Were The Maryland
On July 4, 1776, our
fledging young country, then calling itself the United Colonies, declared
its independence from England,
one of the greatest military forces in the world at that time. England,
for her part, was determined to squelch these rebel upstarts once and for
Feelings ran high all over
Maryland. The citizens of Charles County
posted the following notice to their representatives at the Maryland
Convention, undoubtedly written some days or weeks before, that appeared
in the July 4, 1776 edition of the Maryland
Josias Hawkins, Thomas Stone, Robert T. Hooe, Joseph D. Harrison, and William Harrison, Esqrs.
WE, the subscribers, freemen of Charles county, in
the province of Maryland, taking into our meritorious consideration, the
present state of the unhappy dispute between Great Britain and the United
Colonies, and the great distress and hardships they have brought upon us,
thereby, think proper to deliver to you our sentiments, and to instruct
you in certain points relative to your conduct in the next convention, as
representatives of this county.
Reasons for the mode of voting and determining questions by a
majority of counties have not appeared to us to exist since the last
general election; therefore, we charge and instruct you to move for and endeavour to obtain a regulation for voting
individually, and determining questions by a majority of members, and not
of counties, in (the) future.
And we know we have a right to hear, or be informed
what is transacted in convention, we instruct you to move for and endeavour to obtain a resolve for the doors of the
house to be kept open in (the) future, and that, on all questions
proposed and seconded, the yeas and nays be taken, and together with
every other part of your proceedings, published except such only as may
relate to military operations, questions on which ought to be debated and
with the doors shut, and the determinations thereon kept secret.
The experience that we have had of the cruelty and
injustice of the British government, under which we have too long borne
oppression and wrongs, and notwithstanding every peaceable endeavor of
the United Colonies to get redress of grievances, by decent, dutiful, and
sincere petitions and representations to the king and parliament, giving
every assurance of our affection and loyalty and praying for no more than
peace, liberty, and safety, under the British government, yet have we
received nothing but an increase of insult and injury, by all the
colonies being declared in actual rebellion; savages hired to take up
arms against us; slaves proclaimed free, enticed away, trained and armed
against their lawful masters; our towns plundered, burnt, and destroyed;
our vessels and property seized on the seas, made free plunder to the
captors, and our seamen forced to take arms against ourselves; our
friends and countrymen, when captivated, confined to dungeons, and as if
criminals, chained down to the earth; our estates confiscated, and our
men, women, and children robbed and murdered.
And, as at this time, instead of commissioners to
negotiate a peace, as we have been led to believe, were coming out, a
formidable fleet of British ships, with a numerous army of foreign
soldiers, in British pay, are daily expected on our coast to force us to
yield the property we have honorably acquired, and fairly own, and drudge
out the remainder of our days in misery and wretchedness, leaving us
nothing better to bequeath to posterity than poverty and slavery.
We must, for these reasons declare that our
affection for the people, and allegiance to the crown of Great Britain,
is readily and truly acknowledged till of late, is forfeited on their
part. And as we are convinced that
nothing virtuous, human, generous, or just, can be expected from the
British king, or nation, and that they will exert themselves to reduce us
to a state of slavery, by every effort and artifice in their power, we
are of (the) opinion that the time is fully arrived for the colonies to
adopt the last measure, for our command good and safety, and that the
sooner they declare themselves separate from, and independent of the
crown and parliament of Great Britain, and establish their liberties on a
firm and permanent basis.
We therefore most earnestly instruct and charge you
to move for, without loss of time, and endeavour
to obtain positive instructions, from the convention of Maryland to their
delegates in congress, immediately to join the other colonies in
declaring, that the United Colonies no longer owe allegiance to, nor are
they dependent upon, the crown or parliament of Great Britain, or any
other power on earth, but are, for time to come, free and independent
states; provided that the power of forming government, and regulating the
internal concerns of each colony, be left to their respective
legislatures; and that the said delegates give the assent of this
province to any further consideration of the colonies for the support of
their union; and for forming such foreign commercial connections as may
be required and necessary for our common good and safety.
