Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Basil Holland
MSA SC 3520-17637

Biography:

Basil Holland enlisted in the Ninth Company of the First Maryland Regiment on February 12, 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. Holland initially enlisted as an ordinary private, but pay records show that by the summer he had been promoted to corporal. As non-commissioned officers, corporals were responsible for keeping the soldiers of their company properly aligned during marches and in battle, and ensuring order among the men in camp, as well as other administrative duties. [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 their role as light infantry 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 escaped death or captivity at the battle. One of those captured was Basil Holland. While he left no account of his time as a prisoner, Thomas McKeel, a sergeant in the Sixth Company, described the details of his captivity. McKeel "remained a prisoner on board of a Prison Ship until the British troops got possession of New York" in November 1776, and "he was then taken ashore and imprisoned in New York with the Maryland officers and prisoners, until he was parolled." Holland's experiences were probably similar. [4]

Holland was likely released in late 1776 or early 1777, and did not rejoin the army. Instead, he returned to civilian life with his family in Montgomery County, Maryland. His parents William Holland of Capel and Sarah Holland lived on a two hundred acre farm in northwestern Montgomery County, near Clarksburg. Basil had six siblings: Nathan, William, Catherine, Ann, Arnold, and Nacy. Although the family was far from rich, they held a stable, middling economic position in the state. Basil lived in Maryland until around 1804 or 1805, when he and his brother Arnold moved to Iredell County, North Carolina. [5]

Holland lived in Iredell County until his death in the 1830s, when he was probably in his sixties. Census records suggest that he had a wife and children, but no information is known about their identities. [6]

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. 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; Pay Role of Prisoners taken on Long Island from 27th August to the 10th Dec. 1776, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, MdHR 19970-19-01 [MSA S997-19-1 01/07/03/15]; Frederick Steuben, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, Part I. (Philadelphia: Styner and Cist, 1792), 148-151.

[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; Pay Role of Prisoners; Pension of Thomas McKeel. National Archives, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land-Warrant Application Files, S34977, from Fold3.com.

[5] Holland v. Holland, 1816, November Term, no. 10, Montgomery County Court, Equity Docket, 1815-1821 [MSA C2053-1, 1/69/12/77]; Holland v. Holland, 1816, November Term, no. 10, Montgomery County Court, Equity Papers, box no. 1 [MSA T415-1, 3/55/8/1]; General Assembly, House of Delegates, Assessment Record, 1783, Montgomery County, Sugar Loaf and Linganore Hundred, p. 16 [MSA S1161-8-1, 1/4/5/51]; U.S. Federal Census, 1800, District 3, Montgomery County, Maryland; Montgomery County Commissioners of the Tax, Assessment Record, 1798-1812, p. 207, District 4, Personal Property, 1804 [MSA C1110-2, 1/18/14/18].

[6] U.S. Federal Census, 1810, Iredell County, North Carolina; U.S. Federal Census, 1820, Iredell County, North Carolina; U.S. Federal Census, 1830, Iredell County, North Carolina.

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