Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Thomas Shannon
MSA SC 3520-18058

Biography:

Thomas Shannon enlisted as a private in the Third Company of the First Maryland Regiment in March 1776. The company was part of Maryland's first contingent of full-time, professional troops, raised to fulfill the state's quota of soldiers for the Continental Army. The Third Company was commanded by Captain Barton Lucas, a veteran of the French and Indian War. Most of the company's men enlisted in Bladensburg, Maryland, and many of them were natives of Prince George's County. The company spent the first part of 1776 stationed in Annapolis, along with most of the other companies of the regiment (the rest were in Baltimore), where it trained and helped guard the city. [1]

In July, the regiment received orders to march to New York to defend the city from an impending British attack. The Marylanders arrived in New York in early August, where they joined with the rest of the Continental Army, commanded by General George Washington. 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. Half the regiment was able to cross the creek, and escape the battle. However, the rest of the men, including the Third Company, 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, which held the British at bay for some time, at the cost of many lives, before being overrun. They took enormous causalities, with some companies losing nearly 80 percent of their men, but their actions delayed the British long enough for the rest of the Continental Army to escape. In all, the First Maryland lost 256 men, killed or taken prisoner. [2]

The Third Company suffered greatly, and more than 60 percent of its men were killed or captured, and at least twenty two were taken prisoner by the British. Lucas was sick during the battle and unable to fight with his men, and was greatly affected by the high number of casualties they took. One of his soldiers recalled that "Captain Barton Lucas became deranged in consequence of losing his company...Lucas was sent home" later that fall. [3]

Shannon's fate at the battle is not known, and no other information is available about his life.

Owen Lourie, 2018

Notes:

1. Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution. Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, 10; Pension of John Hughes. National Archives, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land-Warrant Application Files, S 5954, from Fold3.com; Pension of George Reed. National Archives, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land-Warrant Application Files, S 30669, from Fold3.com.

2. Return of the Maryland troops, 13 September 1776, Revolutionary War Rolls, NARA M246, folder 35, 85, 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), 48-73. 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. Return of the Maryland troops, 13 September 1776; Hughes pension.  

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