek, which crosses through southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware. Hartley, along with the Continental Army and many regiments from Pennsylvania, fought against the British and Hessian regiments, who were ordered by British General Howe to encircle and incapacitate the American forces. When the enemy proved to be too powerful, Hartley and his men retreated to safety under the cover of the night.[7]

During his time in Hartley’s regiment, Cox was able to partake in a triumphant charge against the British. At the Battle of Germantown, on October 4, 1777, Hartley, along with many of the Pennsylvanian regiments, ruthlessly attacked the British forces at Germantown road, forcing them to retreat.[8]

Calendar of Maryland State Papers, 1777, The Brown Books, MdHR 4609-82, 1/6/5/3.

Letter from William Smallwood, Calendar of Maryland State Papers, 1777, The Brown Books, MdHR 4609-82, 1/6/5/3.

In a letter from Colonel Smallwood on October 14, 1777, Cox and his men were viewed not only as the most behaved in the entire army, but also as the company that suffered the fewest desertions.

That December, Cox resigned, having lost his company due to lack of reenlistment. [9]

-Joshua Rifkin



[1] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 7 [hereafter Archives of Maryland vol. 18]

[2] Mark Andrew Tacyn, To the End: The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution, (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 48-73.

[3] Tacyn, 48-73; “Extract of a letter from New-York: Account of the Battle on Long-Island,” 1 September 1776. American Archives, 5th series, vol. 2, 107

[4] Tacyn, 98-104; David Hackett Fisher, Washington’s Crossing, (Oxford University Press, 2004), 111.;  “Extract of another letter, dated in the evening of the above day”, Maryland Gazette, November 7, 1776, Maryland Gazette Collection, Image 1202, MSA SC 2731.

[5] Robert K. Wright, Jr., The Continental Army, (Washington, D.C.: United States Army, 1983), 98-101.

[6] Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army during the Revolutionary War. NARA M881, Record Group 93, Roll 0077. From fold3.com; Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army during the Revolutionary War. NARA M881, Record Group 93, Roll 0397. From fold3.com

[7] Robert K. Wright, Jr., 117-119; Tacyn, 114-117; Thomas J. McGuire, The Philadelphia Campaign, Vol. 1, (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. 2006), 248-250.

[8] Thomas J. McGuire, 70-74.

[9] Letter from William Smallwood, Calendar of Maryland State Papers, 1777, The Brown Books, MdHR 4609-82, 1/6/5/3; “To George Washington from Colonel Thomas Hartley, 12 February 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives. http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-08-02-0341

“Our officers…cared but little, if anything at all, about us.”

Our posts exploring officers’ duties have drawn from heavily from the work of Inspector General Continental Army, Fredrich Wilhelm von Steuben. His treatise on the Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States lays out the duties and responsibilities of each rank, invariably charging each officer to act with compassion for his men. Von Steuben’s words present an obvious question: did he mean it?

One answer comes from Joseph Plumb Martin, whose diary of wartime service is one of the few by an enlisted man. Martin described, with characteristic sarcasm, meeting Von Steuben in 1780. Martin and his comrades had been building fortifications in sweltering heat, with little water or rest:

After we have been two or three days at this invigorating business, the troops were inspected by General Steuben. When he found out our situation, he ordered us [to stop work] immediately. “You might as well knock those men on the head,” said he, “as keep them there; they will die if kept there much longer.”

Martin concluded: “He had more sense than our officers, [who] did not feel the hardships which we had to undergo, and of course cared but little, if anything at all, about us.” [1]

The reason that von Steuben’s ideal officers were hard to find was that virtually all of the officer corps was drawn from the gentry, while many enlisted men were of a much lower class, including indentured servants, poor immigrants, and unskilled laborers. Consequently, the officers often viewed their men with great contempt. By contrast, von Steuben was renowned for his willingness to personally train and drill with ordinary soldiers. [2]

The power that officers had over their men—harsh corporal punishment, and shockingly free hands to execute supposed “mutineers”—fostered resentment, especially among men who had volunteered their service, and were fighting for liberty.

So too did the highly favorable living conditions for the officers. Martin’s unit nearly mutinied in January 1779, in the face of another long winter of little food, poor shelter, and no pay. Their goal, wrote Martin, was “to raise more provisions, if not, at least raise [some] dust.” [3] It was a stark contrast, for example to the “rather lazy life” young Virginia officer Joseph Nourse led during the winter of 1776-1777, which he passed reading Homer.

