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.

Scroll down to read our latest posts!

Which Private Smith is the Right Private Smith?

Piecing together service records of Revolutionary War soldiers can be complicated. No one got a DD 214 when they were mustered out. Many soldiers had their service records compiled by the Federal Government in the late nineteenth century, and applications for Federal veteran’s pensions usually include a (mostly) thorough record of service. Unfortunately, the compiled service records often omit early 1776 service–most of what we need–and not all men applied for pensions.

The rest of the time, as a result, figuring out a Revolutionary War soldier’s military career means paging through books, letters, and other records, trying to find information about his service. This is especially tricky when there is more than one soldier with the same name. In many such cases, it is simply impossible to differentiate the men. There were at least seven John Smiths who enlisted in the First Maryland Regiment in 1776, for example, and well more than that over the rest of the war. There were no Social Security Numbers, street addresses, or phone numbers in the eighteenth century to help differentiate people easily.

We recently researched one soldier who had a common name, but left behind plenty of clues that help distinguish him. Peter Smith enlisted as a private in the Fourth Company of the First Maryland Regiment on January 24, 1776. While he had a common name, he also had a very distinct signature, and that enabled us to track his military career, and even his parts of his civilian life afterward.

His signature on pay receipts in 1779 helped confirm service we found in other sources:

psmith0003 psmith0002psmith0001Smith’s signature was even more helpful after the war. There were many Peter Smiths in Maryland’s population, but our Peter Smith still stood out. It let us eliminate a number of other people, including a Peter Smith who was a land speculator in Western Maryland. With the ability to eliminate many other more00011Peter Smiths, we could zero in on the most likely man, one who came from Harford County. Unfortunately for us, he left the state around 1800, and gave us no paper trail to follow.

Be sure to read Peter Smith’s complete biography to learn more of what we found!

–Owen

British “masters of the field”: The disaster at Brandywine

brandywine

Illustration of the Battle of Brandywine, drawn by cartographer, engraver and illustrator Johann Martin Will (1727-1806) in 1777. Image is courtesy of the Library of Congress.

On the night of September 10, 1777, many of the soldiers and commanding officers of the Continental Army sat around their campfires and listened to an ominous sermon that would predict the events of the following day. Chaplain Jeremias (or Joab) Trout declared that God was on their side and that

“we have met this evening perhaps for the last time…alike we have endured the cold and hunger, the contumely of the internal foe and the courage of foreign oppression…the sunlight…tomorrow…will glimmer on scenes of blood…Tomorrow morning we will go forth to battle…Many of us may fall tomorrow.” [1]

The following day, the Continentals would be badly defeated by the British and scenes of blood” would appear on the ground near Brandywine Creek.

In the previous month, a British flotilla consisting of 28 ships, loaded with over 12,000 troops, had sailed up the Chesapeake Bay. [2] They disembarked in Elkton, Maryland, in July, under the command of Sir William Howe, and had one objective: to attack the American capital of Philadelphia. [3] Howe had planned to form a united front with John Burgoyne, but bad communication made this impossible. [4] At the same time, Burgoyne  was preoccupied with fighting the Continental Army in Saratoga, where he ultimately surrendered later in the fall. With Howe’s redcoats, light dragoons, grenadiers, and artillerymen were Hessian soldiers fighting for the Crown. [5]

Opposing these forces were two groups of the Continental Army. The first was the main body of Continentals led by George Washington, consisting of light infantry, artillery, ordinary foot-soldiers, and militia from Pennsylvania and Maryland. The second was the Continental wing commanded by John Sullivan which consisted of infantry from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, and Maryland. The latter was led by William Smallwood and included the First Maryland Regiment. Other Marylanders who participated in the battle included Walter Brooke Cox, Joseph Marbury, Daniel Rankins, Samuel Hamilton, John Toomy, John Brady, and Francis Reveley. While the British were nearby, 15,000-man Continental Army fortified itself at Chadd’s Ford, sitting on Brandywine Creek in order to defend Philadelphia from British attack. [6]

A map by Johann Martin Will in early 1777, in the same set as the illustration of the battle at the beginning of this post, which shows British and Continental troop movements during the Battle of Brandywine.

The morning of September 11 was warm, still, and quiet as the Continental Army was camped on the green and sloping area behind Brandywine Creek. [7] Civilians from surrounding towns who were favoring the Crown, the revolutionary cause, or were neutral watched the events that were about to unfold. [8]

Suddenly, at 8:00, the British, on the other side of the creek, began to bombard the Continental positions facing the creek while Hessians fired their muskets. [9] However, they were never planning to directly assault Continental lines. [10] Instead, they wanted to cross the creek, which had few bridges, at one unguarded bridge called Jeffries’ Ford on Great Valley Road. As Howe engaged in this flanking maneuver, which he had used at the Battle of Brooklyn, the Marylanders would again find themselves on the front lines.

