Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Walker Muse (1756-1813)
MSA SC 3520-16749


Though not a Marylander by birth, Walker Muse devotedly served the State of Maryland and the United States for the entirety of the American Revolution, and was present during the famous stand of the Maryland 400 at the Battle of Brooklyn.

A native Virginian, Walker Muse was born in 1756 to Nicholas and Anne Muse, most likely in Westmoreland County, Virginia.[1] For reasons that are unknown, Muse did not serve with a unit from his home state of Virginia, but instead fought alongside the Marylanders during the Revolution. On January 2, 1776 Muse was elected by the Convention of Maryland to the rank of Ensign in the Fifth Company, First Maryland Regiment.[2] He was quickly promoted to the rank of Third Lieutenant on July 9, 1776 and held this rank when the First Maryland Regiment fought at the Battle of Brooklyn.[3]

The Battle of Brooklyn, fought on August 27, 1776, was the first large-scale engagement of the war, and remained the largest battle of the entire war in terms of the number of men involved. The battle was both a tactical and strategic defeat for the Americans under General George Washington, as the British General William Howe secretly outflanked the Americans and drove them from the field and back to their defensive works on Brooklyn Heights.[4]

Though a resounding defeat, the Americans averted complete catastrophe largely due to the First Maryland Regiment and its valiant and desperate charge against a numerically superior British force at the end of battle. The Marylanders’ charge enabled the rest of the American Army to retreat to Brooklyn Heights, and later withdraw to Manhattan, thus avoiding the capture of General Washington and his entire force, and earning the regiment the name “Maryland 400.”

Based on the distribution of officers in the First Maryland Regiment at the time of the battle, it is most likely that Muse was serving as the Third Lieutenant for the Ninth Company, a light infantry unit. As a junior infantry officer in a light infantry company, Muse would have been leading his men in the thick of the fighting. The Ninth Company sustained heavy losses during the battle, losing 65 percent of its 78 men. Third Lieutenant Muse was among those lost, having been captured at some point during the battle.[5]

Muse remained a captive of the British for nearly two years. His experiences as a prisoner of war are unknown, but officers typically received better treatment from their British captors than their enlisted comrades.[6] Although Muse may have received better treatment during his imprisonment, the long length of his captivity was peculiar for an officer at that time. Brigadier General William Smallwood addressed the unusual length of Muse’s captivity and made a personal plea for his release in a letter to General Washington dated April 8, 1778:

As a General Exchange of Prisoners is like to take place, allow me to solicite you in behalf of Lieuts. Dent, Wright, Muse, & Praul Officers of my old Regt taken on long Island the 27th of August 1776, who have remain’d ever since in Captivity, tho’ Numbers of like rank taken long after that period have been exchang’d, they were good Officers & Merritted a better fate & therefore hope your Excellency will order them to be included in the first exchange.[7]

Whether or not Smallwood’s influence was responsible is uncertain, but Muse was exchanged on April 20, 1778, shortly after his request.[8] While in captivity Muse was also promoted twice, to the rank of First Lieutenant on December 10, 1776, and to the rank of Captain on June 10, 1777.[9] 

Captain Muse returned to the First Maryland Regiment in time to fight in the final stages of General Washington’s Northern Campaign in New Jersey and New York in 1778-79.[10] Muse was also present during the winter encampment at Morristown, New Jersey in 1779-80, the worst winter of the war experienced by the Marylanders due to the harsh weather and lack of supplies.[11] After surviving the winter in Morristown, Muse and the Marylanders travelled south as the focus of the war shifted to the Carolinas.

Captain Muse continued serving as a company commander in the First Maryland Regiment as the Army tried to establish its control of the Carolinas during the Southern Campaign in 1780-81. Muse was likely present for the Marylanders first combat in the South, when the British routed the Americans at the Battle of Camden on August 16, 1780. On January 1, 1781 Muse was transferred from the First Maryland Regiment to the Second Maryland Regiment, which also participated in the Southern Campaign.[12] 1781 was a very active year for Muse and the Marylanders as they fought at the Battles of Cowpens, Guilford Court House, Hobkirk’s Hill, the Siege of Ninety-Six, and the Battle of Eutaw Springs. While it is probable that Muse fought at all of these engagements, and it is known that he was present at various camps in the Carolinas during this time, it can only be proved conclusively that he was present for the American defeat at the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill on April 25, 1781.[13] It is also known that on August 24, 1781, Muse received an order to go to Charlotte, North Carolina with the task of superintending the hospital, maintaining discipline among the soldiers, and preventing desertion.[14] This order is one of the few sources directly connected to Muse that provides specific details about his service and offers a glimpse into his responsibilities as an officer during this time.

