Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Patrick Sim
MSA SC 3520-16714

Biography:

Patrick Sim was born into a wealthy family with roots in Frederick and Prince George's counties, Maryland. The son of Catherine Murdock (1735-1771) and Joseph Sim (c. 1793), Patrick had six siblings: William, Joseph, Anthony, Thomas, Ann Addison, and Mary Brooke. His mother Catherine died in 1771 when Patrick was a teenager, and in 1775 his father remarried, wedding Lettice Thompson, who had two daughters from a previous marriage, Alice Corbin Thompson and Mary-Lee Thompson. [1]

Joseph Sim was an active and prominent member of the community, and an early supporter of the American Revolution. He was clerk of the Prince George's County Court 1749-1767, a justice on the Provincial Court in 1773, and a member of the Lower House of the Maryland legislature in 1771 and 1773-1774. After the colonial legislature was dissolved in 1774, Joseph served in the extra-legal Conventions in 1774-1776 and was a member of the Frederick County Committee of Observation, a local Revolutionary body in 1775, and in the newly-created Maryland Senate 1777-1781. With this background, it is not surprising that Patrick Sim volunteered to fight in the American Revolution during the war's early days. [2]

Sim was commissioned as a captain in January 1776, commanding the Second Company of the First Maryland Regiment. The regiment was Maryland's first contingent of full-time, professional soldiers raised to fill the state's quota for the Continental Army. In the spring of 1776, Sim's company traveled to Annapolis. The men trained there until July, when the First Maryland Regiment was ordered to march north to New York, to protect the city from invasion by the British. [3]

On August 27, a month after arriving in New York, the Americans clashed with the British at the Battle of Brooklyn (also called the Battle of Long Island), the first full-scale encounter of the American Revolution. 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, including Sim's company, was able to cross the creek, the rest were unable to do so before they were attacked by the British. Facing down a much larger, better-trained force, these men, now known as the "Maryland 400," mounted a series of daring charges, which held the British at bay for some time, at the cost of many lives, before being overrun. Their action allowed the rest of the American army to escape, however. Because it had been able to escape, Sim's company was largely spared, losing fewer than ten men; other companies lost fifty or sixty soldiers. In the course of the fighting, Sim sustained his only injury of the war, when he was "knocked down by the body of Thomas Connor," one of his men, "whos head was shot off by a Cannon Shot," and Sim received "a violent bruise" from the encounter. Connor was named in error, and actually survived the battle; the identity of the soldier who was killed is not known. [4]

Sim and his men fought against the British through the fall and winter of 1776, a series of dispiriting losses that saw the Americans pushed out of New York. Still, the Marylanders distinguished themselves with their skill and bravery at battles like Harlem Heights in September and White Plains a month later. At the latter battle, "Smallwood’s [regiment] suffered most," wrote an observer, "sustaining, with great patience and coolness, a long and heavy fire– and finally retreated with great sullenness, being obliged to give way to a superior force.” [5] As 1776 ended, the Marylanders fought at the revitalizing victories at Trenton and Princeton.

When the Maryland troops were reorganized and expanded at the end of 1776, Sim received a promotion to major in the First Maryland Regiment, and in January 1777, he traveled to Annapolis to recruit new soldiers. A few months later, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel, and returned to the army's encampment in New Jersey. However, in June or July, Sim returned to Maryland and resigned his position. Not long afterwards, he married Mary (Molly) Carroll. Indeed, Sim's resignation may have been related to his marriage. Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Molly's great uncle, wrote that "I wish Miss Molly Carroll all imaginable happiness, and I beg...if she regards the honor of her husband, she must not keep him from the field this campaign." [6]

Over the next few years, Sim and his wife had four children: Joseph, Maria, Patrick, and Daniel Carroll. He was also named colonel of the Middle Battalion of the Prince George's County Militia in October 1778. In 1784, his wife Mary died, just thirty years old. Four years later, Sim remarried, wedding Ariana Henderson in August 1787. [7]

During this same period of time, Sim appears to have been in a precarious financial situation. While he had received 1,000 acres of land in Prince George's County from his father Joseph in 1778, Sim began to sell it off in the late 1780s. Sim eventually sold nearly all this land, along with most of his slaves, and even household furniture. By the late 1790s, he even sold the rights to his shares of his father's and brother's estates. In 1795, amid these problems, Sim consigned his son Joseph to the care of his aunt Mary Digges, authorizing her to legally bind him as an apprentice "to a merchant or to some of the learned trades." The transaction is a bit strange in its formality. There would be nothing unusual about wanting an upper-class son to be trained as a merchant, nor necessarily in asking an aunt to care for a child. But recording it as a legal document is odd, and in light of Sim's financial troubles raises interesting questions about the family. [8]

What caused such difficulties is not clear, although there are a few hints. Sim seems to have engaged in some unsuccessful land speculation in Western Maryland, in which he lost money. In addition, his father was in a similar financial predicament. At his peak, Joseph Sim owned several thousand acres of land in Maryland; by the time he died in 1793, he owned only 148. While some of Joseph's land had gone to relatives, some of that had been sold by Patrick. [9]