And as the present government under the king cannot
longer exist with the safety to the freemen of this province, we are of
(the) opinion a new form of government, agreeable to the late
recommendation of the honourably continental
congress to all the United Colonies, ought immediately to be
We were at war, and the
Continental Congress had set quotas for the colonies. Maryland was scrambling to raise, arm,
and equip 3,400 troops. Recruiters, often accompanied by fifers and
drummers, were everywhere. Young
boys from all over Maryland
were heeding the call. Most of
them were farm boys and watermen who could neither read nor write, but
they knew this was something worth fighting for and they wanted to be a
part of it.
The streets of the towns
and cities were alive with activity.
Many clergymen were encouraging their parishioners to join the
fray. The boys could envision themselves in the beautiful buff and red uniforms
they had seen some of the officers wear. Some simply joined for the
promised bounties because their families needed the money. For most,
though, it was the most exciting time of their young lives and they were
going to be heroes and drive these hated British back to England
where they belonged. They were
sure of it!
Maryland was the first colony to meet her quota of
soldiers, but was having great difficulty providing logistical
support. There were not enough
uniforms, guns, ammunition, blankets, tents, haversacks, and medical
supplies. In many cases, soldiers
could not march because they simply had no guns. In several instances, militia from one
county borrowed from the other to be able to march on to New York.
6, 1776: Council to Colo Thomas Ewing. Sir.
We have ordered Captn Young's
Company up to Balto County
to be subject to your command, and we have advanced him the sum of 125
Curry to purchase necessaries, you'll be pleased to apply to
the Committee for Blankets with the inclosed order,
were you to march one of yr Companies unarmed to Philadelphia,
we doubt no arms can be got, we have not more due to us than will arm one
Company — we have applied several times by our Deputies and cannot
get them — if you can satisfy us that we stand any chance of
succeeding in our application, we will cheerfully give an order —to
do it would only expose you and ourselves — the hunting shirts you
cannot have, we want them for that Part of the Flying Camp, that is to
supply the place of Colo Smallwood's
Battalion. As your companies march
forward they shall be supplied with every thing we can spare, but an
unlimited order [we do not care to give].
(Archives of Maryland, Vol. 12, p. 176).
11, 1776. Baltimore. Capt Posey with
his company arrived here 9th & I expect Capt
Forrest this day or to morrow. You will please send an order for things
to equip Capt Forrest out. Capt Posey will write you for some
money, which please send, the gunsmith wrought
all night and works all this day. I am as industrious as I can but can do
but little without your assistance, for God sake if any way possible, let
me have some arms. (Thomas Ewing to the Council). (Archives of Maryland, Vol. 12, p.
12, 1776. Council to Col. Thomas Ewing …the three Companies viz': Posey's, Lowe's, and Young's. Captn Forrest we have ordered to remain in
St Mary's County to supply the place of Thomas's Independent
Company — he will be obliged to borrow arms from the militia.
(Archives of Maryland, Vol. 12, p. 197).
16, 1776. To the Deputies in
Congress. Sir. We received yours
of the 13th and have seen what you wrote to Major Jenifer on
the State of Publick Affairs, in
Con-sequence of a Resolve of the Convention we have given orders to all
the Independant Companies four in number to
march. Colonel Carvell Hall and Colonel Ewing,
and six orseven Companies on the Eastern Shore
have like orders toMarch, so that with Griffith's
Battalion, we shall have near four thousand men with you in a short time
— this exceeds our proportion for the flying. Camp, but we are
sending all we have that can be armed and equipped, and the people of New
York, for whom we have great affection, can have no more than our all.
Inclosed you have a list of the several
Battalions & Companies.
S. These Companies are not all fully armed and equipped, but we hope soon
to Collect enough.
of the Troops from Maryland
Battalion 9 Companies 76 each................ 684
Captain Veazey 100, Captain Hindman
100, Captain Thomas 100...................300
Captain Beall 100, Captain Gunby
Captain Woolford 100, Captain Watkins
Battalion 9 Companies 90 men each............ 810
Colonel Carvell Halls ditto ditto
............ 8 10
3 Companies of Colonel Ewings...............................
7 Companies of Eastern Shore Battalion
remaining Companies of Ewings and the Eastern Shore Battalion must borrow Arms from the
Militia to do duty here they can get Arms on no other Terms. (Archives of
Maryland, Vol. 12, p. 211-213).
