Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Henry Carberry (1757-1822)
MSA SC 3520-16421


Henry Carberry served in the military for much of his adult life, first volunteering as a soldier during the Revolutionary War's earliest days. He eventually rose to be Adjutant General of Maryland, commanding all of the state's militia forces. During the Revolution and in the Indian Wars of the 1790s, he gained a reputation as a good commander. However, his military career was also marked with several instances of poor performance. Most notably, Carberry was a leading figure in the 1783 Continental Army mutiny, when armed soldiers occupied the Philadelphia State House to demand that Congress pay them for their years of service.

Carberry was the son of John Baptist and Mary Carberry. He was born in 1757, and had seven siblings: Peter, Thomas, Elizabeth, Eleanor, Joseph, Mary Ann, and Jane. The family was quite wealthy, and lived on nearly eight hundred acres in St. Mary's County, Maryland, property which had multiple plantation houses. The Carberrys were Catholic, part of the large Catholic community in Southern Maryland that had thrived since the colony's founding. [1]

Henry was not yet twenty years old when the Revolutionary War broke out, and he was eager to join the military forces that Maryland organized in early 1776. "I was a School in Maryland...when the Freedom of [our] Country called," he later wrote. He applied for place as an officer in the state's navy, but ultimately joined the infantry as a cadet in the Fifth Independent Company. Cadets were officers-in-waiting, typically young sons of the gentry whose social class qualified them to be officers. As there were more interested young men than available officers' posts, some became cadets instead, in the hope that they would eventually receive an officer's commission. [2]

The company Carberry joined was raised by Captain John Allen Thomas, made up mainly of men from St. Mary's County. It was one of seven independent companies that the Maryland Council of Safety formed across the state in early 1776. They were initially intended to guard the Chesapeake Bay's coastline from a feared British invasion. That summer, however, the independent companies were dispatched to New York, to help reinforce the Continental Army as it prepared to defend the city from the British. In total, twelve companies of Maryland troops traveled to New York that July and August: nine companies that comprised the First Maryland Regiment, commanded by Colonel William Smallwood, and the Fourth, Fifth, and Seventh Independent companies, the only three that were ready to travel. [3]

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. 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. Carberry and his company likely saw little combat. Instead, the Fifth Independent Company did not cross the East River from Manhattan to Brooklyn until after the fighting had begun, and did not venture onto the field of battle. They did, however, perform valuable service assisting the Americans retreating through the Gowanus Marsh. [4]

During the fall of 1776, Carberry and the rest of the Marylanders fought a series of battles in New York: Harlem Heights (September), White Plains (October), and Fort Washington (November). While the Americans had some tactical successes at these engagements, by November they had been pushed out of New York entirely, though they secured key, revitalizing victories at Trenton and Princeton late that winter. At the end of the year, the independent companies were disbanded. Carberry was able to secure the post as an officer that he desired in January 1777, when he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in Hartley's Additional Continental Regiment. Commanded by Colonel Thomas Hartley, the unit was recruited in Delaware and the eastern portions of Maryland and Pennsylvania. [5]

Carberry and the men of Hartley's Regiment saw action in 1777 around Philadelphia, fighting to defend the American capital from the British. At the battles of Brandywine (September 1777) and Germantown (October 1777), the Americans took heavy losses, and the British captured Philadelphia on September 26. Although Carberry was in a different unit from the Marylanders he had fought alongside in 1776, many of his old comrades were present at these battles as well. In early October, shortly before Germantown, Carberry was promoted to first lieutenant. At the end of 1777, the Americans went into winter quarters at Valley Forge, waiting out the harsh winter amid serious shortages of food and supplies. [6]

Early in 1778, Carberry's father John Baptist, died. Henry had not been home since he joined the army, when he "took my leave of my very aged, and Tender Parents--One of whom, I saw no more." It is not known if Henry traveled home to attend to his family, although he may have, since the army was not actively campaigning at the time. One of Carberry's fellow officers later asserted that Henry had been disinherited by his father as punishment for joining the army. If that claim was true, Carberry was either not completely stripped of his inheritance or the two men reconciled by the middle of 1777, when John Baptist wrote his will. Henry received one of his father's dwelling plantations outright, and stood to acquire another after the death of his sister Elizabeth. [7]

Militarily, 1778 was largely inconclusive, although the Americans were victorious at the Battle of Monmouth that June. For Carberry, however, the year saw further success as he was promoted again, named a captain in November 1778. Soon after, Hartley's Regiment was consolidated with several others to form the Eleventh Pennsylvania Regiment. Carberry and his men were part of the American expedition launched against Iroquois tribes in western New York and Pennsylvania, to prevent them from allying with the British. The campaign, led by American general John Sullivan, was marked by brutality and destruction, with many Indian villages burned and civilians killed. Sullivan's army marched west in the late spring of 1779, and spent about a year stationed on the western frontier. [8]

