Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Humphrey Spencer
MSA SC 3520-18146


Humphrey Spencer enlisted as a private in the Fourth Independent Company on February 2, 1776 under Captain James Hindman. [1]

Hindman’s company originally played a role in the Maryland Council of Safety’s plan to protect the Chesapeake Bay from potential British invasions. Colonel William Smallwood’s Maryland battalion of nine companies were stationed in Baltimore and Annapolis while the independent companies were divided between the Eastern and Western shores. While centered at Oxford in Talbot County in the summer of 1776, Hindman’s company received orders to march to New York to reinforce the Continental Army for a British invasion. The independent companies, including the Fourth Independent, arrived by mid-August 1776. [2]

On August 27, 1776, American forces faced British troops at the Battle of Brooklyn (also known as the Battle of Long Island), the first full-scale engagement of the war. Under heavy fire, the American troops attempted to retreat through Gowanus Creek, suffering severe losses in the process. To hold the British at bay, the remaining Marylanders who hadn’t crossed the creek yet mounted a series of charges. The Maryland troops delayed the British long enough for the rest of the Continental Army to escape. Despite the loss of 256 men who were killed or captured, the bravery and sacrifice of the Maryland troops earned them the title of the "Maryland 400." [3]

Spencer and the Fourth Independent were spared the worst of the fighting, taking only minimal losses. Hindman defended his company against allegations of non-participation, and blamed their orders for preventing them from taking a more active role: "I have had the vanity to think the company I have had the honor to command have behaved themselves as well as in the service, notwithstanding the dark insinuations that have been thrown out to their prejudice." [4]

Following the battle of Brooklyn, the Fourth Independent fought at the Battle of White Plains, a continuation of the retreat from New York and an American loss. Spencer also witnessed victories at the battles of Trenton and Princeton in the winter of 1776-1777. 

At the beginning of 1777, the issue of expiring enlistments came to call. Despite seeing combat in four battles and suffering the privations of an ill-supplied army, Spencer reenlisted for a three year service term in the Second Maryland Regiment. [5] He was placed in the company of Archibald Anderson, his former lieutenant. [6]

Congress had required Maryland to raise eight new regiments as part of the force of 88 regiments of the Continental establishment. To fill this, soldiers were recruited from the nine companies of Smallwood’s battalion and the independent companies. The Fourth Independent combined with the other independent companies to form the Second Maryland Regiment commanded by Colonel Thomas Price. [7]

During 1777-1778, the British and American troops vied for control over the American capital at Philadelphia. As part of the American campaign, Spencer fought with the Second Regiment at the battles of Brandywine (September 1777) and Germantown (October 1777), both American losses, and the limited victory at the Battle of Monmouth (June 1778). [8]

Spencer saw little action in 1779, as the American and British forces were locked in a stalemate. In January 1780, Spencer was promoted to corporal. [9] As a corporal, Spencer was a disciplinarian within the company and forwarded the commands and desires of the line officers. [10]

Spencer was promoted again in May 1780, this time to sergeant. Spencer continued to serve until 1783. In the summer of 1780, Spencer joined the Marylanders who were sent to the Carolinas to counter the British front in the south. On August 16, 1780, the Americans were defeated at Battle of Camden, losing around 600 men. [11] Spencer survived the battle and went on to serve until 1783. Sometime that year, Spencer died of unknown causes and nothing else is known about his life. [12]

Cassy Sottile, Explore America Research Intern, 2019


[1] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 24.

[2] Mark Andrew Tacyn, “To the End: The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution,” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 34-45.

[3] Return of the Maryland troops, 13 September 1776, Revolutionary War Rolls, NARA M246, folder 35, p. 85. From

[4] Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, July 7: December 31, 1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 12, p. 346.

[5] Spencer, along with several of his comrades from the Fourth Independent, were enlisted in the Fifth Maryland Regiment under Captain William Frazier, another former lieutenant. This is likely the result of a double enlistment, which was common. Spencer probably never served in the Fifth Maryland Regiment. "List of Bounty, Subsistence, and Pay due," 10 May 1777, Maryland State Papers, Red Books, vol. 16, no. 99, MdHR 4580 [MSA S989-24, 01/06/04/11]; Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 289.

[6] Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, from

[7] Tacyn, 104.

[8] John Dwight Kilbourne, A Short History of the Maryland Line in the Continental Army, (Baltimore, The Society of the Cincinnati of Maryland, 1992), p. 17-26.

[9] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 161; Compiled Service Records, NARA M811. From

[10] Tacyn, 152.

[11] Tacyn, 216-225.

[12] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 356.

Return to Humphrey Spencer's Introductory Page

This web site is presented for reference purposes under the doctrine of fair use. When this material is used, in whole or in part, proper citation and credit must be attributed to the Maryland State Archives. PLEASE NOTE: The site may contain material from other sources which may be under copyright. Rights assessment, and full originating source citation, is the responsibility of the user.

Tell Us What You Think About the Maryland State Archives Website!

[ Archives' Home Page  ||  Maryland Manual On-Line  ||  Reference & Research
||  Search the Archives   ||  Education & Outreach  ||  Archives of Maryland Online ]

Governor     General Assembly    Judiciary     Maryland.Gov

© Copyright  Friday, 11-Oct-2019 10:26:50 EDT Maryland State Archives