Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Barton Yates
MSA SC 3520-17853

Biography:

Barton Yates enlisted as a private in Maryland's Fifth Independent Company, led by Captain John Allen Thomas, in early 1776. The company was raised in St. Mary's County, Maryland, where Yates was from, 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. Yates and his company likely saw little combat. Instead, the Fifth Independent Company did not cross the East River from Manhattan to Brooklyn until after the 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, 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.

It is likely that Yates returned home to Maryland at that time. However, very little is known about his military career, and it is not even certain that he survived the campaign. No record of the Fifth Independent Company's enlistments has survived, and the only record of Yates's service comes from a deposition his younger brother gave in the 1830s. Zechariah Yates testified in support of Richard Pierceall's application for a Federal veteran's pension, and recalled that Pierceall and Barton had served in the Fifth Independent Company together in 1776. While Barton Yates did not serve in the army after 1776, nothing else is know about his life. [3]

Owen Lourie, 2018

Sources:

[1] Pension of Richard Pierceall, National Archives and Records Administration, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, S 1245, 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), 33-45.

[2] Return of the Maryland troops, 13 September 1776, Revolutionary War Rolls, NARA M246, folder 35, p. 85, from Fold3.com; 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] Pierceall pension.

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