Maryland Line

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Maryland Line

MARYLAND LINE. The Maryland Line, despite its significant combat performances from Long Island in 1776 through the southern campaigns of Horatio Gates and Nathanael Greene, is one of the least understood of the state lines in the Revolutionary War. It started on 1 January 1776 as full-time state troops authorized by the Maryland Convention—a single regiment plus seven independent infantry companies (there were also two artillery companies). The Continental rifle companies raised in 1775 were organized under the supervision of the Frederick County Committee of Safety, not the Convention. In the summer of 1776 the Congress created two Extra Continental Regiments—the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment and the German Battalion—and Maryland furnished half of each of these. The riflemen, the German Battalion, and the artillery companies furnished by Maryland to the war effort were not formally a part of the Maryland Line. The state also agreed to send four volunteer militia battalions to the Flying Camp (a flying camp was a unit specifically intended to operate swiftly in response to a threat; it was the era's equivalent of today's "mobile strike force").

The Maryland Line in the Continental army appeared on 17 August 1776, when Congress assigned a quota of two infantry regiments to Maryland and the state troops changed their status without creating a second command and staff element for the independent companies. The expanded quota assigned for 1777 called for eight regiments. Careful groundwork by a visiting committee on 10 December 1776 assigned the officers who were in charge of raising the companies called for by the quota. The old regiment reenlisted as the First Maryland Regiment and the independent companies as the Second; the Third through Seventh Regiments were built around the rest of the veterans of the 1776 campaign. The cadre for the Third Regiment came from some of the regulars, but the others drew from the four flying camp battalions. Maryland refused to form an eighth regiment, arguing that its contributions to the two extra Continental Regiments counted as a whole additional regiment. This issue remained a bone of contention until 1781.

The Maryland Line served as a two-brigade division (with one outside regiment filling the hole left by the "missing" Eighth) and marched south to reinforce Charleston in 1780 with the Delaware Regiment. The division did not arrive before the city fell, but formed the heart of the replacement southern army of Major General Horatio Gates. On 15 July 1780 at Deep River, North Carolina, Major General Johann De Kalb issued division orders that temporarily reorganized the division for better combat efficiency into a single brigade of four full battalions, and sent the surplus officers home to recruit, planning to resume the official configuration when the replacements arrived. The First and Seventh Regiments formed the First Battalion, led by Lieutenant Colonel Peter Adams. The Second Maryland and the Delaware Regiment formed the Second Battalion, under Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Ford. The Third and Fifth Regiments formed the Third Battalion, under Colonel John Gunby. The Fourth and Sixth Regiments formed the Fourth Battalion under Colonel Williams.

At Camden the brigade fought brilliantly, but suffered heavy losses. This led to a second provisional reorganization at Hillsboro, North Carolina, on 3 September 1780. The survivors now formed a single, full-strength regiment commanded by Colonel Otho Holland Williams and deploying as two four-company battalions plus a light company. Officially the Maryland Line dropped to five regiments on 1 January 1781, but in reality the two battalions were reconstituted as the First and Second Maryland Regiments, which fought under Major General Nathaniel Greene. When replacements arrived in February 1781, these troops were used to nominally reconstitute the Fifth Regiment. In practice they formed a company that served in combat as attachments to the First and Second Regiments. The Third and Fourth Regiments reorganized later in the year in Maryland, and served in the Yorktown campaign before heading south. In 1782 and 1783, as the British evacuated the south, Greene sent the Marylanders home in stages, with the last of the Line disbanding on 15 November 1783.

SEE ALSO Gates, Horatio; Greene, Nathanael; Southern Campaigns of Nathanael Greene.


Alexander, Arthur J. "How Maryland Tried to Raise Her Continental Quota." Maryland Historical Magazine 37 (September 1942): 184-196.

Balch, Thomas, ed. Papers Relating Chiefly to the Maryland Line During the Revolution. Philadelphia: T. K. and P. G. Collins for The Seventy-Six Society, 1857.

Batt, Richard John. "The Maryland Continentals, 1780–1781." Ph.D. dissertation, Tulane University, 1974.

Papenfuse, Edward C., and Gregory A. Stiverson. "General Smallwood's Recruits: The Peacetime Career of the Revolutionary Private." William and Mary Quarterly, 3d series, 30 (January 1973): 117-132.

Steuart, Rieman. A History of the Maryland Line in the Revolutionary War, 1775–1783. Towson, Md.: Society of the Cincinnati of Maryland, 1969.

Tacyn, Mark Andrew. "'To the End': The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park, 1999.

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Maryland Line