Maryland 400

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A wooden house, or possibly a mill, is surrounded by battle. The smoke and haze of battle obscures much of the background, but formations of red-coated soldiers are visible through it. Small figures, some clearly uniformed, others not obviously so, fight in the foreground.
Lord Stirling leading an attack against the British in order to enable the retreat of other troops at the Battle of Long Island, 1776. Painting by Alonzo Chappel, 1858.

The Maryland 400 were members of the 1st Maryland Regiment who repeatedly charged a numerically superior British force during the Battle of Long Island during the Revolutionary War, sustaining heavy casualties, but allowing General Washington to successfully evacuate the bulk of his troops to Manhattan. This action is commemorated in Maryland's nickname, the "Old Line State." A monument in Brooklyn and multiple plaques were put up in the memory of this regiment and the fallen soldiers.

Mustering and engagement

The 115th Infantry claims lineage back to the earliest militia units formed to protect the frontier of western Maryland. The birthdate of the unit, 14 June 1775, is also the birthdate of the United States Army. The first two companies to leave Maryland were rifle companies, assembled in Frederick in the summer of 1775 under the command of Captains Cresap and Price; they were organized in response to the Continental Congress' call to active duty. They left Frederick in August and marched 551 miles (887 km) in 21 days to report to General Washington in September to support Washington's efforts to drive the British out of Boston. Later, Maryland militia companies, armed with older, surplus British muskets and bayonets, were formed and sent north to support Washington in New York City.

At the Battle of Long Island, the 1st Maryland Regiment was under the command of Colonel William Smallwood.[1] This unit anchored the right against British General Grant's diversionary attack.[2]

Stirling ordered all of his troops, except a contingent of Maryland troops under the command of Major Mordecai Gist, to cross the creek. This group of Maryland troops became known to history as the Maryland 400 although they numbered about 260-270 men. Stirling and Gist led the troops in a rear-guard action against the overwhelming numbers of British troops which surpassed 2,000 troops supported by two cannon.[3] Stirling and Gist led the Marylanders in two attacks against the British who were in fixed positions in and in front of the Vecthe-Cortelyou House.[4] After the last assault the remaining troops retreated across the Gowanus Creek. Some of the men who tried to cross the marsh were bogged down in the mud under musket fire and others who could not swim were captured. Stirling was surrounded and, unwilling to surrender to the British, broke through the British lines to von Heister's Hessians and surrendered to them. More than 100 men were captured and 256 killed, practically wiping the regiment out in the assaults in front of the Old Stone House.[1] Fewer than a dozen made it back to the American lines.[5] Washington, watching from a redoubt on nearby Cobble Hill (intersection of today's Court Street and Atlantic Avenue), was to have said, "Good God, what brave fellows I must this day lose!".[3]

Interment

British interment

The 256 dead troops of the Maryland 400 were buried by the British in a mass grave on a hillock on farmer Adrian Van Brunt's land on the outskirts of the marsh. This mass grave is believed to be around the southwest corner of what is today 3rd Ave. between 7th and 9th Streets.[6] [7] In 6 trenches,[8] the military burial ditches had a North/South orientation so that the bodies would be "facing east".[9]

Location

In the 1890s, the entire site was covered by 12 feet of fill. Construction was done over the site and it became a coal yard and after that a paint factory.[10] In 1956 Dr. Nicholas Ryan, a Brooklyn Heights physician, is quoted stating that in the 1890s his father, a building contractor, had found "the bones of some thirty bodies in regular, or military order," in the course of digging cellars for apartment buildings on the site at the northeast corner of Seventh Street and Third Avenue.[11]

However, in 1957, the U.S. National Park Service did a historical site survey and a report to congress identified a "plaque commemorating what was thought to be a mass grave on Third Avenue between Seventh and Eighth Streets." A limited archeological dig by Columbia University archaeology graduate students turned up no remains. A determination was made at the time to not preserve the site.[12]

In 1998, the Archaeological Research Center at Brooklyn College was called in by the Landmarks Preservation Commission to examine whether the Marylanders might be buried beneath the southwest corner of Seventh Street and Third Avenue. Nothing was found. Again in 2008, Third Avenue between Seventh and Eighth Street was visited by archaeologist Dr. Joan E. Geismar in conjunction with the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. No remains were found but she did find a buried commemorative slab.

