Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Ignatius Gough
MSA SC 3520-18117

Biography:

Ignatius Gough enlisted as a private in the Fifth Independent Company, led by Captain John Allen Thomas, in February 1776. The company was raised in St. Mary's County, Maryland, where Gough lived. He was about twenty-three years old when he enlisted, and he had at least two older sisters, named Ann and Susan. [1]

Gough's company 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. [2]

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. Gough 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. [3]

During the fall of 1776, Gough and the rest of the Marylanders fought a series of battles in New York: Harlem Heights in September, White Plains in October, and Fort Washington in 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.

Gough returned to Maryland when his enlistment ended, and a few months later, in May 1777, he volunteered to serve in a Maryland artillery company commanded by Captain William Campbell. Gough was one of at least six former members of the Fifth Independent who joined together. The company served in Annapolis, "in the fort service," as Gough put it, helping to garrison the forts guarding the city. He served in that company until sometime in 1778, when "he was discharged on account of a bodily disease." Gough did recover, and later in the war he was part of the St. Mary's County militia, and "he was frequently out on militia duty...Guarding the Coast when [British] vessels would Land, to prevent the enemy from committing depredations on the citizens." [4]

Sometime after his discharge, Gough left Maryland and settled in Kentucky. Gough was in Kentucky by 1807, but it is not known exactly when he arrived. His two sisters also moved to Kentucky, which attracted many Marylanders, especially from Southern Maryland, like Gough. He lived in Union and Breckenridge counties, probably as a farmer. [5]

In the 1830s, when Gough was close to eighty, he applied for a pension from the federal government as a veteran of the Revolutionary War. He had gone blind, and was "very old & infirm." In fact, he had needed financial assistance for some time, but was not able to easily submit his application. As he noted. he "resides in the extreme East end of the county, say about 20 miles from the courthouse & is therefore unable to appear at the courthouse to make his Declaration in Open Court," as was required to apply for a pension. Gough was awarded a pension of $80 per year in 1833, a relatively modest sum, but one which undoubtedly made a big difference in his life. He received the pension until his death, although when that occurred is not known. Gough may have had a wife and children, but nothing is known about their identities. [6]

Owen Lourie, 2019

Notes:

1. Pension of Ignatius Gough, National Archives and Records Administration, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, S 1205, from Fold3.com.

2. Mark Andrew Tacyn "'To the End:' The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution" (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 33-45.

3. 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.

4. Gough pension; Enrollment in William Campbell's artillery company, February-May 1777, Maryland State Papers, Series A, box 2, no. 141, MdHR 6636-2-141 [MSA S1004-2-1313, 1/7/3/25].

5. "A List of Letters," Candid Review (Bardstown, KY), 7 October 1807; "Louisville, Kentucky," Philadelphia Gazette, 18 October 1811; "Department of War, Pension Office," Frankfort Argus (Kentucky), 29 January 1819.

6. Gough pension.  

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