Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Francis Ware
MSA SC 3520-1324


Francis Ware did not attain the lasting renown that other political and military leaders in Revolutionary-era Maryland did. His career and place in the public memory were derailed by the crumbling economy of the post-Revolutionary years. This has obscured the position that he held in Maryland from the 1760s through the 1780s, yet his role in working for American independence was significant.

Ware was born, probably in the 1730s, in Charles County, Maryland, very likely the eldest son in a wealthy family. His father was Francis Ware Sr., while his mother's name is not known; she had already died by the time of Francis Sr.'s death in early 1754. Francis Jr. had five siblings, named Jacob, Edward, Susanna, Sarah, and Elizabeth. Edward was still a minor when his father died, and Francis Jr. was named his guardian by their father. [1]

Ware received the largest share of his father's sizable estate, which left him in a strong position socially and financially. Francis Sr. had owned approximately 1,500 acres of land and nearly twenty slaves. To his son Francis he left more than 750 acres and four slaves. The bequest made him made him extremely wealthy, and positioned him among the county's elite. [2]

Three years later, during the French and Indian War, Ware made a captain in the troops raised by Maryland to contribute to the war effort. A commission as an officer was an excellent way for someone like Ware to elevate himself into the ranks of the county's--and colony's--leadership. Ware and his men saw combat against the French in western Pennsylvania, including at the assault on Fort Duquesene (now Pittsburgh), in late 1758. He also took part in negotiations with Cherokee leaders to form an alliance with them against the French and their Shawnee allies. In addition, Ware helped deliver supplies to forts in Western Maryland. He left the army at the end of 1758, when the Maryland units were disbanded at the end of the war. [3]

Within a few years of leaving the army, Ware had become a staple of Charles County society. He married his wife Ann (last name unknown) by 1764, and was elected to the Lower House of the General Assembly in 1765. He held that seat until 1775, winning reelection every time he ran for office. In 1771, when his victory was overturned on charges of treating (wooing voters with excessive food and drink at the polls), Ware easily won the re-vote. By the early 1770s, he had become one of the leaders of the anti-proprietary faction in the legislature, opposing the colony's British-appointed leadership. [4]

As the rift between America and Britain grew through the 1770s, Ware's support for independence grew. By 1774, he was serving in the pro-independence Convention, the ad hoc legislature which began to meet after Robert Eden, the colonial governor, dissolved the old assembly in an effort to stop the independence movement. Ware was also involved in other pro-independence activities, including shutting down the county court in 1774, in order to prevent the justices from hearing debt suits brought by British merchants, cases which "would be furnishing our enemies with weapons to fight us," as one participant phrased it. [5]

With his political leanings and his military background, Ware was an obvious choice for a leadership position with the troops that Maryland raised in early 1776. The First Maryland Regiment was the state's first contingent of professional, full-time soldiers, formed to meet the state's quota for the Continental Army. Ware was named the lieutenant colonel, the second-in-command under William Smallwood, a fellow Charles County resident and legislator. Ware was one of just a few men in the regiment with any prior military experience, and was placed in charge of half of the regiment, stationed in Baltimore, during the first part of the year. In July, the Marylanders were ordered north to New York, in order to defend the city from an anticipated British attack. [6]

When that attack finally came, at the Battle of Brooklyn (or Battle of Long Island) on August 27, Ware was not on the field with his troops. He was still serving as a member of a jury for the trial of an American officer accused of selling secrets to the British. The court martial had begun before the Marylanders were deployed to counter the British, but George Washington refused to end the trial until after the battle was underway. Consequently, all of the officers sitting on the panel were unable to serve with their troops, including Ware and Smallwood.

The battle itself was a rout: the British were able to sneak around the American lines, and the outflanked Americans fled in disarray. During the retreat, the Maryland troops fought their way towards the American fortifications, but were blocked by the swampy Gowanus Creek. While half the regiment crossed the creek, the rest were unable to do so before they were attacked by the British. Facing down a much larger, better-trained force, the Marylanders mounted a series of daring charges. These men, now known as the "Maryland 400," held the British at bay long enough for the rest of the Continental Army to escape, at the cost of many lives. In all, 256 Marylanders were killed or captured by the British; some companies lost as much as 80 percent of their men. [7]

Over the following months, the Maryland troops proved their worth, but the Americans were no match for the British, and by November they had been pushed out of New York altogether. Ware fell ill during that fall; in mid-October, Smallwood reported that the regiment's entire senior leadership was sick: "Majors [Thomas] Price & [Mordecai] Gist & Captain [John Hoskins] Stone are in the Jerseys very sick, and Col. Ware and myself are very unfit for duty tho' we attend [to] it." Ware's illness was evidently severe, and later that month he returned home to Maryland to recuperate. [8]

In December 1776, Ware was promoted to colonel, commanding the First Maryland Regiment, when the Maryland Line was expanded and reorganized. However, he never acted in that capacity. Instead, his health was too poor, and in February 1777, he resigned his commission. He never returned to the army, but remained an active part of the war effort, serving as the county lieutenant, the chief recruiting officer, for Charles County, from the summer of 1777 until the end of the war in 1783. It is likely that Ware's health never improved sufficiently to allow him to return to the rigors of the field. [9]