As the British continued their diversionary frontal attack on the Continental lines, thousands of them moved across the unguarded bridge that carried Great Valley Road over Brandywine Creek. Washington received reports about this British movement throughout the day but since these messages were inconsistent, he did not act on them until later. [11] At that point, he sent Sullivan’s wing, including Marylanders, to push back the advancing British flank. [12]

These Marylanders encountered seasoned Hessian troops who, when joined by British guards and grenadiers, attacked the Marylanders. Due to the precise and constant fire from Hessians and a British infantry charge with bayonets, the Marylanders fled in panic. [13] Lieutenant William Beatty of the Second Maryland Regiment, who would perish in the  Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill, recounted this attack:

“…[in] the Middle of this Afternoon…a strong Body of the Enemy had Cross’d above our Army and were in full march to out-flank us; this Obliged our Right wing to Change their front…before this could be fully [executed]…the Enemy Appeared and made a very Brisk Attack which put the whole of our Right Wing to flight…this was not done without some Considerable loss on their side, as of the Right wing behaved Gallantly…the Attack was made on the Right, the British…made the fire…on all Quarters.” [14]

As a Marylanders endured a “severe cannonade” from the British, the main body of the Continental Army was in trouble. [15] Joseph Armstrong of Pennsylvania, a private in a Pennsylvania militia unit, described retreating after the British had crossed Brandywine Creek, and further moved back at 5:00 for eight or nine miles, with the British in hot pursuit. [16]

Despite the “heavy and well supported fire of small arms and artillery” of the Continentals, they could not stop the British and Hessian troops, who ultimately pushed them into the nearby woods. [17] This is further evidenced in the fact that even exhausted British soldiers, wearing wool, were able to push back the Continentals at 5:30 on that hot day. [18] As Washington would admit in his apologetic letter to the President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock, “…in this days engagement we have been obliged to leave the enemy masters of the field.” [19]

As the smoke cleared, the carnage was evident. Numerous Continentals were wounded, along with French military men such as Marquis de LaFayette. [20] Despite Washington’s claim that “our loss of men is not…very considerable…[and] much less than the enemys,” about 200-300 were killed and 400 taken prisoner. [21] This would confirm Captain Beatty’s claim that Continental losses included eight artillery pieces, “500 men killed, wounded and prisoners.” [22] In contrast, on the British side, fewer than a hundred were killed while as many as 500 were wounded. [23] As victors, they slept on the battlefield that night. This confirms Beatty’s assessment that the British loss was “considerable” due to a “great deal of very heavy firing.” [24]

Not long after, the British engaged in a feint attack to draw away the Continental Army from Philadelphia and marched into the city without firing a shot, occupying it for the next ten months. [25] In the meantime, Congress fled to York, Pennsylvania, where it stayed until Philadelphia could be re-occupied.

In the months after the battle, the Continental Army chose who would be punished for the defeat. This went beyond John Adams’s response to the news of the battle: “…Is Philadelphia to be lost? If lost, is the cause lost? No–The cause is not lost but may be hurt.” [26] While Washington accepted no blame for the defeat, others were court-martialed. [27]

One man was strongly accused for the defeat: John Sullivan. While some, such as Charles Pickney, praised Sullivan for his “calmness and bravery” during the battle, a sentiment that numerous Maryland officers agreed with, others disagreed. [28] A member of Congress from North Carolina, Thomas Burke, claimed that Sullivan engaged in “evil conduct” leading to misfortune, and that Sullivan was “void of judgment and foresight.” [29] He said this as he attempted to remove Sullivan from his commanding position. Since Sullivan’s division mostly fled the battleground, even as some resisted British advances, and former Quaker Nathaniel Greene led a slow retreat, blaming Sullivan is not surprising. [30] Burke’s effort did not succeed since Maryland officers and soldiers admired Sullivan for his aggressive actions and bravery, winning him support. [31]

Another officer accused of misdeeds was a Marylander named William Courts, a veteran of the Battle of Brooklyn. He was accused of “cowardice at the Battle of Brandywine” and for talking to Major Peter Adams of the 7th Maryland Regiment with “impertinent, and abusive language” when Adams questioned Courts’ battlefield conduct. [32] Courts was ultimately acquitted. However, his case indicates that the Continental Army was looking for scapegoats for the defeat.

The rest of the remaining Continental Army marched off in the cover of darkness, preventing a battle the following day. They camped at Chester, on the other side of the Schuylkill River, where they stayed throughout late September. [33] Twenty-four days after the battle on the Brandywine, the Continental Army attacked the British camp at Germantown but foggy conditions led to friendly fire, annulling any chance for victory. [34] This battle, while it was a defeat, served the revolutionary cause by raising hopes for the United States in the minds of European nobility. [35] It may have also convinced Howe to resign from the British Army, as commander of British forces in North America, later that month.

