Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

John Plant (?-1808)
MSA SC 3520-16811

Biography:

On January 24, 1776, John Plant enlisted as a private in Captain John Hoskins Stone's First Company of the First Maryland Regiment, in Port Tobacco, Charles County, Maryland. As one of his ancestors recounted years later, Plant enlisted when he was "very young" and served throughout the war. Many of those in the First Company were recruited from Charles County. The company trained in Annapolis until they departed for New York. [1]

The First Maryland Regiment was the first group of troops Maryland raised at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. In July 1776, a few days after independence was declared, the regiment was ordered to New York so it could join the forces of General George Washington. The regiment arrived there in early August. A few weeks later, on August 27, 1776, the Americans faced the British Army at the Battle of Brooklyn (sometimes called the Battle of Long Island), the first full-scale engagement of the war. The battle was a rout: the British were able to sneak around the American lines, and the outflanked Americans fled in disarray.

As the Maryland troops fought their way towards the American fortifications, they were forced to stop at the swampy Gowanus Creek. Half the regiment, including the First Company, was able to cross the creek and escape the battle. However, the rest were unable to do so before they were attacked by the British. Facing down a much larger, better-trained force, this group of soldiers, today called the "Maryland 400," mounted a series of daring charges. They held the British at bay for some time before being overrun, at the cost of many lives. The Marylanders took enormous causalities, but their actions delayed the British long enough for the rest of the Continental Army to escape. In all, the First Maryland lost 256 men, killed or taken prisoner, and some companies lost nearly 80 percent of their men. Most soldiers in the First Company successfully escaped and it lost fewer than ten men in total; the company's ensign, James Farnandis, was captured. [2]

Plant survived the Battle of Brooklyn, and fought with the Marylanders for the rest of 1776. Although the regiment saw some success, especially at the Battle of White Plains in October, the Americans were pushed out of New York. Not until late that winter did they secure revitalizing victories at Trenton and Princeton.

Plant's enlistment expired in December, and he reenlisted for a three-year term, signing on as a corporal. A number of the soldiers who had fought in the 1776 campaign received similar promotions, a reflection of the veteran leadership that they could contribute to the army. As a non-commissioned officer, he was responsible for keeping the soldiers of the company properly aligned during marches and in battle, and ensuring order among the men in camp, as well as other administrative duties. During Plant's second tour of duty, the Marylanders took part in the disastrous raid on Staten Island (August 1777), and the major battles of the Philadelphia Campaign, Brandywine (September 1777) and Germantown (October 1777). The Marylanders also fought at the Battle of Monmouth (June 1778). Not long after Monmouth, Plant was promoted to sergeant, and he held that rank until he was discharged in December 1779. [3]

In the summer of 1780, Maryland raised what it called the Regiment Extraordinary, designed to help alleviate the Continental Army's severe manpower shortage. Desperate for any available men, the state filled with regiment with "Deserters...Men left at the Hospitals [and] a few Recruited for the old Regiments." Plant was among the latter group, and as an experienced soldier he was made first an ensign, and later a lieutenant. The regiment was slow to form, and by October it was still short of men and supplies. Portions of the regiment did fight a small battle with the British near Fort Washington, Maryland that fall, and the men eventually marched to join the main body of the army in December 1780. Arriving in North Carolina, the Regiment Extraordinary faced organizational challenges and was disbanded in March 1781. Some of the men were incorporated into the Second Maryland Regiment. Many of the officers resigned from the army, however, since they were not able to join the Second Maryland and retain their rank. Plant was probably among those who left the army and returned home. [4]

Plant settled in Charles County after his military service, at least for a few years. He was a modest farmer, who probably did not own any land, although he did have one slave. On June 5, 1788, he married Mary Ann Davis (b. ca. 1770) in Charles County. They had four children together: Grace (sometimes called Grayson), Sarah, John, and Nathaniel. [5]

By 1808, the family had settled in Prince William County, Virginia, not far from Washington, DC. Plant apprenticed his sons to masters in the city that spring. John was indentured to William Worthington, a cabinetmaker, and Nathaniel to a cordwainer, or shoemaker, in Georgetown. Only six months later, in November or December, John Plant died. In 1835, Mary Ann applied for a Federal veteran's pension as the widow of a Revolutionary War soldier, and she eventually was awarded $95 per year. She died in 1841. [6]

- Burkely Hermann, Maryland Society of the Sons of American Revolution Research Fellow, 2016; Owen Lourie, 2017

Notes:

1. Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, 6; Pension of John Plant, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives, NARA M804, W 26908, from Fold3.com.

2. Mark Andrew Tacyn "'To the End:' The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution" (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 48-73; Return of the Maryland troops, 27 September 1776, from Fold3.com. For more on the experience of the Marylanders at the Battle of Brooklyn, see "In Their Own Words," on the Maryland State Archives research blog, Finding the Maryland 400.  

3. Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, National Archives, NARA M881, from Fold3.com; Archives of Maryland Online vol. 18, 149; Frederick Stueben, Regulations for Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, Part I (Philadelphia: Styner and Cist, 1779), 98-100; List of receipts of soldiers who were paid upon discharge, 27 December 1779, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, box 3, no. 7-21, MdHR 19970-3-7/21 [MSA S997-3-94, 1/7/3/9].

4. Uriah Forrest to George Washington, 17 August 1780, Founders Online, National Archives; Mordecai Gist to George Washington, 26 October 1780, Founders Online, National Archives; Pension of Charles Smith, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives, W 25002, from Fold3.com; Journal and Correspondence of the Council of Maryland, 1779-1780, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 43, p. 234, 273; Pension of Alexander Lawson Smith, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives, NARA M804, W 4247, from Fold3.com; Rolls of Extraordinary Regiment, 1780, Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, National Archives, NARA M246, from Fold3.com; Richard John Batt, "The Maryland Continentals, 1780-1781" (PhD diss., Tulane University, 1974), 78-81.

5. General Assembly House of Delegates, Assessment Record, 1783, Charles County, Seventh District, p. 9 [MSA S1161-5-4, 1/4/5/48]; Plant pension; Will of John Plant, 1808, Prince William County, Virginia, p. 414; Apprenticeship of Nathaniel Plant, 1808, Indentures of Apprenticeship, Washington County, District of Columbia, Orphans Court, 1801-1811, p. 171, National Archives, NARA M2011; Apprenticeship of John Plant, 1808, p. 171.

6. John and Nathaniel Plant indentures; Plant pension; Plant will; Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, 1835, p. 390.
 

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