In mid-August 1779, the Americans attacked an Indian village at Chemung (now Elmira, New York). In the ensuing battle, Carberry was shot in the side, injured seriously enough that his commanding general Sullivan wrote "Capn Carbury is dangeroursly wounded, I hope not mortally." Although the Americans took fairly heavy casualties, the battle was a resounding victory. Sullivan's men made it their mission to destroy the Indians' crops and food stores: "There were fields of corn, the most extensive that ever I saw, with great quantities of potatoes, pumpkins, squashes, and in short every other thing which any farms could produce—the whole of which was destroyed root and branch." The tired American soldiers were charged with "destroying those extensive fields...which they performed with the greatest cheerfulness." [9]

Carberry eventually recovered from his wound, but his military career came to an abrupt halt in 1781. Most of Pennsylvania's soldiers, including Carberry's regiment, mutinied in late 1780, largely over disputes about when the soldiers' enlistments ended. Many of the soldiers were discharged, in part to prevent them from spreading their grievances to the whole army. With the number of Pennsylvania soldiers reduced, fewer officers were needed and many of them, including Carberry, were made supernumeraries, essentially surplus officers. Carberry still had his rank of captain, but was without any company to command. For Carberry and the other supernumerary officers, it must have been humiliating and disheartening to be deemed expendable. [10]

How Carberry filled his days over the next few years is not known, but he clearly resented his fate. In the summer of 1783, some eighteen months after the British surrender at Yorktown, rumors began to spread among the troops garrisoned around Philadelphia that the army would be disbanded before the soldiers were given all of the pay they were owed. Around the beginning of June, Carberry and another officer, Lieutenant John Sullivan, began meeting with disgruntled soldiers to plot ways to ensure that Congress paid the troops before dismissing them from the army. Carberry and Sullivan were informed of plans to furlough the soldiers without paying them, and they used their advance knowledge to ally themselves with the enlisted men's leaders. [11]

A few weeks later, troops stationed in various parts of Pennsylvania mutinied, marching on Philadelphia to demand the money they had been promised. Most had received little pay during their enlistments, and the prospect of being dismissed from the army, now that the war for independence had been won, was enraging. The president of the Pennsylvania Executive Council, John Dickinson, reported that the soldiers wished to "obtain justice" and to "procure their pay (or perhaps to possess themselves of money at any rate)." It was even rumored that the United States Treasury would be attacked. The soldiers' demonstrations came to a head on June 21, when they occupied the Pennsylvania State House, where Congress was meeting. Congress eventually convinced the mutineers to leave by offering to negotiate with a committee of soldiers, but the Congressional delegates promptly departed Philadelphia instead. The mutiny was brought to an end, and most soldiers still in the army in 1783 were sent home with little to show for their years of service in the army. [12]

As the uprising was broken up, the role of Sullivan and Carberry was made public; James Madison noted that "At the time of submission, [the soldiers] betrayed their leaders, the chief of whom proved to be a Mr. Carberry...and a Mr. Sullvan...both of whom made their escape." The two disgraced officers immediately boarded a ship and sailed for London, where news of the mutiny was greeted with glee. Within a few days of arriving in England, Carberry met with American officials there to explain his actions and plead for forgiveness. To Henry Laurens, one of the American Peace Commissioners negotiating an end to the war with the British, Carberry "express[ed] deep concern for his misconduct." John Thaxter, another American official reported that Carberry was "extremely unhappy for the part he took in the Philadelphia Mob--is very sensible of the Criminality of his own Conduct, & is much distressed here...[Carberry] has borne a good Character--but was unfortunately led away." Although Laurens and Thaxter both made sure to note that Sullivan was "an Irishman," they felt both he and Carberry should not face unduly harsh punishment. While regular soldiers suspected of plotting mutiny were routinely executed, Thaxter hoped that "they will be pardonned, but be made very sensible that an Error of a Moment might have produced most unhappy Consequences, & of how much Importance it is in a free Government that the Civil should be the Sovereign Power, & give not receive the Law from the military." [13]

The soldiers' occupation of Congress was not the only way the civil-military relationship, along with the power of Congress, was tested. When Carberry returned to Maryland around the beginning of 1784, he was arrested by army officers under orders from Congress. It was not at all certain that Congress had the authority to order such an arrest, nor was it clear who could hold Carberry in custody, nor where he could be tried for his role in the mutiny. Carberry was kept in jail in Annapolis for a time in the spring of 1784, but Maryland declined to try him, since the crime had occurred in Pennsylvania. However, Maryland was also reluctant to extradite Carberry to Pennsylvania, and while he seems to have been in Philadelphia during the summer of 1785, it is not at all certain that any trial ever occurred. [14]