In following months, the Continental Army continued to fight around Philadelphia and New Jersey. After the battle at Germantown, the British laid siege to Fort Mifflin on Mud Island for over a month. They also engaged in an intensified siege on Fort Mercer at Red Bank, leading to its surrender in late October. In an attempt to assist Continental forces, a detachment of Maryland volunteers under Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Smith were sent to fight in the battle at Fort Mifflin. [36] By November, the Continentals abandoned Fort Mifflin and retired to Valley Forge. Still, this hard-fought defense of the Fort denied the British use of the Delaware River, foiling their plans to further defeat Continental forces.

As the war went on, the First Maryland Regiment would fight in the northern colonies until the late 1770s in battles at Monmouth (1778) and Stony Point (1779) before moving to the Southern states as part of Greene’s southern campaign. [37] They would come face-to-face with formidable British forces again in battles at Camden (1780), Cowpens (1781), Guilford Courthouse (1781), and Eutaw Springs (1781). In the end, what the Scottish economist Adam Smith wrote in 1776 held true in the Battle of Brandywine and until the end of the war: that Americans would not voluntarily agree with British imperial control and would die to free themselves from such control. [38]

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


Notes

[1] Collections of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Vol. 1 (Merrehew & Thompson, 1853), 70-72; Lydia Minturn Post, Personal Recollections of the American Revolution: A Private Journal (ed. Sidney Barclay, New York: Rudd & Carleton, 1859), 207-218; Virginia Biography, Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography Vol. V (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1915), 658. Courtesy of Ancestry.com; George F. Scheer, and Hugh F. Rankin, Rebels and Redcoats: The American Revolution Through the Eyes of Those who Fought and Lived It (New York: De Capo Press, 1957, reprint in 1987), 234. Trout, who was also a Reverend, would not survive the battle. While some records reprint his name as “Joab Traut,” other sources indicate that his first name was actually Jeremias and that his last name is sometimes spelled Trout.

[2] Andrew O’Shaughnessy, The Men Who Lost America: British Command During the Revolutionary War and the Preservation of the Empire (London: One World Publications, 2013), 254; Ferling, 177; Letters from Gen. George Washington, Vol. 5, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives, NARA M247, Record Group 360, roll pcc_344144_0001, item number 152, p. 87; “A Further Extract from the Examination of Joseph Galloway, Esq; by a Committee of the British House of Commons,” Maryland Journal, December 7, 1779, Baltimore, Vol. VI, issue 324, page 1.

[3] Washington thrown back at Brandywine, Chronicle of America (ed. Daniel Clifton, Mount Kisco, NY: Chronicle Publications, 1988), 163; “The Examination of Joseph Galloway, Esq; before the House of Commons,” Maryland Journal, November 23, 1779, Baltimore, Vol. VI, issue 322, page 1. Joseph Galloway, a former member of the Contintental Congress who later became favorable to the British Crown, claimed that inhabitants supplied the British on the way to Brandywine.

[4] Stanley Weintraub, Iron Tears: America’s Battle for Freedom, Britain’s Quagmire: 1775-1783 (New York: Free Press, 2005), 115.

[5] Bethany Collins, “8 Fast Facts About Hessians,” Journal of the American Revolution, August 19, 2014. Accessed August 31, 2016. They were called Hessians since many of them came from the German state of Hesse-Kassel, and many of them were led by Baron Wilhelm Von Knyphausen.

[6] Chronicle of America, 163; Letters from Gen. George Washington, Vol. 5, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives, NARA M247, Record Group 360, roll pcc_344144_0001, item number 152, p. 33. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Letters from Gen. George Washington, Vol. 5, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives, NARA M247, Record Group 360, roll pcc_344144_0001, item number 152, p. 37. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Letters from Gen. George Washington, Vol. 5, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives, NARA M247, Record Group 360, roll pcc_344144_0001, item number 152, p. 41. Courtesy of Fold3.com; The Annual Register or a View of the History, Politics, and Literature, for the Year 1777 (4th Edition, London: J. Dosley, 1794, 127-8; Tacyn, 137; The Winning of Independence, 1777-1783American Military History (Washington D.C.: Center for Military History, 1989), 72-73.

[7] John E. Ferling, Setting the World Abaze: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and the American Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 175-176; O’Shaughnessy, 107. O’Shaughnessy argues that the encampment at Chad’s Ford was an “excellent defensive position.”

[8] Thomas J. McGuire, The Philadelphia Campaign: Brandywine and the Fall of Philadelphia Vol. I (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2006), 172-173. Reportedly, some Quakers ignored the dueling armies and went about their daily business but others such as Joseph Townsend did watch the battle and worried about their fate if the British were to be victorious.

