Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Moses McNew
MSA SC 3520-17507


Moses McNew enlisted as a private in the First Maryland Regiment's Second Company, commanded by Captain Patrick Sim, in January 1776. After enlisting, McNew 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]

McNew 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, McNew 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). Although his term of service ran through the end of 1779, McNew reenlisted that February, agreeing to serve for the rest of the war. [3]

While 1779 was a relatively uneventful year for the Maryland Line, in the spring of 1780, they marched south to help counter new British threats in the Carolinas. That August, the Marylanders took catastrophic casualties at the Battle of Camden, losing some 600 men--about one-third of their troops. The next year, however, the Americans rebuilt, and earned a series of victories at Cowpens (January 1781), Guilford Court House (March 1781), Ninety-Six (May-June 1781), and Eutaw Springs (September 1781), pushing the British north out of the Carolinas towards Yorktown, where they surrendered in October. In the course of these battles, the Maryland soldiers gained a reputation as brave and dependable, and were a cornerstone of the army. The First Maryland Regiment spent 1782 back in South Carolina, where British forces lingered for most of the year. Which of these McNew fought at is not certain. Muster records show him joining the regiment in October 1780, but it is not clear when he had departed. It is also not known how much longer after that time McNew served. [4]

He did survive his time in the army, however, and lived in Prince George's County, Maryland in the years after the war. He died there in the summer of 1792. No other information about him or any survivors is known. [5]

Owen Lourie, 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. Return of the Maryland troops, 27 September 1776, from; 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. 137; Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, from; Muster Roll, First Company, Maryland Battalion [formerly First Maryland Regiment], 1 November 1780, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, box 15, no. 31, MdHR 19970-15-31 [MSA S997-15-38, 1/7/3/13].

4. Tacyn, 216-225; Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 137; Muster Roll, 1 November 1780.

5. Prince George's County Register of Wills, Estate Papers, Moses McNew, 1792 [MSA C2119-64-2, 0/50/6/64]; Journal and Correspondence of the State Council 1789-1793, Archives of Maryland, vol. 78, p. 286.

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