Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Michael Nowland
MSA SC 3520-17218


Michael Nowland enlisted in Captain Nathaniel Ramsey's Fifth Company, part of the First Maryland Regiment, in 1776. [1] He was present among the Maryland 400 at the Battle of Brooklyn. The First Maryland Regiment were the first troops Maryland raised at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Maryland was more than willing to do its part to recruit the men needed to fill the Continental Army's depleted ranks. [2] A few days after independence was declared, the First Maryland Regiment was ordered to New York so it could join the forces of General George Washington. The regiment arrived there in early August, with the Battle of Brooklyn set between the Continental Army and the British Army, joined by their Hessian allies.

Probably he served with his company at the Battle of Brooklyn in late August 1776. Ramsey's company, Nowland included, was placed at the front of the lines, but "hardly a man [in the company] fell," even though they took the first line of fire from the British. [3] This confirmed the assessment of the British Parliament's Annual Register which described, how "almost a whole regiment from Maryland…of young men from the best families in the country was cut to pieces" but it brought men of the Maryland 400 together. [4] Years later, Captain Enoch Anderson of the Delaware Regiment wrote about the Battle of Brooklyn, saying the following:

"A little before day, we marched towards the enemy, two miles from our camp we saw them. A little after daylight our Regiment and Colonel Smallwood's Regiment from Maryland, in front of the enemy took possession of a high commanding ground,--our right to the harbour. Cannonading now began in both armies...Colonel Smallwood's Regiment took another course,--they were surrounded but they fought hard. They lost about two hundred men, the rest got in. A hard day this, for us poor Yankees! Superior discipline and numbers had overcome us. A gloomy time it was, but we solaced ourselves that at some other time we should do better." [5]

The Battle of Brooklyn, the first large-scale battle, fits into the larger context of the Revolutionary War. If the Maryland Line had not stood and fought the British, enabling the rest of the Continental Army to escape, then the Continental Army would been decimated, resulting in the end of the Revolutionary War. This heroic stand gave the regiment the nickname of the Old Line and those who made the stand in the battle are remembered as the Maryland 400.

In December 1776, Nowland was sick and stayed in the Philadelphia Bettering House. [6] This house, a muncipal charity, was located on Philadelphia's Spruce Street which had fever patients cared for by nuns and fed warm meals. [7] Nowland was described as convalescent, meaning that he was recovering from sickness or weakness and regaining strength gradually.

Nowland was one of the many invalids housed in Philadelphia in the winter of 1776-1777. As many as 500 sick soldiers were sheltered in the city, sleeping on hard floors, and told to report to Dr. Jonathan Potts so they could give the soldiers "proper care." [8] Some soldiers were treated in stores and private homes which has been turned into hospitals, with so many quartered in private homes that some of the patients of Maryland Flying Camp were send back to Maryland for the best care which they received at a hospital established in Baltimore. [9] Due to the large influx of soldiers with sickness into the city, the area of Philadelphia quickly gained a vital military role as an innoculation center for smallpox but also had a very high death rate. [10] As a result, George Washington was concerned with the "threat of contagion" and tried to establish hospitals a safe distance away from the city. [11] This development was not a surprising considering that the city was a medical center of colonial North America, during this time period, which was helpful to the Continental Army since sickness swept the ranks of soldiers who fought in lower New York during fall 1776. [12]

Nowland's life after his time in the hospital is unclear because of his common name. It is possible he was the same as "Michael Noland" who served in the Sixth Maryland Regiment from Feburary 1777 to January 1778 but this cannot be confirmed. [13]

- Burkely Hermann, Maryland Society of the Sons of American Revolution Research Fellow, 2016


[1] "List of Sick Soldiers in Philadelphia, December 1776." Pennsylvania Archives Second Series Vol I. (ed. John B. Linn and Wm. H. Egle M.D., Harrisburg: Benjamin Singerly State Printer, 1874), 528.

[2] Arthur Alexander, "How Maryland Tried to Raise Her Continential Quotas." Maryland Historical Magazine 42, no. 3 (1947), 187-188, 196.

[3] "Extract of a letter from New York: Account of the battle on Long Island." American Archives S5 V2 107-108.

[4] Mark Andrew Tacyn. "'To The End:' The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution" (PhD Diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 4.

[5] Enoch Anderson, Personal Recollections of Captain Enoch Anderson: Eyewitness Accounts of the American Revolution (New York: New York Times & Arno Press, 1971), 21-22.

[6] "List of Sick Soldiers in Philadelphia, December 1776." Pennsylvania Archives Second Series, 528; Richard L. Blanco. "American Army Hospitals in Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War." Pennsylvania History vol. 48, no. 4 (1981), 356.

[7] Louise Stockton, The Bettering House and Other Charities. A Sylvan City: Or, Quaint Corners in Philadelphia Illustrated (Philadelphia: Our Continent Publishing Co., 1883), 404, 408, 410, 418, 422-423, 426.

[8] Blanco, 352.

[9] Mary C. Gillett. The Army Medical Department 1775-1818 (Washington D.C.: Center of Military History, 1981), 70.

[10] Ibid; Blanco, 354

[11] Gillett, 70.

[12] Blanco, 347, 349.

[13] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution Archives of Maryland Online vol. 18, 235, 549.

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