Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Humphrey Pugh
MSA SC 3520-17301

Biography:

Humphrey Pugh enlisted as a private in Captain Edward Veazey's Seventh Independent Company in 1776, volunteering in the early days of the American Revolution to defend Maryland from a feared British invasion. Pugh was 24 when he joined, a typical age for new soldiers. He may have been living in Cecil County, Maryland, at the time he enlisted, and was possibly a native of Pennsylvania. [1]

Maryland's independent companies were formed in early 1776, and differed from the nine companies that made up Colonel William Smallwood’s First Maryland Regiment. While the Council of Safety, Maryland's Revolutionary executive body, used the nine companies of regular troops to fulfill the state's quota for the Continental Army, it dispatched seven independent companies throughout Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore to guard the vast shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay. Half of the Seventh Independent Company was stationed on Kent Island, while the rest, including Pugh, were sent to Chestertown. In these first months, the company had great difficulty obtaining supplies, including uniforms and weapons. In the summer of 1776, Congress requested additional troops from Maryland to help reinforce the Continental Army, and the state agreed to shift the independent companies to that duty. When the First Maryland Regiment marched for New York in early July, it was accompanied by the Fourth, Fifth and Seventh independent companies; the rest followed later that fall. [2]

The Marylanders arrived in New York in early August, and prepared to protect the city from attack by the British. On August 27, 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. Half the regiment was able to cross the creek to safety. The rest, Pugh's company among them, were unable to do so before they were attacked by the British. Facing down a much larger, better-trained force, these men, now known as the "Maryland 400," mounted a series of daring charges, which held the British at bay for some time, at the cost of many lives, before being overrun. [3]

Pugh's company suffered greatly during the battle. Its commander Captain Veazey was killed early in the fighting and two of the company's lieutenants were captured. First Lieutenant William Harrison was the sole officer in the company to escape, and only 36 men avoided death or captivity, just a third of the company. Pugh was likely among the lucky ones, although his exact fate at the battle is uncertain, so it is not clear if he fought with the Marylanders during the difficult fall of 1776, a series of defeats that saw the Americans pushed out of New York, followed by revitalizing victories at Trenton and Princeton late that winter. When his enlistment expired at the end of 1776, however, he did not stay on with the army. [4]

After almost two years out of the service, Pugh returned to the army. In July 1778, he enlisted as a corporal in the Second Maryland Regiment, which was largely made up of former members of the independent companies. Not long afterwards, he was promoted to sergeant, likely reflecting his status as an experienced veteran. During his eighteen months his service, Pugh saw no major combat, since the American and British were locked in stalemate during this period. Although Pugh had enlisted for a three year term, he was discharged in January 1780, while the army was encamped at Morristown, New Jersey. It is unknown if this discharge was due to illness or other reasons. [5]

Whatever the cause his discharge, Pugh returned again to the army in the spring of 1781, this time as a sergeant in a Cecil County militia company that was drafted into active duty service. He probably saw no action during this term; in September, Pugh's unit was still in Annapolis, unequipped to fight. About a month later, the British surrendered at Yorktown, the last major battle of the war, and the drafted militia was released from service at the end of the year. [6]

With the war over, Pugh returned to life as a farmer in Cecil County. He got married and probably had several children before his first wife died, likely in the 1780s or early 1790s. In 1794, Pugh married his second wife, Ann Chick. All told, he had 7 children: Mary, Susannah, Sarah, Tabitha, Nathaniel, Francina, and George. Although Pugh may never have owned any land during his lifetime, he was nevertheless relatively wealthy. He owned slaves--18 in 1790, reduced to 6 in 1820--as well as a number of status items, including a mahogany card table and a riding chaise. The family likely also employed a number of white servants as well. Pugh died around the spring of 1821, about 69 years old. [7]

Owen Lourie, 2016

Notes:

[1] Descriptions of men in Capt. Edward Veazey’s Independent Comp, 1776, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, MdHR 19970-15-36/01 [MSA S997-15-36, 1/7/3/13]. The Daughters of the American Revolution lineage book lists Pugh as born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, which cannot be independently verified; a significant portion of the DAR's information about him is inaccurate, although not all, so it is hard to know how to judge this information. Lineage Book of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, vol. XL (1915), 312.

[2] Mark Andrew Tacyn “’To the End:’ The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 33-34, 43; Journal of the Maryland Convention and Council of Safety 1775-1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 11, pps. 318, 468; Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, July-December, 1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 12, p. 4.  

[3] 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.

[4] Extract of a letter from an officer in the Maryland Battalion, 28 August 1776, American Archives, series 5, vol. 1, p. 1195; Return of the Maryland troops, 27 September 1776, from Fold3.com; Pugh is not included on any known list of prisoners, but may still have been a captive.

[5] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 151; Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, from Fold3.com; Journal and Correspondence of the Council of Maryland, April 1778-October 1779, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 21, p. 160.

[6] Archives of Maryland, vol. 18, p. 411, which shows Pugh as being from Charles County, probably a mistake; Journal and Correspondence of the Council of Maryland November 1780-November 1781, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 47, p. 478.

[7] Cecil County Court, Marriage Licenses, 1777-1841, p. 87, MdHR 9435 [MSA C632-1, 1/11/6/38]; U.S. Federal Census, 1790, Bohemia Manor, Cecil County, Maryland; U.S. Federal Census, 1800, Bohemia Manor, Cecil County, Maryland; U.S. Federal Census, 1810, Cecil County, Maryland; U.S. Federal Census, 1820, District 1, Cecil County, Maryland; Will of Humphrey Pugh, 1821, Cecil County Register of Wills, Wills, Liber A8, p. 46 [MSA C646-7, 1/11/14/14]; Cecil County Register of Wills, Estate Papers, 1821, MdHR 16607-23 [MSA C645-23, 1/12/6/35]. No transactions for Pugh were found recorded in land records, and there are no extant tax assessments for Cecil County after 1783.

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