Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Benjamin Lewis
MSA SC 3520-17479


Benjamin Lewis enlisted into the Continental Army’s First Maryland Regiment on February 3, 1776. At the time of the Battle of Brooklyn (otherwise known as the Battle of Long Island) on August 27, 1776, Lewis was a drummer within Captain Patrick Sim’s Second Company. Although the battle was a defeat for the Americans, the valiant defense by Lewis and the other soldiers of the “Maryland 400” held off the British long enough to allow much of the trapped American army to escape. Lewis was one of the lucky soldiers who survived that day, his company losing fewer than ten men. [1]

Drummers served an important role during the Revolutionary War as non-commissioned officers, receiving the same pay as corporals. For the Continental Army, a majority of musical units consisted of at least one fifer and one drummer. Although regiments from Maryland were usually short musicians, the Second Company kept both their fifer and their drummer until the reestablishment of the regiment on December 10, 1776. [2]

Music was important in regulating the lives of soldiers in the Continental Army, with fifes and drums commanding soldiers with standardized tunes and signals. These musicians helped maintain discipline and efficiency within the Continental Army by sounding the signals of the day, ordering the soldiers to march, and regulating speed of soldier's steps. Fifes and drums worked in unison, playing popular tunes during camps or long marches, meaning that Lewis worked with the company's fifer, Thomas Horson.

After the Battle of White Plains, the Battle of Trenton, and the Battle of Princeton, Lewis reenlisted as a private on December 10, 1776. 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. In these battles, the new recruits to Maryland’s forces were provided with a hardened core of experienced soldiers like Lewis 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.

Lewis served until his death on April 10, 1777. The cause of his death is unknown. Deaths in camp from illness were common. [3]

-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. 7.

[2] Pay abstract of the First Battalion and five independent companies of MD Regulars, 30 Sep-10 Dec, 1776, Maryland State Papers, Series A, Box 1, No. 108, MdHR 6636-1-108 [MSA S1004-1-87, 1/7/3/25].

[3] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 131.

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