Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Peter Breat
MSA SC 3520-17587

Biography:

Peter Breat enlisted as a private in the Ninth Company of the First Maryland Regiment on January 31, 1776. The regiment was Maryland's first contingent of full-time, professional soldiers raised to be part of the Continental Army. Many of the men in the company came from Western Maryland, and it was designated as the light infantry company for the regiment. Instead of fighting in a line with the other companies, the light infantry was often deployed in small groups ahead of the main body of troops as scouts or skirmishers. They carried rifles, rather than muskets, and were intended to be a more mobile group. [1]

Breat and the rest of the company were ordered to travel from Frederick to Annapolis in March 1776, to join with the rest of the regiment. As they departed, however, they were instructed to head for Baltimore instead to provide reinforcements in case of an anticipated British attack launched from the HMS Otter, a warship reportedly heading for the city. No attack ever materialized, and the company proceeded to Annapolis. They trained there until July, when the First Maryland Regiment was ordered to march north to New York, to protect the city from invasion by the British. [2]

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. As the Maryland troops fought their way towards the American fortifications, they were forced to stop at the swampy Gowanus Creek. Half the regiment was able to cross the creek and escape the battle. However, the rest, including the Ninth Company, 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. They held the British at bay for some time before being overrun, at the cost of many lives. [3]

The Marylanders 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. The Ninth Company fared poorly at the battle, probably because the light infantry's role placed them closest to the enemy lines during combat. At least thirteen soldiers from the company were captured, and fewer than half the men from the Ninth Company escaped death or captivity at the battle. [4]

Breat's fate at the battle is not known, and nothing else is known about his life. While his name was spelled "Breat" on the Ninth Company's muster roll, that was likely incorrect, but his actual name cannot be determined.

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. 20; George Stricker to Council, 21 January 1776, Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, August 29, 1775 to July 6, 1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 11, p. 102.

[2] Order to Capt. Stricker, Council of Safety Proceedings, 6 March 1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 11, p. 202; Order to Capt. Stricker, 9 March 1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 11, p. 224-225.

[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. 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

[4] Return of the Maryland troops, 27 September 1776, from Fold3.com.

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