Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Michael Miller
MSA SC 3520-17664

Biography:

Michael Miller enlisted as a private in the Ninth Company of the First Maryland Regiment on January 22, 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]

Miller 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. Fewer than half the men from the Ninth Company escaped death or captivity at the battle, and at least thirteen soldiers were taken prisoner. Miller 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. [4]

At the end of 1776, Miller's one-year enlistment expired, and like many of the men in the regiment, he signed on for another, three-year term. He was part of the American force which made a landing on Staten Island that August. The goal was to defeat a small Loyalist militia, but the Americans instead found themselves facing a sizable force of British army regulars. In the ensuing American retreat, the Maryland Line was ordered to cover the rear, and took heavy casualties, just as they had at Brooklyn a year earlier. The Marylanders lost by some estimates about 200 men, including Miller, who was taken prisoner. Some of the Americans captured at Staten Island were eventually released in prisoner exchanges, and countless others died in the horrific conditions on British prison ships. Miller endured just over a year in captivity, and was released in September 1778. [5]

Only five months later, Miller signed a new enlistment, agreeing to serve for the duration of the war. He joined the Marylanders in 1780 when they marched south to help counter new British threats in the Carolinas. That August, they took catastrophic casualties at the Battle of Camden, losing some 600 men--about one-third of their troops. The next year, however, the Americans rebuilt, and earned a series of victories at Cowpens (January 1781), Guilford Court House (March 1781), Ninety-Six (May-June 1781), and Eutaw Springs (September 1781), pushing the British north out of the Carolinas towards Yorktown, where they surrendered in October. In the course of these battles, the Maryland soldiers gained a reputation as brave and dependable, and were a cornerstone of the army. Miller and the First Maryland Regiment spent 1782 back in South Carolina, where British forces lingered for most of the year. Finally, after eight years of service, Miller was discharged in November, 1783. [6]

It is difficult to learn anything about Miller's life after he left the army because he had a common name. It cannot be detirmined which, if any, of them was the Michael Miller who served in the Continental Army. [7]

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; Account of money paid sundry soldiers by Gen. Smallwood, paid to Michael Miller, late 1776/early 1777, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, box 6, no. 7-3a, MdHR 19970-6-7/3a [MSA S997-6-25, 1/7/3/11].

[5] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 137; Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, from Fold3.com; Tacyn, 137; Reiman Steuart, The Maryland Line (The Society of the Cincinnati, 1971), 157.

[6] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, pps. 358, 432, 496, 545; Compiled Service Records; Receipt of pay received, 3 March 1779, Maryland State Papers, Series A, box 21, no. 131-20, MdHR 6636-21-131/20 [MSA S1004-27-235, 1/7/3/37]; Muster Roll, First Company, Maryland Battalion [formerly First Maryland Regiment], 1 November 1780, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, box 15, no. 31, MdHR 19970-15-31 [MSA S997-15-38, 1/7/3/13]; Tacyn, 216-225.

[7] Miller may have lived in Frederick County, Maryland (where the Ninth Company was raised in 1776), dying in 1812. A man named Michael Miller died that year, and his signature on his will is similar to the signature on Michael Miller's 1779 pay receipt cited above. However, it is not completely certain they are the same person. See Frederick County Register of Wills, Wills, Original, 1812, MdHR 11532-794 [MSA C900-22, 1/51/10/31].

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