Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Edward Veazey (d. 1776)
MSA SC 3520-16717

Biography:

Son of John Veazey Jr. (1722- 1780) and his wife Ann (d. 1781). Brother of Samuel, George (d. ~1789), Robert (d. 1797), and probably John Veazey III (d. 1777). Died August 27, 1776.

Captain Edward Veazey commanded the Seventh Independent Company when it fought alongside the First Maryland Regiment at the Battle of Brooklyn on August 27, 1776, and was the highest ranking Maryland officer killed during the engagement.

Edward Veazey was the son of Ann and Colonel John Veazey Jr., and was likely born in Cecil County.[1] Specific details about Veazey’s life before the war are few, but his father was a very wealthy and well-connected member of Cecil County.[2] Edward probably had a comfortable upbringing as a result of his father’s wealth and social status. 

On January 2, 1776 the Convention of Maryland elected Edward Veazey to the captaincy of the Seventh Independent Company, a unit predominately composed of men from Kent and Queen Anne’s counties.[3] The role of the independent companies early in the war was different from that of the nine companies that made up Colonel William Smallwood’s First Maryland Regiment. While the Council of Maryland used the nine regular companies to guard Annapolis and Baltimore, they stationed the seven independent companies throughout the countryside to guard the vast shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay.[4] The Council divided the Seventh Independent Company’s area of responsibility between Chester Town, Kent County, and Kent Island, with Captain Veazey controlling the half of the company encamped at Chester Town.[5]

Veazey’s main focus early in the war was securing adequate supplies and arms for his men, a common problem early in the war, but one that especially impacted the independent companies on the eastern shore. By April 1776 the men in the Seventh Independent Company had yet to receive any arms or ammunition, and Captain Veazey and other officers on the eastern shore were “uneasy” that the companies on the western shore had already been outfitted.[6] To help cope with the situation Veazey used his own money to purchase supplies for his men.[7] Getting adequate and quality equipment remained a pressing issue throughout the summer and even on the eve of the battle; on August 10, 1776 Veazey purchased thirty-three pairs of shoes from Quartermaster General Stephen Moyland.[8]

Although the Council of Safety originally intended to use the independent companies for the defense of Maryland, the Council was sympathetic to the collective needs of the colonies and answered the Continental Congress’ request for more soldiers early in the summer of 1776.[9] On July 7, 1776 the Council ordered the Seventh Independent Company (along with Smallwood’s Regiment and two other independent companies) to march to Philadelphia and then to New York to reinforce the Continental Army under the command of General George Washington.[10] Shortly after arriving in New York the Marylanders engaged with the British at the Battle of Brooklyn.

Fought on August 26, 1776, the Battle of Brooklyn was the first combat experience for the men of the First Maryland Regiment. Unfortunately for the Continental Army and the Marylanders, the battle was a major tactical and strategic defeat. The British Army under the command of General William Howe stealthily outflanked the Continental Army, forcing the Americans to flee to their defensive fortifications at Brooklyn Heights.[11] The men of the First Maryland Regiment fought extremely well throughout the engagement despite their inexperience. Towards the end of the battle, and after the British flanking maneuver cut off their retreat back to the American fortifications, the Marylanders’ mounted a charge against the numerically superior British force. The assault inflicted devastating casualties upon the regiment but delayed the British advance and enabled the rest of the army to retreat. The First Maryland Regiment’s sacrifice allowed the Continental Army to avoid a calamitous capture, and earned the regiment the name “Maryland 400.” To read more about the First Maryland Regiment, visit the Maryland State Archives research project website, Finding the Maryland 400.

It is probable that Captain Veazey was already dead by the time the Maryland 400 made their famous charge; an unnamed soldier wrote in a letter the day after the battle that Captain Veazey was killed early in the engagement.[12] Since the Marylanders engaged in fighting throughout the morning and not just during their famous assault, it is likely that the author of the letter is referring to the early skirmishes that preceded the charge as the time of Veazey’s death.

There is no doubt that Veazey’s death would have had a profound impact on the Marylanders and the Seventh Independent Company in particular. The loss of a high ranking officer so early in the battle must have been unnerving to the inexperienced soldiers and also altered the command structure of the company. Despite the loss of their captain, the Seventh Independent Company remained in the fight and participated in the charge of the Maryland 400. Unfortunately, Captain Veazey was far from the only casualty in the company; on September 27, 1776 the company’s reported strength included only thirty-six men out of an original force of approximately 100 men.[13]

Captain Edward Veazey did not write a will before his death and no other probate records pertaining to him exist. Aside from his service early in the Revolution and his death at the Battle of Brooklyn, little is known about Edward Veazey. Captain Veazey did keep a collection of papers that pertained to his service in the army but they have since been lost, perhaps even shortly after the battle. Lieutenant William Harrison, who took control of the company following his captain’s death, valued Veazey’s personal papers and believed they held important information about the condition of the army. In a November 1776 letter to Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, the president of the Council of Safety, Harrison wrote that Veazey’s papers “concern the public,” and planned to discuss their content with St. Thomas Jenifer, but could not get them because they were mistakenly sent to Veazey’s father.[14] Although Veazey’s father intended to send the papers to Harrison once he received his son’s baggage, it is unknown if Colonel Veazey ever received the papers and sent them to Harrison.   


-Sean Baker, 2015



Notes:

[1] Edward C. Papenfuse, Alan F. Day, David W. Jordan, and Gregory A. Stiverson, A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635-1789 vol. 2 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985), p. 850. Published in Archives of Maryland Online vol. 426, p. 850.

[2] Edward C. Papenfuse, Alan F. Day, David W. Jordan, and Gregory A. Stiverson, A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635-1789 vol. 2 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985), p. 850. Published in Archives of Maryland Online vol. 426, p. 850.

[3] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online vol. 18, p. 28.

[4] Mark Andrew Tacyn “‘To the End:’ The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 33.

[5] “March 14,” American Archives series 4, vol. 15, p. 1545

[6] Journal of the Maryland Convention July 26 to August 14, 1775, Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, August 29, 1775 to July 6, 1776, Archives of Maryland Online vol. 11, p. 318.

[7] Journal of the Maryland Convention July 26 to August 14, 1775, Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, August 29, 1775 to July 6, 1776, Archives of Maryland Online vol. 11, p. 318.

[8] “Bill for shoes,” MARYLAND STATE PAPERS (Revolutionary Papers) [MSA S997-1-318].

[9] Tacyn “The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution,” 43.

[10] Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, July 7:December 31, 1776, Archives of Maryland Online vol. 12, p. 4.

[11] Henry P. Johnston, The Campaign of 1776 Around New York and Brooklyn (Brooklyn: 1878, reprint, New York: Da Capo Press, 1971), p. 191.

[12] “Extract of a letter from an officer in the Maryland Battalion,” American Archives series 5, vol. 1, p. 1195.

[13] Revolutionary War Rolls, NARA M246, p. 92, From Fold3.com.

[14] MARYLAND STATE PAPERS (Red Books), Letter from Harrison to Jenifer, vol. 16, p. 60. [MSA S 989-23], published in Archives of Maryland Online vol. 11, p. 488.


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