A more mundane incident perhaps better captures many privates’ feelings about their officers (as well as the boredom so common, even in the middle of war). Some of Martin’s fellow soldiers conspired to fill their captain’s canteen with gunpowder and detonate it, giving him “a bit of a hoist.” Martin, by now a sergeant, prevented the prank, noting “I verily believe, I saved the old man’s [the captain] life, although I do not think that they meant anything more than to frighten him. But the men hated him, and did not much care what happened to him.” [4]

There is not a lot of information about relations between Maryland’s officers and men. One clue is that Maryland’s officers were frequently heralded as excellent battlefield commanders, which could mean that they were at least well respected enough by their men to follow them into some of the war’s most ferocious fighting.

With few first-hand accounts, it is difficult to do more than generalize about how officers treated their men, and how they were viewed by their subordinates. Indeed, even Martin wrote movingly about one of his lieutenants who cared for him while his was gravely ill, although the passage stands out as one of the few times an officer showed much interest in his men. From the evidence available, though, it seems that von Steuben’s ideals were not quite reached. [5]


  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), 193.
  2. “General von Steuben.” Valley Forge National Historic Park.
  3. Martin, 152.
  4. Martin, 263.
  5. Martin, 201-203.

The Role of the Captain on and off the Battlefield

Since the foundation of the Continental Army by the Continental Congress in 1775, the role of the company was quite significant. In the Continental Army, the company was the most basic unit of the army, both on and off the battlefield. A company contained roughly 70 to 100 men. Moreover, seven to nine companies comprised a regiment.

Each company was led by a captain, who had a myriad of responsibilities. In camp, because many of the men never had formal military training, the captain taught the soldiers how to work together as a cohesive unit.[1] Furthermore, the captain educated his men on how to survive on the battlefield by teaching them “discipline, order, and fearlessness.”[2] Thus, in camp, if any of his men, regardless of rank, did not behave properly, it was the captain’s job to punish those soldiers and their non-commissioned officer. However, it is important to point out that the first and second lieutenants were the men who taught the soldiers the battlefield maneuvers. [3]

Because a captain was in charge of so many men, he could not personally properly make sure they were healthy and had all the equipment they needed. As a result, in camp the captain had both his first and second lieutenants check on the soldiers at all hours of the day. This resulted in the lieutenants being able to form a closer bond with the soldiers than the captain. Moreover, the lieutenants were tasked with reporting to the captain any and all resources that needed to be purchased. The captain, in charge of all the finances in the company, would then buy the necessities, including, but not limited to, ammunition, guns, food, medicines, knapsacks, clothing, and shoes.[4]

When a battle broke out, like the Battle of Brooklyn or White Plains, on the battlefield the captain stood either to the right or to the left of his men. The positioning of the captain was important, in order to allow him either to properly chose a military tactic or relay a maneuver from the regiment’s commander. Once a tactic was chosen, the captain led his men into war, with the lieutenants ensuring that the maneuver was followed.

Regardless of whether the captain was in camp or on the battlefield, he was required to keep a detailed book regarding his soldiers. This included their date of birth, residence, if they suffered an illness, how much he paid them, and when they were promoted. It is not clear, however, if any of the captains never followed this order. None of these records seem to survive from any of the captains of the First Maryland Regiment. Our job would be much easier if they had![5]

Of course, having the captain follow all these duties was ideal. In a future post, we will explore how closely it reflected real life.

-Joshua Rifkin


[1] Robert K. Wright, Jr., The Continental Army (Washington, D.C.: United States Army, 1983), 137-142; Frederick Steuben, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, Part I. (Philadelphia: Styner and Cist, 1792), 72-73.

[2] Steuben, 72-73.

[3] Wright, 137-142; Steuben, 72-73.

[4] Steuben, 72-73.

[5] Steuben, 72-73.

Lamenting the Death of Major Archibald Anderson

Archibald Anderson began his military career as first lieutenant in 1776 and fought with the First Maryland Regiment at the Battle of Brooklyn. A capable and brave officer, Anderson rose quickly through the ranks, receiving a promotion to captain in December 1776, and to major in June 1777. Anderson survived the major engagements of the New York and New Jersey Campaign and the Philadelphia Campaign, and continued to serve in the army as the focus of the war shifted to the south.

At the disastrous Battle of Camden in South Carolina on August 16, 1780, Anderson was one of few officers that performed heroically, rallying his men and organizing resistance while the rest of the army fled in panic. Anderson’s bravery and leadership under fire endeared him to his men and fellow officers. In addition to his capabilities as a soldier, Anderson’s comrades were equally impressed by his social qualities.[1]

On March 15, 1781 Major Anderson again took to the field and led his Marylanders during the Battle of Guilford Court House in North Carolina. Although the British drove the Americans from the field, the heavy casualties suffered by the British led General Cornwallis to eventually abandon the Carolinas and head to Yorktown, Virginia. Anderson did not live to see the ultimate victory; he was cut down by enemy fire while leading his men during the battle.