The current location is now believed to be underneath an auto repair shop parking lot in Park Slope, Brooklyn.[13] A group of historians are currently seeking to purchase the property to again mount a search of the site for the graves.[14]

Regiment history

175th Infantry Regiment Coat of Arms

The Maryland 400 represented the cream of the Maryland Line, which had a reputation of being among the best of the Continental Army. Because of the long service of the high quality regiments, George Washington, according to tradition, referred to the Maryland units as his "Old Line," giving Maryland one of its nicknames as "The Old Line State."[15]

The U.S. 115th Infantry Regiment was a Maryland Army National Guard regiment that traced its roots back to the American Revolutionary War, including the men of the Maryland 400, although its official U.S. Army lineage begins in 1881. The units to which the 115th Regiment claims lineage served in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, but the 115th itself was only credited with service in World War I, World War II, and the Global War on Terror. Prior to the reorganization into the 58th Brigade Combat Team, the 1–115th was part of the Third Brigade, 29th Infantry Division (Light). In 2006, the 115th was consolidated (merged) with the 175th Infantry Regiment. As a result of this consolidation, it no longer exists as a separate regiment.

The bayonet on the coat of arms of the 175th Infantry Regiment is representative of its introduction to American arms at the Battle of Long Island 1776, by the Maryland Line and in the use of which it became famed throughout the War. It is also symbolic of the Maryland 400.

Memorials

Monument in Prospect Park
Maryland Governor Schaefer at the rededication, August 27, 1991

Maryland 400 Monument

Construction

Early photo of the Maryland Monument

Originally envisioned by Stanford White, the same creator of the Prospect Park Panthers (1898) as well as the Horse Tamers (1899). The New York Times described the monument as a "monolith of Maryland granite with bronze tablets on the four sides".[16] The monument was built for $3,000, all of which donated by an organization by the name of "the Maryland Society of the Sons of the American Revolution."[17] The monument is currently enclosed by a wrought-iron fence, the monument is 27 feet tall and faces southwest. It contains a 12-foot polished granite Corinthian pillar with a marble orb on top and backed by a semicircular stone wall. There is a marble pedestal which was donated by the Brooklyn Parks Department.

Inscriptions

On the east face of the monument's square base is an inscription honoring the participating Maryland 400 soldiers. The inscription reads: "In honor of the Maryland 400 who on this battlefield on August 27, 1776 saved the American army." The west face of the mable pedestal has another inscription which is a comment attributed to Washington as he watched the Marylanders hurl themselves at the enemy it reads: "Good God! What brave fellows I must this day lose."

Dedication

On August 27th 1895 (the 119th anniversary), the Monument was dedicated in Prospect Park, near the Terrace Bridge, on the slopes of Lookout Hill. U.S. troops, patriotic societies, the 14th Regiment of the New York State National Guard, and members of the Grand Army of the Republic participated in the unveiling ceremony.[18]

Additions and reestoration

The distinctive wrought-iron basket weave fencing surrounding the monument was added at a later date to protect the monument.

The monument has gone through a number of cycles of being vandalized, ignored and restored.[19] It was first restored in 1935–36 under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration. Additional work occurred in 1969. Due to decay and neglect, raising $35,000 in state and private money,[17] the monument was repaired by the Monuments Commission and rededicated on August 27, 1991.[20] Restoring it involved cleaning and fixing broken, stained and defaced pieces of marble and granite, replacing missing brass letters and refurbishing rusted parts of the iron fence. In 2008, the Citywide Monuments Conservation Program again restored the Maryland Monument, recreating missing bronze letters.[21] Then again in August 2009 work was done. The restoration project included replication of all missing inscription lettering in bronze or synthetic replacements, cleaning and consolidation of the stonework, refinishing of the bronze capital, resetting of the granite paving stones, and repairs and repainting of the ornamental fence.[22]

Additional plaques

In 1993 a bronze marker was placed outside the door of American Legion Post 1636, at 193 9th St in Gowanus, Brooklyn, close to the place where the men fell. It states: "In Honored Memory of Maryland's 400. Forever Remembered."

