Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Robert Ellis
MSA SC 3520-18150

Biography:

Robert Ellis enlisted as a private in Maryland's Fourth Independent Company on January 23, 1776 under Captain James Hindman. Hindman’s company originally played a role in the Maryland Council of Safety's plan to protect the Chesapeake Bay from potential British invasions. At first stationed at Oxford in Talbot County, Hindman's company travelled to New York to reinforce the Continental Army in preparation for a British invasion. The Fourth Independent Company arrived in New York by mid-August 1776. [1]

On the morning of August 27, 1776, American forces faced British troops at the Battle of Brooklyn (otherwise known as the Battle of Long Island). While several companies engaged the British Army on the Gowanus Road and the nearby Gowanus Creek, taking severe losses in the process, the Fourth Independent Company suffered only three casualties. Hindman defended his actions during the battle to the Council of Safety, arguing that rumors referring to the Fourth Independent Company’s “very ill” behavior were unfounded. Hindman instead declared that “the company [he] had the honor to command...behaved themselves as well as in the service, notwithstanding the dark insinuations...thrown out to their prejudice.” [2]

The Fourth Independent Company later fought at the Battle of White Plains in October 1776. Robert Ellis survived the Battle of White Plains, despite heavy American losses. One Hessian volley alone wounded and killed ninety-two soldiers during the battle, and forty soldiers of the Maryland Line were killed, captured, or wounded in total. Despite a string of defeats in 1776, American victories at Trenton and Princeton revitalized the morale of the Continental Army and the Marylanders who served in the Fourth Independent Company. [3]

After his enlistment in the Fourth Independent Company ended in the winter of 1776-1777, Robert Ellis enlisted in the Second Maryland Regiment as a private on March 4, 1777. Ellis served under Captain Archibald Anderson, who had previously been Ellis's first lieutenant in Hindman's company. Ellis's regiment remained in the war's northern theater between 1777 and 1780, participating in battles at Staten Island and Germantown. Ellis fell ill a few times during his service, including in December of 1777 and on September 4, 1778. Ellis's service in the Maryland Line ended with his desertion for unknown reasons on April 14, 1779. No charges were brought against him. [4]

Robert Ellis does not appear in records after his military service, but his wife, Anne Ellis, appeared before the Maryland House of Delegates in November of 1806. Claiming to be from Talbot County, Anne Ellis argued that "as the wife of Robert Ellis, deceased," she had the right to make "a claim upon the state for his service as a soldier." Although she requested compensation, Anne Ellis does not appear in records after that. Although the House of Delegates did not approve her request, other Revolutionary War veterans and their widows received pensions from the state. [5]

-James Schmitt, Maryland Society Sons of the American Revolution Research Fellow, 2019

Notes:

[1] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 24; Mark Andrew Tacyn, “‘To the End:’ The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), pp. 33-34, 44-45.

[2] Tacyn, pp. 52-67; Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety July 7, 1776 to December 31, 1776, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 12, pp. 345-346.

[3] David Hackett Fischer, Washington’s Crossing (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 111.

[4] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 106; Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army during the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, from Fold3.com.

[5] Votes and Proceedings of the House of Delegates, 1806, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 554, p. 7.

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