Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Neal Dearmond
MSA SC 3520-17268

Biography:

Neal Dearmond enlisted as a private in Captain Thomas Ewing's Fourth Company, part of the First Maryland Regiment, on January 22, 1776. [1] During this time, the Fourth Company was stationed in Baltimore, training until they departed for New York. [2]

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. [3] 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.

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. [4] Dearmond 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." [5]

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. [6]

The Battle of Brooklyn, the first large-scale battle of the war, 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.

By September, only one sergeant, one drummer, and twelve privates remained, half of whom were sick. [7] 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. [8] As McMillian recounted, Bowie, along with other Marylanders, Edward Prall, William Courts, and Samuel McMillan, were prisoners. They were likely put onto British prison ships initally and then imprisoned in the city with other Marylanders such as Thomas McKeel. [9] At the same time, they may have been sent to Halifax with McMillian and his brother, William, among other soldiers, staying until spring 1777. [10] Regardless of where they were sent as prisoners, they did not fair well because the British were not ready for the large number of prisoners they captured after the battle. Since Britain was not at war with a foreign country, the captured Continentals were treated as rebels, rather than prisoners of war, and were treated cruely, abused, and tortured. [11]

Numerous soldiers were killed or captured during the battle, possibly including Dearmond, meaning that the Fourth Company was nearly wiped out in the battle and never regained its full strength, even by late fall 1776. [12] Ultimately, Dearmond's fate is not known.

- 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, 12.

[2] Pension of William McMillan, National Archives and Records Administration, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, S 2806, from Fold3.com.

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

[4] 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; Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution 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. The Fourth Company mainly consisted of men from Harford County.

[5] Pension of William McMillan.

[6] Tacyn, 4.

[7] 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, courtesy of Fold3.com.

[8] 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].

[9] Pension of Thomas McKeel. The National Archives. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land-Warrant Application Files. NARA M804 S34977. From fold3.com.

[10] Pension of William McMillan.

[11] George C. Doughan, Revolution on the Hudson: New York City and the Hudson River Valley in the American War of Independence (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016), 72.

[12] Return of the First Regiment of Maryland Regulars in the sevice of the United Colonies Commanded by William Smallwood, Oct. 11, 1776, p. 92-93, National Archives, NARA M804, Record Group 93, Roll 0034, folder 35, courtesy of Fold3.com; Tacyn, 161.
 

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