Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

John Neal (1757-1825)
MSA SC 3520-16719 

Biography:

John Neal was born in 1757, likely in Charles County, Maryland. His father, Benjamin was from Northern Ireland; his mother's name is not known. [1]

On January 24, 1776, Neal, age nineteen, enlisted as a private in the John Hoskins Stone's First Company while they were stationed at Port Tobacco. The company trained in Annapolis until they left for New York in July of 1776 to reinforce George Washington's army. [2]

The First Company fought in the Battle of Brooklyn in late August 1776. The First Company managed to cross the creek along with half of the First Maryland Regiment and escaped the battle, taking few casualties. Other companies, however, remained trapped and subsequently faced a deadly British onslaught. The Marylanders led several charges against the British, holding them at bay for a crucial period of time that saved Washington’s army. [3]

Neal later reenlisted in the First Maryland Regiment in December 1776 for a three year term. During this period of his service, he fought, by his own recollection, in the battles of “White Plains, Brandywine, [and] Germantown.” Neal was promoted to corporal in May 1778. A few months later in July, he was promoted to sergeant. [4]

Sergeants like Neal tended to be from the lower classes of society compared to commissioned officers, who mostly came from the gentry. Sergeants directly trained privates and kept them in line during battle. They taught privates to clean and use their weapons, ensured that their men dressed correctly, and reported any problems to their officers. [5]

Neal served as a sergeant until he was discharged on December 27, 1779. During this time, Neal recalled fighting in the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778. American soldiers under General Charles Lee attacked the British at Monmouth Court House and were forced to retreat when the British launched a severe counter-attack. Lee was court-martialled for his role in the battle. [6]

After his service ended, Neal stayed in Somerset County, New Jersey. Neal served in the New Jersey militia for at least one four-month term, although it is not known if he ever encountered the British during his militia service. Somerset County, sometimes called the “crossroads of the revolution,” experienced an economic resurgence in the 1780s, with industry and commerce thriving in the final years of the war even as soldiers decried depreciation of Continental currency. Regardless of his financial status at the time, Neal, he married a local woman named Margaret Miller on February 27, 1780 in Bound Brook, New Jersey. The two had many children together: Benjamin (1781-1867), Thomas (1782-1858), John (1786-1869), Isaac (1788-1865), Peter (1792-1874), Jesse (1794-1870), and Theodosia (1801-1895). [7]

By 1810, Neal and his family moved to the town of Ovid, New York, where he filed for his Federal veterans pension in 1818. In 1820, he lived in the adjoining town of Covert, New York on a half-acre of land, owning only a wooden clock, a chest, some cookery, a shabby wagon, small pigs, one cow, and eight sheep. Neal claimed to be in "reduced circumstances" and that he had lost his discharge papers or any other paper records proving his service in the First Maryland Line. His appeal was successful and he received $80 per year for his services. [8]

Five years later, on July 22, 1825, Neal died. Years after Neal’s death, Margaret re-married to a man named John Baryann Smith. She successfully fought for Neal's pension payments in the late 1840s as her second husband had also died by then, leaving her without a proper source of income. She received a pension of $96 per year in 1850. At that point, she lived in the small town of Hector, New York—only about 16 miles from Ovid—with another family. Margaret Smith died in 1854. [9]

-Burkely Hermann, Maryland Society of the Sons of American Revolution Research Fellow, 2016; James Schmitt, Maryland Society Sons of the American Revolution Research Fellow, 2019

[1] Pension of John Neal, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives, NARA M804, Record Group 15, Roll 1803, W.19054, from Fold 3. 

[2] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, pp. 6; John Neal pension.

[3] Mark Andrew Tacyn, “‘To the End:’ The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), pp. 48-73.

[4] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 146; John Neal pension.

[5] Friedrich von Steuben, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, Part I (Philadelphia: Styner and Cist, 1792), pp. 137-140.

[6] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 146; Tacyn, pp. 197-199.

[7] John Neal pension; Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970, from Ancestry.com; Ronald V. Jackson, Accelerated Indexing Systems, comp. New Jersey Census, 1643-1890, from Ancestry.com; William A. Schleicher and Susan J. Winter, Somerset County: Crossroads of the American Revolution (Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 1999), 7-8, 17-18, 22, 24-25, 34.

[8] John Neal pension.

[9] John Neal pension; Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970, from Ancestry.com; U.S. Federal Census, 1820, Seneca County, New York; U.S. Federal Census, 1850, Tompkins County, New York.

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