Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

James Adams (1745-1834)
MSA SC 3520-17441


James Adams of Prince George’s County, Maryland was born on November 11, 1745 in King George Parish to James and Mary Adams. He had 4 siblings: Elizabeth (b. 1742), William (b. 1743), John (b. 1747), and Mary (b. 1750). Prior to his enlistment, he married Susanna Dement and had two children, Josias (b. 1774) and Elizabeth (b. 1771). [1]

Adams enlisted into the Continental Army’s First Maryland Regiment on April 6, 1776 when he was 31 years old. At was the time of the Battle of Brooklyn (otherwise known as the Battle of Long Island) on August 27, 1776, Adams was a private within Captain Patrick Sim’s Second Company. Although the battle was a defeat for the Americans, the valiant defense by Adams and the other soldiers of the “Maryland 400” held off the British long enough to allow much of the trapped American army to escape. Adams was one of the lucky soldiers who survived that day, his company losing fewer than ten men. [2]

After the Battle of White Plains, the Battle of Trenton, and the Battle of Princeton, Adams reenlisted on December 10, 1776 as a corporal. After the reestablishment of a restructured First Maryland Regiment, these Marylanders went on to participate in every main battle fought by the Continental Army until 1780, including the battles of Staten Island and Brandywine. In these battles, the new recruits to Maryland’s forces were provided with a hardened core of experienced soldiers like Adams who were able to provide them with stability, strength, and the experience of prior confrontations. This helped with the campaign of 1777, where the First Maryland Regiment acted as a crucial aspect of Washington’s offensive force. [3]

Adams was marked as missing on September 13, 1777, just a few days after a chaotic American retreat at Brandywine. It is likely that Adams got separated from his company during the retreat. After his service he made his way back to his family in Prince George’s County, but it is unknown what Adams' life was like for the next few years. In 1786, he and Susanna had another child, Mary. [4]

From 1811 to 1827, Adams served as a constable for King George Hundred in Prince George's County. As a constable, Adams was expected to extract fines and debts due to the court, arrest those people committed by a justice and deliver them to a jail, capture runaway slaves, and quell the "tumultuous" assembly of free blacks. [5]

At the time of his death in early 1834, Adams owned 103 acres of land, 8 slaves, and $1,722 of personal property. [6]

-Taylor Blades, 2017


[1] Maryland Births and Christenings, 1650-1995, Saint John's Parish, Prince Georges, Maryland. FHL M14303, from; Robert W. Barnes, Colonial Families of Maryland: Bound and Determined to Succeed. (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2007), p. 5.

[2] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 7.

[3] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 78.

[4] Mark Andrew Tacyn “’To the End:’ The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 300; 1790 United States Federal Census. NARA M637. From; 1820 United States Federal Census. NARA M33, from; Maryland Births and Christenings, 1650-1995.

[5] The Laws of Maryland from the End of the Year 1799, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 192, p. 2444; Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 192, p. 1028; Prince George's County Court, Land Records, 1811, Liber JRM 14, p. 544-545 [MSA CE 65-43]; Prince George's County Court, Land Records, 1827, Liber AB 4, p. 509-510 [MSA CE 65-51]. There are records of Adams paying the state $800 in 1811, 1812, 1813, 1816, 1820, 1821, 1822, and 1827.

[6] Assessment Records, 1833, Prince George’s County Levy Court [MSA C1163, 1/27/13/7]. The 1834 Assessment Records account for James Adams’ heir, so Adams died between when the 1833 and 1834 assessment was taken.

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