Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

William Leeson
MSA SC 3520-17647

Biography:

William Leeson enlisted as a private in the Sixth Company of the First Maryland Regiment, led by Captain Peter Adams, on February 15, 1776. [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.  It was positioned with the rest of the First Maryland Regiment about one mile outside of New York, with orders to prepare for battle.

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.” [2]

The First Maryland Regiment suffered major losses. The Sixth Company alone lost fifty eight of its men, or 80 percent. By the end of the battle, Maryland losses totalled 256 men killed or captured.  Despite the heroic actions of the Maryland 400, the battle was a defeat for the Americans. [3]

William Leeson’s fate at the battle is unknown, and there is no evidence that he completed his enlistment.  There was, however, a man named William Leeson who lived as a pauper in Cecil County, where part of the company was recruited from, shortly after the war.  After their enlistment ended, many soldiers returned home as poor single men with no property, and it was not uncommon for them to become paupers, living off of government or public charity.  Unfortunately, it is unclear if this is the same man who was a member of the Maryland 400. [4]

-Natalie Miller, Maryland Society Sons of the American Revolution Research Fellow, 2018

Notes:

[1] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 14.

[2] 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: Account of the battle on Long-Island, 1 September  1776, American Archives Online, series 5, vol. 2, p. 107.

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

[4] General Assembly House of Delegates, Assessment Record, 1783, Cecil County Third District, p. 9 [MSA S1161-38, 01/04/05/047].

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