“If I Fall on the Field of Battle”

Captain Daniel Bowie wrote his last will and testament on the eve of the Battle of Brooklyn. The next day he was wounded in battle and captured by the British. While imprisoned he would succumb to his wounds and become another casualty of the Revolution at the age of twenty-two. On August 26, 1776, that possibility could not have been far from his mind as he considered where he wanted to be buried–near his plantation’s garden walk and his father’s tomb– and how he would divide his possessions among his brothers and friends.

Daniel Bowie's Will, August 26, 1776. Prince George's County Wills, Liber W. F. no. 1, Folio 295.

Daniel Bowie’s will, August 26, 1776. Source: Prince George’s County Original Wills, box 12, folder 44.

Aside from its value as a rare surviving document from the battlefront, Daniel Bowie’s will is notable as a document more personal than a muster roll, since it outlines his connections to others in the regiment fighting in New York as well as friends and family back home in Maryland.

This document gives us a hint as to what Bowie looked like, since he left his clothing in camp to Captain Patrick Sim, suggesting that the two men were a similar size. He was also a well educated and willing student, since he had classical books and mathematical instruments to give to his brother, Philip Sprigg. Additionally, Daniel Bowie provided for the production of a number of mourning rings– rings made and purchased out of the funds of the deceased’s estate for his friends and family to remember him by. His mother and sisters, his “beloved aunt” and a Miss Millicent Tyler received mourning rings “for the great respect I have for them.” From the Maryland Line, Captain Sim and Lieutenants John Beanes and Joseph Butler were given rings, although Joseph Butler would be captured in battle the following day and shortly afterwards would die in prison, like his captain. Butler himself made provisions for his estate, an oral statement which was recorded more than a year later. After Bowie wrote his will, three other officers of the regiment, Lieutenants William Sterrett— who was discussed in a previous post— and Henry Chew Gaither, along with Ensign Bryan Philpot, served as his witnesses.

Along with the image I’ve included in this post, you can view a higher quality PDF of the battlefield will by clicking here. 


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1 Response to “If I Fall on the Field of Battle”

  1. Pingback: Family in Uniform | Finding the Maryland 400

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