Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Archibald Anderson (d. 1781)
MSA SC 3520-16758

Biography:

Archibald Anderson was an officer in the First Maryland Regiment when that unit made the famous stand of the Maryland 400 at the Battle of Brooklyn on August 27, 1776. Anderson was a junior officer at the time of the battle but would go on to obtain the rank of major and become one of the most capable and reliable officers in the Maryland Line before his death at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in 1781.

Information about Anderson or his family’s life before the war is unknown. Given that he received a commission in the Fourth Independent Company composed of men predominately from Talbot County, it is likely that he had ties to Talbot or nearby counties.[1]

On January 5, 1776 Anderson received a commission as a first lieutenant in Captain James Hindman’s Fourth Independent Company.[2] 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.[3] To help with this mission the Maryland Council of Safety stationed the Fourth Independent Company in Oxford in March 1776.[4]

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.[5] On July 7, 1776 the Council ordered the Fourth 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.[6] 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 a major defeat for the Continental Army. The British Army under the command of General William Howe outflanked the Americans, forcing them to retreat to Brooklyn Heights.[7] The men of the First Maryland Regiment fought extremely well during the engagement despite their inexperience.

The British flanking maneuver cut off the Marylanders’ path of retreat and left them with little choice but to charge 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 successfully retreat. The First Maryland Regiment’s sacrifice prevented the capture of the Continental Army 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.

Although the regiment sustained heavy casualties during the battle, the Fourth Independent Company escaped from the engagement almost entirely unscathed. The Fourth Independent Company lost only three men at the battle, a result that led to rumors that the company behaved cowardly during the fighting. Captain Hindman rejected these claims in a letter to Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, and reported that Colonel Smallwood could vouch for their conduct while under his command.[8]

Anderson not only survived the battle, he also earned the respect of his fellow and superior officers. In the same letter in which Hindman defended his company’s performance at Long Island, he also recognized the abilities of Anderson, writing: “I take the liberty however of recommending my first Lieutenant A. Anderson as a man worthy of promotion and as good an officer as any in the Maryland service, and have no doubt when his character is inquired into, you will find I say no more of him than he deserves.”[9] The state’s leadership concurred and promoted Anderson to captain on December 10, 1776, which was shortly followed by his promotion to major on June 10, 1777.[10]

Anderson served with the Maryland Line throughout the New York and New Jersey Campaign of 1776-1777 and the Philadelphia Campaign in 1777-1778. In the winter of 1776-1777 Anderson returned to Maryland and recruited soldiers for the army.[11] The following year the Marylander’s wintered in Wilmington, Delaware. Although the conditions in Wilmington were better than at Valley Forge, Anderson “had the skin taken of his hands by the Frost.”[12] Anderson recovered from his injury and in June 1778 General Washington appointed him the Brigade Inspector for the Second Maryland Brigade, a position designed to enforce the discipline and professional standards implemented by Baron von Steuben.[13] Anderson’s ability again earned him more responsibility and in June 1779 General Washington made him the Brigade Major for the First Maryland Brigade.[14]

Major Anderson remained in the army as the focus of the war shifted south and the army tried to establish its control of the Carolinas during the Southern Campaign in 1780-81. Anderson fought at the disastrous Battle of Camden (often referred to by Marylanders as Gates’ defeat) on August 16, 1780 and was one of the few officers that performed heroically during the engagement.[15] In a letter to Alexander Hamilton, Major General Nathanael Greene singled out Anderson’s actions during the battle writing, “Not an officer except Major Anderson and one or two Captains that brought off the field of battle a single soldier.”[16] After the war Colonel Otho Holland Williams further described the battle and Anderson’s efforts to rally the men:

The regular troops, it has been observed, were the last to quit the field. Every corps was broken and dispersed; even the boggs and brush, which in some measure served to screen them from their furious pursuers, separated them from one another. Major Anderson was the only officer who fortunately rallied, as he retreated, a few men of different companies, and whose prudence and firmness afforded protection to those who joined his party on the rout.[17]

The defeat at Camden decimated the southern army and briefly ended its fighting capability. The remnants of the army retreated to Charlotte, North Carolina and then to Salisbury, North Carolina. In the immediate aftermath of the battle, Anderson attempted to recover supplies from portions of the baggage train not captured by the British and arrived in Charlotte after the army had already left for Salisbury. Anderson briefly took command of the disorganized militia in Charlotte and remained with them before being ordered by General Smallwood to proceed to Salisbury.[18]

Anderson remained with the Maryland Line in North Carolina throughout the fall and winter of 1780-1781 as the southern army recovered and reorganized after the defeat at Camden. Early in 1781 the British, under command of General Charles Cornwallis, were determined to destroy the reformed southern army now commanded by General Nathanael Greene. On March 15, 1781 Cornwallis’ army engaged Greene near his encampment near Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina. Although the Americans retreated from the field, Cornwallis’ men suffered heavy casualties and led him to eventually abandon the campaign for the Carolinas and retreat to Yorktown, Virginia.

