Demographics in the First Maryland Regiment

Military service record of John Burgess

Military service record of John Burgess. John Burgess, Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, 0399, fold3.

A former member of the Fifth Company who fought at the Battle of Brooklyn, John Burgess was described as a slender, 42-year-old man, with light brown hair, a “swarthy” complexion, and a height of five feet eleven inches, who was born in England, according to his military service record from 1782. Burgess was not however, representative of the typical soldier of the Maryland Line.[1]

7th Independent Company Descriptive Roster

The 7th Independent Company’s descriptive roster. MARYLAND STATE PAPERS (Revolutionary Papers) Descriptions of men in Capt. F. Veazey’s Independent Comp. MdHR 19970-15-29/01 [MSA S997-15, 01/07/03/013]

One of the best demographic records from the First Maryland Regiment in the early stages of the Revolutionary War comes from a muster roll of Edward Veazey’s Seventh Independent Company in 1776. This muster roll indicated the height, age, and country of origin of 54 men, about half of the company. From these descriptions, we are able to ascertain an image of the average soldier in the Maryland Line. A typical soldier was in his early to mid 20s, under five feet eight inches, and born in America.[2]

At five feet eleven inches, Burgess would have immediately stood out among Veazey’s troops. The height disparity is even more notable since Burgess was a foreign-born soldier. When comparing native and foreign-born soldiers in Veazey’s company for example, American soldiers had a median height of five feet seven inches while their foreign-born comrades were under five feet six inches. Only one soldier recorded on Veazey’s roster, Marylander Solomon Slocome who stood six feet two inches, was taller than Burgess.[3]

When he initially enlisted in 1776, Burgess was about 36 years old, almost twelve years older than the average soldier in Veazey’s company. While Burgess was older than Veazey’s average soldier, this was typical of foreign-born soldiers. In 1776, the foreign-born soldiers in the Seventh Independent Company were an average of 26 years old and the American-born soldiers 24.[4]

By the end of the war, the disparity between the ages of native and foreign-born troops had grown, with a median age of 21 and 29 years old respectively. All of the soldiers in Veazey’s company under the age of 22 for example, were American-born.  Foreign-born soldiers may have been older on average than their native-born counterparts due to the necessity of completing indentures prior to enlistment, or immigration to America as an older adult.[5]

Also indicated in Burgess’s military service records was his place of residence at the time of his enlistment. Burgess, like many other immigrants who enlisted in the First Maryland Regiment, was a resident of Baltimore. By this time there was little available farm land in Maryland, and what was available sold for a premium, which made land ownership extremely difficult for immigrant families. Baltimore however, was a booming urban center with a job market open to immigrants, which may have drawn men like Burgess into the city.[6]

To read more about John Burgess, check out his recently posted biography here.

-Taira

[1] John Burgess, Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, 0399, fold3 (hereafter cited as Service Records).

[2] MARYLAND STATE PAPERS (Revolutionary Papers) Descriptions of men in Captain Eward Veazey’s Independent Company, MdHR 19970-15-29/01 [MSA S997-15, 01/07/03/013] (hereafter cited as Veazey’s Independent Company).

[3] Veazey’s Independent Company.

[4] Veazey’s Independent Company.

[5] Edward C. Papenfuse and Gregory A. Stiverson, “General Smallwood’s Recruits: The Peacetime Career of the Revolutionary War Private,” The William and Mary Quarterly 30, no. 1 (1973): 120; Veazey’s Independent Company.

[6] Service Records.

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