Maryland Loyalists Battalion

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Maryland Loyalists Battalion
Active 1777–1783
Allegiance Britain
Type Infantry
Engagements American Revolutionary War
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Lt. Col. James Chalmers

The First Battalion of Maryland Loyalists (as they were commissioned by the British army and referred to in Capt. Caleb Jones' Orderly Book) was a provincial regiment made up of colonial Americans, who remained loyal to Britain during the American Revolutionary War.

Background[edit]

As with other colonies in British North America, Maryland was bitterly divided by the American Revolution. Members of the existing political elite tended to make reluctant revolutionaries; men such as Benedict Swingate Calvert, illegitimate son of the ruling Calvert family and a Judge of the Land Office, remained Loyal to the British Crown, and would suffer the consequences. Like other loyalists, Calvert would find himself on the losing side of the Revolutionary War, which would effectively end his political career. The Annapolis Convention of 1774 to 1776 would see the old Maryland elite overthrown – men like Calvert, Governor Eden and George Steuart were all to lose their political power, and in many cases their land and wealth. After the war, Loyalists would have to pay triple taxes and were forced to sign the loyalty oath. Many had their lands and property confiscated.[1]

Formation of the First Battalion of Maryland Loyalists[edit]

The First Battalion of Maryland Loyalists was composed primarily of colonists from the Eastern Shore of Maryland; it was commissioned in British-held Philadelphia in Mid-October, 1777 as "The First Battalion of Maryland Loyalists." The unit's commander, Lt. Col. James Chalmers of Newtown, Maryland, (today known as Chestertown, Maryland), was an active loyalist writer.

The regiment saw limited action before being shipped off to Pensacola, Florida, to fight the Spanish in the fall of 1778. A number of soldiers of the regiment died of smallpox upon arrival. Their garrison was subsequently defeated by the Spanish. After a brief time as prisoners in Cuba, the Maryland Loyalists were eventually sent back to New York City, the command center for British forces in the war.

After the war, the members of the regiment, along with many loyalists from various colonies, were transported by the British Government as refugees to Nova Scotia. In the fall of 1783, a ship carrying members of the First Battalion of Maryland Loyalists was shipwrecked off the coast of Nova Scotia. The survivors made up the first citizens of a new province: New Brunswick.

The Maryland Loyalist Battalion is also a Revolutionary War reenacting unit based in Baltimore, Maryland.

Notable members[edit]

William Augustus Bowles, (whom some source think was also the pirate "Billy Bowlegs") was an ensign in the Maryland Loyalists Battalion.

James Chalmers author of a political pamphlet from 1776 entitled Plain Truth a rebuttal of Thomas Paine's popularist pamphlet Common Sense.

One of the more dramatic persons to serve with the unit was a young ensign named William Augustus Bowles who would become a leader of the Creek Indians in the 1790s. Part of the confusion with William Augustus Bowles and piracy may stem from the British Army rank of "ensign", which Americans attribute to the modern naval rank. Thus William Augustus Bowles, having a name some think was bastardized to "Billy Bowles" and then into "Billy Bowlegs. Billy Bowlegs was in fact a Seminole Chief in Florida, and was born five years after the death of William Augustus Bowles. There is no connection for either of them to piracy.

One of the captains in the Maryland Loyalists was an attorney from Annapolis named Philip Barton Key. He was the uncle of Francis Scott Key who would later pen the words to The Star Spangled Banner.

See also[edit]

Reference/Suggested reading[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Yentsch p.270