Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Hugh Tomlin
MSA SC 3520-17494

Biography:

Hugh Tomlin enlisted as a private in the First Maryland Regiment's Second Company, commanded by Captain Patrick Sim, in April 1776. After enlisting, Tomlin and his company traveled to Annapolis, joining five other companies of the regiment that were stationed there; three additional companies were in Baltimore. Commanded by Colonel William Smallwood, the regiment was the first unit of full-time, professional soldiers raised in Maryland for service in the Continental Army. [1]

In July, the regiment received orders to march to New York, in order to defend the city from an impending British attack. The Marylanders arrived in New York in early August, where they joined with the rest of the Continental Army, commanded by General George Washington. On August 27, 1776, the Americans faced the British Army at the Battle of Brooklyn (sometimes called the Battle of Long Island), the first full-scale engagement of the war. 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, including the Second Company, was able to cross the creek and escape the battle. However, the rest were unable to do so before they were attacked by the British. Facing down a much larger, better-trained force, this group of soldiers, today called 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. They took enormous casualties, with some companies losing nearly 80 percent of their men, but their actions delayed the British long enough for the rest of the Continental Army to escape. In all, the First Maryland lost 256 men, killed or taken prisoner. [2]

Tomlin survived the battle, and continued to serve with the Marylanders through the rest of the difficult fall and winter of 1776. While the Maryland troops demonstrated their skill and bravery, the Americans were nevertheless pushed out of New York, and put on the run through New Jersey. Not until late that winter did they secure revitalizing victories at Trenton and Princeton.

At the end of 1776, Tomlin reenlisted in the First Maryland Regiment for a three-year term. During this period, he probably took part in the disastrous raid on Staten Island (August 1777), and the major battles of the Philadelphia Campaign, Brandywine (September 1777) and Germantown (October 1777). The Marylanders also fought at the Battle of Monmouth (June 1778). At the end of December 1779, Tomlin's enlistment ended, and he left the army. The regiment was built around a core of veterans, men like Tomlin who had enlisted in early 1776 and survived that first year of the war together. Like Tomlin, many of them left the army in 1779, after four years of fighting. [3]

There is little information about Tomlin's life after that time. He appears to have lived in Frederick County, Maryland in 1790, but nothing more is known. [4]

Owen Lourie, 2017

Notes:

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

[2] Return of the Maryland troops, 27 September 1776, from Fold3.com; Mark Andrew Tacyn "'To the End:' The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution" (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 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.

[3] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 168; List of receipts of soldiers who were paid upon discharge, 27 December 1779, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, box 3, no. 7-21, MdHR 19970-3-7/21 [MSA S997-3-94, 1/7/3/9].

[4] U.S. Federal Census, 1790, Frederick County, Maryland.

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