Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Benjamin Ford (?-1781)
MSA SC 3520-16727

Biography:

Benjamin Ford, was likely born in Saint Mary's County to Allanson and Herekiah (Johnson) Ford. [1] Allanson and Herekiah had one other son, Charles Allenson Ford, before Herekiah died. [2] Allanson remarried another woman, named Hephzibah Beall and had six more children: John, George, Allanson, Elizabeth, Josias, and Edward. In 1774 or 1775, Ford's father, a wealthy planter who owned thirteen enslaved blacks, died. [3]

On January 14, 1776, Benjamin Ford was commissioned as a First Lieutenant in Captain Patrick Sim's Second Company of the First Maryland Regiment. [4] In May 1776, Ford replaced Captain George Stricker, who received a promotion, as commander of the Ninth Company. [5] The Ninth Company was designated as light infantry and had special duties since it was often deployed in small groups as scouts or skirmishers ahead of the main body of troops. They carried rifles, rather than muskets, and were intended to be a more mobile than other companies or groups. [6]

At the Battle of Brooklyn, in August 1776, the First Maryland Regiment, especially companies led by Ford, Barton LucasDaniel BowiePeter Adams, and Edward Veazey, later called the Maryland 400, held off the British while the rest of the Continental Army escaped Long Island to safety. In his acount of the Battle of Brooklyn, Major Mordecai Gist noted how Ford and his company escaped:

"...it became necessary for us to endeavour to effect our escape in the best manner we possibly could. A party immediately retreated to the right through the woods, and Captain Ford and myself, with twenty others, to the left, through a marsh; nine only of whom got safe in. The principal loss sustained in our battalion fell on Captains Veazey, Adams, Lucas, Ford, and Bowie's companies. The killed, wounded, and missing amount to two hundred and fifty-nine; our whole loss that day supposed to be near one thousand, chief part of whom are prisoners, among whom are Generals Sullivan and Stirling." [7]

During the Battle of Brooklyn, Ford's company suffered heavy casualties and only a few escaped into the nearby marsh. All told 65 percent of his company were killed or captured. [8]

In the fall, Ford received a promotion, becoming a major in the Second Maryland Regiment, a rank he held until April 1777. [9] That month he became lieutenant colonel in the Sixth Maryland Regiment, serving until 1780. [10] During his time as lieutenant colonel he fought in the battles of Brandywine (1777) and Germantown (1777) and wintered at Morristown (1779-1780). [11] The winter of Morristown was harsh and he described the troops as "in high spirits tho' I think sickly owing in a great measure to the want of Clothing which renders it impossible to keep them...clean." [12]

In 1779, Ford and his regiment were sent to New Jersey to survey and watch enemy movements. On April 26, for example, Ford observed British forces land one mile from Shrewsbury and his patrol fired on them and fought an ensuing skirmish with British forces, which wanted to cut off his retreat. [13] After the skirmish, the British burned and ransacked two dwellings of militia officers, plundered the local town of Tinton Falls, but were harassed by New Jersey revolutionary militia, who forced the British to retreat. The purpose of this British attack was to capture Ford's regiment but it did not succeeed. However, the British looted the town and burned Continental munitions and supplies. [14]

In June 1779, Ford participated in the court martial of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Pope of the Delaware Regiment. [15] Chairing a court-martial was one of the daily duties of a lieutenant colonel. A person in Ford's position, as a field officer, could instruct new recruits, tell others to take a commanding position, and keep soldiers of his unit in order. [16] The result of Pope's court-martial to acquit him "with honor" and Washington ordered Pope to be "immediately released from arrest." [17]

In the years between 1779 and 1781, Ford was an active participant in miltiary engagements, as a lieutenant colonel. He participated in the battles of Camden in 1780 and Guilford Courthouse in 1781, part of the war's southern campaign. At the Battle of Camden he was quoted as saying that the Continental Army soldiers had "done all that can be expected of them--we are outnumbered and outflanked--see the enemy charge with bayonets." [18] Ford stayed as a lieutenant colonel and was transferred to the Fifth Maryland Regiment in January 1781 as part of a reorganization after the Battle of Camden where Maryland forces suffered heavy losses. [19]

On April 25, 1781, the day of the Battle of Hobkirk's Hill, which some call the Second Battle of Camden, Ford commanded the Fifth Maryland Regiment. [20] He fought alongside 1,200 to 1,500 other soldiers of the Continental Army near the British-occupied town of Camden in South Carolina. The troops under the command of Major General Nathaniel Greene would fight with 950 British including Redcoats, loyal supporters of the Crown, and Irish volunteers under the command of the Lieutenant Colonel Francis Rawdon Hastings, a Lord from Ireland. [21] Since April 19, Greene's forces had sat on a sandy ridge about a mile and half from Camden in the first effort to take control of the town, so that they could become "masters of the entire state outside of Charleston." [22] However, Rawdon learned of Greene's approach before the battle and was ready to repel the attack of Greene's army.

