Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Richard Hill
MSA SC 3520-17835


Richard Hill enlisted as a private in the Fifth Independent Company, led by Captain John Allen Thomas, in early 1776. The company was raised in St. Mary's County, and was one of seven independent companies that the Maryland Council of Safety formed across the state in early 1776, initially intended to guard the Chesapeake Bay's coastline from a feared British invasion. By that summer, however, the independent companies were dispatched to New York, to help reinforce the Continental Army as it prepared to defend the city from the British. In total, twelve companies of Maryland troops traveled to New York that July and August: nine companies that comprised the First Maryland Regiment, commanded by Colonel William Smallwood, and the Fourth, Fifth, and Seventh Independent companies, the only three that were ready to travel then. [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. During the retreat, the Maryland troops fought their way towards the American fortifications, but were blocked by the swampy Gowanus Creek. While half the regiment was able to cross the creek, the rest were unable to do so before they were attacked by the British. Facing down a much larger, better-trained force, the Marylanders mounted a series of daring charges. These men, now known as the "Maryland 400," held the British at bay long enough for the rest of the Continental Army to escape, at the cost of many lives. In all, 256 Marylanders were killed or captured by the British; some companies lost as much as 80 percent of their men. Hill and his company likely saw little combat. Instead, the Fifth Independent Company did not cross the East River from Manhattan to Brooklyn until after fighting had begun, and did not venture into the field of battle. They did, however, perform valuable service assisting the Americans retreating through the Gowanus Marsh. [2]

During the fall of 1776, Hill and the rest of the Marylanders fought a series of battles in New York: Harlem Heights (September), White Plains (October), and Fort Washington (November). While the Americans had some tactical successes at these engagements, by November they had been pushed out of New York entirely, though they secured key revitalizing victories at Trenton and Princeton late that winter. At the end of the year, when the enlistments of the soldiers expired, the independent companies were disbanded. However, Hill and many of the other men in the independents reenlisted in the newly-formed Second Maryland Regiment. Hill was made a corporal when he rejoined, a reflection of his status as an experienced soldier. [3]

Hill signed on for a three-year term, and saw a great deal of combat during that time. The Marylanders fought in the disastrous raid on Staten Island in August 1777, and the major battles of the Philadelphia Campaign, Brandywine (September 1777) and Germantown (October 1777), both significant defeats. The Marylanders also fought at the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778. The next year, 1779, saw little major combat as the war slowed to a stalemate. In January 1780, Hill's enlistment came to an end, and he left the army. [4]

After his discharge, Hill returned to Maryland, settling in St. Mary's County. Little is know about his life, although he likely married Sarah King in January 1783, and he probably died sometime after 1800. [5]

In 1831, two women named Lydia Brown and Ann Hill, possibly Richard's children, petitioned the Maryland General Assembly for a grant of fifty acres in Alleganey County, land which Hill ordinarily would have received as a bounty for his service during the war. They got the land, but it is not clear that they ever legally claimed it. [6]

Owen Lourie, 2018


[1] Account of money paid sundry soldiers by Gen. Smallwood, paid to Richard Hill, late 1776/early 1777, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, box 6, no. 7-1, MdHR 19970-6-7/1 [MSA S997-6-23, 1/7/3/11]; Mark Andrew Tacyn "'To the End:' The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution" (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 33-45.

[2] Return of the Maryland troops, 13 September 1776, Revolutionary War Rolls, NARA M246, folder 35, p. 85, from; Tacyn, 48-73; Reiman Steuart, The Maryland Line (The Society of the Cincinnati, 1971), 154-155. 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] Account of money paid sundry soldiers; Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 119; Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, from

[4] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 119; Compiled Service Record.

[5] U.S. Federal Census, 1790, St. Mary's County, Maryland; U.S. Federal Census, 1800, St. Mary's County, Maryland; Gaius Marcus Brumbaugh, Maryland Records, Colonial, Revolutionary, County and Church (reprint, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986), 536.

[6] Maryland General Assembly, Session Laws, 1831, Resolution 31. Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 213, p. 475; Maryland General Assembly, Session Laws, 1833, Resolution 81. Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 210, p. 330.

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