The Story of James Marle

Yesterday we celebrated America’s independence. James Marle was one of the men who fought to earn it in the Revolutionary War.

If the age given in his pension application is accurate, Marle was born in or around 1762. This would mean he was fourteen at the time of the Revolution, but he originally enlisted into the Continental Army as “a fifer, or to learn how to play the fife,” a position commonly held by a younger person. However, “being well grown (for a boy of his age) he was soon made to carry a musket, and served all the time as a private soldier, not as a musician.” Thus converted into a soldier, Marle served at the Battle of Long Island with Capt. Nathaniel Ramsey‘s company, who were placed at the front and took the first fire from the British. Levin Winder, future Governor of Maryland, was his lieutenant. Marle survived the battle and went on to serve at White Plains in October of 1776. On the day before Christmas, he marched with the regiment back to Baltimore. Marle continued to serve through 1777 and 1778.

By fall of 1778 Marle was still only about sixteen years old, and his stepfather hired a substitute to take his place in the army. This was not the only time he would serve, however; “he afterward engaged in the militia service, as a private, in the volunteer company… at Annapolis, [and] he continued in this service until after the war.” While in the militia, he “was called out but once, only for a short time, when they took some Tories (as prisoners) on the Chesapeake Bay.”

After the war, Marle lived in Annapolis for a few years, then moved to Baltimore County, and ended up in Loudoun County, Virginia around 1813. Having little or no money, he ended up living in a “poor house” for about six years. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Marle was his memory; he did not leave an account of battle like William McMillan, but in 1839, over fifty-five years after the war ended and twenty-five after he had last seen a man he had served with, he was able to remember the names and ranks of his captain, lieutenant, first sergeant, two corporals, and two other privates in his company, as well as other officers in the Continental Army.

Although James Marle’s story is not the happiest, it is a very interesting one. It also continues a trend we have seen in many of the veterans, for a good number of them have ended up destitute or in bad health after their service ends. I have attached a copy of Marle’s declaration to this post, feel free to take a look at his account of his service and the other details of his life that he mentions by clicking on the images below. Also, you can take a look at his biography to learn more about him.


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