The Battle of Brooklyn in Five Objects: Number 3, “The New Invented Napsack and Haversack in One”

Today’s object focuses on the knapsack,  a vital piece of equipment for the Maryland soldiers. During the Revolutionary War, soldiers used knapsacks to carry extra clothing and personal items.  They also used haversacks to carry their food and eating utensils. The knapsack shown below is a modern reproduction of the type carried by some Maryland soldiers in 1776 (although possibly not the men who fought at the Battle of Brooklyn).


A reproduction of a knapsack used by the Maryland soldiers, made by members of a First Maryland Regiment reenactor group.

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The Battle of Brooklyn in Five Objects: Number 2, Mordecai Gist’s Portrait

Today’s object, as we move closer to the beginning of combat at the Battle of Brooklyn, is the portrait of Mordecai Gist. As the First Maryland Regiment’s major, Gist was the third-highest ranking officer, and the man who led the Marylanders at the Battle of Brooklyn. At the end of the battle he joined American general William Alexander, Lord Stirling, in the final stand at the Old Stone House, and also left behind a vivid and detailed account of the battle.

Mordecai Gist (1742/43-1792)
Peter Egeli (b. 1934), after Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), 1975
MSA SC 1545-1066

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The Battle of Brooklyn in Five Objects: Number 1, William Sands’s Letter

The anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn will take place next Sunday. To commemorate it, we are beginning a new series: The Battle of Brooklyn in Five Objects. Every day this week we will feature an object from the collections of the Maryland State Archives that helps to tell the story of the service and sacrifice of the First Maryland Regiment.

We begin today with a description of the scene in New York in the days before the Battle of Brooklyn. William Sands was a nineteen-year-old sergeant from Annapolis when he wrote this letter to his parents, Ann and John Sands.

William Sands’s letter to his parents, August 14, 1776 [MSA SC 2095-1-184]

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“Gate’s Defeat”: The Battle of Camden

1779 was a relatively uneventful year for the Revolutionary War.  The British became tired of the stalemate, so in an attempt to finish the war, they refocused their attention to the south.  The southern Continental Army was shattered after the Siege of Charleston and soon after, the militia was forced out.  The Continental Army then sent men, including ones from Maryland, to defend those colonies.  The Battle of Camden, the first battle of the campaign, was a bloody loss for the Americans, and almost resulted in an end to the war. Some of the men who fought at Camden were from the Maryland 400. Just as at the battles of Brooklyn and Staten Island, the Marylanders at the Battle of Camden found themselves alone on the battlefield after the rest of the army fled. Continue reading

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The Maryland 400’s Mutineer

In a recent post, we explored crime and punishment in the Continental Army. During the Revolutionary War, desertions and mutinies were crucial parts of the Continental soldier’s experiences. In the first year of war, 80 percent of criminal activity of the troops was classified as desertion or mutiny. As the war went on, mutinies only became more organized, more common, and involved more men. [1]

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A Completed Company!

We are very happy to announce that we have recently completed work on another company! Last week we posted the final biography of a soldier in the Seventh Independent Company, which was raised on the Eastern Shore. While the company had over one hundred men—somewhere between 106 and 111—we were only able to identify 69 of them. Many of the company’s records were lost in 1776, when they were mistakenly sent to the home of the unit’s commander, Captain Edward Veazey, instead of the state capital at Annapolis. Most of the names that we do know come from a muster roll of half the company, taken in May 1776, shown below. Continue reading

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Crime and Punishment in the Continental Army

From the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the American military justice system was governed by the articles of war, adopted on June 30, 1775.  They were extremely similar to those used by the British enemy, and although both relied heavily on corporal punishment, the American punishments were noticeably less severe.  They limited the maximum flogging sentence to 39 lashes, opposed to the 500 or more lashes that could be given to British soldiers.  It soon became clear that this was not harsh enough to discourage the men from committing crimes.  [1] Continue reading

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The Maryland 400 in the News

As some of you may have seen, there has been lots of news coverage about the Maryland 400 recently. A site in Brooklyn long said to contain the graves of the Marylanders killed in 1776 is being excavated ahead of proposed construction of a school. Our project director Owen Lourie spoke to the Baltimore Sun about the Maryland 400 and their role in the Battle of Brooklyn:

“Dig may settle mystery into lost grave of famed Maryland 400 soldiers” [Baltimore Sun]

If you want to learn more about the archaeological study of the site, check out these articles:

Hopefully, the findings of the dig will be released soon. Whether or not any trace of the Marylanders is found, it’s wonderful that so much attention is being paid to them and the Battle of Brooklyn. We’re proud that we can do our part by telling their story.

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The Midnight Attack on Stony Point


This map details the initial American fortifications at Stony and Verplank’s Points along with British additions.

While each campaign year of the Revolutionary War had its own purpose and series of events, the main focus of the campaign of 1779 was to maintain the vital lines of communication between the Eastern and Southern states. George Washington believed that the fort at West Point was “the most important Post in America,” and he treated it as such. The British knew Washington’s control over West Point would not be broken by a direct attack and decided to try to draw Washington out instead. After British forces destroyed a series of towns in Connecticut in a failed attempt to persuade Washington to face them in the open plain and abandon West Point, Washington chose to respond in a way that was entirely unexpected. Thirteen miles from West Point, the British occupied Stony Point and Verplancks Point. Located on opposite sides of the Hudson River, the ferry that ran between them was the shortest and most effective line of communication between the east and the south. [1] Continue reading

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The Significance of December 10, 1776

If you’ve read a few biographies of the men of the Maryland 400, you may have noticed that many of the troops reenlisted on December 10, 1776. This is not a coincidence, but is the outcome of the reorganization of the Continental Army. Our biographies often summarize this event, but what really happened and why? [1] Continue reading

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