Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Stephen Fleehearty
MSA SC 3520-17619

Biography:

Stephen Fleehearty 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]

The company was ordered to travel from Frederick to Annapolis in March 1776, to join with the rest of the regiment. As they departed, however, the men 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 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. Fleehearty survived the battle, and went on to fight with the Marylanders through the rest of the difficult fall and winter of 1776. While the Maryland troops demonstrated their skill and bravery at Harlem Heights in September and White Plains in October, 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 the year, Fleehearty reenlisted for a three-year term. [4]

Over the next few years, Fleehearty and the Marylanders fought 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). The next year, 1779, saw little major combat as the war slowed to a stalemate. That August, however, Fleehearty was promoted to corporal, a rank he held until his term ended on December 27, 1779. [5]

Like many of the original members of the First Maryland Regiment, Fleehearty left the army when his enlistment ended in 1779. He traveled home to Maryland--probably Frederick County--but remained there for only a short time before returning to the army as a sergeant in the spring of 1780. Soon after, he and the rest of the Marylanders joined the Continental Army's march southward to counter the new front that the British had opened in the Carolinas. Over the next two years, the Marylanders fought in the Revolutionary War's fiercest battles, including the devastating defeat at Camden (August 1780), and the decisive victory at Cowpens (December 1780), along with the battles of Guilford Courthouse (March 1781), Hobkirk's Hill (April 1781), the siege of Ninety-Six (May 1781), and Eutaw Springs (September 1781). The First Maryland Regiment was not present at Yorktown when the British surrendered in October 1781, but Fleehearty and his comrades arrived not long afterwards. [6]

A detachment of Maryland troops traveled to South Carolina in 1782, in preparation for an American assault on Charleston, which was still held by the British. Before the British abandoned the city in December 1782, the Americans, including troops from Maryland, fought them in two small engagements, at Combahee Ferry (August 1782) and Johns Island (November 1782). Fleehearty may have been part of this campaign, although he later remembered that his unit was disbanded in Annapolis in 1782. He was formally discharged on November 15, 1783, after eight long, hard years of war. [7]

Fleehearty lived in Maryland at least until the 1790s, but eventually settled in Harrison County, Virginia (now West Virginia). He was living there by 1818, when he applied for a Federal veteran's pension. Fleehearty was in his seventies by then, no longer able to farm because of age and injury. As a former sergeant, he received a pension of $96 per year until his death on January 28, 1825. It is not known if Fleehearty ever married or had children. When he applied for his pension, he reported that he had "no family," but it is not clear if he meant any family at all, or just family living with him. [8]

Owen Lourie, 2018

Notes:

[1] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 19; 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. 102; 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; Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 108.

[5] Pension of Stephen Fleehearty. National Archives, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land-Warrant Application Files, S 39529, from Fold3.com; Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, from Fold3.com; Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 108; 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].

[6] Tacyn, 210, 218-245; Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 208, 334; Fleehearty pension.

[7] Charles H. Lesser, ed., The Sinews of Independence: Monthly Strength Reports of the Continental Army (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), 217, 221, 247; Fleehearty pension; Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 534.

[8] U.S. Federal Census, 1790, Frederick County, Maryland; Fleehearty pension. Several sources report various wives and children of Stephen Fleehearty, including FindAGrave and the Daughters of the American Revolution Ancestor Search database. However, these cannot be verified.

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