Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

William Grimes
MSA SC 3520-17267


William Grimes enlisted as a private in Captain Thomas Ewing's Fourth Company, part of the First Maryland Regiment, in January 18, 1776. During this time, the Fourth Company was stationed in Baltimore, training until they departed for New York. [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. 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. [2]

Four days before the Maryland troops departed for New York, Daniel Bowie was promoted to captain of the Fourth Company after Captain Thomas Ewing became a colonel in the Maryland Flying Camp. Grimes served with Bowie's company at the Battle of Brooklyn in late August 1776. The company was placed at the front of the lines, but was attacked by advancing British soldiers and was unable to "escape in the best manner we possibly could" by crossing the swampy Gowanus Creek. A sergeant of the company, William McMillan, vividly described what happened:

"...On the evening of the 26 August we left New York and landed on Longe Ilsland and the next day we [was] August 27 battle...My captain was killed, first lieutenant was killed, second lieutenant shot through the hand, two sergeants was killed; one in front of me [and] sometime my bayonet was shot off my gunn two corporals killed all belonged to our Company[.] [Our] Captain['s] name was Daniel Bowie from Annapolis...That afternoon my brother and I [and] 50 or 60 of us was taken...[when] we were surrounded by Healanders [Highlanders] on one side, Hessians on the other and the Hessians broke the butts of our guns over their cannon and robbed us of everything we had...and gave us nothing to eat for five days, and then [only] moldy biscuits…blue, mindey [moldy], full [of] bug[s] and rotten." [3]

Eighty one percent of the men in Bowie's company were either killed or captured, even more than the companies of Edward Veazey, Benjamin Ford, Peter Adams, and Barton Lucas, which also suffered heavy losses. 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" even as the battle brought the men of the Maryland 400 together. [4]

By September, only one sergeant, one drummer, and twelve privates remained, half of whom were sick. At this point, 52 privates and 4 sergeants were needed to complete the regiment, while Bowie and Joseph Butler died in captivity not long after the battle. Numerous soldiers were killed or captured during the battle, possibly including Grimes, meaning that the Fourth Company was nearly wiped out in the battle and never regained its full strength, even by late fall 1776. [5]

If he survived the Battle of Brooklyn, it is possible that Grimes served in the artillery as a matross. A matross during the Revolutionary War was a soldier who constructed carriages for cannons and performed semi-skilled tasks in firing such cannons during battles as needed. Matrosses had some of the lowliest work in the army, assisting gunners in duties associated with furing cannons. [6]

William Grimes enlisted in Captain Alexander Furnival's Company of Artillery as a matross sometime before November 1777. Furnival's company was stationed in Baltimore the whole year of 1777. Grimes later fought in the Southern campaign throughout the 1780s, serving until at least 1782. Grimes’s postwar life is unknown. [7]

Despite this description, it is not known if this man is the same as William Grimes of the Fourth Company. Ultimately, Grimes's fate cannot be determined.

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


[1] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, 12; Pension of William McMillan, National Archives and Records Administration, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, S 2806, from

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

[3] Proceedings of the Conventions of the Province of Maryland, 1774-1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 78, 198; Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the U.S. Army Vol 1 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903), 220; Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, 30, 54; Mark Andrew Tacyn, “'To the End:’ The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 21, 247; Pension of William McMillan.

[4] Tacyn, 4.

[5] Return of the six Independent Companies and First Regiment of Maryland Regulars, in the service of the United Colonies, commanded by Colonel Smallwood, Sept. 13, 1776, National Archives, NARA M804, Record Group 93, Roll 0034, from; Heitman, 112; Tacyn, 17, 83; Roster of Smallwood's Battalion, January 1777, Maryland State Papers, Red Books, MdHR 4573, Red Book 12, p. 66 [MSA S989-17, 1/6/4/5].

[6] Tacyn, 24; Robert K. Wright, Jr., The Continental Army (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center for Military History, 1983), 438; Harold L. Peterson, Book of the Continental Soldier ( Stackpole Company, 1968), 263-264.

[7] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, 573579582; Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 16, 58; List of men of Capt. Alexander Furnival's Artillery Comp., August 21, 1779, Maryland State Papers, Series A, MdHR 6636-14-144 [MSA S1004-16-2516, 1/7/3/32]; Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, Muster Roll of Captain Richard Dorsey's Company of the First Battalion of Artillery, March 13, 1780, MdHR 19970-15-30-1 (photostat) [MSA S997-23, 1/6/2/44]; Roster of Capt. Richard Dorsey's Comp., January 28, 1782, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, MdHR 19970-15-32/01 [MSA S997-15-39, 1/7/3/13]; An enrollment of artillerymen, February 7, 1777, Maryland State Papers, Series A, MdHR 6636-2-141 [MSA S1004-2-1313, 1/7/3/25].

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