York was to
be the first battle front, involving troops for almost all of the
colonies. Both sides of this conflict knew the strategic importance of
the port of
New York. By taking New York,
the British, in theory, could divide the colonies by isolating New England and blockading shipments to the
By the middle of August,
the British had a fleet larger than the Spanish Armada lying in the
harbor at New York. British land and naval forces are said
to have numbered almost 30,000 men.
The colonies were sending every man they could find. It is estimated that there were
approximately 20,000 Americans there. While most of them may have been
untrained and ill equipped, they were willing to fight! Wives, sweethearts, parents and
siblings undoubtedly cried many tears for their departing loved ones, but
there was pride as well. This
humorous notice appeared in the Maryland
Gazette on August 22, 1776:
New York, August
12. We hear from Elizabeth-town,
that on a late alarm there, when an immediate attack was expected, and
every man capable of bearing arms, was summoned to defend it, there were
three or four young men, brothers, going out from one house, when an
elderly lady, mother or grandmother to the young men, who, without
betraying the least signs of timidity, had, with a resolute calmness,
encouraged and assisted them to arm, when they were ready to go, and just
setting out, addressed them thus: “My children I have a few words
to say to you: You are going out in a just cause, to fight for the rights
and liberties of your country—you have my blessings and prayers,
that God will protect and assist you—but if you fall—his will
be done. Let me beg of you, my
children, that if you fall, it may be like men; and that your wounds may
not be in your back parts.”
George Washington was also
concerned about the soldiers being shot in their “back
parts.” “If I see any
man turn his back today, I will shoot him through,'' one unidentified
private later claimed to hear Washington
shout at his men. “I have two pistols loaded, but I will not ask
any man to go further than I do. I will fight so long as I have a leg or
an arm.'' The stage was set, the
soldiers were in place, and on August 27, 1776, the first major battle of
the American Revolution took place. It was a rout. In a short period of time, the British
had outflanked and surrounded the American soldiers. Brooklyn
had become a killing field.
“All over the field, many who tried to
surrender were slaughtered and stragglers were shot down or bayoneted
when they could not escape.
Hessians with leveled bayonets formed circles around terrified
groups of Americans in the woods; methodically these rings would close
until all life within them was extinguished. Earlier, the British had made a point
to spread the rumor in the Hessian ranks that the Americans practiced
cannibalism on defeated enemies, noting, as evidence, the tomahawk each
man carried.” (Battle of Brooklyn, 1776 by John J. Gallagher)
Some of the soldiers, at
first so eager to fight, now faced reality. The battlefield was littered with dead
and dying men, some of whom were their neighbors, friends, and even
Colonel Smallwood would
later report to the Maryland Council:
“I could wish the Transactions of this Day
blotted out of the Annals of America,—nothing appeared but Flight
Disgrace and Confusion, let it suffice to say that 60 Light Infantry upon
the First Fire put to flight two Brigades of the Connecticut
Troops—Wretches, who, however strange it may appear, from the
Brigadier General down to the Private Sentinal,
were caned and whip'd by the Generals
Washington Putnam & Miflin, but e'ven this Indignity had no Weight they could not be
brought to stand one Shot—Genl
Washington expressly sent and drew our Regiment from its Brigade,
to march down towards New York, to cover the Retreat and to defend the
Baggage, with direction to take Possession of an Advantageous Eminence
near the Enemy upon the Main Road, where we remained under Arms the best
part of the Day, till Sergant's Brigade came in
with their Baggage, who were the last Troops coming in, upon which the
Enemy divided their Main Body into two Columns, one filing off on the
North River endeavored to Flank and surround us, the other advancing in
good order slowly up the Main Road upon us, we had orders to retreat, in
good order which was done, our Corps getting within the Lines a little
after Dusk—.” (Archives of Maryland, Vol. 12, p. 338-343).
Colonel Smallwood was not
at the battle that morning. He had
been ordered to remain in New
York City to serve on a court-martial board, so
Capt. Mordecai Gist was acting in his absence. He did, however, arrive after the
battle was underway.