Carberry spent many years working to resurrect his reputation and to secure himself a new position in the army. He petitioned George Washington several times, and even tried to make his case in person, although Washington did not meet with him. Carberry sought to harness the power of the gentry and his social position to rehabilitate himself. [15] To Washington, he wrote

I will not trouble You, Sir, with a detail of my Family, however ancient, or much to my Credit—nor will I dwell upon my Sufferings—or the blood I have spilt, and property I have lost, by my early, and steady Patriotism. ...If You can Forgive me, Sir, for one single act of Indiscretion, for which I can never forgive myself, You will make me happy, and I shall ever consider myself as under the most particular, and Sensible Obligations... [16]

In addition to invoking his sacrifices during the war, his regret for his actions, and his family's reputation, Carberry looked to support from a network of well-connected friends and acquaintances. Samuel Smith and Otho Holland Williams, both decorated Revolutionary officers from Maryland, interceded on his behalf, as did influential men from St. Mary's County. In the end it worked, and Carberry was made a captain in the U.S. Army in 1791, after nearly a decade out of the service. [17]

Carberry was willing to express contrition for his actions, but he made it clear that he held definite grievances towards Congress and the army. He told Laurens "that the United States 'are indebted to him at least £1200'" in salary and expenses incurred during his time in the army. To Otho Holland Williams, Carberry wrote that he had merely been "unfortunate enough to wander a little from the strict rules of rectitude" by participating in the mutiny, and complained that "America scorns to forgive a faithful friend, who only in one single instance of his life was so unlucky was even to wound her feelings, and that too after the war was over.” Williams took a sympathetic view of Carberry, writing to a fellow officer that when he was made supernumerary, "Carberry was put out of the army with nothing more to live on than a good military name." There were many in the army at the end of the war, officers and enlisted men alike, who felt that they had been neglected by Congress and the country, and Carberry's actions may have resonated with them. [18]

Back in the army, Carberry found himself facing a familiar foe: Native Americans. In 1791, he commanded a company of Maryland troops which was part of the army raised by General Arthur St. Clair to fight the Indians of the Northwest Territory. Carberry apparently had some experience with the western Indians, and it was reported that "Few men among us are better acquainted with the Creek, Chacktaw, Chickesaw, and Waybash Indians than Captn Carbery is, having not long since been in their Countries, and is personally known to many of their great men." St. Clair was ordered to secure the Northwest Territory for the United States, removing the Indians who lived in the region by force. The campaign came to an abrupt end in November 1791 at the Battle of the Wabash, when a confederation of Native American tribes dealt the Americans a resounding defeat. Nearly 70 percent of the Americans were killed, and hardly any escaped the battle unscathed. Carberry not only survived, however, he "returned [to Maryland] with the reputation of having exhibited an exemplary the unfortunate Action [and] during the Campaign in general." [19]

The U.S. Army was reorganized in the wake of the loss on the Wabash, and Carberry was made a captain in the Fourth Sublegion in the spring of 1792. It is likely that he spent much of his time as captain recruiting, and whether he spent any time in the field is not certain. In the fall of 1792, Carberry got engaged to Sybilla Schnertzell, and they were married on December 9 at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Frederick, Maryland. Sybilla was the sixteen-year-old daughter of Barbara and George Schnertzell, a wealthy family from Frederick County, Maryland. Carberry stayed in the army until February 1794; the American campaign against the Indian confederation came to an end that August, after the Indians were defeated at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. [20]

Leaving the army, Carberry established himself in Maryland. In October 1794, he was named the first Adjutant General of Maryland, the commanding officer of the state's militia forces. The position was one which certainly required military experience, but the appointment also indicated that Carberry was politically well-connected. During this time, Henry and Sybilla lived in Frederick County, on land near the Monocacy River that they received as a wedding present from her parents. They also retained ties to St. Mary's County, where much of Henry's family still lived, although his mother Mary died around the end of 1793. [21]

Carberry served as adjutant general until stepping down in 1806, although his successor Samuel Turbutt Wright did not take office until the following year. Wright had also fought at the Battle of Brooklyn as one of the Maryland 400, along with Carberry and John Gassaway, who was adjutant general 1811-1817. Little is known about Carberry's life as a private citizen in the years after left office. Eventually, he and Sybilla moved to Washington, DC, and their move may have occurred during this period. [22]

