Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

William Evans
MSA SC 3520-17468


William Evans enlisted into the First Maryland Regiment on February 23, 1776. The regiment was Maryland's first contingent of full-time, professional soldiers raised to be part of the Continental Army. At was the time of the Battle of Brooklyn (otherwise known as the Battle of Long Island) on August 27, 1776, Evans was a private in Captain Patrick Sim’s Second Company. Although the battle was a defeat for the Americans, the valiant defense by Evans and the other soldiers of the “Maryland 400” held off the British long enough to allow much of the trapped American army to escape. Evans was one of the lucky soldiers who survived that day, and his company lost fewer than ten men. [1]

Evans reenlisted into the First Maryland Regiment on December 10, 1776 like many of his fellow soldiers.  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, Brandywine, and Germantown. In these battles, the new recruits to Maryland’s forces were provided with a hardened core of experienced soldiers like Evans 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. [2]

Evans deserted from the army on November 27, 1777 while stationed outside Philadelphia. In an ad posted for his return, he was described as a “stout well made fellow, 24 or 25 years of age, 6 feet 1 inch high, [with] short brown hair, and dark complexion.” He took with him “a brown cloth coat, lined with part of a tent cloth, red waistcoat, leather breeches, dark yarn stockings, half worn shoes, a cocked hat, and two or three good linen shirts.” [3]

Men deserted for many reasons during the Revolutionary War, ranging from cowardice to financial distress at home, and some were victims of administrative errors, rather than malingerers. It was not uncommon for deserters to return to their unit, and Evans may have been one such man. In March 1778, he reported to Charles Greenbury Griffith, a Montgomery County militia officer charged with locating deserters. As Griffith later wrote to Thomas Johnson, the governor of Maryland, "William Evans, a deserter from [the First Maryland] Regiment has...come and surrendered himself to me. He appears to be desirous of returning to camp again, and promises to behave well in future. He is apprehensive that he will be severely punished, if not shot, for his conduct," and hoped that the governor would intercede with Evans' commander for leniency. [4]

Whether Evans ever was successful in his appeal to the governor is not known, and it is not clear if he ever served in the army again, as there were multiple people with that name in the Maryland Line whose service can not distinguished from each other. No other information is known about his life.

-Taylor Blades, 2017


[1] 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. 106.

[3] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 106; "Seventy Dollars Reward," Maryland Journal (Baltimore), 9 December 1777.

[4] Charles Greenbury Griffith to Gov., 1 April 1778, Maryland State Papers, Series A, box 11, no. 1, MdHR 6636-11-1 [MSA S1004-12-616, 1/7/3/30].

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