Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

John Enright
MSA SC 3520-17836

Biography:

John Enright enlisted as a private in the Third Company of the First Maryland Regiment, led by Captain Barton Lucas, on January 27, 1776. [1]

The Third Company was recruited primarily from Prince George’s County, Maryland, but traveled to Annapolis in the spring of 1776 to train for several months. That July, the company received orders to march north, making it to Philadelphia by mid-July and to New York a month later.  It was positioned with the rest of the First Maryland Regiment about one mile outside of New York, with orders to prepare for battle.

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. The  American troops were severely outnumbered and surrounded when they were ordered to retreat. Half the regiment was able to escape the battle, however the other half, including most of the Third Company, was trapped by the swampy Gowanus Creek.  They turned back to face the British, holding their position long enough for the rest of the Marylanders to return to safety. This daring stand earned them the honorable name of the “Maryland 400.” [2]

Despite the heroic actions of the Maryland 400, the battle was a defeat for the Americans, and the First Maryland Regiment suffered greatly. By the end of the battle, Maryland losses totalled 256 men killed or captured.  As for the Third Company, only 27 men, just 35 percent of the company, escaped death or captivity. Of the remaining men, at least an astonishing 22 men, or 29 percent, were taken prisoner. Sadly, the rest of the company remains unaccounted for.  On the day of the battle, Captain Lucas was sick and unable to lead his men. He "became deranged as a consequence of losing his company," and left the army not long after. [3]

Unlike many of his companions, it appears that Enright survived the battle and was not captured, and continued to fight.  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. Unfortunately, the First Maryland Regiment suffered greatly. [4]

John Enright survived these battles and reenlisted as a private in the First Maryland Regiment on December 10, 1776 when the Maryland Line was reorganized.  He likely participated in the revitalizing victories at Trenton  and Princeton in the winter of 1776-1777. [5]

Although it is unclear when, Enright was promoted to first sergeant “upon account of his good behavior.” In April 1777, he was transferred to a Matross Company, part of an artillery unit, as it was in dire need of a first sergeant. However, he did not remain in that role for very long. A few months later, Thomas Collins, another original member of Smallwood’s battalion who was now a member in the same matross company, was promoted to the role of first sergeant, while Enright was pushed to second sergeant.  Enright held the opinion that this change in rank was “not only arbitrary and irregular but also contrary to the established rules.” He wrote to the Governor of Maryland arguing that he should be “reinstated in his rank of first sergeant...or suffer him to go Northward in the Continental Army.” Whether this argument was persuasive enough is not recorded. [6]

Whatever the outcome of his petition, he was discharged from the army just five months later, in December 1777, “having lost the use of his left Arm which he is not likely soon if at all to recover.”  He likely returned home to Annapolis where his wife and children had relocated during John’s service. Unfortunately, there is no clear record of John Enright after his discharge, and no other information is known about him or his family.

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

Notes:

[1] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 9.

[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; "Extract of a letter from New-York," 1 September 1776, American Archives, series 5, vol. 2, 107-108.

[3] Return of the Maryland troops, 27 September 1776, from Fold3.com; Pension of John Hughes. National Archives, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land-Warrant Application Files, S 5954, from fold3.com.

[4] Henry P. Johnston, The Campaign of 1776 Around New York and Brooklyn (1878; Reprint, New York: Da Capo Press, 1971), 256.

[5] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 106.

[6] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 450; Request for Reinstatement as First Sergeant, c. 1777, Maryland State Papers, Series A, box 12, folder 87, MdHR 6636-12-87 [MSA S1004-14-2036, 01/07/03/03].

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