In a surprise advance, Lord Rawdon's forces approached Greene's forces on Hobkirk's Hill, where they were waiting for reinforcements to take the town of Camden from the British. [23] Rawdon wanted to attack Greene before the Continental Army could attack his own army. Rawdon's men quickly gained control of Hobkirk's Hill, challenging Greene's army. Later on, Colonel William Wasington brought 50 prisoners with him and the Continental Army was pursued by Rawdon's army for about three miles in the dense woods. [24] The British Parliament publication, the Annual Register, described the end of the battle as an ugly sight:

"...the enemy's killed and wounded were scattered over such an extent of ground, that their lost could not be ascertained...this defeat was attributed by Gen. Greene to the misconduct of a part of the Maryland regiment. This may be true. But it is plain that his army was surprised. The American discipline...is far from perfect" [25]

The reason the Americans were defeated so badly could be because Captain Charles Beatty of Gunby's regiment was killed or because Gunby ordered other companies to fall back, which was taken for a retreat. [26] While he attempted to restore order to his regiment in order to fight the British, Ford was mortally wounded in the left elbow by a musket ball and carried to the back of Continental lines. [27]

After the battle, Rawdon thanked Cornwallis for his success in the battle, but said that it was an overrated success, and the dead dominated the battlefield. [28] In later months, Greene wrote to Washington saying that he was disappointed in the retreat of Marylanders, including Ford's regiment, almost blaming them for losing to the British. [29] While he admitted that no artillery or ammunition was lost, he said that British took 200 prisoners, including ten or fifteen officers and ransacked the local town. [30] He also believed that there was "too much disorder" to have a complete victory, which he thought was promised, over the British. Before the battle, Ford said that soldiers collected little food from nearby inhabitants and that "many Days elapsed without our getting anything." [31] This, combined with the wounding of Ford and the killing of numerous officers, may have contributed to the retreat of Marylanders during the battle itself.

Ford's injury at the Battle of Hobkirk's Hill did not heal. As months passed, he never recovered from his wound. [32] On June 23, Colonel Otho Holland Williams, wrote that his "worthy little friend died a few Days since of the wound received at Camden," which referred to Ford's death on June 15 in a military hospital in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina. [33]

Ford died unmarried with no children or will. After his death, there were battles over his estate. In 1799, Josias Ford, joined by four Benjamin Ford's other half siblings (John, George, Allanson, Elizabeth), sued Charles Allanson Ford, represented by John Davidson (veteran of the Battle of Brooklyn), alleging mismanagement of the estate. [34] The result of this case, which dragged on for over 15 years, was a settlement dispersed to the heirs. [35] In the 1820s, the bounty land office found that Ford had a land grant of 450 acres which was given to Robert Ford, who was, by bloodline, an heir of Benjamin Ford. [36]

- Burkely Hermann, Maryland Society of the Sons of American Revolution Research Fellow, 2016.

Notes

[1] Letter from Christopher Richmond to Josiah Beall on the Estate of Benjamin Ford, May 7, 1786, Maryland State Papers, Series A, MdHR 6636-59-103/2 [MSA S1004-82-20362, 1/7/3/64]. It is also possible that Ford was born in Charles County because his brother later lived there or Prince George's County because Ford's father died in that county.

[2] Saint Mary's County Court, Pension Papers, MdHR 20314-19 [MSA C1653-4, 1/57/9/36]; Pension of Benjamin Ford. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. National Archives. NARA M804. Record Group 15. Roll 0999. Pension number B.L.Wt.1133-450. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Josiah Bealle Ford, et al v. John Davidson, et al, 1799, Estate of Charles A. Ford - Hampton Court, Chancery Court, Chancery Papers, MdHR 17898-1847-1/4 [MSA S512-1914, 1/36/2/2].

[3] Will of Allanson Ford, 1775, Prerogative Court, Wills, MdHR 1322, Liber W1, p. 263-266 [MSA S538-58, 1/11/2/7]; Inventory of Allason Ford, February 1775, Prince George's County Register of Wills, Inventories, MdHR 9798, p. 14-16 [MSA C1228-8, 1/25/8/45].

[4] Proceedings of the Conventions of the Province of Maryland, 1774-1776. Archives of Maryland Online vol. 78, 68; Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, August 29, 1775 to July 6, 1776. Archives of Maryland Online vol. 11, 480; Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution Archives of Maryland Online vol. 18, 7.