The Marylanders under
Gist, along with troops from Pennsylvania
were called upon to cover the retreat of the American forces under the
command of General William Alexander (also known as Lord Stirling).
Blocking the retreat was a stone house, then
held by the British.
“Cornwallis had taken possession of the
Cortelyou house, in the rear of Stirling’s
line, and the latter saw that if he could not drive him back, or at least
hold him where he was, his whole command would suffer death or capture. He resolved upon a costly sacrifice to
save his retreating columns, which were now toiling through the salt
marshes and across the deep tide-water creek in the rear. Changing his front and taking with him
less than 400 of the Maryland regiment under Major Gist, Stirling ordered the rest of his force to retreat
across the Gowanus marsh and creek, which the
rising tide was making every moment less and less passable. Smallwood’s regiment, composed in
a large part of the sons of the best families of Maryland, nicknamed the
Macaroni by the Tories of New
York—was now to have its courage,
self-devotion and discipline proved.
(The heroes of the American Revolution and their descendants:
Battle of Long Island Brooklyn: Heroes
of the Revolution Pub. Co., by Henry Whittemore,1897-1899,
preface vii and viii ).
There was only one way for Stirling to stop the inexorable British
tide, and that was to attack. Into a rain of British fire, the
Marylanders charged, and Cornwallis recoiled, stunned by the unexpected
rebel onslaught. Though
the ground became littered with dead and dying Maryland
formed them up again. Again, they
attacked, closing up the line when comrades fell, reforming and attacking
again, their numbers diminishing by the minute. Six
charged and twice the assaults drove the British from the stone house. (Battle of Brooklyn,
1776 by John J. Gallagher).
Each attack was met with the withering counterfire as the British masses swelled against
this fanatically determined American rearguard. As Stirling launched his last assault, with
a remaining handful of men, even more British reinforcements
arrived. At last, the remnant of
the Marylanders broke into small parties to fight their way to safety. In the last attack Stirling himself was captured by some
Hessians who had outrun their unit.
He refused to give up to Cornwallis. He surrendered instead to deHeister, the Hessian commander. Cornwallis later said, “General Stirling fought like a wolf.” (Battle
of Brooklyn, 1776 by John J. Gallagher).
Stirling’s and Marylanders’ gallant
action allowed the rest of the Americans remaining in the field to escape
across the Gowanus Creek and survive. Only seven men crossing the Gowanus were lost through drowning. But the Marylanders had sacrificed
themselves for the sake of the army.
Out of barely 400 men, 256
lay dead in front of the Old Stone House. Over
100 others were wounded and/or captured. Only
Gist and nine others managed to regain the American lines. This sacrifice was to be remembered
throughout the war. ‘The
Declaration of Independence that was
signed in ink in Philadelphia was signed
in blood in south Brooklyn.” (Battle
of Brooklyn, 1776 by John J. Gallagher).
Private John Plumb Martin,
a young Connecticut soldier, said: “There
was in this action a regiment of Maryland
troops (volunteers), all young gentlemen.
When they came out of the water and mud to us, looking like water
rats, it was truly a pitiful sight.
Many of them were killed in the pond and more were drowned. Some of us went into the water after
the fall of the tide, and took a number of corpses and a great many arms
that were sunk in the pond and creek.”
Washington, along with Putnam and some other generals, was
watching from an observation post on Cobble Hill. An American rifleman wrote: “Most of our generals on a high
hill in the lines, viewed us with glasses, as we were retreating, and saw
the enemy we had to pass through, thought we could not. Many thought we would surrender in a
body without firing. When we began
the attack, Gen. Washington
wrung his hands and cried out “Good God! What brave fellows I must
this day lose!”
report to the Maryland Council continues:
“The Place of Action upon a direct Line did
not much exceed a Mile from a part of our Lines towards the Head of which
Creek there was a Mill and Bridge across which a certain Col. Ward from
New England, who is charged with having acted a Bashful part that Day, pass'd over with his Regiment and then burnt them
Down, tho' under cover of our Cannon, which
would have check'd the Enemy's Pursuit at any
Time, otherways this Bridge might have afforded
a secure Retreat, there then remained no other Prospect but to surrender
or attempt to retreat over this Marsh and Creek at the Mouth, where no
Person had ever been known to Cross.
