The Summer of Independence Begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

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

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3 Responses to The Summer of Independence Begins

  1. josmdoyle says:

    Do you know which six companies of the First Maryland Regiment were stationed in Annapolis? Were the other three in Baltimore? Or perhaps in Frederick?

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