Regular readers of Finding the Maryland 400 will already know about William McMillan. As a 20 year old sergeant at the Battle of Brooklyn, McMillan survived a battle where “My captain was killed, first lieutenant was killed, second lieutenant shot through the hand, two sergeants was killed; one in front of me… two corporals killed.” McMillan was taken prisoner, along with his brother Samuel. The two later escapes from a British prison in Nova Scotia and returned to fight for the rest of the war.
McMillan’s life before and after the Revolutionary War is equally fascinating. He was a Scottish immigrant who came to America only a few years before the Revolution began, and serves as an illustration of a veteran who later migrated from the state and achieved a level of prosperity that he could have never found in Maryland.
It is unclear what status he had upon arriving in America with his brother, but neither he nor anyone else in his family owned any land between their arrival and the war. Living in Harford County, Maryland, he enlisted into the Continental Army in 1776 to fight for a country that he had only known for a few years. There is too little information to know conclusively what happened to him in the years immediately following the war, but he likely returned to Maryland for a short time before his eventual relocation. McMillan and his brother settled in western Pennsylvania, a place where land was available and easy to acquire, and he began to make a life for himself in his new home. He was successful in his pursuit; throughout the first decades of the nineteenth century, McMillan bought, sold, and traded land, something there was little opportunity to do if he had remained in Maryland.
Beginning his life in America as a tenant or an indentured servant, McMillan joined the Continental Army and had an incredible experience. He was eventually promoted to lieutenant, putting him in his first position of real authority in his life. After the war, he was unable to attain the same social significance or a desirable level of economic prosperity, so he left Maryland for a place that could offer what he desired. His move was successful, and he became prosperous through the trade of land, which in turn improved his social status.
Thank you for reading about the lives of these Maryland veterans of the American Revolution! Much more new content is coming soon!