Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Edward Ford
MSA SC 3520-17245

Biography:

Edward Ford enlisted in Captain Nathaniel Ramsey's Fifth Company, part of the First Maryland Regiment, in May 1776 as a corporal. [1] 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.

As a non-commissioned officer, Ford would have shouldered some of the responsibility for ensuring order and discipline among the Fifth Company in camp and on the battlefield. In 1779, discipliner of the Continental Army, Frederick Von Stueben wrote that corporals were to instruct their troops, keep order in their regiments, including breaking up disagreements between soldiers, and taking roll call every morning. [3] If corporals fell down on their tasks, they were to be "severly punished." [4]

In the First Maryland Regiment, corporals maintained the unit's professional stature since the regiment was the first unit in the Continental Army of full-time, professional soldiers from Maryland. During battles, corporals, such as Ford, were responsible for leading their companies against British or loyalist forces. The corporals were keeping the soldiers organized and in line so they could effectively face the enemy.

Ford probably served with his company at the Battle of Brooklyn in late August 1776. Ramsey's company 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. [5] 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. [6] 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." [7]

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. Edward Ford's life after the Battle of Brooklyn is unclear.

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

Notes

[1] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution. Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, 639.

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

[3] Friedrich von Steuben, Regulations for Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, Part I (Philadelphia: Styner and Cist, 1779), 6, 82, 98-100.

[4] Steuben, 72.

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

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

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

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