[9] Ferling, 175-176; “Journal of Captain William Beatty 1776-1781,” Maryland Historical Magazine June 1908. Vol. 3, no.2, 109. The British had endured two weeks of horrible weather conditions in their journey from Elkton.

[10] Mark Andrew Tacyn, “’To the End:’ The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 138; Ferling, 175; O’Shaughnessy, 7, 226, 228.

[11] “II: From Lieutenant Colonel James Ross, 11 September 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016; “III: To Colonel Theodorick Bland, 11 September 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016; “IV: From Major General John Sullivan, 11 September 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016; “V: From Colonel Theodorick Bland, 11 September 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016; “VII: Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hanson Harrison to John Hancock, 11 September 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016; “From George Washington to John Hancock, 13 September 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016; “To George Washington from Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, 19 September 1777,” Founders Online,National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016; Scheer, and Rankin, 235.

[12] Tacyn, 138-9; Scheer, and Rankin, 236; McGuire, 184-185, 167, 171, 186, 193, 196, 241.

[13] The Winning of Independence, 1777-1783American Military History (Washington D.C.: Center for Military History, 1989), 72-73; Tacyn, 139; David Ross, The Hessian Jagerkorps in New York and Pennsylvania, 1776-1777Journal of the American Revolution, May 14, 2015. Accessed August 31, 2016. The British and Hessians advanced with minimal casualties.

[14] “Journal of Captain William Beatty 1776-1781,” 109-110; Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 18, 189, 310, 344, 345, 363, 379, 388519. William Beatty would become a captain in April 1778 in the Seventh Maryland Regiment, then in the First Maryland Regiment in early 1781.

[15] Letters from Gen. George Washington, Vol. 5, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives, NARA M247, Record Group 360, roll pcc_344144_0001, item number 152, p. 49. Courtesy of Fold3.com.

[16] Pension of Jacob Armstrong, Revolutionary War Pensions, National Archives, NARA M804, Record Group 15, pension number S.22090, roll 0075. Courtesy of Fold3.com; “VII: Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hanson Harrison to John Hancock, 11 September 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016. Jacob served as a substitute for his father, Simon Armstrong.

[17] The Annual Register, 128-129.

[18] Ferling, 176.

[19] Weintraub, 118; “VIII: To John Hancock, 11 September 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016; Letters from Gen. George Washington, Vol. 5, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives, NARA M247, Record Group 360, roll pcc_344144_0001, item number 152, p. 53-53a; “VIII: To John Hancock, 11 September 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016. This letter was published by order of Congress.

[20] Tacyn, 140; The Annual Register, 129-130; Letters from Gen. George Washington, Vol. 5, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives, NARA M247, Record Group 360, roll pcc_344144_0001, item number 152, p. 53-53a; “VIII: To John Hancock, 11 September 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016; Letters from Gen. George Washington, Vol. 5, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives, NARA M247, Record Group 360, roll pcc_344144_0001, item number 152, p. 287. Courtesy of Fold3.com; “To George Washington from Brigadier General William Woodford, 2 October 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016; Journal and Correspondence of the Council of Maryland, 1781-1784 Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 48, 458; Scheer, and Rankin, 240.

[21] Ferling, 177; O’Shaughnessy, 109; Washington thrown back at Brandywine, Chronicle of America, 163; Letters from Gen. George Washington, Vol. 5, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives, NARA M247, Record Group 360, roll pcc_344144_0001, item number 152, p. 53-53a; “VIII: To John Hancock, 11 September 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016; Petitions Address to Congress, 1775-189, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives, NARA M247, Record Group 360, roll pcc_419789_0001, item number 42, p. 159. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Pension of Jacob Ritter (prisoner after battle), Revolutionary War Pensions, National Archives, NARA M804, Record Group 15, pension number S.9080, roll 2052. Courtesy of Fold3.com; John Dwight Kilbourne, A Short History of the Maryland Line in the Continental Army (Baltimore: Society of Cincinnati of Maryland, 1992), 14; Howard H. Peckham, The War for Independence: A Military History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 68-70; Scheer, and Rankin, 239. Washington’s letter was later published by order of Congress.

[22]  “Journal of Captain William Beatty 1776-1781,” 110.

[23] O’Shaughnessy, 109; The Annual Register, 129-130; “To George Washington from Major John Clark, Jr., 12 November 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016; Peckham, 70; Scheer, and Rankin, 239.

[24] “Journal of Captain William Beatty 1776-1781,” 110; Peckham, 70; McGuire, 209. Claims by Continentals that there were many British casualties may have been explained by British tactics.

