Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Robert Ferguson
MSA SC 3520-18155

Biography:

Robert Ferguson enlisted as a private in Maryland's Fourth Independent Company on February 19, 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. Ferguson 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 Ferguson enlisted in the Second Maryland Regiment as a private on April 18, 1777. Ferguson served under Captain Archibald Anderson, who had previously been Ferguson's first lieutenant in Hindman's company. Ferguson's regiment remained in the war's northern theater between 1777 and 1779, participating in battles at Staten Island and Germantown. Ferguson served as part of William Smallwood’s guard in September of 1778. Ferguson also fell ill during leave in Maryland between December of 1777 and on February of 1778. Ferguson returned to duty shortly after, and continued to serve in the Second Regiment until his discharge on April 1, 1779. [4]

Robert Ferguson's post-war life cannot be fully determined. Multiple individuals named Robert Ferguson who lived in Maryland during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries cannot be connected to the Fourth Independent Company.

-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. 108; Tacyn, pp. 98-109, 186-215; Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army during the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, from Fold3.com.

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