[5] Pension of Michael Hahn. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. National Archives. NARA M804. Record Group 15. Roll 1153. Pension number R. 5109. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Proceedings of the Conventions of the Province of Maryland, 1774-1776. Archives of Maryland Online vol. 78, 92; Return of the Six Independent Companies and First Regiment Regulars in the service of the United States commanded by Major Gist, 1776, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, MdHR 19970-15-28-1 (photostat, oversize) [MSA S997-22, 1/6/2/44]; An Account of Cash Paid the Captains and Officers of their Regiments or Companies in the First Battalion Maryland Regiment Forces, December 12, 1776, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, MdHR 19970-2-4-1 [MSA S997-2, 1/7/3/8]. Thomas Ewing and George Stricker were both been promoted in July and replaced by Lt. Daniel Bowie and Lt. Benjamin Ford.

[6] George Stricker to Council, 21 January 1776, Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, August 29, 1775 to July 6, 1776, Archives of Maryland Online vol. 11, 102.

[7] Extract of a letter from an officer [Mordecai Gist] of the Maryland Battalion. American Archives v1 1232-1233; Mark Andrew Tacyn, "'To The End:' The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution" (PhD Diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 62-63. More context of Gist's letter can be found on the Finding the Maryland blog, "In Their Own Words: An Oral History of the Battle of Brooklyn, Part II."

[8] Return of Prisoners from Captivity in New York, 1777, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, MdHR 19970-06-25/01 [MSA S997-6-59, 1/7/3/11].

[9] Officers of the Maryland Line, 1777, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, MdHR 19970-6-12-1 (oversize) [MSA S997-20, 1/6/2/42]; Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777. Archives of Maryland Online vol. 16, 19, 66, 224.

[10] Tacyn, 188; Pension of Daniel McMillen. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. National Archives. NARA M804. Record Group 15. Roll 1697. Pension number W. 6800. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Pension of Leaven Dorsey. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. National Archives. NARA M804. Record Group 15. Roll 0834. Pension number R. 3026. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Service Card of Benjamin Ford. Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War. National Archives. NARA M881. Record Group 93. Roll 0490. Courtesy of Fold3.com; "To George Washington from the Officers of General Smallwood’s Division, 10 January 1778," Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016; "To George Washington from Maryland Officers, 16 July 1778," Founders Online,National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016; Journal and Correspondence of the Council of Maryland, April 1, 1778 through October 26, 1779. Archives of Maryland Online vol. 21, 282, 568; Return of the 6th Maryland Regiment of Foot, Commanded by Colonel Williams, Dec. 24, 1779, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, MdHR 19970-7-8 (oversize) [MSA S997-20, 1/6/2/42].

[11] Benson J. Lossing, The Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution Vol II (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1852), 608, 610; “From George Washington to John Hancock, 5 October 1777,” Founders Online,National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016; Fragments of Revolutionary History (ed. Gaillard Hunt, Brooklyn: Historical Printing Center, 1892), 1; Michael C. Harris, Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777 (California: Savas Beatie, 2014), 406; Samuel Tallmadge and others, Orderly Books of the Fourth New York Regiment, 1778-1780, the Second New York Regiment, 1780-1783 (Albany: University of the State of New York, 1932), 210, 227, 245, 285, 286, 299, 300. Courtesy of Ancestry.com. He is also recorded as going to Wilmington in 1780 to meet released captive soldiers.

[12] Tacyn, 201; Benjamin Ford's account of the Battle of Rhode Island, September 1, 1778, Maryland State Papers, Red Books, MdHR 4595-52, Red Book 26 [MSA S989-40, 1/6/4/27].

[13] "To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Ford, 26 April 1779," Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016.

[14] Michael Adelberg, The Razing of Tinton Falls: Voices from the American Revolution (Charleston: History Press, 2012), 10; Bud Hannings, Chronology of the American Revolution: Military and Political Actions Day by Day (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2008), 335.

[15] "General Orders, 18 June 1779," Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016; "General Orders, 19 June 1779," Founders Online,National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016; " General Orders, 1 July 1779," Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016; Francis B. Heitman. Historical Register and Dictionary of the U.S. Army Vol. 1 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903), 446.

[16] Frederick Stueben, Regulations for Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, Part I (Philadelphia: Styner and Cist, 1779), 6, 54, 78, 84-85, 112, 116-119.

[17] Court-martial of Charles Pope, June 1, 1779, Orderly Book of Adjutant General Scammell: Dec 22, 1778-Jun 26, 1779, p. 234, 252, 260-261. Numbered Records Books Concerning Military Operations and Service, Pay and Settlement of Accounts, and Supplies in the War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records. National Archives. NARA M853. Record Group 93. Roll 0004. Orderly Books Vol. 28. Courtesy of Fold3.com.

[18] Burke Davis, The Cowpens-Guilford Courthouse Campaign (Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 2003, reprint from 1962), 150, 160; The life of Nathanael Greene, Major-General in the army of the Revolution (ed. W. Gilmore Simms, New York: Derby & Jackson, 1858), 374, 389; Jim Piecuch, American Commanders' Accounts. The Battle of Camden: A Documentary History (Charleston: History Press, 2006), 31-32. Account of Otto Holland Williams.

