Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Jacob N. Clark (1754-1841)
MSA SC 3520-17740

Biography:

Jacob N. Clark enlisted in January 1776 as a private in the Eighth Company of the First Maryland Regiment, led by Captain Samuel Smith.  Born on October 13, 1754, he was only twenty-one years old when he joined the fight for his country. The Eighth Company was recruited primarily from Baltimore, where it trained with two other Maryland companies that spring and summer. In July, the First Maryland Regiment was ordered to travel to New York in anticipation of a British attack.  During the march, four men deserted from the Eighth Company, the first of many who would desert that summer. [1]

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.  After a mild initial attack, the British covertly maneuvered to the rear, where they attacked and outflanked the unexpecting Americans. About half of the First Maryland Regiment became trapped by the swampy Gowanus Creek, and turned back to fight off the British long enough for the rest of the Americans to safely escape.  

Casualties were extreme, but so was the heroism that earned them the honorable name of the “Maryland 400.”  Fortunately, the Eighth Company escaped, losing approximately six out of 70 or so men. Maryland losses totalled 256 men killed or captured, but without the Maryland 400, even more would have been lost.  Despite their courageous actions, the battle was a defeat for the Americans. [2]

Clark survived the battle, and continued on with the Eighth Company. The Maryland Regiment helped secure America’s first victory at the Battle of Harlem Heights in September 1776 where they were praised for their “gallant behavior” and “splendid spirit and animation.”  They fought again at the Battle of White Plains in October where, despite the Maryland troops’ immense improvement, there was no clear victory, and the First Maryland suffered greatly. [3]

The Marylanders remained in New York until being forced out by the British and retreating through New Jersey. During that time, Clark was present at the attack of Fort Washington, a harsh blow to the Revolutionary cause. Within the next few weeks, Clark reenlisted, this time joining the Fourth Maryland Regiment. [4]

He likely fought in the revitalizing victories at Trenton  and Princeton in the winter of 1776-1777. The Continental Army’s luck soon ran out when they fought at the Battle of Staten Island in August 1777, and the bloody Battle of Brandywine a month later.  Shortly after, in October, the Maryland Line fought in the Battle of Germantown, where Clark was wounded in the forehead. All three battles were British victories, although John Adams considered the Battle of Germantown to be the “most decisive proof that America would finally succeed.” [5]

It is likely that Clark was unable to fight for some time due to his head injury.  He was sent with a lieutenant named Jacob Norris to Harford County, Maryland, during the winter of 1777-1778 to help recruit.  He returned to the Maryland Line, rejoining the First Maryland Regiment, possibly as a sergeant, in time to fight at the Battle of Monmouth in June, 1778. [6]

In 1779, the war came to a stalemate.  The next year, the Marylanders traveled south, preparing to counter the new front that the British had opened in the Carolinas. Their next major battle occurred in August 1780 at Camden, South Carolina, but it is unclear if Clark was with his unit at this time.  When he later applied for a pension, he could not recall the army’s movements, and did not mention the southern campaign. [7]

Clark became ill some time in 1781, and while his unit moved to Virginia, he stayed behind with several other sick soldiers. Upon his recovery, he requested to join his troops in Virginia, but instead was sent with about fifty other men to New York to watch the movements of the British.  During their march to New York, they were “taken prisoners, by a party of...about four or five hundred men, British and Hessian.” That night, Clark “attempted to make his escape from the enemy and after proceeding about three or four miles, [he] was retaken, and received a severe wound in [his] right side from a bayonet.” The next day, he was moved to a prison ship outside of New York, where he was kept for the duration of the war. [8]

Upon his release, Clark was put on a ship and sent to Baltimore.  He was poor, “naked and destitute.” He lived in the center of Baltimore City for several years, working as a drayman, driving carts to deliver heavy loads. [9]

In 1802 he moved to Jefferson County, Ohio. In the 1830s, he applied for and received a Federal veteran’s pension.  This proved to be difficult: Clark never received discharge papers, likely because he was still being held prisoner when the war ended. However, he did ultimately succeed and collected a yearly pension of $36.67 for the rest of his life. [10]

On August 27, 1841, Jacob N. Clark died at the age of eighty-six years old, and is buried at the Rehoboth Pioneer Cemetery in Jefferson County, Ohio. [11]

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

Notes:

[1] Pension of Jacob Clark, National Archives and Records Administration, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, S 15379, from fold3.com.  Clark’s pension is the only record of his military service.

[2] Return of the Maryland troops, 27 September 1776, from Fold3.com; 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] "Extract of a letter from Head-Quarters to a gentleman in Annapolis: Shall give the enemy a genteel drubbing in case the Yankees will fight," September 17, 1776, American Archives Online, Series 5, Vol. 2, Pg. 370; Henry P. Johnston, The Campaign of 1776 Around New York and Brooklyn ( New York: Da Capo Press, 1971), 256.

[4] Pension of Jacob Clark.

[5] John Adams to James Lovell, 26 July 1778, Founders Online, National Archives; Pension of Jacob Clark.

[6] Pension of Jacob Clark.

[7] Pension of Jacob Clark.

[8] Pension of Jacob Clark.

[9] William Thompson and James Walker, The Baltimore Town and Fell’s Point Directory (Baltimore: Fechin & Co., 1796), 15; Baltimore City Archives, Baltimore City Property Tax Records, Baltimore City General Property Tax Books, 1801-1803, part 1, p. 79 [BRG4-1-3, BCA 81-2]; Pension of Jacob Clark.

[10] Baltimore City Archives, Baltimore City Property Tax Records, Baltimore City General Property Tax Books, 1801-1803, part 1, p. 79 [BRG4-1-3, BCA 81-2]; Pension of Jacob Clark.

[11] “SGT Jacob Nicholas Clark,” Find A Grave, 16 April 2018.

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