Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Charles Cooper
MSA SC 3520-18197

Biography:

Charles Cooper enlisted as a private on January 25, 1776 in the Fourth Independent Company 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]

Cooper 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. Cooper 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. 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. Despite seeing combat in four battles and suffering the privations of an ill-supplied army, Cooper reenlisted for a three year service term in the Second Maryland Regiment commanded by Colonel Thomas Price. [5] He was placed in the company of Archibald Anderson, his former lieutenant. [6]

During 1777-1778, the British and American troops vied for control over the American capital at Philadelphia. In late August of 1777, the American forces launched a raid on Staten Island. Hoping to disrupt the British along the Atlantic coast, the Americans planned the attack under the assumption that the British forces on the island were primarily American Loyalist militia, who were presumed to be no match for the experienced American soldiers. About 1,000 Americans crossed to the island, including many Marylanders.

While the mission began well, the Americans soon encountered British regulars on the island, turning the tide of the battle. The Marylanders took the brunt of the losses, losing about 200 men who were killed or captured. [7] Cooper was among the soldiers captured at Staten Island on August 22, 1777. [8] He was exchanged one year later in August 1778. [9]

After returning to his regiment, Cooper saw little combat in the rest of 1778 and 1779, as the American and British forces were locked in a stalemate. On March 25, 1780, Cooper was taken prisoner again, this time not at a battle. [10] His fate after his capture is unknown. If Cooper was released, it would not have been until the end of the war when the British released their prisoners.

Cassy Sottile, Explore American Research Intern, 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.

[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 Fold3.com.

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

[5] Cooper, 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 were common. Anderson even accused Cooper of deserting the Second Maryland Regiment in 1777. Cooper probably never served in the Fifth Maryland Regiment. “List of Bounty, Subsistence, and Pay due,” 10 May 1776, Maryland State Papers, Red Books, 16:99 [MSA S989-24, 01/06/04/011]; Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 276; "Forty Dollars Reward," Pennsylvania Journal, 2 June 1777.

[6] Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881, from Fold3.com.

[7] Patrick O'Donnell, Washington's Immortals: The Untold Story of an Elite Regiment Who Changed the Course of the Revolution (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2016), 137-140; Reiman Steuart, The Maryland Line (The Society of the Cincinnati, 1971), 157.

[8] Compiled Service Records, NARA M881, from Fold3.com.

[9] Compiled Service Records, NARA M881, from Fold3.com.

[10] Compiled Service Records, NARA M881, from Fold3.com.

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