Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Christopher Richmond
MSA SC 3520-16722

Biography:

A merchant and soldier, Christopher Richmond was born in County Durham in northern England. He had at least three brothers, William Richmond, Joseph Richmond, and Captain Robert Richmond. Sometime before 1770, Richmond came to America to become the clerk for Thomas Howe Ridgate, a merchant in Port Tobacco, Charles County. [1]

While working for Ridgate under Wallace, Johnson, and Muir, a prominent commercial trade business in Annapolis, Richmond became a wealthy merchant. By 1772, Richmond was recommended to take charge of Ridgate's store. [2] With his new position and salary from Ridgate's store, Richmond purhcased a few lots for speculation in Carrollsburgh. Carrollsburgh had been established as a town by the Carroll family in the late 1760s and early 1770s along the Anacostia River, in what is now Washington, D.C. [3]

On January 3, 1776, Richmond became the clerk to Colonel William Smallwood. [4] In July 1776, Smallwood recommended him for the position of paymaster of the First Maryland Regiment, replacing Charles Wallace of Wallace, Johnson and Muir. [5] Richmond was appointed by the Maryland Council of Safety a month later. [6] As clerk and paymaster, Richmond was responsible for receipts and handling the money for the First Regiment.

The First Maryland Regiment spent early 1776 training in Annapolis and Baltimore. In July, they were sent to New York to reinforce the Continental Army against a British invasion.

On August 27, 1776, American forces faced British troops at the Battle of Brooklyn (also known as the Battle of Long Island), the first full-scale engagement of the war. Under heavy fire, the American troops attempted to retreat through Gowanus Creek, suffering severe losses in the process. To hold the British at bay, the remaining Marylanders who had not crossed the creek yet mounted a series of charges. The Maryland troops delayed the British long enough for the rest of the Continental Army to escape. Despite the loss of 256 men who were killed or captured, the bravery and sacrifice of the Maryland troops earned them the title of the "Maryland 400."[7]

While Richmond presumably saw no combat at the Battle of Brooklyn, there were other challenges that he dealt with. Men were fighting illness in the camps, with shortages of supplies and lack of proper field hygiene and medical care. The poorly-kept camps and diminishing supplies were largely to blame for disease. [8]

In the fall of 1776, Richmond wrote to the Maryland Council of Safety about the men who were forced out of the hospitals due to poor care and requested more money be sent: “The men having suffered great losses in cloaths on Long Island, will want the whole of the money remaining due to them for July & August to procure such covering as is to be had.” [9] The Continental Army was quickly pushed out of New York and into New Jersey before winning the crucial battles at Trenton and Princeton in the winter of 1776-1777.

During 1777-1778, the British and American troops vied for control over the American capital at Philadelphia. As part of the American campaign, Richmond was with the First Regiment who fought at the battles of Brandywine (September 1777) and Germantown (October 1777), both American losses. [10] Just before the Battle of Monmouth, a limited American victory in June 1778, Richmond was promoted to first lieutenant, but maintained his duties as paymaster. [11]

In the spring of 1780, Richmond was with the Marylanders who were ordered to the Carolinas. For the next two years, the Maryland troops fought in some of the most intense battles of the Revolutionary War. On August 16, 1780, the Americans suffered a great defeat at the Battle of Camden, which ended in an American retreat and heavy casualties to the Maryland troops. [12]

In early 1781, Richmond was transferred to the Second Maryland Regiment. On November 20 that year, Richmond was promoted to captain. [13]

The British surrender at Yorktown in October 1781 effectively ended the war, though the Continental Army remained on duty until the official end of hostilities in late 1783 and the Marylanders remained in South Carolina. While troops were still at Newburgh, the Society of the Cincinnati of Maryland was founded, but organization was delayed to Maryland troops in the field. [14] Richmond served until the war’s end, receiving his discharge in November 1783. [15] On November 29, 1783, Richmond joined the Society of the Cincinnati of Maryland. [16]

While encamped at Newburgh in early 1783, Richmond was involved in an episode that threatened to overthrow Congress. The soldiers' patience was running thin with continued empty promises of half-pay pensions since 1782. A resolution was passed by Congress to provide the pay for soldiers, but the states did not comply with Congress's request for the needed funds. To come up with the money to pay the soldiers and support the army, an amendment to the Articles of Confederation was proposed that would allow Congress to raise revenue through taxes, but was rejected. By mid-1783, widespread unrest and disgruntled soldiers led to some of the men, including Richmond, helping to stage a potential coup within the army as a scare tactic. [17]

