Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Henry Shipley
MSA SC 3520-17700


A native of Maryland, Henry Shipley fought in the Revolutionary War as a member of the state's militia. After the war, he and his family moved west to Pennsylvania in search of land. Many years after his death, his wife Ruth received a federal pension as the widow of a Revolutionary War veteran, in part by claiming that Henry had been a member of the Maryland 400 who fought so heroically at the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776. Although he had seen combat at other times, Henry Shipley did not fight with the Maryland 400, and in fact was serving in Annapolis during the fall of 1776, when the Battle of Brooklyn took place.

Shipley was one of four siblings who were born in Anne Arundel County, Maryland in the 1750s and 1760s. Little is known about their parents; their father was probably named Richard, but their mother's identity remains a mystery. Henry had two brothers, Benjamin (b. ca. 1755) and Adam (b. 1759), and a sister named Mary Ann (b. 1767). Henry later recalled that the family had lived about eighteen miles from Baltimore. [1]

As a young man, Henry Shipley served as a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Because of missing records and faulty memories, it is difficult to determine all of his service for certain. He and his brother Adam both served briefly in an artillery unit in Annapolis in the fall of 1776. Earlier that summer, they may also have enlisted in the Flying Camp, a short term reserve force raised to supplement the Continental Army; evidence about that enlistment is unclear, and the company they may have been in probably never deployed. [2]

The following year, both Henry and Adam were part of the Anne Arundel County militia contingent that marched north to help defend Philadelphia from the British. They were not present at the Battle of Brandywine in September 1777, but they did fight at the Battle of Germantown in October. Both battles were American losses, and the Shipley brothers' unit, the Elk Ridge Battalion, did not perform well. Maryland general William Smallwood singled them out for criticism. It was, he wrote, "evidently the worst corps in the Militia...I could have wished they had never stepped forth [to serve]. The men from Elk Ridge and some other parts of Ann Arundel will shine more at an election than in the field. Their disorder & licentiousness...will ever render them contemptible in the field." [3] True as Smallwood's comments undoubtedly were, militia units like the Shipleys' were ill-suited for the rigors of active duty and combat, which were the province of professional, full-time soldiers. Despite these shortcomings, a manpower crisis the next year meant that Henry and Adam's militia unit was again activated in the fall of 1778.

Henry's widow Ruth and his brother Adam later testified that Henry served from 1779 until 1782 in the Fourth Maryland Regiment, a unit of regular (professional) soldiers, but that cannot be proven. Regardless of his service, by 1782 Henry was a civilian in Maryland when he married Ruth Howard in September 1782 in Baltimore. Soon after, their first child Amelia was born on June 10, 1783. [4]

Sometime between 1783 and 1790, the family moved to Fayette County, Pennsylvania, in the southwestern part of the state. Over the years, they had 9 more children: Amon (b. 1784); Henry (b. 1789); Ruth (b. 1791); Mary, called Polly (b. 1793); Rachel (b. 1795); Benedict (b. 1797); Elizabeth (b. 1799); Nancy (b. 1802); and Amon Massenna (b. 1806). The Shipleys were farmers and landowners, although how much land they owned is not known. [5]

On February 11, 1828, Henry Shipley died. As the family settled his estate, Henry Jr. purchased his siblings' shares of the family land in 1831. Within five years, Ruth and some of her children moved to central Ohio, settling in Knox County. [6]

In 1836, with the help of her brother-in-law Adam, Ruth applied for a Federal veteran's pension on the basis of Henry's service in the Revolution. Relying on Ruth's memory of what her husband told her about his time in the war, along with Adam's own recollections, the application was a compilation of half-remembered officers and unit names from fifty years before. Revolutionary veterans' pension are understandably often beset with errors and mis-recollections, and Ruth's does not stand out in that regard. The only notable element of what Ruth and Adam recounted was Henry's participation in the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776. According to Adam, "in the spring of the year 1776," Henry had "enlisted in Capt. Stricker company, a Rifle company, and marched to Long Island...At Long Island Capt. Stricker was taken prisoner and [all] his company except 17." Adam knew this, he said, "for he was an eye witness." [7]

Adam Shipley's account of the Battle of Brooklyn (also called the Battle of Long Island) is absolutely correct. It was a disastrous defeat for the Americans. The First Maryland Regiment took heavy casualties, and the Ninth Company, formerly lead by Captain George Stricker (who was replaced by Benjamin Ford before the battle), lost two-thirds of its men. Furthermore, the Ninth was indeed armed with rifles, rather than muskets like the rest of the Maryland regiment. Adam was even right that the company was raised in the winter and early spring of 1776. The only part that Adam got wrong was his brother's (and his own, for that matter) participation in those events. Neither Shipley brother was at the Battle of Brooklyn, nor any of the other battles in the 1776 campaign around New York. Neither appears in the enlistment records of the Ninth Company, which are complete, and their service in the Annapolis artillery unit in the fall of 1776 means they could not have been in New York at the same time. [8]

Why Adam and Ruth testified that Henry fought at the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776 is not known. Henry's militia service was not well-documented, which was typical, and Ruth was initially rebuffed in her effort to secure her pension. Perhaps the 1776 story helped to bolster a service record that should have made Ruth eligible anyway, and got her the money she badly needed. Perhaps they truly believed that Henry had fought at Brooklyn. In the end, she received her pension of $50 per year, which supported her and her family. Ruth Shipley lived in Mt. Vernon, Ohio until her death in 1856, when she was about ninety-three years old. [9]

Owen Lourie, 2018


[1] The Shipleys of Maryland, vol. 2 (Baltimore: Gateway Press, 2002), 1156-1158; Pension of Henry Shipley. National Archives, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land-Warrant Application Files, W 6046, from; Census of 1778, Anne Arundel County, Maryland State Papers, Red Books 22:1, p. 2, MdHR 4589 [MSA S989-33, 1/6/4/21].

[2] Shipley pension; S. Eugene Clements and F. Edward Wright, The Maryland Militia in the Revolutionary War (Silver Spring, Maryland: Family Line Publications, 1987), 144. They may have served in Joseph Burgess's company of the Flying Camp. See Reiman Steuart, The Maryland Line (The Society of the Cincinnati, 1971), 163; Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, pps. 38, 40-41.

[3] Militia service is based on the information in Shipley's pension and the listing of officers in Clements and Wright. Smallwood to Governor Thomas Johnson, 14 October 1777, Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council, 1777-1778, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 16, p. 398.

[4] Shipley pension; Baltimore County Court, Marriage Licenses, 1777-1798, p. 199 [MSA C376-1, 2/14/14/11]; Shipleys of Maryland, 1157.

[5] General Assembly, House of Delegates, Assessment Record, 1783, Anne Arundel County, Elk Ridge Hundred, p. 7 [MSA S1161-1-3, 1/4/5/44]; U.S. Federal Census, 1790, Fayette County, Pennsylvania; Shipley pension; Shipleys of Maryland, 1157-1158; Fayette County Probate Record, Vol. 2, 1821-1832, pps. 390-391, 418, 434, from

[6] U.S. Federal Census, 1800, Fayette County, Pennsylvania; U.S. Federal Census, 1810, Fayette County, Pennsylvania; U.S. Federal Census, 1820, Fayette County, Pennsylvania; Shipley pension.

[7] Shipley pension.

[8] Shipley pension; 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; Return of the Maryland troops, 27 September 1776, from

[9] Shipley pension; U.S. Federal Census, 1850, Mt. Vernon, Ward 3, Knox County, Ohio; Ruth Shipley on FindAGrave.

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