Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

William Pitts
MSA SC 3520-18206


William Pitts enlisted as a private in Maryland's Fourth Independent Company on January 25, 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. William Pitts 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 ended in the winter of 1776-1777, Pitts reenlisted in the Fifth Maryland Regiment as a sergeant under Captain William Frazier on December 10, 1776. Pitts became embroiled in an enlistment controversy in the spring of 1777 along with Benjamin Worthington. Frazier sent Pitts and Worthington out as recruiting sergeants on Maryland's Eastern Shore to fill required quotas. After recruiting two servants, Captain Archibald Anderson claimed that the servants belonged in his company and paid them personally. Anderson further argued that Pitts and Worthington belonged to his company as well, although Anderson speculated that "no doubt had [they] been very useful to [Frazier] in recruiting." Frazier offered to personally compensate Anderson for the servants, but Anderson refused and sent the servants "over the Bay with his other Recruits." Pitts's superiors resolved the conflict by sending most of the men involved in the controversy to the Second Regiment. Pitts officially joined Anderson's company in the Second Regiment on September 15, 1777. The controversy demonstrates the intense competition surrounding recruiting practices in the Revolutionary War. [4]

Pitts was promoted to sergeant major when he transferred to the Second Regiment. As the sergeant major of his unit, Pitts acted as "the head of the non-commissioned officers" for the whole regiment. Sergeant majors kept rosters and assigned troops to details to perform specific tasks. Sergeant majors also acted as assistants to the adjutant, performing other administrative roles. Between 1777 and 1780, Pitts’s company remained in the northern theater and participated in combat at locations including Brandywine and Germantown. Pitts continued to serve as a sergeant major in the Second Regiment until his discharge in November of 1780. [5]

Following the war, Pitts likely returned to Dorchester County, where he owned sixty-six acres of land. Along with John and Thomas Pitts, William Pitts owned portions of land called Pitts Desire and Pitts Inclosure. Details surrounding his latter life are sparse, including information regarding his death. [6]

-James Schmitt, Maryland Society Sons of the American Revolution Research Fellow, 2019


[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] Tacyn, pp. 120-126; David Hackett Fischer, Washington’s Crossing (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 111.

[4] Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 150, 287; Affidavit of Edward Hindman, 12 May 1777, Maryland State Papers, Red Books, vol. 16, no. 114, MdHR 4580 [MSA S989-24, 1/6/4/11]; Affidavit of William Frazier, 13 May 1777, Maryland State Papers, Red Books, vol. 16, no. 150, MdHR 4580 [MSA S989-24, 1/6/4/11]; Journal and Correspondence of the State Council, 1777-1778, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 16, p. 257; Compiled Service Record of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, National Archives, NARA M881, from It should be noted that the listing for Pitts in Archives of Maryland Online, page 150 actually references two different William Pitts, both of whom served in the Second Maryland Regiment.

[5] Frederick Steuben, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, Part I (Philadelphia: Styner and Cist, 1792), pp. 137-140; Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 150; Compiled Service Records, NARA M881, from

[6] General Assembly, House of Delegates, Assessment Record, 1783, Dorchester County, Middle District Hundred, pp. 12, 39 [MSA S1161-5-5, 1/4/5/48]; U.S. Federal Census, 1800, Dorchester County.

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