In late 1776, Maryland expanded its military contribution to the Continental Army from one regiment to seven. This required a great deal of planning, as each new regiment required about 50 new officers, and so many promotions required much deliberation.
The chart below was probably written by someone on the staff of the Fifth Maryland Regiment in the first part of 1777, possibly the regiment’s commander Col. William Richardson himself, to evaluate potential candidates. Some of these men, like Lt. Andrew Porter, had fought in Richardson’s Flying Camp battalion in the fall and winter of 1776. One of them, Lt. William Frazier, had served in the Fourth Independent Company at the Battle of Brooklyn (of Frazier, we are told only “you have seen him,” either on the battlefield or in civilian life).The chart was intended as a candid assessment of the officers’ abilities, and its author wrote on the back that it was “not to be copied” into the state’s official records. Indeed, he may not have meant for it to be preserved at all. With very few contemporary assessments of individual officers, particularly non-prominent ones, we are very fortunate that this document was saved!
Some men were rated favorably (Gideon Emory: “a Promising youth”; Joseph [sic, John] Warfield: “Said to be Clever”; Thomas Skinner, who had been a private in Richardson’s battalion earlier in 1776: “A Good officer,”). Others were not. James W. Gray was “very indolent & fond of grog,” much like Richard Bird, “a stupid sot.” William Stinson was “Low bred & illiterate,” and John M. Watts was “altogether unfit” for his rank. Philip Reed was “Very Unpromising.”
These ratings did not dictate the course of careers, however. Gray may have been “fond of grog,” but he served to the end of the war, enduring more than a year as a prisoner, rising to major. Bird was promoted to captain in 1780, and was killed at the Battle of Combahee Ferry, South Carolina, the last major battle of the war, in 1782. Reed ended the war was a captain in 1783, and lead the Kent County militia to victory over the British at the Battle of Caulk’s Field in 1814. It is unknown if they proved their early assessments wrong, or if they simply thrived despite their weaknesses