Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

William Beaver
MSA SC 3520-18217

Biography:

Prior to the Revolutionary War, William Beaver lived "near the Talbot [County] Court-house" on Maryland's Eastern Shore. He had already married a woman by the time he enlisted as a private in the Fourth Independent Company on February 2, 1776. [1]

Commanded by Captain James Hindman, the Fourth Independent Company played an important 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. [2]

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.” [3]

The Fourth Independent Company later fought at the Battle of White Plains in October 1776. Beaver 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. Beaver's enlistment ended in the winter of 1776-1777. [4]

William Beaver enlisted for a three year term in Captain John Eccleston's company in Maryland's Second Regiment in 1777. Captain Archibald Anderson, Beaver's former first lieutenant, incorrectly accused Beaver of deserting around this time along with several other former soldiers of the Fourth Independent Company. Between 1777 and 1780, Beaver's company remained in the northern theater and participated in combat at locations including Brandywine. Beaver fell ill and arrived at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania's hospital on September 14, 1777, shortly after the Battle of Brandywine. His sickness finally passed in the spring of 1778, allowing him to return to active duty. Beaver continued to serve as a private until his discharge from the military on January 10, 1780. [5]

Despite being "well known in [Talbot] County" according to Anderson, not much is known about William Beaver's life after the Revolutionary War. He returned to Easton, Maryland, where he owned two horses and six cattle but no land. [6]

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

Notes:

[1] “Forty Dollars Reward,” Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), 18 June 1777; Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 24. The name of William Beaver's wife is unfortunately unknown.

[2] 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.

[3] Tacyn, 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.

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

[5] Pennsylvania Gazette; Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, pp. 150, 293; Service Record of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, National Archives, NARA M881, from Fold3.com.

[6] Pennsylvania Gazette; General Assembly, House of Delegates, Assessment Record, 1783, Talbot County, Third Haven Hundred, p. 7 [MSA S1161-10-5, 1/4/5/53].

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