The so-called Newsburgh Conspiracy was purportedly a plot by discontented officers to use the discontent of the army to break down Congress's civil authority and seize control. To garner support for the cause, anonymous letters, which Richmond copied, if not composed, circulated the Continental Army. [18]

It was actually an effort by nationalists at Philadelphia to intimidate Congress into fulfilling its promises and expand power. Soldiers were already anxious about returning to civilian life at war's end, since they would have to return to a society that had adjusted to their absence, and in some instances, flourished on wartime prosperity. This apprehension, combined with the uncertainty of pay from Congress, induced some to sign the Newburgh Address, which challenged the authority of Congress and aired their frustrations with the inability to meet financial obligations to the military. Richmond was among the few who signed his name on the address and supported the intention to pressure the government. [19] While Washington was successful in persuading them to remain loyal to Congress, whether or not there was ever a threat of a coup d’etat from officers such as Richmond who believed in the cause is not known.

In 1784, Richmond became auditor general for the state of Maryland. As auditor general, Richmond settled public accounts and recorded invoices and letters received by the governor. [20] In the Revolutionary War period, this role was important in order to maintain records of supply purchases for the troops. In his tenure as auditor general, Richmond also helped Washington secure subscriptions to the Potowmack Company, a collaboration between Maryland and Virginia to establish a series of roads and canals to link the Potomac River to Ohio. [21] By the time of the first meeting of the company in May 1785, Richmond had secured seventy-three shares in Annapolis. [22]

Richmond served as auditor general until 1787. He died in Prince George’s County in 1796, unmarried and with no children. He left his Washington, D.C. lands to his brothers William and Joseph, and nephews Christopher and Francis Richardson Richmond. [23]

Cassy Sottile, Explore America Research Intern, 2019

Notes:

[1] Will of Christopher Richmond, 1796, Prince George's County Register of Wills, Wills, Liber T 1, p. 382 [MSA C1326-4, 01/27/07/005]; Edward C. Papenfuse, In Pursuit of Profit: The Annapolis Merchants in the Era of the American Revolution, 1763-1805, (Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975), 198-199.

[2] Papenfuse, 199.

[3] Christopher Richmond, deed from Henry Roger Daniel Carrol, 1771, Prince George’s County Court, Land Records, Liber AA 2 [MSA C1237-25, 01/20/06/024]; Stewart Lillard, Lost in the District, Lost in the Federal Territory: The Life and Times of Doctor David Ross, Surgeon, Sot-Weed Factor, Importer of Human Labor, of Bladensburg, Maryland, and related individuals, (Lulu Publishing, 2017), p. 87-89.

[4] Reiman Steuart, The Maryland Line, (Baltimore, The Society of the Cincinnati of Maryland, 1971), 124; William Smallwood to Goerge Washington, 29 November 1783, Founders Online, National Archives.

[5] Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, 7 July: December 31, 1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol 12, p. 129.

[6] Archives of Maryland Online, vol 12, p. 159.

[7] Return of the Maryland troops, 13 September 1776, Revolutionary War Rolls, NARA M246, folder 35, p. 85. From Fold3.com.

[8] For more information on sickness in camps, see “Unfit for Duty: Medicine and Illness in the Revolutionary War” on the Finding the Maryland 400 research blog.

[9] Archives of Maryland Online, vol 12, p. 366.

[10] John Dwight Kilbourne, A Short History of the Maryland Line in the Continental Army, (Baltimore, The Society of the Cincinnati of Maryland, 1992), 17-26.

[11] Archives of Maryland Online, vol 18, p. 155.

[12] Mark Andrew Tacyn, "To the End: The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution," (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 216-224.

[13] Archives of Maryland Online, vol 18, p. 479.

[14] Kilbourne, 63-64.

[15] Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881. From Fold3.com; Archives of Maryland Online, vol 18, p. 521.

[16] "William Smallwood to Goerge Washington, 29 November 1783," Founders Online, National Archives.

[17] "The Newburgh Conspiracy," Mount Vernon, 2019.

[18] Richard H. Kohn, "The Inside History of the Newburgh Conspiracy: America and the Coup d’Etat," The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, vol. 27, no.2, April 1970, p. 187.

[19] Kohn, 189-206.

[20]  "George Washington to Christopher Richmond, 6 April 1785," Founders Online, National Archives; "Christopher Richmond to George Washington, 8 April 1785," Founders Online, National Archives.

[21] "The Potomac Company," Mount Vernon, 2019.

[22] "Christopher Richmond to George Washington, 8 April 1785," Founders Online, National Archives.

[23] Will of Christopher Richmond.

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