Finally, in late 1800, Patrick declared insolvency, owing at least £3,000. Assessment records indicate that he owned just two acres of land in Prince George's County--probably just the property around his house--and eight slaves, along with a large amount of silver plate. Not long afterwards, he and Ariana moved to Loudoun County, Virginia. The next year, she moved on her own to Georgetown, in the District of Columbia. Over the next few years, Patrick moved first to Georgetown, and later back to Prince George's County. In 1807, Ariana petitioned the General Assembly for a divorce--only the legislature could dissolve marriages at the time--which was granted on January 18, 1808. [10]

After that time, Sim's life may have stabilized, but he never recovered his status. By 1810, he was living in his home in Prince George's County with his four slaves and no one else. In 1818, Sim applied for a Federal veteran's pension, seeking financial support because of "his reduced circumstances in life." He was granted a pension of $20 per month in April 1818, which he received until his death on January 7, 1819. His estate was valued at just $113, consisting of two cows and old furniture; his slaves had been freed by the court a few years earlier. [11]

Owen Lourie, 2017

Notes:

[1] Edward C. Papenfuse, et al., eds, A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635-1789. Vol II. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985), 736-738.

[2] Papenfuse, et al., 736-738.

[3] Reiman Steuart, The Maryland Line (The Society of the Cincinnati, 1971), 129; Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, from Fold3.com; Pension of Patrick Sim. National Archives, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land-Warrant Application Files, S 35072, from Fold3.com.

[4] Return of the Maryland troops, 27 September 1776, from Fold3.com; Mark Andrew Tacyn “’To the End:’ The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 48-73; Sim pension. 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] “Extract of another letter, dated in the evening of the above day,” Maryland Gazette, 7 November 1776.

[6] Compiled Service Records; Sim pension; Steuart, 121; Prince George's County Court, Marriage Licenses, 11 July 1777, p. 3 [MSA C1260-1, 1/21/9/5]; Charles Carroll of Carrollton to Charles Carroll of Annapolis, 23 June 1777, in Ronald Hoffman, et al., eds., Dear Papa, Dear Charley, vol. III (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 1024-1025.

[7] Patrick Sim, sale of slaves to daughter Maria, 1784, Prince George's County Court, Land Records, Liber FF 2 [MSA CE65-25]; Patrick Sim, sale of slaves to son Patrick, 1794, Liber JRM 3, p. 105 [MSA CE65-32]; Patrick Sim, sale of slaves to son Joseph, 1794, Liber JRM 3, p. 106; Estate of Daniel C. Sim, 1829, Prince George's County Register of Wills, Estate Papers, MdHR 50,822 [MSA C2119-77, 0/50/6/77]; Journal and Correspondence of the Council of Safety from January 1 - March 20, 1777, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 16, p. 532; Hoffman, et al., 1548, Chart J; Prince George's County Court, Marriage Licenses, 28 August 1787, p. 42 [MSA C1260-1, 1/21/9/5]; M. Virginia Geiger, Daniel Carroll II: One Man and His Descendants (1979), 57-58; Charts A-C.

[8] See for example, Patrick Sim, deed to Robert Bowie, 1786, Liber HH, p. 212 [MSA CE65-26]; deed to Thomas Gantt, 1787, Liber HH, p. 336; deed to Alexis Hagan, 1788, Liber HH 2, p. 252 [MSA CE65-27]; deed to Joseph Hagan, 1789, Liber II, p. 139 [MSA CE65-28] sale of slaves to Thomas Contee, 1794, Liber JRM 3, p. 39; sale of furniture to Thomas Contee, 1797, Liber JRM 5, p. 578 [MSA CE65-34]; assignment of rights to brother William Sim's estate to Thomas Contee, 1798, Liber JRM 6, p. 84 [MSA CE65-35]; assignment of rights to father Joseph Sim's estate to Thomas Contee, 1799, Liber JRM 7, p. 36 [MSA CE65-36]; indenture of Joseph Sim to Mary Digges, 1795, Liber JRM 3, p. 489.

[9] Patrick Sim, deed from Thomas Gantt, 1788, Frederick County Court, Land Records, Liber WR 8, p. 125 [MSA CE108-28]; same land sold to Thomas Hawkins 6 weeks later for £300 less, Liber 8, p. 145; Papenfuse, et al., 736-738.

[10] Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, DC), 24 November 1800; Insolvent Estate of Patrick Sim, 1801, Chancery Court, Chancery Papers, case no. 4489B, MdHR 17,898-4489B [MSA S512-4655]; Prince George's County Commissioners of the Tax, Assessment Record, 1800, Personal Property, Rock Creek and Eastern Branch Hundred, p. 44 [MSA C1162-25, 1/27/13/1]; Real Property, p. 21 [MSA C1162-24, 1/27/13/1]; Kitty v. Fitzhugh, 1827, Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, in Peyton Randolph, ed., Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Court of Appeals of Virginia, vol. IV, p. 600-603; Votes and Proceedings of the House of Delegates of Maryland, November 1807, p. 25 [MSA SCM 3198, p. 879]; Laws of Maryland, 1807, Ch. 20, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 596, p. 20.

[11] U.S. Federal Census, 1810, Prince George's County, Maryland, Sim pension; Kitty v. Fitzhugh; Will of Patrick Sim, 1819, Prince George's County Register of Wills, Wills, Liber TT 1, p. 236 [MSA C1326-5, 1/25/7/6]; Inventory of Patrick Sim, 1819, Prince George's County Register of Wills, Inventories, Liber TT 3, p. 267 [MSA C1228-18, 1/25/9/9].

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