We recently dug up a document that lists several of the men who were taken prisoner at the Battle of Brooklyn. The list was written by Lieutenant James Peale, brother of the famed painter, Charles Willson Peale (you can read more about Lieutenant Peale in a previous post). The list was intended for Christopher Richmond, the paymaster of Smallwood’s battalion. Peale had paid the men upon their release and the return was written so the expense would be “enter’d to his credit.” Money is one of the most reliable ways to track people who seldom turn up in the historic record on their own. This return records the cash paid to soldiers who were “released from captivity at New York.”
The return probably dates from early 1777. James Peale was officially made a lieutenant in December of 1776, and this document was written after his promotion. Additionally, we know that the men in this list who served under Captains Ford and Adams were released from captivity by December 10, 1776. Many of the men already have short biographies through the Maryland 400 project– these are Thomas Cooper, William Holms, Crisenberry Clift, Frederick Myre, Jacob Greenwald and John Good.
I’ve also included three other primary sources that include the names of privates taken prisoner at Brooklyn. These lists include soldiers from Captains Ford, Adams, and Lucas’ companies, and there are many individuals who appear on their company’s list as well as this larger one. Two of the returns were written on February 14 and 15, 1777, when the men had finally returned to Maryland after their imprisonment.
These documents help us add a few more names to the tally of Marylanders taken prisoner at the Battle of Brooklyn. Unsurprisingly, the majority of men who were imprisoned chose not to reenlist in the Continental Army, and the resulting hole left in the historic record makes it difficult to distinguish between men who were killed and those who were taken prisoner. After the Battle of Brooklyn, muster rolls give us an idea of how many people were missing from each company, but they do not show whether those men were killed or captured, particularly the privates. However, documents such as prisoner pay rolls help fill in some of the blanks and can help us come up with a closer approximation of the number of Marylanders killed at the Battle of Brooklyn.
1. MARYLAND STATE PAPERS (Revolutionary Papers) Account of cash paid to soldiers. MdHR 19970-06-25/01 [MSA S997-6-59 01/07/03/011].
2. MARYLAND STATE PAPERS (Revolutionary Papers) Pay Role of Prisoners taken on Long Island from 27th August to the 10th Dec. 1776. MdHR 19970-19-01 [MSA S997-19-1 01/07/03/15].
3. MARYLAND STATE PAPERS (Revolutionary Papers) Pay Role of Prisoners taken on Long Island from 27th August to the 10th Dec. 1776. MdHR 19970-19-02 [MSA S997-19-2 01/07/03/15].
4. MARYLAND STATE PAPERS (Revolutionary Papers) Payroll and return certification of Long Island Prisoners. MdHR 19970-19-03 [MSA S997-19-3 01/07/03/15].