[25]  “A Further Extract from the Examination of Joseph Galloway, Esq; by a Committee of the British House of Commons”;  “The Examination of Joseph Galloway, Esq; before the House of Commons”; Weintraub, 115; Tacyn, 143; Trevelyan, 249, 275; O’Shaughnessy, 110.

[26] John Adams diary 28, 6 February – 21 November 1777 [electronic edition], entries for September 16, Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society

[27] “A Further Extract from the Examination of Joseph Galloway, Esq; by a Committee of the British House of Commons” ; “General Orders, 19 October 1777,” Founders Online,National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016; “General Orders, 25 September 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016; “General Orders, 3 January 1778,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016.

[28] Tacyn, 142; Letters from General Officers, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives, NARA M247, Record Group 360, roll pcc_4345518_0001, item number 100, p. 69. Courtesy of Fold3.com.

[29] Tacyn, 141.

[30] Tacyn, 140-141.

[31] Tacyn, 143.

[32] “General Orders, 19 October 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016.

[33] Pension of Jacob Armstrong; Weintraub, 116-117; O’Shaughnessy, 109; “Journal of Captain William Beatty 1776-1781,” 110; Kilbourne, 14.

[34] Pension of Jacob Armstrong; The Annual Register, 129-130; Sir George Otto Trevelyan, The American Revolution: Saratoga and Brandywine, Valley Forge, England and France at War, Vol. 4 (London: Longmans Greens Co., 1920), 275; O’Shaughnessy, 110; Ross, “The Hessian Jagerkorps in New York and Pennsylvania, 1776-1777,” Journal of the American Revolution, May 14, 2015. Accessed August 31, 2016; “Journal of Captain William Beatty 1776-1781,” 110-111; Kilbourne, 17, 19. As Beatty recounts, Marylanders were joined by the Maryland militia and were still part of General Sullivan’s division.

[35] Trevelyan, 249; O’Shaughnessy, 111; Christopher Hibbert, George III: A Personal History (New York: Basic Books, 1998), 154-155.

[36] “Journal of Captain William Beatty 1776-1781,” 110; Kilbourne, 14.

[37] Journal and Correspondence of the Council of Maryland, April 1, 1778 through October 26, 1779 Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 21, 118; Kilbourne, 21-22, 24-27, 29-30, 31, 33.

[38] Adam Smith, Chapter VII: Of Colonies, Part Third: Of the advantages which Europe has derived from the Discovery of America, and from that of a passage to the East Indies by the Cape of Good Hope, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (ed. Edward Canman, New York: The Modern Library, reprint 1937, originally printed in 1776), 587- 588.

Another Company Finished!

We are very pleased to announce that we have written biographies of all the soldiers in the Fourth Company of the First Maryland Regiment! There are 71 biographies of Fourth Company soldiers, which make up an important part of the more than 200 now online. You can read all of them on our Biographies page.

The Fourth Company was at the heart of the Maryland 400’s last stand at the Battle of Brooklyn, and suffered the worst losses of the Maryland companies. Only 14 men escaped capture or death: one sergeant, 12 privates, and the company’s drummer.

We definitively know the names of seven of the survivors: Sergeant John Toomy, Drummer Patrick Ivory, and privates William Chaplin (who later earned special notoriety), Edward Cosgrove, John Herron, William Nixon, and Thomas Wiseman. There is good evidence about six other men, although mathematically not all of them could have survived: William Baggott, Thomas Hamilton, William Parr, John Price, John Riley, and Valentine Smith.

At least 11 men from the company were taken prisoner during the Battle of Brooklyn: Lieutenant Edward Prall, Ensign William Courts, Sergeant Samuel McMillan, Corporal William McMillan, and privates Robert Crafford, Samuel Glasgow, Thomas Mason, Charles Riely, and Richard Whelan. Captain Daniel Bowie and Leiutenent Joseph Butler were both mortally wounded and died in British captivity. We have been unable to learn more about who was captured or killed from the company, owing to missing records.

The Fourth Company was also the unit that brothers William and Samuel McMillan served in. William’s first-hand account of the battle is compelling and vivid, and tells us a great deal about what happened at the battle and afterward. The McMillans were both captured and then taken to a British prison in Nova Scotia. Together with a group of other captured American soldiers, they escaped and traveled by foot to Boston, a trip that took most of the spring and summer of 1777. After recovering, both brothers reenlisted and served in the army for several more years.

Not all of the Fourth Company men we wrote about fought at the Battle of Brooklyn, however. While we have records of 71 soldiers enlisting, some of them must have left the company at some point in the summer of 1776, before the Marylanders marched to fight in New York. On the eve of their departure, there were only 58 officers and men present. We’re not sure which of the men on our list did not travel north to join the Continental Army.

