Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

William Smith
MSA SC 3520-18199

Biography:

William Smith enlisted in the Fourth Independent Company of Maryland troops on January 29, 1776.[1] The Fourth Independent was placed at Oxford in Talbot County under the command of Captain James Hindman.[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 complete disaster for the Continental Army. It was quickly outflanked and soldiers were forced to retreat by swimming through Gowanus Creek under heavy 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 as a result of their bravery. 

Smith survived the rout at Brooklyn and faced the British again at the Battle of White Plains, where Maryland troops continued to cover the Continental Army’s retreat. Smith’s company was also present at the battles of Trenton and Princeton in the winter of 1776-1777. There were many men named William Smith in the Maryland Line and it is difficult to distinguish them from one another. As a result, it is tough to say whether or not Smith reenlisted in early 1777 when his enlistment expired. 

The details of Smith’s life following his time in the Fourth Independent Company are also unknown. The several men named William Smith living in Maryland during this time period cannot be confidently distinguished. 

Jillian Curran, Explore America 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.

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