Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Andrew Ferguson
MSA SC 3520-17179

Biography:

The son of a tailor, Andrew Ferguson served as a corporal in the First Maryland Regiment for a year, surviving fierce combat and gaining fame as part of the "Maryland 400."

Ferguson's father Alexander was a tailor and stay (corset) maker in Londontowne, a town just south of Annapolis, Maryland. In addition to Andrew, probably born 1753-1757, Alexander and his wife Elizabeth had six other children: Mary (b. 1749); Alexander (b. 1750/51); David (b. 1752); Ann (b. 1758); Isabella (b. 1760); and Elizabeth (b. 1764). Alexander died in 1770, after establishing himself as a prosperous and successful businessman. He owned four lots in Londontowne, four in Annapolis, and three slaves. His estate was valued at £410 sterling, in the top tier of wealth. [1]

About six years later, in early 1776, Andrew Ferguson enlisted as a corporal in the First Maryland Regiment, joining the Seventh Company, made up predominately of men from the Annapolis area. Commanded by Colonel William Smallwood, the regiment was the first unit of full-time, professional soldiers raised in Maryland for service in the Continental Army. As a non-commissioned officer, Ferguson would have had some responsibility for keeping the soldiers of the company properly aligned during marches and in battle, and ensuring order among the men in camp. [2]

After spending the first half of 1776 training in Annapolis, Ferguson and his fellow soldiers were ordered to New York. On July 6, the day the regiment received its instructions to march, Ferguson wrote out his will:

"I, Andrew Ferguson, Corporal in Captain John Day Scott's Company of the first Battalion of Maryland Troops, now stationed in the City of Annapolis, Being now in perfect Health, sound in Mind & Memory, and having the fear of god before my Eyes and not knowing how soon I may be call'd from this World, do I now make...this my last will and Testament."

He made provisions for his sister Elizabeth, the youngest child of the family, leaving her the land in Londontowne that Andrew had inherited from their father. Andrew also directed that some money be used for "Educating, Cloathing and supporting" Elizabeth.[3]

The Marylanders arrived in New York in early August, where they joined with the rest of the Continental Army, preparing to defend the city from an impending British attack. On August 27, 1776, the Americans faced the British Army at the Battle of Brooklyn (sometimes called the Battle of Long Island), the first full-scale engagement of the war. 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. Half the regiment was able to cross the creek, including Ferguson's company. The rest of the Marylanders were unable to do so before they were attacked by the British. Facing down a much larger, better-trained force, this group of soldiers, today called 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. They took enormous causalities, with some companies losing nearly 80 percent of their men, but their actions delayed the British long enough for the rest of the Continental Army to escape. In all, the First Maryland lost 256 men, killed or taken prisoner[4]

Ferguson escaped the battle unscathed, and his company lost only about half a dozen men total. He stayed with the army through the rest of the difficult fall of 1776, a series of defeats that saw the Americans pushed out of New York, followed with revitalizing victories at Trenton and Princeton late that winter. In December, 1776, his enlistment expired, and he returned home to Maryland. Andrew Ferguson died in the spring of 1778, about a year and a half after returning home: the will he wrote on the just before he went off to war was probated that May. [5]

Owen Lourie, 2016

Notes:

[1] Prerogative Court, Wills, Alexander Ferguson, 1770, Liber 38, p. 36, MdHR 1317 [MSA S538-53, 1/11/2/2]; Prerogative Court, Inventories, Alexander Ferguson, 1771, Liber 106, p. 274, MdHR 1213 [MSA S534-107, 1/12/2/5]; Advertisement, sale of Alexander Ferguson's property, Maryland Gazette, 30 August 1770; Donna Valley Russell, Historic London Town, Maryland (Londontowne, MD: Historic London Town & Gardens, 2006), 57. All Hallow's Protestant Episcopal Church, Anne Arundel County, Register 1711-1857, pp. 46, 48, 49, 51, 52 [MSA SC2458-1-3]. Andrew's birth year is obscured, but he was born between David (December 1752) and Ann (March 1758); Russell gives it as 1755; Lois Green Carr and Lorena S. Walsh, "Inventories and the Analysis of Wealth and Consumption Patterns in St. Mary's County, Maryland, 1658-1777," Historical Methods 13, no. 2 (Spring 1980), 91.

[2] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 15; Frederick Steuben, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, Part I. (Philadelphia: Styner and Cist, 1792), 137-140.

[3] Anne Arundel County, Register of Wills, Wills, Andrew Ferguson, 1778, Liber EV 1, p. 59 [MSA C153-1, 1/3/12/112]; see also Anne Arundel County, Register of Wills, Wills, Original, Andrew Ferguson, 1778, MdHR 4869-6-3 [MSA C155-9, 1/4/14/2].

[4] 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.

[5] Andrew Ferguson will.

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