William Smallwood (1732 – February 14, 1792) was an American planter, soldier and politician from Charles County, Maryland. He served in the American Revolutionary War, rising to the rank of major general. He was serving as the fourth Governor of Maryland when the state adopted the United States Constitution.
William was born in 1732 to planter Bayne Smallwood (1711–1768) and Priscilla Heaberd Smallwood (born 1730). He had six siblings: Lucy Heabard Smallwood (born circa 1734), Elizabeth F. Smallwood (born circa 1736), Margaret F. Stoddert (born circa 1738, married Walter Stoddert circa 1760), Heabard Smallwood (born circa 1740), Priscilla Courts (born circa 1742, married John Courts circa 1760), and Eleanor Smallwood. His sister Eleanor and brother Hebard served with him later in the Revolutionary War. His parents sent the boys to England, for their education at Eton. His great-grandfather was James Smallwood, who immigrated in 1664 and became a member of the Maryland Assembly in 1692. James' son Bayne (1685–1709) followed him later in the Assembly. Bayne (1711–1775) and his sister Hester were the great-great-grandchildren of Maryland Governor William Stone; Hester (Smallwood) Smith's daughter-in-law Sarah (Butler) Stone was the grandmother of James Butler Bonham and Milledge Luke Bonham. A first cousin of James and Milledge Bonham was Senator Matthew Butler
When the American Revolutionary War began, he was appointed a colonel of the 1st Maryland Regiment in 1776. He led the regiment in the New York and New Jersey campaign, where the regiment served with distinction. On December 21, 1777, he commanded 1,500 Delaware and Maryland troops at the Continental Army Encampment Site to prevent occupation of Wilmington by the British and to protect the flour mills on the Brandywine. For his role at the Battle of White Plains, in which he was twice wounded, Smallwood was promoted to brigadier general. He continued to serve under George Washington in the Philadelphia campaign, where his regiment again distinguished itself at Germantown. Thereafter, he quartered at the Foulke house, also occupied by the family of Sally Wister.
In 1780 he was a part of General Horatio Gates' army that was routed at Camden, South Carolina; his brigade was among the formations that held their ground, garnering Smallwood a promotion to major general. Smallwood's accounts of the battle and criticisms of Gates' behavior before and during the battle may have contributed to the Congressional inquiries into the debacle. Opposed to the hiring and promotion of foreigners, Smallwood objected to working under Baron von Steuben. He spent the remainder of the war in Maryland. He served as the first President-General of the Maryland Society of the Cincinnati in 1783.
Smallwood was elected to Congress in 1785. He was elected Governor of Maryland before he could take up the Congressional seat and chose the governorship. In 1787 he convened the state's convention that in 1788 adopted the United States Constitution.
Smallwood never married. The 1790 census shows that he held 56 slaves and a yearly tobacco crop of 3000 pounds. When he died in 1792 his estate, known as Mattawoman, including his home the Retreat, passed to his sister Eleanor. By one account she had married into the Stoddard family, which was related to the Smallwoods. (e.g. Smallwood's nephew William Trueman Stoddard was orphaned at age 9 and raised by his maternal grandfather, Bayne Smallwood). In another account, Eleanor married Col. William Grayson of Virginia, and in 1827 the Mattawoman estate passed to Grayson's son William.
Local historical signs in Calvert, Maryland, note that General Smallwood occupied the "East Nottingham Friends House" at the intersections of Calvert Road and Brick Meetinghouse Road (near the intersection of 272 and 273) about 6 miles east of Rising Sun, Maryland. During his occupation of the building in 1778, Gen. Smallwood used the building as a hospital. Some of the soldiers who died in the building were buried in the graveyard directly outside. General Smallwood frequented the "Cross Keys Inn" (built in 1774), at the time a several-room inn and bar. This building stands as a private residence at the intersection of Calvert Road and Cross Keys Road directly down the hill. His restored plantation home, Smallwood's Retreat, is located at Smallwood State Park. Smallwood Church Road leads from the State Park toward Old Durham Church, where he was a vestryman.
Several paintings still exist of Smallwood. One hangs in the Old Senate Chamber in the Maryland State House in Annapolis, Maryland. The portrait of George Washington resigning within the Maryland State House, which hangs in the US Capitol Rotanda, features Smallwood.
Smallwood's name was honored in places and organizations.
- The Baltimore chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is called the General William Smallwood Chapter (established 1907).
- The General Smallwood Middle School in Indian Head is another namesake.
- In Anne Arundel County, Maryland, a coastal fortification developed in the late 1890s was named Fort Smallwood was named in his honor and the location is now known as Fort Smallwood Park. The road running from Fort Smallwood Park through Pasadena, Maryland and into Baltimore City is named Fort Smallwood Road.
- Maryland State Archives Online. William Smallwood by Charles Willson Peale
- "Inventory of Maryland Monuments by County".
- Maryland Genealogies: A Consolidation of Articles from the Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol II. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 1980. p. 354. ISBN 0-8063-0886-9.
- Historical Society of Charles County Genealogical Files, Southern Maryland Studies Center, College of Southern Maryland, La Plata, MD
- Warfield, J.D., The Founders of Anne Arundel and Howard County Maryland, Kohn And Pollock, p. 237 ff. (1905).
- Wister, Sarah, The journal and occasional writings of Sarah Wister, Derounian-Stodola, K.Z., ed., Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press (1987)
- Maryland Genealogies, pp. 325 and 326
- ,Maryland Genealogies,p 332
- Wilstach, Paul, Potomac Landings, Doubleday, Garden City, NJ, p.106 (1920).
- Joan M. Norton (January 1972). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Continental Army Encampment Site" (PDF).
- Sally Wister, ‘‘Sally Wister's Journal: A True Narrative: Being a Quaker Maiden's Account of Her Experiences with Officers of the Continental Army, 1777-1779’’. Applewood Books, Bedford, Massachusetts, 1994. Entry for Oct. 19, 1777.
- Seattle Art Museum, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, Interactive Portrait, number 7
- Klapthor, M., and P. Brown, The history of Charles County, Maryland: written in its tercentenary year of 1958 LaPlata, MD, Charles County Tercentenary, Inc., p. 89 (1958).
- Morgan, George, The Life of James Monroe, Small, Maynard and Company, Boston, p. 13 (1921).
- "Revolutionary War Pension Application of William Beckwith".
- "National Register of Historic Places: East Nottingham Meetinghouse". Maryland Historical Trust.
- "William Smallwood Portrait". Maryland State Archives Online.
- "William Smallwood Collection". Maryland Historical Society.
- "Fort Smallwood Park". Anne Arundel County. Retrieved 2014-03-20.
- biographic notes at Maryland's Smallwood State Park
- notes for the Smallwood Retreat House
- A good account of Smallwood's Revolutionary War Campaign and Governorship from J.D. Warfield (1905).
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