We still have a long way to go before we have met our goal of writing biographies of all the Marylanders who fought at the Battle of Brooklyn. We know the names of about 850 of them, so we have many more biographies to write. Our funding from the Maryland Society of the Sons of the American Revolution will allow us to continue to make progress towards our goal.

If you have enjoyed following the project or used its resources, please support it through a donation to the Friends of the Maryland State Archives. Be sure to list Maryland 400 under “Additional Comments.” Thank you very much!

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

–Owen

Persecuted in Revolutionary Baltimore: The Sufferings of Quakers

quaker lady detaining the english general

“Quaker Lady detaining the English General.” This engraving refers to Mary Lindley Murray who, as legend has it, delayed Sir Henry Clinton and his officers by treating them to food and drink, tempting them with her charms, while the Americans under the command of Israel Putnam escaped after the disastrous Battle of Kip’s Bay in September 1776. This cartoon counters the feelings of some revolutionaries by making Quakers seem favorable to the revolutionary cause.

In March 1777, revolutionary leader John Adams wrote an angry letter to his wife, Abigail. He declared that Baltimore was a “dull place” where many of the town’s remaining inhabitants were Quakers, who he described as “dull as Beetles” and a “kind of neutral Tribe, or the Race of the insipids.” [1] This article continues the series about Baltimore Town by focusing on the Baltimorean Quakers, also called the Society of Friends. These Quakers were living in a town where religious beliefs interlinked with political events. You can read our other posts about Baltimore during the Revolutionary War period here.

Adams clearly misrepresented the role of Quakers in Baltimore Town. [2] The Quakers were controversial in the public arena because of their dedication to pacifism resulting in refusal to pay war taxes, assert loyalty to the colonies, or lend supplies to the Continental Army.

Even though some Maryland Quakers raised money to feed the people of Boston in 1775, revolutionaries still saw them as supporting the Crown, rather than taking a neutral position. [3] Revolutionary pamphleteer Thomas Paine, the son of a Quaker, even declared that “were the Quakers…influenced by the quiet principles they profess to hold, they would…be the first of all men to approve of independence” because it gives the opportunity of “carrying their favourite principle of peace into general practice, by establishing governments that shall hereafter exist without wars.” [4] Others thought that the Quakers engaged in espionage for the British, were treasonous to the revolutionary cause or partook in illegalities. [5]

The negative perception of Quakers by revolutionaries led to fines, looting of their property, imprisonment, and numerous other forms of discrimination. [6] However, they didn’t stay silent. One letter to the Maryland Journal, in 1777, by a presumed Quaker named ‘Pacifius’ defended neutrals, like Quakers, saying “let us remember our duty, as Christians, to love our enemies” and that the Maryland legislature should repeal “acts, which create disqualifications, or impose a tax on…neutrals.” [7]

The Maryland Committee of Sufferings recorded acts of Quaker persecution in the turbulent revolutionary environment. This committee, similar to Meetings for Sufferings created in the Northern colonies in the early 1770s, petitioned the state government of Maryland about discrimination against them, pushed for exemptions to military service, and generally advocated on behalf of Quakers. [8]

In October 1778, the Committee of Sufferings in Kent County, the first of its kind in Maryland, told fellow brethren that Quakers experienced long terms of imprisonment and banishment. [9] They endured the consequences of not wanting to comply with “human injunctions and institutions.” [10] Their reasoning was laid out in detail in an appeal to the Maryland General Assembly in October 1778 by this committee. In the letter they declared that they were resolute in their principles and opposed their Revolutionary War:

“…we behold…the devastation occasioned by the present war…we believe it to be our indispensable duty to abstain from all wars & combat which have the tendency to destroy the lives of men….we cannot, consistent with our religious principles, join with either of the contending parties….constrained from entering into solemn engagements of allegiance with either….in consequence thereof, we have been brought under great sufferings…[the state] government will not derive any advantage from…continuing our sufferings…we charitably hope the Legislature of Maryland would…avoid…the imputation of persecution…we…desire to live peace with all men, and should of any of our members now deviate from our…principles by joining in war, entering into plots…against the government…the guilt of such will most assuredly be on themselves” [11]

The war caused divisions in the Quakers community. Some Quakers wanted to give their oaths of allegiance or otherwise join the revolutionary cause. [12] This concerned those on the committee because this action went against established principles since it constituted participating directly in the war’s bloodshed. Other “concerned Quakers” made munitions for the Continental Army, worked for the Army, or gave starving soldiers food and supplies. [13] Later in the war, in Philadelphia, some joined the “Free Quakers,” and took up weapons against the British.

Still, the majority of Quakers adhered to their pacifist principles and disowned such dissident forces, charging them with disobedience. If someone was disowned they would be forcibly renounced or no longer accepted in the Quaker community, which could result in exile.

