Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

John Good
MSA SC 3520-16780

Biography:

John Good enlisted in the Ninth Company of the First Maryland Regiment on January 20, 1776. The regiment was Maryland's first contingent of full-time, professional soldiers raised to be part of the Continental Army. Many of the men in the company came from Western Maryland, although the company also drew men from other parts of the state as well, since it was designated as the elite light infantry company for the regiment. Instead of fighting in a line with the other companies, the light infantry was often deployed in small groups ahead of the main body of troops as scouts or skirmishers. They carried rifles, rather than muskets, and were intended to be a more mobile group. Good initially was appointed as one of the company's sergeants, but he probably did not hold that rank for very long. Pay records show that by the late summer, Good had been demoted to private. [1]

Good and the rest of the company traveled to Annapolis in March 1776, to join with the rest of the regiment. As they departed, however, they were ordered to Baltimore to provide reinforcements in case of an anticipated British attack launched from the HMS Otter, a warship reportedly heading for the city. No attack ever materialized, and the company proceeded to Annapolis. They 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. [2]

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 was able to cross the creek, the rest, Good's company among them, 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. [3]

The Ninth Company fared poorly at the battle, probably because their role as light infantry placed them closest to the enemy lines during combat. At least 13 soldiers from the company were captured, and fewer than half the men from the Ninth Company escaped death or captivity at the battle. One of those captured was John Good. While he left no account of his time in captivity, Thomas McKeel, a sergeant in the Sixth Company, reported that he "remained a prisoner on board of a Prison Ship until the British troops got possession of New York" in November 1776, and "he was then taken ashore and imprisoned in New York with the Maryland officers and prisoners, until he was parolled." Good was likely also released around the end of 1776, and did not return to military service. Indeed, in July 1777, he was judged "unable for further duty [and] hereby discharged." [4]

Further details of Good's life are difficult to discern. There were at least two men named John Good living in Washington County, Maryland, where many of the men from the Ninth Company were recruited from, in the years after the Revolutionary War, and Sergeant Good was undoubtedly one of them; he was quite likely related to the other one. The life of one, known in later life as Major John Good, is relatively easy to document, since he was a justice of the peace, judge of the county levy court, Federalist Party leader, militia officer (thus the tile of major), and real estate speculator. Major Good's gravestone, however, gives him a birth date of 1765, far too late for a sergeant in the army in 1776. As a result, little is known about Sergeant Good's life after his service ended. [5]

Owen Lourie, 2016

Notes:

[1] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 18; George Stricker to Council, 21 January 1776, Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, 1775-1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 11, p. 102; Pay Role of Prisoners taken on Long Island from 27th August to the 10th Dec. 1776, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, MdHR 19970-19-01 [MSA S997-19-1 01/07/03/15].

[2] Order to Capt. Stricker, Council of Safety Proceedings, 6 March 1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 11, p. 102; Order to Capt. Stricker, 9 March 1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 11, p. 224-225.

[3] 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. 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.  

[4] Pay Role of Prisoners taken on Long Island; Pension of Thomas McKeel. National Archives, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land-Warrant Application Files, S34977, from Fold3.com; Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council, 1777-1778, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 16, p. 312.

[5] U.S. Federal Census, 1800, Maryland, Washington County, Sharpsburg District; U.S. Federal Census, 1810, Maryland, Washington County, Sharpsburg District; Governor and Council, Commission Record, 1777-1827, Liber TAS 1, pp. 93-95, 246, MdHR 1347 [MSA S1080-7, 2/26/3/16]; Adjutant General, Militia Appointments, 1794-1816, Liber 2, pps. 16, 92 [MSA S348-1, 2/6/5/10]; As a real estate investor see for example Washington County Court, Land Records, Deed, Frederick Steinbeck to John Good, lots 61, 74, 82, 84, 85 in Sharpsburg, 1801, Liber O, p. 129 [MSA CE67-14]; Deed, John Good to Philip Grove, lots 61, 74, 82, 84, 85 in Sharpsburg, Liber P, p. 801 [MSA CE67-15]. Other information about Major Good's life comes from Deed, John and Hester Good to John Blackford, 1816, Liber BB, p. 255 [MSA CE67-23]; FindAGrave for Major John Good and Hester Good.

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