Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Brian Hannagan
MSA SC 3520-17759


Brian Hannagan enlisted as a private in the Eighth Company of the First Maryland Regiment on February 2, 1776. The regiment was Maryland's first contingent of full-time, professional soldiers raised to be part of the Continental Army. The Eighth Company, commanded by Captain Samuel Smith, formed in Baltimore in early 1776, and it trained there that spring and summer. Two other companies from the regiment were located in Baltimore as well, while the rest were stationed in Annapolis. In July, the regiment was ordered to march north to New York, to protect the city from invasion by the British. The Eighth Company lost four men who deserted along the march, a problem which plagued the regiment that summer. [1]

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, including the Eighth, was able to cross the creek and escape the battle. However, the rest 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 long enough for the rest of the Continental Army to escape, at the cost of many lives. The Marylanders lost a total of 256 men killed or captured. Because the Eighth was able to escape the battle early, it lost only about six men. [2]

Hannagan survived the battle, and fought on with the Marylanders through the rest 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. In December, Hannagan's enlistment expired, and like many of his comrades, he opted to stay in the army, signing on for a three-year term in the First Maryland Regiment. [3]

In his second stint in the army, Hannagan joined the Marylanders at the Battle of Staten Island, a disastrous defeat where they took heavy casualties. That fall, the focus of the war shifted to Pennsylvania, as the British sought to capture the American capital at Philadelphia. In September, the Americans fought the British at the Battle of Brandywine, where they were soundly defeated. In the course of the battle, Hannagan was taken prisoner. He was held by the British for the next few months, before being released, either on parole or in a prisoner exchange sometime in 1777. No record of his life can be found after that time. [4]

Owen Lourie, 2018


[1] Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, from; "Eight Pounds Reward." Philadelphia Evening Post, 10 August 1776; William Sands to John and Ann Sands, 14 August 1776, Maryland State Archives, Special Collections, Dowsett Collection of Sands Family Papers [MSA SC 2095-1-18, 00/20/05/28].

[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; Return of the Maryland troops, 13 September 1776, Revolutionary War Rolls, NARA M246, folder 35, p. 85, from 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.

[3] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 116.

[4] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, pps. 116, 120. Paroled soldiers were permitted to return home, but could not rejoin the army until formally exchanged.

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