After being out of the service for six years, Carberry returned to the army for a final time in 1813, when he was named the colonel of the Thirty-Sixth United States Infantry Regiment. Carberry was given the command in March of that year, as Maryland and the Federal government mobilized to protect the region for a feared British invasion during the War of 1812. Over the next two years, Carberry and his unit spent most of its time in Southern Maryland keeping watch on the British fleet occupying the Chesapeake Bay. However, his record as a commander during this time was poor. His regiment had a reputation as undisciplined in camp and in the field, and was not regarded as an effective fighting force. In June 1814, during the Second Battle of St. Leonard's Creek, Carberry's men were assigned to protect the American naval flotilla commanded by Joshua Barney, who Carberry disliked greatly. The flotilla was vulnerable to an attack from British land forces, but early in the fighting, Carberry withdrew his regiment after encountering only minimal opposition from the British. Two months later, with the British marching to capture Washington, Carberry was conspicuously absent from the city. [23]

In March 1815, Carberry, by then in his late fifties, resigned his commission and left the army and public life for good. He and Sybilla lived in Washington, near Georgetown, where they were part of the city's Catholic community. Carberry was known as a generous man. When he died on May 26, 1822, his obituary lamented that

"the demise of this amiable gentleman will be severely felt by the poor of his neighborhood...he took a peculiar pleasure in ministering every relief within the reach of his means. His philanthropic disposition has been proverbial throughout life; and if a man could be generous to a fault, he lived in error; for whatever he possessed since a boy, seemed [to be] the common property of all who needed assistance." [24]

Henry and Sybilla did not have any children, and while the family was well-off, in the years after Carberry's death his wife struggled financially. In 1838, Sybilla was granted a pension by the Federal government as the widow of a Revolutionary War veteran, which paid her $480 per year, a substantial amount. She collected it for only a short time, dying on April 3, 1840, five days before her sixty-fourth birthday. She was buried next to her husband at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, DC. In her will, Sybilla left much of her property to her sister Christiana, as well as a niece and nephew. Just as her husband was, Sybilla proved herself to be quite generous, as she also made substantial contributions to Catholic institutions and charities in the city. [25]

Owen Lourie, 2018


1. "Died," Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, DC), 29 May 1822; Will of John Baptist Carberry, 1778, St. Mary's County Register of Wills, Wills, Liber JJ 1, p. 47 [MSA C1720-4, 1/60/10/35]; Land Office, Debt Books, St. Mary's County, 1767, p. 5 [MSA S12-186, 1/24/2/44]; 1770, p. 6 [MSA S12-189, 1/24/2/44]; 1774, p. 6 [MSA S12-192, 1/24/2/44].

2. Applicants for Sea Service, early 1776, Maryland State Papers, Series A, box 1, no. 122, MdHR 6636-1-122 [MSA S1004-1-99, 1/7/3/25]; Henry Carbery to George Washington, 25 July 1789, Founders Online, National Archives; Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, 1775-1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 11, p. 222; John A. Ruddiman, Becoming Men of Some Consequence: Youth and Military Service in the Revolutionary War (Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2014), 31-35. On the place of cadets with the First Maryland Regiment in 1776, see "'Anxious of Showing my Zeal for the Love of My County, I entered Myself as a Cadet,'" on the Maryland State Archives research blog, Finding the Maryland 400.

3. Mark Andrew Tacyn, "'To the End:' The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution" (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 33-45.

4. Return of the Maryland troops, 13 September 1776, Revolutionary War Rolls, NARA M246, folder 35, p. 85, from; Tacyn, 48-73; Reiman Steuart, The Maryland Line (The Society of the Cincinnati, 1971), 154-155. 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.

5. Steuart, 64; Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, from; Robert K. Wright, The Continental Army (Washington D.C.: Center of Military History United States Army, 1983), 322.

6. Steuart, 64; Compiled Service Record.

7. Will of John Baptist Carberry; Carbery to Washington, 25 July 1789; Otho Holland Williams to Uriah Forrest, 28 April 1784, Williams Papers, Maryland Historical Society, MS 908.

8. Henry J. Retzer, The German Regiment of Maryland and Pennsylvania in the Continental Army 1776-1781 (Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications, 1991), 28, 43; Compiled Service Records; Charles H. Lesser, ed., The Sinews of Independence: Monthly Strength Reports of the Continental Army (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1976), 192-193.

9. Major General John Sullivan to George Washington, 15 August 1779, Founders Online, National Archives.

10. Charles Patrick Neimeyer, America Goes to War: A Social History of the Continental Army (New York: New York University Press, 1996), 148-150; Steuart, 64.