Unknown as to year, a tablet to commemorate the Maryland 400 was placed in the sidewalk of 5th Avenue. The bronze tablet is four and one-half by five feet.[23] It has since been incorporated in the north gable of the reconstructed house.[24] It reads: "Here on the 27th of August, 1776, Two hundred and fifty out of four hundred brave Maryland soldiers, under the command of Lord STIRLING, were killed in combat with British troops under CORNWALLIS."[25]

There is a 1947 New York State Historical sign above the front door of the American Legion Post 1636 in Brooklyn: "Maryland Heroes, Here lie buried 256 Maryland Soldiers who fell in the Battle of Brooklyn, Aug. 27, 1776."[26][27]

In 1897 a plaque was placed close to the actual location of the graves, directly in front of the Wildhack Coal Yard. The plaque was covered over around 1915 when Third Avenue was widened.[28] It was not, however, removed until 2008 when the former Red Devil Paint Factory was torn down and the sidewalk in front of it torn up. It read: "Burial place of ye – Maryland Soldiers who – Fell in ye – Combat at ye – Cortelyou House in ye– Battle of Long Island on ye – 27th day of August, 1776."[27]

See also

References

Notes
  1. ^ a b Gallagher, p. 130
  2. ^ Johnston, p. 166
  3. ^ a b McCullough 2006, p. 177.
  4. ^ Schecter, p. 150
  5. ^ Lengel 2005, p. 146.
  6. ^ http://gaz.jrshelby.com/md-basemap-2012-balloon.pdf
  7. ^ McCullough 2006, p. 178.
  8. ^ "2012_Americas Cemetery_Marylander Site Study_2010 Google Aerial of suspected 3rd Ave and 8th st Marylanders Burial Ground - Can Conservancy Balloon Mapping do Better ?". 
  9. ^ "z2012_Americas Cemetery_Marylander Site Study_1916 Belcher Hyde Map of Wildhack coal yard_1916". 
  10. ^ "Md. soldiers' sacrifice remembered Brooklyn: The 256 Marylanders who lost their lives in a 1776 New York battle rest in one of the most forlorn military gravesites in the nation. Members of an American Legion post fight to keep their memory alive". 
  11. ^ U.S. National Park Service Historical Orientation Report for Archaeological Investigation, Marylanders’ Burial Site, Brooklyn, New York (Appendix)
  12. ^ http://depthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/library/archives/findaid/Kelly/SerKelly.html
  13. ^ "bklyn-genealogy-info.com". 
  14. ^ http://content.ebscohost.com/pdf27_28/pdf/2013/MHY/01Jan13/82754706.pdf?T=P&P=AN&K=82754706&S=R&D=aph&EbscoContent=dGJyMNLr40Seqa44zdnyOLCmr0qep7ZSsKq4Sq6WxWXS&ContentCustomer=dGJyMPGssk2xqLJNuePfgeyx44Hy
  15. ^ Polk, Ryan (2005). "Holding the Line: The Origin of the Old Line State". Maryland State Archives. Retrieved 2017-11-18. 
  16. ^ "A Memorial to Brave Marylanders". 
  17. ^ a b "Shabby memorial gets face lift". 
  18. ^ "Prospect Park Highlights - Maryland Monument : NYC Parks". 
  19. ^ City Secrets New York City edited by Robert Kahn, p. 431
  20. ^ "Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs". 
  21. ^ "Maryland Historical Trust". 
  22. ^ "Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs". 
  23. ^ Fraser, Georgia (1 January 1909). "The stone house of Gowanus: scene of the battle of Long Island". Witter and Kintner – via Google Books. 
  24. ^ "Google Maps". 
  25. ^ "bklyn-genealogy-info.com". 
  26. ^ "Md. soldiers' sacrifice remembered Brooklyn: The 256 Marylanders who lost their lives in a 1776 New York battle rest in one of the most forlorn military gravesites in the nation. Members of an American Legion post fight to keep their memory alive". 
  27. ^ a b http://gaz.jrshelby.com/Furman%20-%20Marylander%20Burial%20(c)%20+.pdf
  28. ^ "Marylander Mass Grave, Brooklyn". 
Bibliography

O'Donnell, Patrick K. (2016), Washington's Immortals: The Untold Story of an Elite Regiment Who Changed the Course of the Revolution, Atlantic Monthly Press, ISBN 0-802124593

External links

  • The Wild Geese Today Honoring Those who saved Washington's Army
  • Website on Battle of Long Island
  • "The Old Stone House" museum
  • "Maryland Monument" at Historical Marker Database
  • "A Precious Hour in American History - The Maryland 400 at Long Island" - From State of Maryland Veterans Web Site
  • "Finding the Maryland 400" a Maryland State Archives research project
  • Maryland 400 at Find a grave
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