The mission of Finding the Maryland 400 is to pay tribute to Maryland’s Revolutionary War veterans. Today, however, we want to focus on the members of the First Maryland Regiment who were already veterans before the unit’s first battle in Brooklyn in August 1776.
Almost none of the soldiers of the Maryland 400 had any military experience. Indeed, that’s part of what make their heroism at the Battle of Brooklyn so remarkable: only four men had ever been in battle before, and none of them was even present during the fighting.
Lieutenant Colonel Francis Ware and Captain Barton Lucas had both fought in the French and Indian War, taking part in an unsuccessful British attempt to capture Fort Duquesne (now Pittsburgh, PA) in 1758, where Lucas was wounded. Neither Ware nor Lucas was on the field during the Battle of Brooklyn, however. Lucas was too sick to fight, as many Americans were. Ware, along with the Marylanders’ commander Colonel William Smallwood, was required by George Washington to take part in the court martial of Herman Zedwitz, a German officer in the Continental Army, accused of trying to sell American secrets to the British. Washington refused to allow Ware, Smallwood, and the other officers on the military jury travel with their units to Brooklyn to face the British.
Major Thomas Price and Private Nathan Peak had both been part of the rifle companies that Maryland sent to Boston in the summer of 1775, the first Continental Army soldiers from Maryland. In 1775 and early 1776, these soldiers took part in the siege of Boston that drove the British out of that city in March 1776. But Price was still in Maryland, and Peak was probably absent from the battle as well; when he applied for a Federal veteran’s pension, he crossed out the Battle of Long Island [Brooklyn] from the list of places at which he fought.
The Marylanders ultimately made up for their lack of experience, becoming one of the most effective parts of the Continental Army. A large part of what made them such a formidable and dependable group during the course of the war was their strong veteran core, especially their sergeants and corporals. Large numbers of the men who survived Brooklyn reenlisted at the end of 1776, serving until at least 1780. Some like, Peak, Edward Cosgrove, and Peter Smith, served well beyond then, not receiving their final discharge until 1783. Throughout the Revolutionary War, these Maryland soldiers were George Washington’s “Old Line.”
Nice article about America’s first Veterans. The recent publication by Patrick O’Donnell entitled Washington’s Immortals is about this Smallwood Regiment and their exploits. Those interested in learning more should not only visit the MD archives site but also get this book.