In the Interim I applied to Genl
Washington for some Regiments to march out to support and cover their
Retreat, which he urged would be attended with too great Risk to the Party
and the Lines; he immediately afterwards sent for and ordered me to march
down a New England Regiment, and Capt. Thomas's Compy
which had just come over from York, to the Mouth of the Creek opposite
where the Brigade was drawn up, and ordered two Field Pieces down, to
support and cover their Retreat, should they make a push that Way.
Soon after our march, they began to retreat, and
for a small Time the Fire was very heavy on both sides, till our Troops
came to the Marsh, where they were obliged to break their order, and
escape as quick as they could to the Edge of the Creek, under a brisk
Fire, notwithstanding which they brought off 28 Prisoners—The Enemy
taking advantage of a Commanding Ground kept up a continual Fire from
Four Field Pieces, which were well served & directed, and an Heavy
Column advancing on the Marsh must have cut our People off, their Guns
being wet and muddy not one of them would have fired, but having drawn up
the Musquetry and disposed of some Rifle Men
conveniently, with orders to fire on them when they came within Shot,
however the Latter began their Fire rather too soon being at 200 yards
Distance, which notwithstanding had the desired Effect, for the Enemy
immediately retreated to the Fast Land, where they continued parading within
800 yards till our Troops were brought over, most of those who swam over,
and others who attempted to cross before the Covering Party got down,
lost their Arms and ccoutrements in the Mud
& Creek, and some Poor Fellows their Lives, particularly two of the
Maryland, two of the Delaware one of Attleys Pensylvania and two Hessian Prisoners were drowned.
Thomas's Men contributed much in bringing over this Party—have
enclosed a List of the Kill'd & Missing
amounting to 256 officers inclusive (Note: This list is not known to now exist),
it has been said the Enemy during the Action, also attacked our Lines,
but this was a Mistake, not knowing the Ground one of their Columns
advanced within Long Shot, without knowing they were so near and upon our
Artillery & part of the Musquetry's Firing
on them, they immediately fled.”
(Note: Col. Smallwood is referring to Capt.
John Allen Thomas and the 5th Independent Company from St.
On part of the land where
the Marylanders made their stand is a plaque that reads: “New
York/Maryland Heroes/Here Lie Buried 256/Maryland Soldiers/Who Fell in
the/Battle of Brooklyn/August
The men, whose names we
don’t all know at this point, lie in a mass grave on Third Avenue between 7th
and 8th Streets, and despite stipulations in deeds to the
contrary that this place is hallowed ground, the
site is now occupied by an automobile repair shop that is not marked.
I realize that I have told
you what the Maryland
400 did, but I haven’t told you who they were. Lists have been made at various times
over the years, but there is not one accurate, complete list that I have
been able to find. The names of
the men are often misspelled, the companies in which they served are identified
incorrectly, and further research indicates, in some cases, that although
a soldier was listed he was not present that day. For instance, Captains Barton Lucas
and Peter Adams were not on the battlefield that day based on this
“Major Guest (sic)
commanded the Maryland battalion (the
col. and lt. col. being both at York). Capts.
Adams and Lucas were sick.
(Onderdonk, Revolutionary Incidents, p.
147-148, from The Spirit of ‘Seventy-Six: the story of the American
Revolution as told by participants”, Edited by Henry Steele Commager
and Richard B. Morris, DeCapo Press, New York,
For further information, I
strongly suggest you read
“The Battle of Brooklyn, 1776” by John Gallagher. If you have any information about the
soldiers who fought at the Battle of Brooklyn, whether they were a part
of the Maryland
400 or not, please contact me.
The following is the
hyperlink for the Old Stone House.
Kim Maier, the Executive Director, and Joe Ferris, along with a
host of other good Brooklyn folks, are
doing their best to keep the memory alive. Notice that the Maryland flag flies in the front of
the house. Your membership and
support would be most welcomed.
The photo at the beginning
of this article is provided courtesy of the Old Stone House. It’s from a display in the house
that depicts the battle where the Marylanders made their stand.
Linda Davis Reno, August 29,