Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Peter Brown
MSA SC 3520-17141


Specifics about Peter Brown’s life prior to his military service are scarce, but it is likely that he came from Prince George’s County, Maryland. Companies were typically filled with men from a specific recruitment area and the Third Company was mostly composed of men from Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.[1] Brown’s ties to Prince George’s County are further bolstered by his mention in a petition from the men of a Prince George’s County militia company to the Council of Safety in April 1776. The men of the militia company opposed the possible promotion of William Hamilton to captain of their company and specifically instructed the Council to contact Peter Brown if they needed specific information about Hamilton.[2]    

Brown enlisted in the First Maryland Regiment on January 20, 1776 and was made a sergeant in Captain Barton Lucas’ Third Company.[3] Within six months Brown made the transition from the noncommissioned ranks and received a commission as an ensign on July 9, 1776.[4] Shortly after his promotion the First Maryland Regiment marched to New York to reinforce the Continental Army under General George Washington.

Fought on August 27, 1776, the Battle of Brooklyn was the first combat experience for the men of the First Maryland Regiment. Unfortunately for the Continental Army and the Marylanders, the battle resulted in a major tactical and strategic defeat. The British Army under the command of General William Howe secretly outflanked the Americans and easily drove them from the field, forcing them to retreat to their defensive fortifications at Brooklyn Heights.[5]

Despite their inexperience, the men of the First Maryland Regiment performed extremely well throughout the engagement. As the battle drew to an end and without an avenue of retreat, the Marylanders were forced to charge the numerically superior British force. The assault resulted in high casualties among the regiment but delayed 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 allowed the Continental Army to survive and fight another day, and earned the regiment the name “Maryland 400.”

As the most junior officer, Brown would have been fighting among the enlisted men, leading and encouraging them throughout the battle. As an ensign, it is also possible that he was one of the two officers responsible for carrying the colors of the regiment during the battle. The Third Company suffered crippling losses during the battle; out of a force of seventy four men, only twenty nine were still listed in the company on September 27, 1776.[6] Brown was the only officer from the company to make 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.

In the aftermath of the battle Brown was promoted to lieutenant on December 10, 1776.[7] Lieutenant Brown spent the spring of 1777 in Maryland recruiting soldiers for the regiment.[8] Perhaps affected by the loss of many friends and comrades from his company, he did not remain in the army very long following his promotion, and resigned on July 10, 1777.[9]

Following his resignation from the army, Brown returned to Maryland and married Elizabeth Beall in Prince George’s County in May 1781.[10] He remained in Maryland until the late 1790s, possessing lands in both Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. During that time Brown worked as a planter, and is often referred to as such in land transactions. He appears to have been modestly successful in his postwar life; in 1796 he owned approximately 200 acres of land and thirteen slaves.[11] The total value of his land and slaves in 1796 placed him among the top thirty percent of wealth holders in Prince George’s County.[12] While Brown probably lived a comfortable life, he was far from being among the wealthiest land owners in the area, a fact that may have prompted him to leave Maryland.

It is likely that Brown and his family left Maryland for Kentucky sometime after 1798, the last year in which appears in any records from Prince George’s or Montgomery counties. Brown’s ties to Kentucky originate from the will of Andrew Beall, Elizabeth Brown’s father, who in July 1781 bequeathed his daughter “one half of my Cain Tuck lands.”[13] “Cain Tuck” most likely refers to lands in what would later become the State of Kentucky. The Browns’ departure for Kentucky would not have been unusual as many Marylanders settled in the abundant and fertile lands there in the years following the Revolution, including several Brown families. Peter Brown’s family settled in Nelson County, Kentucky and Peter is listed as the head of household there in the 1810, 1820, and 1830 Federal Censuses. 

Sean Baker, 2015


[1] Mark Andrew Tacyn, “‘To the End:’ The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 21.

[2] Journal of the Maryland Convention July 26 to August 14, 1775, Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety August 29, 1775 to July 6, 1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 11, p. 325.

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

[4] Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety July 7, 1776 to December 31, 1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 12, p. 16.

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

[6] Revolutionary War Rolls, NARA M246, 92, from

[7] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 80.

[8] Account of Services Rendered, 1777, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary War Papers, Box 2, Folder 4, No. 17 [MSA S 997-2-270].

[9] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 80.

[10] Prince George’s County, Court, Marriage Licenses, 1777-1797, 17 [MSA C 1260-1].

[11] Prince George’s County, Commissioners of the Tax, Assessment Record, 1796, p. 37 [MSA C 1162-23], Prince George’s County, Commissioners of the Tax, Assessment Record, 1796, 27 [MSA C 1162-22].

[12] Steve Sarson, “‘Objects of Distress’: Inequality and Poverty in Early Nineteenth-Century Prince George’s County,” Maryland Historical Magazine, vol. 96, no. 2 (Summer 2001): 144.

[13] Will of Andrew Beall, Prince George’s County, Register of Wills, Wills, 1770-1793, T 1, 142 [MSA C 1326-3].

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