Anderson’s death was a major blow to the Americans; many reports about the battle make mention of the loss of the high ranking officer. Anderson’s sacrifice particularly impacted his fellow Marylander’s. A lengthy elegy to Anderson was published in the Maryland Gazette on April 12, 1781:

Major Anderson was amongst the first who enlisted under the banners of freedom…his patriotism was too enlarged to be satisfied with serving her its wishes…he felt a greater obligation; he owed her his personal assistance; nor did he hesitate to exchange the sweets of domestic life…for the dangers and fatigues of war…A strong and decisive judgment, an unshaken resolution and unwavering vigilance, were his. No officer could be more distinguished for cool intrepidity in the hour of action…But to have a just idea of his character, you must have seen him in his last moments; the Soldier, the Christian, and the Patriot, mingled their rays to irradiate his fall.[2]


[1] “Extract of Letter from an Officer of Distinction in the American Southern Army,” Maryland Journal (Baltimore, MD), Tuesday, April 3, 1781. From Genealogybank.com.

[2] Maryland Gazette, (Annapolis, MD), April 12, 1781.

The Infantry Career of a Naval Hero

Before Commodore Alexander Murray was one of the most highly regarded naval commanders of the early United States, he was an infantry officer in the Maryland Line, and one of the legendary “Maryland 400.”

In 1776, Murray was a seasoned merchant sailor, and wanted to command a ship in the Continental Navy, but there were no vessels available for him. As a result, Murray joined the infantry, accepting a commission as a second lieutenant in Captain Patrick Sim’s Second Company of the First Maryland Regiment. He served with the First Maryland Regiment for just over a year, helping the Continental Army fight the British, most notably at the Battle of Brooklyn.[1]

However, on April 10, 1777, when a ship was finally ready for him, Murray left the Army to join the Continental Navy as the captain of a privateer.[2] With a letter of marque, Murray, from 1777 until 1780, commanded a myriad of vessels of war, in the Atlantic Ocean along the Eastern Shore.[3] The letter of marque allowed him to attack and capture any ship “carrying Soldiers, Arms, Gun-powder, Ammunition, Provisions, or any other contraband Goods, to any of the British Armies or Ships of War employed against these colonies.” [4]

Murray fought in the Continental Navy for the rest of the war, serving with distinction and twice enduring captivity. After the war, he returned to private life, until 1798, when he rejoined the Navy, receiving a commission as a Captain, and took command of the U.S.S. Constellation. As the author Samuel Putnam Waldo wrote in 1823 about Murray, “…there was not a single American living who has passed through more arduous duty; faced more dangers-fought in more battles; or achieved more victories.”[5]

Yet even with his success, Murray ran into trouble with the U.S. Government in the early 1800s, when he seized a ship that did not belong to the enemy. Murray’s actions resulted in a Supreme Court case against him, entitled Murray v. The Charming Betsey (6 U.S. 64 (1804). In that case, Murray, commander of U.S.S. Constellation, seized the schooner The Charming Betsey, which had originally been an American vessel. The prior owners of the ship had sold it and its cargo of ammunition to Jared Schattuck, born in the United States, but then a Danish subject. The ship was thereafter captured by the French Navy and, in 1800, recaptured by Murray. Murray believed that the ship was trading with the French and, thus, was in violation of an Act of Congress. The law outlined that no ship was to partake in “the commercial intercourse between the United States and France…” As a result of Murray’s misjudgment, in 1804, the Supreme Court ordered that the vessel be returned to Schattuck.[6]

Murray died on October 6, 1821 from typhoid. After a grand ceremony, he was buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.[7]

To read more about Murray’s life, click here.

-Joshua Rifkin


[1] Find a Grave, “Alexander Murray”; Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 13.

[2] Pension of Alexander Murray. The National Archives. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. NARA M804 B.L.Wt. 2324-100, from fold3.com; Samuel Putnam Waldo, American Republic and the Kingdom of Great Britain, (Connecticut: Silas Andrus, 1823), 305.

[3] Sons of the American Revolution Membership Application, 1889-1970, Volume 71, (Philadelphia, 1901), SAR 14055, from ancestry.com

[4] Ernest McNeill Eller, Chesapeake Bay in the American Revolution, (Centreville, Maryland: Tidewater Publishers, 1981), 265.

[5] Waldo, 305.

