Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

John Jasper
MSA SC 3520-17500

Biography:

John Jasper enlisted as a private in the Seventh Company of the First Maryland Regiment, led by John Day Scott, on January 29, 1776. [1]

The Seventh Company began their military career by training in Annapolis for six months.  They then moved north, making it to Philadelphia by mid-July 1776 and to New York by August 14.  They positioned themselves about one mile outside of New York with orders to prepare for battle.  According to William Sands, a sergeant in the Seventh Company, they “had lost a great many...troops [who] deserted from...Philadelphia and Elizabethtown, and a great many [were] sick in the hospital,” so the regiment was weakened before entering combat. [2]

The Seventh Company first met the British at the Battle of Brooklyn (Battle of Long Island) on August 27, 1776, where the Continental Army, led by General George Washington, fought to defend New York.  American troops were severely outnumbered and surrounded when they were ordered to retreat.  While the Seventh Company was withdrawing, they were again ambushed by British troops.  About half of the First Maryland Regiment stayed behind to fight off the British long enough for the rest of the Americans to safely escape.  Casualties were extreme, but so was the heroism that earned them the honorable name of the “Maryland 400.”  Fortunately, the Seventh Company escaped without immense casualties, losing fewer than ten out of approximately 75 troops.  Maryland losses totalled 256 men killed or captured, but without the Maryland 400, even more would have been lost.  Despite their courageous actions, the battle was a defeat for the Americans. [3]

The Maryland Regiment helped secure America’s first victory at the Battle of Harlem Heights in September 1776 where they were praised for their “gallant behavior” and “splendid spirit and animation.”  They fought again at the Battle of White Plains in October where, despite the Maryland troops’ immense improvement, there was no clear victory.  Unfortunately, the First Maryland Regiment suffered greatly, including the loss of John Day Scott, the captain of the Seventh Company, and Second Lieutenant Thomas Goldsmith who was fatally shot while attempting to save a soldier's life.

John Jasper survived these battles and reenlisted on December 10, 1776 when the Maryland Line was reorganized. He likely fought with the rest of the Maryland Line at the victorious battles of Trenton in 1776 and Princeton in 1777.  The First Maryland Regiment then fought at the bloody battles of Staten Island, Brandywine, and Germantown.  All were British victories, however John Adams considered the Battle of Germantown to be the “most decisive proof that America would finally succeed.” [4]

John Jasper deserted in the beginning of 1778. He then enlisted in the First Battalion of Maryland Loyalists in May 1778, where he fought for the British cause.  Formed in 1777, the Maryland Loyalist Battalion, was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Chalmers. It was made up of men who supported British rule, or at least opposed the actions of the Revolution. The Loyalists served with the British army and traveled with them to New York in 1778.  It appears that instead of fighting, they were marching around New York guarding the cattle for the regiment of British regulars.  Needless to say, this is not what the men were expecting, and many deserted.  In 1779, the remaining Loyalists, including Jasper, were sent to British controlled Pensacola, Florida where they were employed to fight the Spanish.  Florida fell to the Spanish in May 1781, and the Loyalists were briefly imprisoned at Havana before being paroled and sent back to New York. [5]

There is no definitive information of John Jasper after April 1779.  It is possible he deserted, was killed in battle, or died from an illness. The battalion was struck by an outbreak of smallpox in 1779, which killed many men.  However, it does not appear that muster rolls exist for the Maryland Loyalist Battalion during most of their time in Florida, so it is entirely possible he was still with his unit, and it was just not recorded. [6]

After the war, many loyalists fled to Canada, especially Nova Scotia.  In 1811, a man named John Jasper died in Liverpool.  His death was widely recorded, but it is unclear which of many possible Liverpools these records refer to, although there is a Liverpool, Nova Scotia.  The obituary, which was widely circulated around the United States, reads

“John Jasper...having stolen a dead fat pig, placed it upon his back, throwing the hind legs with the stick which passed through them, over his head, and while making off stopped to rest himself by lodging the carcase on the balustrade of a bridge, when the pig slipping down on the outside of the stone work, the leg-stick unfortunately became a halter for the thief, on the inner side, and he was found in the morning thus hung, and dead.”


Although there is no way to link that obituary to John Jasper of the Maryland 400, it is definitely possible they are the same man. [7]

-Natalie Miller, Maryland Society Sons of the American Revolution Research Fellow, 2017

Notes:

[1] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 16.

[2] William Sands to John and Ann Sands, 14 August 1776, Maryland State Archives, Special Collections, Dowsett Collection of Sands Family Papers [MSA SC 2095-1-18, 00/20/05/28].

[3] Mark Andrew Tacyn, "To the End: The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution," (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 48-73; Extract of a letter from New-York: Account of the battle on Long-Island, 1 September  1776, American Archives Online, series 5, vol. 2, p. 107.

[4] General Smallwood, Payroll, 1776-1777, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, box 6 folder 7, MdHR 19970-6-7 [MSA S997-6, 01/07/03/011].

[5] Murtie June Clark, Loyalists in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War, Volume 2, (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., 1981), 15-16, 72-76; M. Christopher New, Maryland Loyalists in the American Revolution, (Centreville, Maryland: Tidewater Publishers, 1996), 57-82.

[6] Clark, 72-77.

[7] “What Happened To British Loyalists After The Revolutionary War?” National Public Radio, 3 July 2015; “The Arrival of the Loyalists in Canada,” University of Ottawa, 14 September 2017; “Mortuary Notice,” American and Commercial Daily Advertiser (Baltimore, Maryland), 6 May 1811.

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