[19] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution Archives of Maryland Online vol. 18, 364, 402; Pension of William Jones. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. National Archives. NARA M804. Record Group 15. Roll 1447. Pension number W. 4248. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Pension of Edward Roberts. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. National Archives. NARA M804. Record Group 15. Roll 2056. Pension number B. L. Wt. 1911-100. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Muster Roll of Sixth Maryland Regiment, January 1, 1777. Revolutionary War Rolls, 1776-1783. National Archives. NARA M246. Record Group 93. Roll 0034. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Service card of Benjamin Ford. Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War. National Archives. NARA M881. Record Group 93. Roll 0405. Courtesy of Fold3.com; W.T.R. Saffel1, Records of the Revolutionary War Third Edition (Baltimore: Charles C. Saffell, 1892), 236.

[20] Theodore Savas and J. David Dameron, Guide to the Battles of the American Revolution (New York: Savas Beatie, 2010), 292.

[21] Vincent Morley, Irish Opinion and the American Revolution, 1760–1783 (New York: Cambridge, 2002), 174, 251; Michael Lanning, American Revolution 100: The Battles, People, and Events of the American War for Independence, Ranked by Their Significance (Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2009), 259.

[22] Andrew Augustus Gunby, Colonel John Gunby of the Maryland Line: Being Some Account of His Contribution to American Liberty (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke Company, 1902), 67-68; Paul David Nelson, Francis Rawdon-Hastings, Marquess of Hastings: Soldier, Peer of the Realm, Governor-General of India (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005), 93. As noted on page 81 of the 1782 Annual Register, before the battle the Continentals tired to destroy a British mill which brought on skirismishes with the British and that every being in Lord Rawdon's army was armed, even drummers.

[23] Gunby, 69, 80; Chronicle of America (Mount Kisco: Chronicle Publications, 1988), 177.

[24] Ibid, 75, 111; John Marhsall, The Life of George Washington Vol. I (Philadelphia: James Crissy, 1832), 414; Nelson, 95; Chronicle of America, 177; The Annual Register or a View of the History, Politics, and Literature for the Year 1781 (London, J. Dodsley, 1782), 82-83.

[25] The Annual Register, 82-83.

[26] Gunby, 73; Lossing, 608, 610, 679; Letter from Nathaniel Greene to Samuel Huntington, April 27, 1781, p. 48-49, Letters from Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Greene, 1776-85. Papers of the Continental Congress. National Archives. NARA M247. Record Group 360. Roll pcc_418178_0001. Item number 155. Courtesy of Fold3.com.

[27] Gunby, 95, 103. Henry Lumpkin, From Savannah to Yorktown: The American Revolution in the South (Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2000), 183; Lossing, 679; J.D. Lewis. NC Patriots 1775-1783: In Their Own Words. Vol 1-The NC Continental Line (Little River, SC: eBook, 2012), 134-135; Thomas Triplett Russell and John Kenneth Gott. Fauquier County in the Revolution (Westminister: Heritage Books, 2007), 382; Robert Tonsetic, 1781: The Decisive Year of the Revolutionary War (Philadelphia: Casemate, 2011), 104; Pension of Benjamin Ford. One source says he is was in the 5th Virginia Regiment, but they are incorrect.

[28] Nelson, 99; Lossing, 474.

[29] The life of Nathanael Greene, Major-General in the army of the Revolution (ed. W. Gilmore Simms, New York: Derby & Jackson, 1858), 192, 193, 199.

[30] Letter from Nathaniel Greene to Samuel Huntington, April 27, 1781, p. 49.

[31] Gerald M. Carbone, Nathanael Greene: A Biography of the American Revolution (New York, Pelgrave Macmillian, 2008), 174.

[32] Henry Lee, Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States Vol. 1 (Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep, 1812), 408; Heitman, 232; Pension of Benjamin Ford.

[33] Calendar of the Otho Holland Williams Papers in the Maryland Historical Society (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1940), 23, 47, 49; Pension of Benjamin Ford; Tacyn, 17; Lawrence Edward Babits and Joshua B. Howard, Long, Obstinate, and Bloody: The Battle of Guilford Courthouse (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009), 182. Other sources said that he died 12 days earlier on June 3 (Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution Archives of Maryland Online vol. 18, 481, 520).

[34] Josiah Bealle Ford, et al v. John Davidson, et al. The case also noted that Ford died without a will and with large debts.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Pension of Benjamin Ford. After his death, Ford had three land grants in Alleghany County assigned to him, some of which his family would fight to acquire (Westward of Fort Cumberland: Military Lots Set Off for Maryland's Revolutionary Soldiers (ed. Mary K. Meyer, Westminster: Heritage Books, 2008), 3)

 

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