Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

John Hoffman
MSA SC 3520-17640

Biography:

John Hoffman (or Hoofman) enlisted as a private in the Ninth Company of the First Maryland Regiment on January 26, 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]

Hoffman 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 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. Hoffman's fate is uncertain, and it cannot be determined whether he survived. [4]

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. 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. Some sources, including the Daughters of the American Revolution, assert that Hoffman survived, and lived in Frederick County, Maryland, until his death in 1831. While the Ninth Company was indeed partially raised in Frederick County, it is not clear that he is the correct John Hoffman, as it was a relatively common name. See DAR Ancestor Search, ancestor no. A056370; Will of John Hoffman, 1831, Frederick County Register of Wills, Wills, Liber GME 1, p. 219 [MSA C898-11, 1/51/9/19]; John Hoffman on FindAGrave; Catherine Hoffman on FindAGrave. Another John Hoffman was a sergeant in the Sixth Maryland Regiment from 1777 until his death in 1778; see Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 281.

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