Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Edward Edgerly
MSA SC 3520-17595

Biography:

Edward Edgerly enlisted as a sergeant in the Sixth Company of the First Maryland Regiment, led by Captain Peter Adams, on February 15, 1776.  Although the rank of sergeant was an honorable one, Edgerly was soon ready to take on more responsibility.  Throughout his six years in the Continental Army, Edgerly rose to the rank of captain, before being killed in action. [1]

The Sixth Company was recruited primarily from the Eastern Shore, but traveled to Annapolis  in the spring of 1776 to complete six months of training.  The company then moved north, making it to Philadelphia by mid-July 1776 and to New York by August 14.  They positioned themselves, along with the rest of the First Maryland Regiment, about one mile outside of New York, with orders to prepare for battle.

The threat of an attack was looming over the American forces, but this did not stop Edgerly from planning for his future. Just a few days before the Battle of Brooklyn would take place, he wrote to the Convention of Maryland asking for a commission.  He “humbly conceive[d] he [had] behaved himself in his station as sergeant” and was eager to become an officer. However, as a battle became imminent, the fate of Edgerly and the rest of the Sixth Company was uncertain. [2]

The Marylanders met the British at the Battle of Brooklyn (sometimes called the Battle of Long Island) on August 27, 1776, where the Continental Army, led by General George Washington, fought to defend New York. The  American troops were severely outnumbered and surrounded when they were ordered to retreat.  Half the regiment was able to escape the battle, however the other half, including most of the Sixth Company, was trapped by the swampy Gowanus Creek.  They turned back to face the British, holding their position long enough for the rest of the Marylanders to return to safety.  This heroic stand earned them the honorable name of the “Maryland 400.” [3]

The First Maryland Regiment suffered major losses. The Sixth Company alone lost 58 men, or 80 percent. By the end of the battle, Maryland losses totaled 256 men killed or captured.  Despite the heroic actions of the Maryland 400, the battle was a defeat for the Americans. Unlike many of his companions, Edgerly survived the battle and was not captured. He was one of just sixteen officers and men from the Sixth Company to come out of the battle unscathed. [4]

His request for a commission was granted when the army expanded, and by January 1777, he was a second lieutenant in the Second Regiment.  A few months later, Edgerly changed jobs and became the regiment’s adjutant.  As adjutant, he was responsible for all administrative duties, including keeping track of the company’s supplies, and even retrieving deserters. [5]

During this time, the Marylanders participated in the revitalizing victories at Trenton  and Princeton in the winter of 1776-1777. However, their luck soon ran out when they fought at Battle of Staten Island, and the bloody battles of Brandywine and Germantown, part of the campaign to defend Philadelphia from British capture. All were British victories, although John Adams considered the Battle of Germantown to be the “most decisive proof that America would finally succeed.” [6]

Edgerly held the position of adjutant until May 1778, when he was promoted to first lieutenant, making him second in command of the company.  If the captain was for any reason unable to perform his duties, Edgerly would take charge.  During battle, he was responsible for keeping the men in proper formation and ensuring no one deserted. This job served him well, and by the fall of 1779, Edgerly was a captain in the Second Regiment.  [7]

In the spring of 1780, the Marylanders were part of the American Army that was ordered to march south to defend the colonies after the southern army had been almost entirely captured by the British. After reaching the south, they fought in the Battle of Camden, where the Maryland Line again found themselves alone on the battlefield after the rest of the army fled.  The battle was yet another British victory with extreme casualties on the American side.  Edgerly again survived and was not captured.  Because the Maryland Line lost so many soldiers, it was reorganized, and Edgerly was transferred to be the captain of the Fifth Regiment. [8]

The next year brought with it success for the Americans through victories at Cowpens (January 1781), Guilford Courthouse (March 1781), and Ninety-Six (May-June 1781).  Edgerly and his men then fought at Eutaw Springs on September 8, 1781.  Although Edgerly had survived each battle up until this time without being captured or sustaining noteworthy injuries, he was no longer so fortunate.  Captain Edward Edgerly was killed during the Battle of Eutaw Springs, just six weeks before the Battle of Yorktown, the last major fight of the war. [9]

Edgerly had married before the war, although it is unclear when or to whom, and his wife had likely died before the end of the war.  He had a son, also named Edward, who was born around 1764.  After the death of both of his parents, the son Edward was “almost entirely destitute of maintenance and support.”  Because Captain Edgerly was “a respectable and brave officer,” and because of the “affection for officers who have died for their country, political gratitude to a virtuous citizen, [and] humanity for an helpless [minor],” his son was given financial help from the state.  The House of Delegates decided to give Edgerly’s back pay to his son, using the interest for “the maintenance and education” while Edward was a minor. When he reached “the age of twenty-one years...the principal of the money...shall belong to...Edward.”  Although children and spouses could apply to receive a pension for the service of their father or husband, it was very uncommon for children to receive help from the state in the manner that Edward Edgerly did. [10]

-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. 13.

[2] Memorial for a Commission, 1776, Maryland State Papers, Series A, MdHR 6636-1-96 (MSA S1004-1-82, 01/07/03/025).

[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," 1 September 1776, American Archives, 5th series, vol. 2, p. 107.

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

[5] Rieman Steuart, A History of the Maryland Line in the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783, (Maryland: Society of the Cincinnati of Maryland, 1969), 77; Archives of Maryland Online, vol 18, p. 106; Joseph R. Riling, Baron von Steuben and his Regulations, (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Ray Riling Arms Books Co., 1966), 134-136.

[6] Tacyn, 210, 284.

[7] Steuart, 77; Archives of Maryland Online, vol 18, p. 106; Riling, 141-142.

[8] Archives of Maryland Online, vol 18, p. 381.

[9] Archives of Maryland Online, vol 18, p. 481; Tacyn, 315; Steuart, 77.

[10] Votes and Proceedings of the House of Delegates, April 1782, 112. Archives of Maryland Online, SCM 3196. 

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