A Veteran Remembers

The last officially recorded fact about Joseph Steward’s military service is that he enlisted in the Second Company of the First Maryland Regiment, commanded by Captain Patrick Sim, on February 26, 1776. There is nothing to tell us what became of him. [1]

But another soldier remembered Steward. Moses Gill still remembered clearly, some fifty years later:

One Circumstance is still fresh in memory. A man by the name of Joseph Steward foolishly attempted to stop a cannon ball which was rolling by him and got his leg broke. He begged not to be left on the field and two men took him up to carry him–but they had not proceeded far before another cannonball passed between the men carrying him and cut the wounded man in two. [2]

Gill was a private in the Flying Camp, a short-term reserve force raised in the summer of 1776 to reinforce the outnumbered Continental Army. The troops arrived in New York too late to fight at the Battle of Brooklyn, but took part in the next clash, the Battle of Harlem Heights, on September 16, 1776. Gill’s captain, John Hawkins Lowe, was wounded in the fighting. [3]

Gill recounted his army service in the 1830s when he applied for a veteran’s pension from the Federal Government. What he could remember was a bit muddled and vague, understandable considering how much time had passed. He wasn’t even sure where Steward’s death had occurred. He described a battle that fits the description of Harlem Heights, but thought it was in Pennsylvania, not New York. [4]

Still, there can be no doubt that he witnessed the death of the same Joseph Steward who survived the Battle of Brooklyn, not a different person with the same name. At the end of his statement, Gill listed the names of six men he had fought with, including Steward, “all of us from the same neighborhood” in the Piscataway area of Prince George’s County, Maryland. Two were in Gill’s Flying Camp company, and the rest were in the Second and Third companies of the First Maryland Regiment, both of which were raised partially in Prince George’s.  [5]

Accounts like Gill’s are vital to the work of this project. They help us to uncover service that is otherwise unrecorded—the deaths of ordinary enlisted soldiers like Steward were often unmentioned in official records—as well as details about soldiers’ family lives and personal relationships. Even when we already know the basic facts of a soldier’s army career—his ranks, units, and dates—the memories and anecdotes that are contained in pension applications like Gill’s won’t be found anywhere else. Being able to include them in our research allows us to truly keep the memories of these soldiers alive.

You can read extracts from Gill’s pension application here, via revwarapps.org. His full pension application is available on Fold3.com (subscription required).

–Owen

Notes:
1. Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution. Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 8.

2. Pension of Moses Gill. National Archives, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land-Warrant Application Files, S 16823, from Fold3.com.

3. Gill pension; Reiman Steuart, The Maryland Line (The Society of the Cincinnati, 1971), 106.

4. Gill pension.

5. Gill pension.

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