Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Paul Richards (1755-1821)
MSA SC 3520-18089

Biography:

Paul Richards signed on to fight in the Revolutionary War in early 1776, enlisting as a private in the First Maryland Regiment when he was about twenty years old. The regiment was Maryland's first contingent of full-time, professional troops, raised to fulfill the state's quota of soldiers for the Continental Army. It is not known which company he joined in the regiment, but available information suggests it was the Fifth, commanded by Captain Nathaniel Ramsey, which was based in Baltimore. The Fifth Company trained in the city during the first half of 1776, alongside several other companies from the regiment; the rest of the men were stationed in Annapolis. [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, including the Fifth Company, was able to cross the creek, and escape the battle. However, the rest 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 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]

Richards survived the battle unscathed, as did most of the soldiers in his company, which lost only a handful of men. In late October, he was with the Marylanders when they fought at the Battle of White Plains, where they again took the brunt of the fighting. Although the battle was a partial American victory, the British soon pushed the Continental Army out of New York and put on the run through New Jersey. Not until late that winter did they secure revitalizing victories at Trenton and Princeton. In December, the Marylanders' enlistments came to an end, and while many men reenlisted, Richards returned home to Maryland. [3]

After about a year later, Richards returned to the army, enlisting in the Third Maryland Regiment on January 1, 1778, agreeing to serve until the end of the war. He fought at the Battle of Monmouth that June, a victory for the American army. The next year, 1779, saw little action as the war settled into stalemate. In 1780, Richards were part of the American army that was ordered to march to the south, to help counter British operations in that region. [4]

They arrived in South Carolina that summer, and on August 16, 1780, at the first battle of the campaign, the Americans suffered a terrible defeat at the Battle of Camden. The battle ended in a chaotic American retreat, and the Marylanders took particularly heavy casualties, losing some 600 men--about one-third of their troops. During the fighting, Richards "was severally wounded in the head." Despite his injuries, he stayed in the army, probably returning to active duty by early 1781. Richards was finally discharged in November 1783, when the army was demobilized. [5]

Richards's activities immediately after the war are not definitely known. He was mustered out of the army in Annapolis, and married a woman named Mary Gordon in July 1783, probably while on furlough from the army awaiting his formal discharge. It is possible that he lived in Annapolis in the 1780s and 1790s, before settling in Baltimore around 1800. [6]

The family lived in Fells Point, where Richards was part of the thriving business and artisan community. He sold groceries and specialized as a confectionary baker. He and Mary had at least three children, who were born in the years shortly after they had settled in Baltimore: Eveline, born around 1800, Augustine, born about two years later, and Eliza, a year younger. Although the family was likely never rich, they were probably able to live in relative comfort and enjoy at least a degree of financial security. However, as Richards grew older, the family's circumstances began to decline. In 1818, when he was sixty-two years old, Richards applied for a Revolutionary soldiers' pension from the federal government, because while he was "by profession a confectionary baker, [he had] neither capital or health to enable him to carry on the business, being in such ill health as to disqualify him from any kind of business." [7]

Richards was awarded a pension of eight dollars per month, but his poor health continued, and he died on November 10, 1821. After the death of the family's main provider, Paul's widow Mary was granted a pension by the Maryland General Assembly, paying her half her husband's military salary. Mary received the payments until her death, around 1827.

Owen Lourie, 2019

Notes:

[1] In his application for a veteran's pension, filed in 1818, Richards said he fought under Captain Joseph Marbury, which was an error. Marbury was his captain later in the war, but in 1776 Marbury was the quartermaster for the First Maryland Regiment. Perhaps Richards recalled serving in the same unit as Marbury in 1776, and serving in his company in 1778, and conflated the experiences. The supposition that Richards was a member of the Fifth Company in 1776 is based on several factors. It was recruited from Baltimore, where Richards lived after the war. In addition, only a portion of the company's muster roll has survived, which means that only about half of its soldiers can be identified. Richards could thus easily have been a member of the company without appearing on any enlistment records. Pension of Paul Richard, National Archives and Records Administration, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, S 35048, from Fold3.com.

[2] Return of the Maryland troops, 13 September 1776, Revolutionary War Rolls, NARA M246, folder 35, p. 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] Richards pension.

[4] Richards pension; Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 157; Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, from Fold3.com.

[5] Tacyn, 216-225; Richards pension; Discharge, Paul Richards, 15 November 1783, issued 8 July 1784, Maryland State Papers, Series A, box 53, no. 136, MdHR 6636-53-136 [MSA S1004-75-11659, 1/7/3/60]; Journal and Correspondence of the Council of Maryland, 1780-1781, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 45, p. 291.

[6] Richards pension; Anne Arundel County Court, Marriage Licenses, 1777-1813, p. 20 [MSA C113-1, 1/1/11/27]; U.S. Federal Census, 1800, Baltimore City, Maryland. There was a Paul Richards in Annapolis, who may have been the same person, but that cannot be determined completely. U.S. Federal Census, 1790, Anne Arundel County, Maryland.

[7] U.S. Federal Census, 1810, Ward 7, Baltimore City, Maryland; U.S. Federal Census, 1820, Ward 1, Baltimore City, Maryland; Cornelius William Stafford, The Baltimore Directory, 1803 (Baltimore, 1803), 109; William Fry, The Baltimore Directory for the year 1810 (Baltimore, 1810), 152; Edward Matchett, The Baltimore Directory and Register, for the year 1816 (Baltimore, 1816), 137; C. Keenan, The Baltimore Directory for 1822 & '23 (Baltimore, 1822), 232; Richards pension

[8] Richards pension; Maryland General Assembly, Session Laws, 1822, Resolution 61, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 627, p. 147; Maryland General Assembly, Session Laws, 1827, Resolution 50, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 474, p. 297.

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