The story of a Cecil County man, named Jeremiah Brown, shows discrimination that Quakers faced and how the Quaker community stuck together. On March 24, 1778 he admitted his wrong at the Brick Meeting House in Calvert, Cecil County:

“…when my wagon and team came back, which were forcibly taken to carry military stores, [I] did receive wages for the same and was paid for one of the horses which were lost in the journey, which compliance has not been easy to mind, being convinced that the testimony of truth is against such, I do not hereby acknowledge my weakness therein, hoping and desiring for the future to give closer attention to the inward principles which preserve the error.” [14]

This was against Quaker rules because it constituted complicity in the war. While the meeting was unhappy that a member of Brown’s family went to check to see on the care of their impounded horses, Brown could have felt “weak” since he been a loyal Quaker for many years. [15] Interestingly, there is no record that Brown was exiled from the Quakers since he was an active member for years to come. [16]

Actions similar to Brown’s admission either didn’t happen or were downplayed in the Baltimore meeting. This was proven to be the case when in 1781, the Baltimore Yearly Meeting declared to fellow members that “most Friends appear to be careful in maintaining our testimony against war by refusing payment of taxes.” [17]

The Baltimore meeting of Quakers was politicized by slavery. Throughout 1776, they discussed slavery in their quarterly meetings. [18]. By 1777, Maryland Quakers, under the jurisdiction of the Baltimore meeting, were threatened to be disowned if they manumit their enslaved blacks. [19] From February 1776 to November 1777, a report was prepared by Henry Wilson, Benjamin Howard, and other brethren, on those Quakers who kept slaves. The meeting recorded the manumissions of sixty-two enslaved blacks owned by fellow members and continued to assist their fellow brethren in other matters. [20] However, manumissions were not an end to slavery. The use of manumissions in Baltimore Town, for example, sustained and expanded slavery for years to come. [21] Compounding this reality was the vital role the town played in the regional slave trade, which it had largely siphoned off from Philadelphia. [22]

In November 1777, the report, strongly condemning the practice of slavery, was released to the Baltimore quarterly meeting. The committee reported that

“…they have carefully visited nearly all the families of friends that are involv’d in the oppressive practice of Slave-keeping & have with sorrow to observe the backwardness that prevails with too many Elders in society, to do Justice to that oppressed people…Testimony should be maintain’d against this oppressive practice.” [23]

While Quakers were seen by revolutionaries as siding with the British Crown, they took sides when it came to the moral issue of slavery.

In the turbulent revolutionary environment, Quakers in Baltimore Town survived through a war which would change the new United States as the British imperial system was removed and the colonial elite structures remained.

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


Notes

[1] Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 7 March 1777 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society.

[2] It is possible that Adams was factious in this letter.

[3] Indian Spring Monthly Meeting: Minutes (Sandy Spring), 1772-1817, 27 October 1775 [MSA SC 2978 SCM 638-1]. The Indian Spring meeting specifically, as some have noted, “even indirectly contributed to the war effort by raising money in 1775 for the inhabitants of faraway Boston after the start of the Revolution.”

[4] Thomas Paine, “The American Crisis Number III,” Maryland Journal, May 6, 1777, Baltimore, Vol. IV, issue 182, page 2.

[5] Maryland Journal, May 13, 1777, Baltimore, Vol. IV, issue 184, page 1; Maryland Journal, September 16, 1777, Baltimore, Vol. IV, issue 202, page 1-2.

[6] J. Saurin Norris, The early Friends (or Quakers) in Maryland (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1862), 25; Camila Townsend, Tales of Two Cities: Race and Economic Culture in Early Republican North and South America: Guayaquil, Ecuador, and Baltimore, Maryland (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), 105. In Maryland, the General Assembly, even in 1747, passed a law to condemn public drunkenness outside Quakers houses of worship among other laws in 1718, 17481752, 1757, and 1765. Even so, they continued to meet in a Baltimorean private dwelling, a meeting place since about 1700. Starting in the 1770s, Quaker millers, who lived in Philadelphia, were displaced by the Revolution and settled near Baltimore. It is worth noting that a general meeting of the Quakers for the state of Maryland was not held in Baltimore until 1787.

[7] Pacificus, “To the Public,” Maryland Journal, June 16, 1778, Baltimore, Vol. V, issue 242, page 1. This is not the same as Alexander Hamilton, a man who took the pseudonym ‘Pacificus’ and debated with framers of the Constitution.

