Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Thomas Wiseman
MSA SC 3520-17127

Biography:

Enlisting in Baltimore as a member of the Fourth Company, First Maryland Regiment in January, 1776, Thomas Wiseman served for nearly the entire Revolutionary War. He was wounded several times, and survived battles where many of his comrades were killed, and was a member of the legendary "Maryland 400." [1]

Formed in early 1776, the First Maryland Regiment was the state's first contribution to the Continental Army. The men left Maryland in July, 1776, traveling to New York, which the British were targeting for capture. On August 27, 1776, in the Battle of Brooklyn (sometimes called the Battle of Long Island), the first large-scale battle of the war, the British routed the Americans, inflicting major casualties, and began to push them out of New York. The battle nearly saw the complete destruction of the Continental Army, and only a desperate stand by a small group of Maryland troops allowed the rest of the Americans to escape. These men, now known as the "Maryland 400," included Wiseman. They held the British at bay for long enough, taking enormous casualties. [2] Wiseman was one of only a dozen men from his company to return from the battle. In the fighting, the two middle fingers on his left hand were shot off. [3]

Despite these wounds, and trauma of the battle, Wiseman fought on through the winter of 1776, a period of continuing defeats for the American army, whose inferior size and inexperience left it unable to prevent the British from driving them out of New York. In December, Wiseman even reenlisted, and remained with the army for the next few years. He participated in the rejuvenating victories over the British at Trenton and Princeton during the winter of 1776-1777, the unsuccessful defense of the American capital at Philadelphia in 1777, and lived through the horrible conditions of winter camp at Valley Forge in 1777-1778. [4]

In the spring of 1780, Wiseman and the rest of the Marylanders joined the Continental Army's march from their winter camp in New Jersey to counter the new front that the British had opened in the Carolinas. On August 16, 1780, the Americans faced the British at the Battle of Camden, South Carolina. The battle was disaster for the Americans, who were completely overrun. The Maryland troops once again bore the brunt of the attack, losing some 600 men--about one-third of their troops. [5] Wiseman survived "Gates defeat," as he called the battle, after Horatio Gates, the general who commanded the Americans at the battle, and who was widely blamed for the loss. After the battle, however, Wiseman "was taken sick and did not again join the Army." [6] Maryland service records show Wiseman as deserting on August 17, 1780--the day after the Battle of Camden--but it seems likely that he was unable to rejoin the army due to injury or illness, and was separated from the troops during their hectic retreat. [7]

In fact, Wiseman stayed in South Carolina for the rest of his life, settling in Edgefield County by 1790, only about 100 miles from the Camden battlefield. By the 1820s, he had married and had a child and a "considerable" number of grandchildren. He lived on a small, 40 acre farm that he owned. In the last years of his life he was, he wrote, in "reduced circumstances," with a "decreped [sic] old wife to support [and] one child who is in verry [sic] indigent circumstances with a considerable family to support" of her own." He was granted a veteran's pension in 1818, which he received until his death in late 1825. [8]

-Owen Lourie

Notes:

1. Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 12.

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

3. Account for supplies, c. January 1777, Maryland State Archives, Revolutionary Papers, box 3, no. 28-3, MdHR 19970-3-28/3 [MSA S997-3-328, 1/7/3/9]; Return of the Maryland troops, 27 September 1776, from Fold3.com; Veteran's pension of Thomas Wiseman, National Archives and Records Administration, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, S 39126, from Fold3.com.

4. Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 173; Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, from Fold3.com.

5. Tacyn, 216-225.

6. Wiseman veteran's pension.

7. Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 173.

8. 1790 U. S. Federal Census, Edgefield County, South Carolina; Wiseman veteran's pension; Final Pension Payment Voucher, 4th Quarter, 1825, from Fold3.com. There were several other Thomas Wisemans who served in the American Revolution who can be read about on various websites, but none of them are the same as the man from Maryland, whose wife's name is unknown, and who did not live in New York.

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