[6] U.S. Coast Guard. Record of Movements: Vessels of the United States Coast Guard: 1790- December 31, 1933. (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1934); William R. Wells II, US Revenue Cutters Captured in the War of 1812, American Neptune 58, No. 3, 225-241; Murray v. The Charming Betsey, 6 U.S. 64 (1804).

[7] Find a Grave, “Alexander Murray.”

Maryland Declares Independence

On July 6, 1776, the Convention of Maryland finally broke formal ties with Britain and the Calvert family that had ruled the colony since the 1630s. Maryland’s Revolutionary leaders were slow in taking this step, just as they had been slow to expel their colonial governor a week earlier, and in assenting to armed struggle against England.

The members of the Convention—the province’s self-appointed legislature, meeting without approval from their colonial rulers—enumerated their grievances against Great Britain, offering a list familiar to anyone who read the Declaration of Independence this weekend. Citing unjust taxation, subversion of justice, and coercive and vengeful acts against the colonies, with the “inexorable resolution of reducing these colonies to abject slavery,” the Convention declared

Compelled by dire necessity, either to surrender our properties, liberties and lives, into the hands of a British king and parliament, or to use such means as will most probably secure to us and our posterity those invaluable blessings,

We the delegates of Maryland, in convention assembled, do declare, that the king of Great Britain has violated his compact with this people, and that they owe no allegiance to him; we have therefore thought it just and necessary to empower our deputies in congress to join with a majority of the united colonies in declaring them free and independent states…[1]

Even then, Maryland’s hesitant leaders wished it to be known they were not eager revolutionaries:

No ambitious views, no desire of independence, induced the people of Maryland to form an union with the other colonies. To procure an exemption from parliamentary taxation, and to continue to the legislatures of these colonies the sole and exclusive right of regulating their internal polity, was our original and only motive. To maintain inviolate our liberties, and to transmit them unimpaired to posterity, was our duty and first wish; our next, to continue connected with, and dependent on Great Britain…[2]

The Convention’s resolution was published in the Maryland Gazette five days later, alongside the Declaration of Independence itself. That issue can be viewed here;  the declarations are on page 3.

1. The Declaration of the Delegates of Maryland, published in Proceedings of the Conventions of the Province of Maryland, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 78, pps. 201-203.

2. Ibid., 203; emphasis added.

The Summer of Independence Begins

The beginning of July 1776 was a busy time in Annapolis. News that the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia had voted to declare independence from Britain would be a few days in arriving, but both independence and armed conflict were foremost in everyone’s mind. [1]

Five days earlier, Maryland’s royally-appointed governor Robert Eden had been forced out of the city. Eden’s friends among the Revolutionary government had helped him arrange a peaceful, dignified exit, one that came some two years after his authority had evaporated. As the day of departure drew close, however, several indentured servants and a deserter from the First Maryland Regiment escaped to the Fowey, the ship which was to take Eden to England, and when the ship’s captain would not give them up, Eden and his party were forced to depart immediately. They left in such haste that much of Eden’s luggage and furniture remained in his mansion in packing crates. [2]

Since the early spring, six companies of the First Maryland Regiment had been stationed in Annapolis where they were receiving their training. While their orders to depart for New York would not come for another week and a half, news streaming into town about independence, and British troop movements, must have made it clear that they would be marching north soon.

To the 450 soldiers already in town, even more were added with the creation on June 29 of the Flying Camp, a short-term (nine-month enlistments) reserve force. Troops were raised all summer, and purchasing supplies took place across the state.

Meanwhile, news of resolutions in favor of independence filled the pages of the Maryland Gazette, Annapolis’s newspaper. The June 27 and July 4 issues carried accounts of Gov. Eden’s departure, news of independence resolutions in other colonies, and calls for Maryland to issue its own.

From today’s vantage point, with the benefit of knowing what was about to happen, the first days of July 1776 can feel like prologue to the years of war that were to come. And yet, even then, with newly-enlisted troops massing, and news of independence arriving daily, it must have seemed that Annapolis, and America, was on the brink of something momentous.

We’ll have more next week, celebrating the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in Maryland. Have a happy Fourth of July!


1. The Declaration of Independence was published in the Maryland Gazette on July 11, 1776, a topic for a future post. An excellent summary of the events in Annapolis during the summer of 1776 can be found in Jane Wilson McWilliams, Annapolis City of the Severn (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011), 94-95.

2. The deserter was John Nottingham, a private in John Day Scott’s Seventh Company. Maryland State Papers, Red Books, vol. 12, p. 44, MdHR 4753 [MSA S989-17, 1/6/4/5]