Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Edward Cosgrove
MSA SC 3520-17235


In late January 1776, Edward Cosgrove joined the First Maryland Regiment, enlisting as a private in the Fourth Company. He remained in the First Maryland as a private for the next seven and a half years. At the time of his discharge in the latter part of 1783, he was one of the longest-serving soldiers from Maryland; fewer than ten enlisted men, and a handful of officers, fought as long as he did. Cosgrove thus helped to form the veteran core of the highly-regarded First Maryland Regiment, which gained renown as the "Maryland 400" in the early days of the American Revolution. [1]

Cosgrove's company was largely raised in Harford County, and was part of Maryland's first contingent of full-time, professional soldiers raised to be part of the Continental Army. Cosgrove and his company were initially stationed in Baltimore, where they trained until early July. 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, Cosgrove'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:

We were surrounded by Healanders [Scottish Highlanders] [on] one side, Hessians on the other...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]

The Marylanders took enormous causalities, but their action had delayed the British long enough for the rest of the Continental Army to escape, earning themselves the moniker "Maryland 400." All told, the Fourth 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. Cosgrove was very likely one of those lucky few to escape captivity or death, continuing on to fight with the Marylanders through the fall and winter of 1776. That period was marked by a series of defeats that saw the Americans pushed out of New York, followed by revitalizing victories at Trenton and Princeton late that winter. [4]

In December 1776, as Maryland reorganized its soldiers, Cosgrove reenlisted as a private for three more years. During that term of service, Cosgrove took part in the defense of Philadelphia, as the Americans sought to protect their capital from the British, likely fighting at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown in 1777. He probably also saw combat at the Battle of Monmouth (1778), and untold smaller skirmishes and engagements. The Americans also had severe supply problems during this period, and the soldiers of the Continental Army suffered greatly from starvation and illness. Cosgrove himself was twice reported as sick enough to be hospitalized, once in early 1776, and once in May 1778. This period of time also saw Cosgrove run afoul of the military authorities. He and Patrick Ivory, the Fourth Company's drummer at the Battle of Brooklyn, were convicted by a court martial of theft in August 1777; what they stole was not recorded. While Ivory was demoted and sentenced to 100 lashes, a fairly typical punishment, Cosgrove received 300. [5]

After his three-year term expired at the end of 1779, Cosgrove again reenlisted, this time pledging to serve for the duration of the war. In the spring of 1780, Cosgrove and the rest of the Marylanders joined the Continental Army's march from their winter camp in New Jersey to counter the new front that the British had opened in the Carolinas. Over the next two years, the Marylanders fought in the Revolutionary War's fiercest battles, including the devastating defeat at Camden (August 1780), and the decisive victory at Cowpens (December 1780), along with the battles of Guilford Courthouse (March 1781), Hobkirk's Hill (April 1781), the siege of Ninety-Six (May 1781), and Eutaw Springs (September 1781). The First Maryland Regiment was not present at Yorktown when the British surrendered in October 1781, but Cosgrove and his comrades arrived not long afterwards. [6]

While the American army was encamped in the Yorktown area, Cosgrove was part of a large group of Marylanders charged with and convicted of desertion in late October 1781. Facing a court martial for the second time in his career, Cosgrove and six others were sentenced to death, but were pardoned a short time later; one man, convicted of arson and pillaging local houses, in addition to desertion, was apparently executed. What Cosgrove and the other convicted soldiers actually did is not certain. [7]

A detachment of Maryland troops traveled to South Carolina in 1782, in preparation for an American assault on Charleston, which was still held by the British. Before the British abandoned the city in December 1782, the Americans, including troops from Maryland, fought them in two small engagements, at Combahee Ferry (August 1782) and Johns Island (November 1782). Cosgrove was likely part of this final campaign, although that is somewhat uncertain. He was given formal permission to leave his unit and return home on July 21, 1783, and received his final discharge later that year. [8]

Where Edward Cosgrove went after his military service finally ended is unknown. Indeed, nothing is known about his life prior to his enlistment so many years before. Although information about his personal life is a mystery, Edward Cosgrove is remembered and recognized as a member of the Maryland 400, and a stalwart member of the First Maryland Regiment.

Owen Lourie, 2016


1. Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 12; Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, from; Mark Andrew Tacyn, “’To the End:’ The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), Appendix A.

2. 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

4. Return of the Maryland troops, 27 September 1776, from; Tacyn, 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; Mordecai Gist, Account, 23 January 1777, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, box 2, no. 4-2, MdHR 19,970-2-4/2 [MSA S997-2-254, 1/7/3/8].

5. Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 12, 90; Compiled Service Records; Rev. Joseph Brown Turner, ed., "The Journal and Order Book of Captain Robert Kirkwood of the Delaware Regiment of the Continental Line," Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware 56 (1910), 133-134.

6. Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 356, 454. 493, 530; Compiled Service Records.

7. "General Orders, 3 November 1781," Founders Online, National Archives; "General Orders, 4 November 1781," Founders Online, National Archives.

8. Charles H. Lesser, ed., The Sinews of Independence: Monthly Strength Reports of the Continental Army (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), 217, 221, 247; Leave of absence, Edward Cosgrove, 21 July 1783, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, MdHR 19970-14-1/2 [MSA S997-14-1, 1/7/3/13].

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