Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

William Tarr
MSA SC 3520-18201

Biography:

William Tarr enlisted as a private in the Fourth Independent Company on February 2, 1776 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 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 Americans 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]

Tarr 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. Tarr 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. After seeing combat in four battles and suffering the privations of an ill-supplied army, Tarr did not reenlist. No further information is known about Tarr’s life. A William Tarr owned land in Worcester County, but he cannot be conclusively linked to the Fourth Independent Company.

Cassy Sottile, 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), 34-45.

[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.

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