Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

John Radery
MSA SC 3520-17443


John Radery enlisted into the Continental Army’s First Maryland Regiment on February 6, 1776. At the time of the Battle of Brooklyn (otherwise known as the Battle of Long Island) on August 27, 1776, Radery was a private within Captain Patrick Sim’s Second Company. Although the battle was a defeat for the Americans, the valiant defense by Radery and the other soldiers of the “Maryland 400” held off the British long enough to allow much of the trapped American army to escape. Radery was one of the lucky soldiers who survived that day, his company losing fewer than ten men. [1]

Radery did not reenlist into the First Maryland Regiment during the reorganization of Smallwood’s Battalion on December 10, 1776.  Instead, he returned home. However, on May 5, 1778 he rejoined the Continental Army as a private in the Fourth Maryland Regiment. He climbed the ranks rather quickly, earning a promotion on April 1, 1779 to corporal and another on March 1, 1780 to sergeant. However, the only major battle he saw during these years other than the Battle of Brooklyn was the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778. [2]

Threats of large-scale mutinies were often resolved by a show of force. After being accused of stirring up a mutiny, it was revealed that Radery often expressed disaffection for the Continental Army, spoke disrespectfully of his commanding officer, Colonel John Eager Howard, and often told other soldiers that he would “never endeavor to injure the enemy.” Although George Washington was not fond of killing one of his soldiers, he also used the death sentence as a lesson for others. Radery was sentenced to death in the fall of 1781 and was executed on September 1, 1781. It is unknown how Radery died; while one document has lists him as shot, another states he was hung, which was much more likely. The most common form of execution was by hanging the soldier from a scaffold, but firing squads were also used in some cases. [3]

Two years after his death, a woman claiming to be Radery’s widow attempted to claim money that was due to her husband. This was stopped by the state treasurer and was noted as fraudulently obtained. It is unknown if this was truly Radery’s wife, as there was no record of him ever getting married in Maryland. [4]

-Taylor Blades, 2017


[1] Radery is also often referred to as Radely; Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 8.

[2] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 159; Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, From

[3] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 516, 554; James C. Neagles. Summer Soldiers: A Survey & Index of Revolutionary War Courts-Martial. (Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry Incorporated, 1986), 228, 37.

[4] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 516; A List of Deprecation Pay Which Have Been Fraudulently Obtained, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers 1781-1784 [MSA S997-12, 1/7/3/13].

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