Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Samuel Hamilton
MSA SC 3520-17140

Biography:

Samuel Hamilton enlisted in the First Maryland Regiment early in 1776 and served with the regiment when it fought at the Battle of Brooklyn on August 27, 1776. Hamilton survived the battle but was captured by the British during the fighting.

On January 31, 1776 Hamilton enlisted as a corporal in Captain Barton Lucas’ Third Company, First Maryland Regiment.[1] Hamilton left Maryland with the regiment in July 1776 when the unit marched to New York to reinforce the Continental Army under General George Washington.     

Fought on August 26, 1776, the Battle of Brooklyn was the first combat experience for the men of the First Maryland Regiment. Although the Marylander’s performed well, the battle resulted in a major defeat for the Continental Army. The British Army under the command of General William Howe successfully outflanked the Americans and easily drove them from the field, forcing them to retreat to their defensive fortifications at Brooklyn Heights.[2]

Howe’s flanking maneuver cut off the Marylander’s route of retreat and forced them to charge the larger British force. The regiment suffered very high casualties as a result of the assault, but they also slowed the British advance, enabling the rest of the army to retreat to Brooklyn Heights and later withdraw to Manhattan. The First Maryland Regiment’s sacrifice helped save the Continental Army from complete destruction and earned the regiment the name “Maryland 400.”

The Third Company sustained high losses during the battle; more than 60 percent of its men were killed or captured. At least twenty one were taken prisoner by the British. Only one of the company’s officers, Ensign Peter Brown, made it back to the safety of the defensive fortifications at Brooklyn Heights. Captain Lucas was sick and missed the battle and near destruction of his company, a fact that haunted him. [3]

As a corporal, Hamilton was responsible for helping lead his squad throughout the battle. At some point in the engagement the British captured Hamilton and made him a prisoner of war. British treatment of enlisted prisoners was infamously poor, but most of the Marylanders captured at Brooklyn were released in late 1776 or early 1777. [4]

It is uncertain what happened to Hamilton after his imprisonment, however, as there were multiple people with the same name in the Maryland Line. In fact, there was another Samuel Hamilton in the First Company, who was probably also a survivor of the Battle of Brooklyn. One of those two men reenlisted in the First Maryland Regiment as a sergeant at the end of 1776, serving until December 1779, including time spent in the army's Commissary Department. However, it is not possible to tell which Samuel Hamilton that was. Nothing else can be detrained about his life. [5]

Sean Baker, 2015

Notes:

[1] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 9.

[2] Henry P. Johnston, The Campaign of 1776 Around New York and Brooklyn (Brooklyn: 1878, reprint, New York: Da Capo Press, 1971), 191.

[3] Return of the Maryland troops, 13 September 1776, Revolutionary War Rolls, NARA M246, folder 35, p. 85, from Fold3.com.

[4] Men of Capt. Lucas' Company taken prisoner who received breeches, c. 1777, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, box 11, no. 19/2, MdHR 19970-11-19/02 [MSA S997-11-21, 1/7/3/13].

[5] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 117.

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