Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Charles Smith (?-1788)
MSA SC 3520-16774

Biography:

Charles Smith was born to Benjamin Smith and Mary, in Charles County, Maryland likely in the late 1750s. He had three sisters (Anna, Mary, and Jane), and two brothers (John Baptist and Lewis).

On January 24, 1776, Smith enlisted as a sergeant in Captain John Hoskins Stone's First Company of the First Maryland Regiment. Smith, like many of those in the First Company, was recruited from Charles County. The company trained in Annapolis until they departed for New York. [2]

A sergeant, like Smith, had an important role in the Maryland Line. As non-commissioned officers, their duties included maintaining discipline within their company, and inspecting the new recruits. Their other duties included carrying sick soldiers to the hospital as needed, reporting on the sickness of men within the ranks, and leading groups of men to guard prisoners or supplies if circumstances required it. For these services they were paid more than corporals in Maryland, who they oversaw, and worked with, to keep order in place in the company, including breaking up disputes between soldiers. In order to get in this position, however, their field officers or captains had to recommend them for promotion. [3]

The First Maryland Regiment were the first troops Maryland raised at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Maryland was more than willing to do its part to recruit the men needed to fill the Continental Army's depleted ranks. [8] A few days after independence was declared, the First Maryland Regiment were ordered to New York so it could join the forces of General George Washington. The regiment arrived there in early August, with the Battle of Brooklyn set between the Continental Army and the British Army, joined by their Hessian allies. [4]

Smith served with 26-year-old Stone and his company at the Battle of Brooklyn in late August 1776. Unlike other companies which suffered heavier losses, only 15 percent of the First Company were either killed or captured. Few were killed, while the company's ensign, James Farnandis, was captured by British forces. Even so, the loss of life by the other companies confirmed the assessment of the British Parliament's Annual Register which described how "almost a whole regiment from Maryland…of young men from the best families in the country was cut to pieces" even as the battle brought the men of the Maryland 400 together. [5]

The Battle of Brooklyn, the first large-scale battle of the war, fits into the larger context of the Revolutionary War. If the Maryland Line had not stood and fought the British, enabling the rest of the Continental Army to escape, then the Continental Army would been decimated, resulting in the end of the Revolutionary War. This heroic stand gave the regiment the nickname of the Old Line and those who made the stand in the battle are remembered as the Maryland 400.

Smith survived the Battle of Brooklyn like most of the First Company. In December 1776, Mitchell re-enlisted in the First Maryland Regiment and was promoted to second lieutenant in the Eighth Company. [6]

In the summer of 1777, Benjamin Smith died. Charles Smith received a ninety-seven acre plot of land named Sharpe in his father’s will. He also received at least 195 other acres, including three Charles County tracts held by his father at his death: Uncle and Nephew, Smith's Venture, and Two Friends Tract. Possibly because of his wartime service, Smith renounced his right to be an executor of his father's estate, instead leaving the responsibility to his mother, Mary. [7]

Smith was promoted to first lieutenant in February 1778. He received a furlough in February of 1779 and returned to Charles County's Benedict Hundred. In August of 1779, he was promoted to captain in the First Maryland Regiment. By February 18, 1780, however, he had resigned. [8]

Only months after his resignation, Charles Smith became a captain in a new unit called the Regiment Extraordinary, commanded by Alexander Lawson Smith. This regiment, organized in the summer of 1780, was created to reinforce the Continental Army. Unfortunately, Smith’s regiment suffered from supply problems which led to high rates of desertion. [9]

Likely in the fall of 1780, Smith was involved in a skirmish with British forces near modern-day Fort Washington, Maryland on the Potomac River. In the ensuing conflict at Digg's Landing or Digges Point, Smith’s company of Continentals fought a small group of British soldiers. During the battle, Smith received what he later described as a severe wound after being hit in the face by a cannon ball bouncing off a rock. Smith resigned his position sometime in January of 1781, possibly related to his wound. [10]

On January 19, 1782, Smith married sixteen-year-old Mary Bowling from Prince George's County. They lived in Charles County, where they had three children: Benjamin, John, and Polly. In 1783, they lived on the Sharpe property—the same tract he received from his father—"near the [Mattawoman Road] leading from Piscataway to Port Tobacco.” Smith operated a plantation like his father, with numerous cows, horses, and pigs. He also owned five enslaved people, although details about them are scarce. [11]

Smith died in the late summer of 1788 in Charles County. He willed Mary one-third of his estate and his children two-thirds which would be equally divided. He also made his wife the sole executor of his estate and sold the Sharpe tract to Joshua Mudd, his half-brother and fellow former member of the Maryland Line. There was great fanfare in a funeral held for the wealthy former captain of the Maryland Line. [12]

Mary Smith continued to fight for her husband's pension money after his death. While she had three children with Smith, none of them were alive on October 19, 1843 when she died in Washington, D.C. It would not be until 1857 that Mary's relatives would stop receiving pension money. [13]

- Burkely Hermann, Maryland Society of the Sons of American Revolution Research Fellow, 2016.

Notes:

[1] Will of Benjamin Smith, June 1777, Charles County Register of Wills, Wills, Liber AF 7, p. 85-86 [MSA C665-7, 1/8/10/8].

[2] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online vol. 18, 5; Mark Andrew Tacyn, “'To the End:’ The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), p. 21.

[3] James Thacher, A Military Journal During the American Revolutionary War, from 1775 to 1783 (Boston: A. Richardson and Lord, 1823), 45, 73, 458, 468-484, 520; 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.

[4] Tacyn, pp. 44-45.

[5] Return of the six Independent Companies and First Regiment of Maryland Regulars, in the service of the United Colonies, commanded by Colonel Smallwood, Sept. 13, 1776, National Archives, NARA M804, Record Group 93, Roll 0034, from Fold3.com; Tacyn, p. 4

[6] Reiman Steuart, A History of the Maryland Line in the Revolutionary War (Towson, MD: Metropolitan Press, 1969), p. 131; Archives of Maryland Online vol. 18, pp. 47, 160.

[7] Will of Benjamin Smith.

[8] Steuart, p. 131; Benedict Hundred, March 1778, Charles County Court, Census of 1778, MdHR 8167-2, Liber X 3, p. 630-631 [MSA C654-1, 1/7/7/27]; Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, 160.

[9] Pension of Charles Smith, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives, NARA M804, Record Group 15, Roll 2207, pension number W. 25002; Journal and Correspondence of the Council of Maryland, 1779-1780, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 43, 233-234.

[10] Charles Smith pension; Order to pay and receipt by Captain Charles Smith, March 29, 1781, Maryland State Papers, Series A, MdHR 6636-32-65/2 [MSA S1004-29-8019, 1/7/3/45].

[11] Charles Smith pension; Will of Charles Smith; Charles Smith, 1783, Assessment of 1783, Charles County Tax List, Names of Land, CH 4th District [MSA SM59-41, SCM 871-37].

[12] Will of Charles Smith; Charles Smith pension.

[13] Journal of the House of Delegates, December 31 to March 16, 1827, p. 75 [MSA SC M 3200]; Laws of 1833, Resolution 54, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 210, p. 348; Pension of Charles Smith.

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