11. Mary A.Y. Gallagher, "Reinterpreting the 'Very Trifling Mutiny' at Philadelphia in June 1783," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 119: 1/2 (Apr. 1995), 19-20.

12. Gallagher 22, 24-25.

13. James Madison, "Notes on Debates, 21 June 1783,” Founders Online, National Archives; Alexander Hamilton to George Clinton, 29 June 1783, Founders Online, National Archives; John Thaxter to John Adams, 7 August 1783, Founders Online, National Archives; Henry Laurens to the American Peace Commissioners, 9 August 1783, Founders Online, National Archives. On execution for mutiny, see Neimeyer, chap. 7.

14. Alexander Contee Hanson and Robert Goldsborough [Judges of the General Court] to Council, 28 April 1784, Maryland State Papers, Series A, box 50, no. 46, MdHR 6636-50-46 [MSA S1004-70-14867, 1/7/3/58]; "To the Honourable Thomas Stone, Esq,” Maryland Journal (Baltimore), 4 May 1784; Journal and Correspondence of the State Council, 1781-1784, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 48, pps. 536-537; Henry Carberry to Gov. William Paca, 3 January 1785, Maryland State Papers, Series A, box 54, no. 68, MdHR 6636-54-68 [MSA S1004-76-16387, 1/7/3/61].

15. Henry Carberry to Otho Holland Williams, 29 September 1789, Williams Papers, MHS; Carbery to Washington, 25 July 1789; Henry Carbery to George Washington, 8 February 1790, Founders Online, National Archives.

16. Carbery to Washington, 25 July 1789.

17. Carberry to Williams, 29 September 1789; Jeremiah Jordan, Edmund Plowden, and John Allen Thomas to George Washington, 23 March 1790, Founders Online, National Archives.

18. Laurens to the American Peace Commissioners, 9 August 1783; Carberry to Williams, 29 September 1789; Williams to Forrest, 28 April 1784.

19. Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, 1789-1903, Vol. I (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1903), 281; Richard M. Lytle, The Soldiers of America's First Army (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2004), 256; Jordan, Plowden, and Thomas to Washington, 23 March 1790; Maryland Executive Council to George Washington, 18 February 1792, Founders Online, National Archives; "Extract of a Letter...," Maryland Journal (Baltimore), 21 February 1792.

20. Heitman, 281; Lytle, 256; Will of George Schnertzell, 1810, Frederick County Register of Wills, Wills, Liber RB 1, p. 139 [MSA C898-6, 1/51/9/14]; Deed, George Schnertzell to Henry Carberry and Sybilla Schnertzell, 1793, Frederick County Court, Land Records, Liber WR 11, p. 315 [MSA CE105-31]; Pension of Henry Carberry, National Archives and Records Administration, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, W 23776, from; Baltimore Evening Post, 19 July 1792; "Married," Bartgis's Maryland Gazette (Frederick), 11 December 1792; Anthony Wayne to Henry Knox, 30 March 1793, Papers of the War Department Online.

21. Report of the Adjutant General of Maryland, 1906-1907 (Baltimore: George W. King, 1908), 285; Deed, George Schnertzell to Henry Carberry and Sybilla Schnertzell, 1793; Will of Mary Carberry, 1794, St. Mary's County Register of Wills, Wills, Liber JJ 2, p. 76 [MSA C1720-5, 1/60/10/36]; St. Mary's County Register of Wills, Distributions, 1795, Liber JJ & JF, p. 116 [MSA C1580-1, 1/60/12/28]; U.S. Federal Census, 1800, Frederick, Frederick County, Maryland.

22. Report of the Adjutant General, 285-287; True American and Commercial Daily Advertiser (Baltimore), 3 April 1806.

23. Heitman, 281; Gov. Levin Winder to Col. Henry Carberry, 3 August 1813, Maryland State Papers, Scharf Collection, box 51, no. 42, MdHR 19999-51-42 [MSA S1005-54-39, 1/8/5/43]; Donald G. Shomette, Flotilla: The Patuxent Naval Campaign in the War of 1812 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), 115-116, 144-146, 150, 300; Anthony Pitch, The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1998), 64; James Madison to James Monroe, 22 August 1814, Founders Online, National Archives.

24. Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Parish Registers, Deaths 1816-1867, p. 13, Georgetown University, Special Collections; U.S. Federal Census, 1820, Washington, DC; "Died," Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, DC), 29 May 1822.

25. Carberry pension; "Deaths," Daily National Intelligencer (Washington DC), 7 April 1840; Will of Sybilla Carberry, 1840, Washington, DC Wills, from; Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Parish Registers, Deaths 1816-1867, p. 84.

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