Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Samuel Glasgow
MSA SC 3520-17195

Biography:

Samuel Glasgow's military career began in 1776, at the outset of the Revolutionary War, as part of the heroic "Maryland 400." It ended with his desertion, about a year later. [1]

Glasgow enlisted in the Fourth Company of the First Maryland Regiment on May 20, 1776. The company was largely drawn from Harford County, although he was neighboring Cecil. It was part of the First Maryland Regiment, Maryland's first contingent of full-time, professional soldiers raised to be part of the Continental Army. Glasgow's company was initially stationed in Baltimore, where it trained until early July, six weeks after he joined it. On July 9, 1776, the First Maryland Regiment was ordered to march north to New York, to protect the city from invasion by the British. Just days before it left, the company was assigned a new commander, Captain Daniel Bowie, and had only 58 men, instead of the 74 soldiers in a full strength company. [2]

On August 27, a month after arriving in New York, the Americans clashed with the British at the Battle of Brooklyn (also called the Battle of Long Island), the first full-scale encounter of the American Revolution. 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. While half the regiment was able to cross the creek, the rest, Glasgow'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 the Fourth Company's sergeants, 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. [3]

All told, the company lost 80 percent of its men, killed like Bowie, or captured like McMillan. Only the company's drummer, a dozen privates, and a 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." [4]

Glasgow was among the men captured. While McMillan was transferred to a British prison in Nova Scotia, Glasgow was likely held in a prison ship in the waters off New York for a few months, then moved into a make-shift jail on land after the Americans had been pushed out of New York in November. Sometime in late 1776, Glasgow was released in a prisoner exchange, and by early December he reenlisted in the First Maryland Regiment as a corporal. While the Marylanders fought bravely at the battles of Trenton and Princeton, it is not clear if Glasgow had returned to his unit by that time. He was promoted to sergeant in 1777, but served in that rank for a short time only, and on July 12, 1777, he deserted from the American camp at Morristown, New Jersey. A newspaper advertisement seeking his capture published in December 1777 noted that he had been seen in Baltimore. [5]

According to the advertisement, Glasgow was born in Cecil County, Maryland in 1753 or 1754. He had been about 23 or 24 years old when he enlisted in 1776, which was typical of American-born soldiers in the First Maryland Regiment in 1776; foreign-born men were on average about two years older. No other information is known definitively about him, although he may have been part of a modestly wealthy Cecil County family whose members are well-documented in probate records. If correct, he was the Samuel who was the son of Ann and James Glasgow Sr. (d. 1784), with siblings Ezekiel (d. 1780), Adam (d. 1782-1783), James, Elizabeth Mary, William, and Hannah. That Samuel Glasgow was married to a woman named Ann. Just as it is uncertain if this Samuel was the same man who fought in 1776, it is not known what happened to him after the 1780s.

Owen Lourie, 2016

Notes:

[1] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 11; "Seventy Dollars Reward," Maryland Journal (Baltimore), 16 December 1777.

[2] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 11; Proceedings of the Conventions of the Province of Maryland, 1774-1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 78, p. 198; Return of Ramsey's, Smith's, and Bowie's companies, 9 July 1776, Maryland Historical Society, Revolutionary War Collection, MS 1814.

[3] The experience of the Fourth Company is described in the pension of William McMillan, one of the company's sergeants. See Pension of William McMillan, National Archives and Records Administration, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, S 2806, p. 33-35, from Fold3.com.

[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] Return of cash paid to men captured at New York, c. 1777, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, box 6, no. 25, MdHR 19970-6-25 [MSA S997-6-59, 1/7/3/11]; Pension of Thomas McKeel. National Archives, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land-Warrant Application Files, S34977, from Fold3.com; Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 112; "Seventy Dollars Reward."

[6] Will of Ezekiel Glasgow, 1781, Cecil County Register of Wills, Wills, Liber DD 4, p. 6, MdHR 9829 [MSA C646-3, 1/11/14/11]; Will of Adam Glasgow, 1783, Liber DD 4, p. 141; Will of William Glasgow Sr., 1783, Liber DD 4, p. 168, possibly an uncle; Will of James Glasgow Sr., 1784, Liber EE 5, p. 5, MdHR 9830 [MSA C646-4, 1/11/14/11].

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