Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Edward Price
MSA SC 3520-17133

Biography:

Edward Price enlisted in the Fourth Company of the First Maryland Regiment, composed largely of men from Harford and Baltimore counties, on May 18, 1776. Price spent the next two months training with his regiment, which was the state's first contribution to the Continental Army. In early July, the Maryland troops marched to New York, to face the British army, which was seeking to capture the city. [1]

On August 27, 1776, he and his fellow soldiers faced the British Army at the Battle of Brooklyn (sometimes called the Battle of Long Island), seeking to resist the British attempt to take New York. 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, Price and the rest of 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, Price's company among them, were unable to do so before they were attacked by the British. Facing down a much larger, better-trained force, the Marylanders mounted a series of daring charges, which held the British at bay for some time, at the cost of many lives, before being overrun. One of Price's fellow Fourth Company soldiers, William McMillan, described what happened:

My captain was killed, first lieutenant was killed, second lieutenant shot through the hand, two sergeants was killed; one in front of me…my bayonet was shot off my gun...My brother [Sergeant Samuel McMillan] and I and 50 or 60 of us was taken…The Hessians broke the butts of our guns over their cannon and robbed us of everything we had, lit their pipes with our money…gave us nothing to eat for five days, and then [only] moldy biscuits…blue, moldy, full of bugs and rotten. [2]

All told, Price's company lost 80 percent of its men, killed or captured like McMillan. Only the company's drummer, a dozen privates, and one sergeant made it back to the American lines. The Marylanders took enormous causalities, with other companies losing nearly as many men as the Fourth, but their action had delayed the British long enough for the rest of the Continental Army to escape, earning themselves the moniker "Maryland 400." [3]

It is likely that Price was among those who survived the battle, as well as the rest of the hard fall and winter of 1776, which saw the Americans pushed out on New York and chased through New Jersey, although they secured a pair of victories at Trenton and Princeton late that winter. In early December, Price reenlisted, but stayed with the army for only a few months. On March 20, 1777, he was reported as a deserter, just as winter was coming to an end and the army was preparing to resume large-scale fighting. Desertion had many causes during the American Revolution, ranging from cowardice to financial distress at home to administrative errors. What occurred in Price's case is unknown, and afterward he dropped off the historical record. [4]

Owen Lourie, 2015

Notes:

[1] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 11 [hereafter Archives of Maryland vol. 18].

[2] Pension of William McMillan, National Archives, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, S 2806, 33, from Fold3.com.

[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] Archives of Maryland, vol. 18, p. 149.

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