Although the battle was a strategic victory for the Americans, the Maryland Line once again suffered heavy casualties. Among those that gave their life for the cause was Major Archibald Anderson. The death of the high ranking Anderson was a blow to the Marylanders and many mourned the loss of an exceptional officer. One officer wrote “Anderson was an excellent officer; but I regret his loss equally as a friend, for he was possessed of the most endearing social virtues.”[19] In a letter to the President of the Continental Congress, Thomas Jefferson provided a report of the battle and mentioned the death of Major Anderson.[20] An article in the Maryland Gazette lamenting his death described Anderson:

No officer could be more distinguished for cool intrepidity in the hour of action, and that dignified behavior in the execution of inferior duties, which, whilst it gains the love of the soldiery, enforces discipline, and commands respect. Every day her remained in the army, his military fame acquired additional luster, whilst his amiable disposition and endearing manners enlarged the circle of his friends. But to have a just idea of his character, you must have seen him in his last moments; the Solider, the Christian, and the Patriot, mingled in their rays to irradiate his fall.[21]

Anderson did not leave behind a wife or any children. In 1783 Anderson’s niece’s husband attempted to obtain bounty land entitled to the heirs of Anderson. In the application two officers from the Maryland line testified that “Major Anderson was always understood by me to be an unmarried man.”[22] One of the officers also declared that he did not know of Anderson having any relations living in Maryland.[23] On June 9, 1785 the administrators for the estate of a Major Archibald Anderson of Caroline County completed an inventory of his possessions.[24] This inventory and an administration bond from Caroline County are the only two documents that confirm his connection to Maryland outside of his military service.[25] Interestingly, in December 1783 John Woodside (who also submitted the bounty warrant application) made himself the administrator of the estate for Major Archibald Anderson in Chester County, Pennsylvania.[26] While it appears that both the documents from Pennsylvania and Maryland apply to the same Archibald Anderson, the exact nature and depth of his connections to either location are unknown.


- Sean Baker, 2015


Notes:

[1] An inventory for Archibald Anderson was completed in Caroline County, Maryland. A person claiming to be related to Anderson also filed to be the administrator of Anderson’s estate in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

[2] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online vol. 18, p. 23.

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

[4] 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. 223.

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

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

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

[8] MARYLAND STATE PAPERS (Red Books), Letter from Hindman to Jenifer, vol. 5, p. 54 [MSA S 989-7-59] published in Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, July 7: December 31, 1776, Archives of Maryland Online vol. 12,  p. 346.

[9] MARYLAND STATE PAPERS (Red Books), Letter from Hindman to Jenifer, vol. 5, p. 54 [MSA S 989-7-59] published in Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, July 7: December 31, 1776, Archives of Maryland Online vol. 12,  p. 345.

[10] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online vol. 18, p. 78. This source says “corporal,” but is likely a typo or a misinterpretation of the original muster role as Anderson was promoted to captain at this time.

[11] Auditor General, Army Officers Accounts, 1777-1783, Army Ledger 1, p. 35 [MSA S 148-1]. Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777, Archives of Maryland Online vol. 16, p. 152.

[12] "To George Washington from Brigadier General William Smallwood, 9–10 March 1778,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-14-02-0089 [last update: 2015-06-29]). This letter incorrectly refers to Anderson as a captain.   \

[13] “General Orders, 16 June 1778,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-15-02-0431 [last update: 2015-06-29]).

[14] John C. Fitzpatrick, The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources 1745-1799, vol. 15. (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1936). p. 283.

[15] Continental Army General Horatio Gates infamously fled the battlefield and rode sixty miles back to Charlotte, North Carolina.

[16] “To Alexander Hamilton from Major General Nathanael Greene, 10 January 1781,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-02-02-1014 [last update: 2015-06-29]).

[17] William Johnson, Sketches of the Life and Correspondence of Nathaniel Greene, Major General of the Armies of the United States, in the War of the Revolution (Charleston, SC: A.E. Miller, 1822) p. 497.

[18] Johnson, Sketches of the Life and Correspondence of Nathaniel Greene p. 502.

[19]Extract of Letter from an Officer of Distinction in the American Southern Army,” Maryland Journal (Baltimore, MD), Tuesday, April 3, 1781. From Genealogybank.com.

[20] Journal and Correspondence of the Council of Maryland, 1781, Archives of Maryland Online vol. 47, p. 137.

[21] Maryland Gazette, (Annapolis, MD), April 12, 1781.

[22] Archibald Anderson Bounty Land Warrant Application, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, p. 4. From Fold3.com.

[23] Archibald Anderson Bounty Land Warrant Application, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, p. 4. From Fold3.com.

[24] Archibald Anderson Inventory, Caroline County, Register of Wills, Inventories, Original, 1774-1789 Box 8, Folder 17 [MSA C 517-6].

[25] Archibald Anderson Inventory, Caroline County, Register of Wills, Inventories, Original, 1774-1789 Box 8, Folder 17 [MSA C 517-6], Archibald Anderson Administration Bond, Caroline County, Register of Wills, Administration Bonds, Box 5, Folder 63 [MSA C 462-5].

[26] Chester County, Pennsylvania, Estate Papers, 1714-1838, no. 3532. From Ancestry.com.


 

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