All major combat engagements ceased with the surrender of General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia in October 1781, although the war did not officially end until 1783. Though the war was effectively over, Captain Muse continued to serve in the Army until November 15, 1783.[15] In 1782 Captain Muse returned to Maryland, serving in the Baltimore and Annapolis area. Muse carried out military duties during this time, at one point receiving orders to search for deserters hiding aboard French naval vessels in Baltimore in September 1782.[16] In the only first hand account that describes Walker Muse, one Maryland soldier recalled in his pension application:

That there was another captain who went out with them when they went to exercises in the place called Governor’s Folly, that his name was Captain Muse, but he had no company of his own, and merely walked along by them touching them sometimes with his sword and telling them to hold up their heads and keep the step.[17]

On January 1, 1783 Muse was transferred to the Northern Detachment of Maryland Troops and journeyed to Newburgh, New York for the Army’s final winter encampment.[18] Following this encampment, Captain Muse returned to Baltimore with the rest of the detachment in June 1783.[19] For his honorable service throughout the course of the war, Congress brevetted Muse to the rank of major on September 30, 1783.[20] Major Muse served in the Army until November 15, 1783, on which date he ended his long and dedicated service to the United States and the State of Maryland.[21]

Following the war, Walker Muse returned to Westmoreland County, Virginia. On November 9, 1790 he married Susanna Asbury in Westmoreland County.[22] Walker and Susanna had one child, a daughter named Sophia. Few details are known about the post-war life of Walker Muse, but it is certain that he served as Sherriff of Westmoreland County at some point during his post-war years.[23] His service as sheriff, an elected position, reveals that Muse must have been a well-connected member of the community. In 1810 Muse reported that he was the owner of seventeen slaves in Westmoreland County, which indicates having some wealth and property.[24] Walker Muse died in Westmoreland County around June 9, 1813 at the age of 57.[25] 

Sean Baker, 2015


[1] Circumstantial evidence and family records show strong family ties to Westmoreland County, Virginia. 

[2] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 13.

[3] Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety July 7, 1776 to December 31, 1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 12, p. 16.

[4] Henry P. Johnston, The Campaign of 1776 Around New York and Brooklyn (New York: Da Capo Press, 1971), 191.

[5] Maryland State Papers, Red Books, List of Regular Officers by Chamberlaine, no. 12, p. 66 [MSA S 989-17].

[6] William Sterrett, a junior officer also captured at the Battle of Brooklyn, provided a description of his captivity.

[7] William Smallwood to George Washington, 8 April 1778, Founders Online, National Archives.

[8] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 616.

[9] Archives of Maryland, vol. 18, p. 136.

[10] Richard Mudd’s Widow Pension Application, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, W. 8,476, p.13, from

[11] Mark Andrew Tacyn, “‘To the End:’ The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 212.

[12] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 363.

[13] Mudd’s Widow Pension Application, p.14.

[14] Otho Holland Williams to Walker Muse, 24 August 1781, Williams Papers, Maryland Historical Society, MS 908.

[15] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 521.

[16] Council to Capt. Muse, Authorization to search for possible deserters, September 3, 1782, Maryland State Papers, Series A [MSA S 1004-55-9737].

[17] Joseph Proctor’s Pension Application, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, R. 8,497, from This is the only source that provides a first person account about Captain Muse, and reveals that Muse was probably a dedicated officer and one that believed in maintaining discipline among his men.

[18] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 499.

[19] Barruck Webb’s Pension Application, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, S. 40654, from

[20] A brevet is the bestowing of a rank for gallantry or meritorious service, but without the pay or authority of the rank. Muse had the title of “Major” but continued to receive the pay of a captain. Revolutionary War Bounty Warrant of Walker Muse, Revolutionary War Bounty Warrants, Library of Virginia.

[21]Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 521.

[22] Robert K. Headley, Married Well and Often: Marriages of the Northern Neck of Virginia, 1649-1800 (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing, 2003), 258.

[23] Enquirer (Richmond, VA), 27 March 1812.

[24] Third Census of the United States, 1810, Westmoreland County, Virginia, NARA M252, roll 71, p. 247, from

[25] “Mortuary Notice,” New-York Gazette (New York, NY), 9 June 1813.

Return to Walker Muse's Introductory Page


This web site is presented for reference purposes under the doctrine of fair use. When this material is used, in whole or in part, proper citation and credit must be attributed to the Maryland State Archives. PLEASE NOTE: The site may contain material from other sources which may be under copyright. Rights assessment, and full originating source citation, is the responsibility of the user.

Tell Us What You Think About the Maryland State Archives Website!

© Copyright Monday, 21-Oct-2019 13:09:28 EDT Maryland State Archives