When the war came to a close, Ware returned to politics, winning seats in the House of Delegates in 1783 and 1784. The next year, 1785, he ran for sheriff of Charles County, and won handily, with nearly 80 percent of the vote. He took office at a time when most of the county's power structure was made up of former army officers, all men from prominent, wealthy families. Sheriffs in early-national Maryland could generally expect to make tidy profits during their term in office from the fees they collected, in addition to the job's salary. Ware no doubt expected as much. Unfortunately for Ware, the decade after the Revolutionary War was no ordinary time. The economy was in shambles, a legacy of the war and the challenge of paying for it. In such times, even being rich was no protection from economic ruin, as Ware discovered. [10]

His troubles began in 1787. Ware had signed as a surety for the county tax collector, Charles Mankin, making him liable should Mankin fail to collect all required taxes. Unfortunately, Mankin was not able to complete his job--too many people in the county were victims of the recession, and unable to pay their taxes. The state seized the bond that Ware had put up, putting him in serious financial distress. Ware also faced the problem that the fees and fines he was required to collect as sheriff were as uncollectable as the county taxes, which meant that he had to cover the outstanding amount from his own pocket. It was too great a burden for even a wealthy man like Ware. By the end of his term as sheriff in 1788, he was deeply in debt. By the early 1790s, his property had been sold at auction to cover his obligations, and he was nearly penniless. [11]

While Ware's wealth and status had not saved him from the faltering economy of the 1780s, they provided him with crucial support afterward. In 1800, a contingent of Charles County residents signed a petition to the House of Delegates calling for the county to "levy a sum of money...for the support of colonel Francis Ware." The House took no action on the proposal, but later that year, the General Assembly voted to grant Ware a pension of half his pay as a lieutenant colonel (neglecting his promotion to full colonel in 1777), which he was to receive for the rest of his life. Immediately upon receiving his first payments, Ware signed them over to the people who had been supporting him during his time of need, including Thomas Price, with whom he was served in 1776. [12]

Ware died sometime after 1800, but when or where was never recorded. He and his wife had no children. No probate was filed, and no obituary was ever published in a newspaper. However, the General Assembly gave a moving tribute to Ware when it authorized his pension, praising his service during the Revolution, and exonerating him from personal blame for his financial misfortunes. The Assembly wrote that Ware had served with

distinguished bravery and fidelity...during the late revolutionary war [as] lieutenant-colonel of the first regiment raised by this state, from which service he was compelled to retire by the infirmities peculiarly incident to a military life in these reason of his said infirm health, and misfortunes arising from those acts of benevolence which the duties of society often render indispensable, and not by imprudence or want of due economy, [became] reduced to extreme indigence in his advanced age; and it [is] unworthy, (both in example and principle,) of the citizens of a free republic, to desert, in their distress, those of their fellow-citizens who have rendered important services in distinguished stations, whilst high honors and great rewards attend public services in other forms of government[.] [13]

Owen Lourie, 2019


1. Edward C. Papenfuse, et al., eds, A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635- 1789. Vol II. (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1985), 861; Will of Francis Ware, Sr., 1754, Prerogative Court, Wills, liber 29, p. 83 [MSA S538-42, 1/11/1/36].

2. Land Office, Debt Books, vol.13, Charles County, 1753, p. 42 [MSA S12-70, 1/24/2/13]; Inventory of Francis Ware, Sr., 1754, Prerogative Court, Inventories, liber 58, p. 239 [MSA S538-58, 1/12/1/2]; Ware, Sr. will.

3. "French and Indian War. Roster of Maryland Troops, 1757-1759," Maryland Historical Magazine 5:3 (1910), 272, 288; Mary K. Meyer, "Maryland Muster Rolls, 1757-1758," Maryland Historical Magazine 70:2, 224; Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, April 1757 - May 1758, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 55, p. 281; Robert Stewart to George Washington, 4 August 1758, Founders Online, National Archives.

4. Papenfuse, et al., 861; Jean B. Lee, The Price of Nationhood: The American Revolution in Charles County (New York: W.W. Norton, 1994), 102.

5. Lee, 117-118, 126, 132.

6. John C. Conradis, "Duty Status of Officers of Smallwood's Battalion of Regular Maryland Troops (1st Maryland Regiment) During New York/New Jersey Campaign of 1776-1777" (2018), 4-5. Many thanks to John for sharing all of his detailed research on the regiment's officers. Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 20; Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, August 29, 1775 to July 6, 1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 11, p. 356; Proceedings of the Conventions of the Province of Maryland, 1774-1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 78, p. 67.

7. Return of the Maryland troops, 13 September 1776, Revolutionary War Rolls, NARA M246, folder 35, p. 85, from; Mark Andrew Tacyn "'To the End:' The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution" (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 48-73. 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.

8. Conradis 4; Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, July 7 to December 31, 1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 12, p. 339.

9. Conradis 4-5; Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, from; "Orders to Lieutenant Colonel John Hoskins Stone, 8 January 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives; Journal and Correspondence of the State Council, from March 20, 1777 - March 28, 1778, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 16, p. 304.

10. Lee, 200, 222, 240-243

11. Lee, 240-243; Maryland Gazette (Annapolis), December 1793.

12. Votes and Proceedings of the House of Delegates, 1800, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 92, p. 45; Maryland General Assembly, Session Laws, 1800, Resolutions, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 94, p. 59-60; Assignment of pension, Francis Ware to Thomas Price, 4 May 1801, Maryland State Papers, Scharf Collection, box 53, no. 291, MdHR 19999-53-291 [MSA S1005-57-230, 1/8/5/44].

13. Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 94, p. 59-60.

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