[8] Arthur Mekeel, “The American Revolution: New York Divided,” Quaker Crosscurrents: Three Hundred Years of Friends in the New York Yearly Meetings (ed. Hugh Barbour, Christopher Densmore, Elizabeth H. Moger, Nancy C. Sorel, Alson D. Van Wagner, and Arthur J. Worrall, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1995), 51-61; David Cooper, “For the Testimony of Truth,” American Quaker War Tax Resistance (ed. David M. Gross, second edition, ebook: CreateSpace, 2011), 216-217; “Conclusion of the Piece Begun in the Maryland Journal Extraordinary of the 6th of November,” Maryland Journal, December 3, 1782, Vol. IX, issue 483, page 1. Based on the types of persecution that Quakers endured in later years it is possible to infer the conditions that they lived through in that fateful year of independence. Even with their outspoken beliefs, the Quakers were still worshipping in a meeting house in Baltimore by the end of the war, along with the town’s other religious denominations.

[9] Baltimore Yearly Meetings, Meeting for sufferings 1778-1841, October 1778, p. 2-3 [MSA SC 2400, SCM 556-2].

[10] Baltimore Quarterly Meeting: Minutes, 1710-1822, 1776, Quarterly Meeting for the Western Shore Collection, Special Collections, p. 132 [MSA SC 3123, SCM 571-1].

[11] Baltimore Yearly Meetings, October 1778, Meeting for sufferings 1778-1841, p. 4-5 [MSA SC 2400, SCM 556-2].

[12] Baltimore Yearly Meetings, October 1778, Meeting for sufferings 1778-1841,  p. 4-5 [MSA SC 2400, SCM 556-2].

[13] Peter Brock, Pacifism in the United States: From the Colonial Era to the First World War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), 223, 228; Maryland Journal, November 4, 1777, Vol. v, issue 209, page 4; Maryland Journal, April 21, 1778, Vol. V, issue 233, page 1.

[14] Brock, 39, 223; Bi-centennial of Brick Meeting-House, Calvert, Cecil County, Maryland (Lancaster: Wickersham Printing Company, 1902), 55. This text also notes that Brown was born in Little Britain, Pennsylvania, which had its own meeting of Quakers was associated with the East Nottingham meeting in Maryland, which was in Cecil County’s East Nottingham Hundred.

[15] Brock, 223; Grace L. Tracey and John Philip Dern, Pioneers of Old Monocacy: The Early Settlement of Frederick County, Maryland 1721-1743 (Baltimore: Genealogical Printing, 1989), 82; Bi-centennial of Brick Meeting-House, 46, 53, 56. It is possible that some of these Jeremiah Browns could have been his father.

[16] Bi-centennial of Brick Meeting-House, 66, 70.

[17] Brock, 212; “The Examination of Joseph Galloway, Esq; before the House of Commons,” Maryland Journal, November 23, 1779, Baltimore, Vol. VI, issue 322, page 1; “A Further Extract from the Examination of Joseph Galloway, Esq; by a Committee of the British House of Commons,” Maryland Journal, December 7, 1779, Baltimore, Vol. VI, issue 324, page 1. It is likely that Quakers lived under similar conditions in 1776, especially after the Declaration of Independence. During the British occupation of Philadelphia after 1778, the British reported that one-fourth of the population were Quakers and that they refused to carry arms.

[18] Baltimore Quarterly Meeting: Minutes, 1710-1822, 1776-1777, Quarterly Meeting for the Western Shore Collection, Special Collections, p. 131, 133-134 [MSA SC 3123, SCM 571-1]. They also discussed slavery in their yearly meetings, of course.

[19] Herbert Aptheker, “The Quakers and Negro Slavery.” The Journal of Negro History 25, no. 3 (1940): 352; Jennifer H. Doresey, Hirelings: African American Workers and Free Labor in Early Maryland (London: Cornell University Press, 2011), 40; David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1823 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 25; David W Jordan, “”Gods Candle” within Government: Quakers and Politics in Early Maryland.” The William and Mary Quarterly 39, no. 4 (1982): 653. In earlier years, Quakers in Baltimore had “participated integrally in the local and provisional life of the colony,” even engaging in acts of civil disobedience.

[20] Baltimore Quarterly Meeting: Minutes, 1710-1822, 1777, Quarterly Meeting for the Western Shore Collection, Special Collections, p. 135-137 [MSA SC 3123, SCM 571-1]; Baltimore Yearly Meetings, Miscellaneous Contents, 1677–1901, Advice (General), p. 6-7 [MSA SC 2400, SCM 551-1].

[21] Stephen Whitman, “Diverse Good Causes: Manumission and the Transformation of Urban Slavery.” Social Science History 19, no. 3 (1995): 334.

[22] Jean R. Soderlund, Quakers and Slavery: A Divided Spirit (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985), 57.

[23] Baltimore Quarterly Meeting: Minutes, 1710-1822, 1777, Quarterly Meeting for the Western Shore Collection, Special Collections, p. 137 [MSA SC 3123, SCM 571-1]. In that meeting, the investigation of fellow brethren who held enslaved blacks was continued, with a report scheduled for the next quarterly meeting.

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 through 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!