Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

John Hopkins
MSA SC 3520-18181

Biography:

John Hopkins was born on January 1, 1747 in Somerset County, Maryland to William and Sinah Hopkins. He was the eldest among his siblings Sarah, Stephen, and Alice.[1] On February 2, 1776, at the age of twenty-nine, Hopkins enlisted in the Fourth Independent Company of Maryland Troops.[2] In July of 1776, the Fourth was one of many companies sent to join the Continental Army in New York in preparation for a major British attack. On August 27, 1776, this attack, later known as the Battle of Brooklyn, arrived.

The battle was a disaster for the Continental Army. It was quickly outflanked in the course of the battle and soldiers were forced to retreat by swimming through Gowanus Creek under relentless enemy fire. The entire Continental Army and George Washington himself faced imminent destruction as a result. They were spared, however, by the courage of a group of soldiers who came to be known as the Maryland 400. In the midst of the frantic retreat, the Maryland 400 launched a daring counterattack and held off the British long enough for Washington and his army to escape annihilation. Two hundred and fifty-six Maryland soldiers were either killed or captured in the process. 

Hopkins survived the ordeal at Brooklyn and risked his life for his country again at the battles of White Plains, Trenton, and Princeton. Despite witnessing four gruesome battles and experiencing the privations of an ill-supplied army, Hopkins decided to re-enlist in early 1777.[3] The independent companies of Maryland then combined to form the Second Maryland Regiment. In the fall of 1777, Hopkins fought at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown. During the following summer, Hopkins fought at the Battle of Monmouth. At some point during his military service, Hopkins was promoted to corporal.[4]

Hopkins was discharged from the Continental Army on January 10, 1780.[5] A few months later, though, Hopkins was back in the service of his country. He joined the Somerset County militia in the summer of 1780.[6] As a member of the militia, Hopkins may have reinforced the Continental Army in some engagements of the Southern Campaign. 

After the colonies won their independence, Hopkins returned home to Somerset County and married Leah Dickerson on November 7, 1787.[7] Hopkins became a planter and acquired a considerable amount of land in Somerset County. By 1804, he owned at least one hundred acres north of Quantico Creek in a tract called First Choice and part of a tract called Harrisses Lot.[8]

The details regarding the latter part of Hopkins’s life are a mystery. He cannot be found in any records following his land transactions in 1804.

Jillian Curran, Explore America Research Intern, 2019

Notes:

[1] A Book of the Births Marriages and Deaths of the Persons of Coventry Parrish 1747, Somerset County, 24.

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

[3] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 118. Hopkins is also recorded as enlisting in the Fifth Maryland Regiment on December 10, 1776. This enlistment, however, is most likely the result of a double enlistment, which were common. Hopkins never actually served in the Fifth Maryland Regiment.

[4] Muster Rolls of John Hopkins, National Archives, Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, p. 1-10, from fold3.com 

[5] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 118.

[6] S. Eugene Clements and F. Edward Wright, The Maryland Militia in the Revolutionary War, (Maryland, Family Line Publications, 1987), 216.

[7] Somerset County, Chancery Papers, no. 2409.

[8] Somerset County Court, Land Records, Deed, John Hopkins from Henry Dashiell, 1803, Liber O, p. 222 [MSA CE 102-39]; Somerset County Court, Land Records, Deed, John Hopkins from John Nelson, 1804, Liber P, p. 115 [MSA CE 102-40].

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