Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

John Bowen
MSA SC 3520-17786

Biography:

On January 24, 1776, John Bowen (or Boen) enlisted as a private in the First Maryland Regiment’s First Company commanded by Captain John Hoskins Stone. [1]

The First Company was primarily recruited from Charles County, Maryland, then traveled to Annapolis to train and prepare for combat. At some point during his time in Annapolis, Bowen became sick and was hospitalized. However, he was probably was healthy enough during the summer of 1776 to travel north with the First Regiment and rendezvous with General George Washington outside of New York. There, the Maryland Line experienced the bitter taste of war for the first time. [2]  

The Battle of Brooklyn (or Battle of Long Island) erupted on August 27, 1776 and was the first major battle that followed the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The British troops, totaling nearly 15,000 men, and the British Royal Navy arrived with the intention of ending the war with this battle. Meanwhile, General Washington sought to defend New York. Ultimately, between General Washington’s smaller army and the poor intelligence he referenced when preparing for the British invasion, the Battle of Brooklyn ended in a Continental retreat and a crippling loss.[3]

The Maryland 400 earned their heroic title during the peak of the conflict in Brooklyn. The First Maryland Regiment split into two separate wings, stretching in a continuous line from the Gowanus Road to the Continental artillery stationed upon a ridge. Under the command of Major Mordecai Gist, the men fought off the first wave of advancing British troops. The British eventually retreated a few hundred feet, giving the impression that the Continental Army had successfully stopped the major attack. Shortly after the first wave of British troops receded, the Marylanders were shocked as another larger group of British soldiers sneaked up on their rear and threatened to surround them. Quickly, the Americans' confidence turned into fear, their line broke, and the companies retreated. [4]

During the retreat, the Marylanders found themselves unfortunately positioned between enemy fire and the Gowanus Creek. About half of the Marylanders, including the First Company, was able to cross the creek in order to reach the safety of the American camp. The rest of the Maryland troops had no option but to turn and face the enemy, ensuring that their fellow countrymen could reach safety. That day, 256 of the First Marylanders that stood on the Gowanus Road were killed or made prisoners. Following the Battle of Brooklyn, 77 percent of the men who fought with the First Company were accounted for. [5]

Bowen’s fate the Battle of Brooklyn is uncertain, and nothing else is known about his life.

-Elizabeth Cassibry, Explore America Research Intern, 2018

Notes:

[1] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 6.

[2] Mark Andrew Tacyn. “‘To the End:’ The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 21.

[3] Tacyn, 23-30

[4] Tacyn, 30-60.

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

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