In his new book, bestselling military historian Patrick K. O’Donnell turns his attention to a forgotten story of the American Revolution. Today, only a rusted metal sign memorializes 256 Maryland soldiers who fell during the Battle of Brooklyn in August 1776. The men were part of a legendary regiment whose heroic actions in that battle—and others in the years to come—helped determine the outcome of the war.
O’Donnell became curious about the men while on a walking tour of the Brooklyn neighborhood where the undiscovered remains of the soldiers still lie. Through his research, he uncovered the fascinating story of Major Mordecai Gist, who formed an independent company of men in Baltimore in 1774, when war clouds were gathering. The unit would become one of only a few that fought throughout the war, disbanding in November 1783. (Gist, who survived, named his sons Independent and States.)
O’Donnell gives a stirring account of the remarkable resilience and bravery shown by the Maryland soldiers. In the summer of 1776, British troops and warships sailed into New York’s harbors, set on invasion. Compared with the British, the American army was a ragtag affair.
General George Washington “faced a nearly impossible strategic situation,” O’Donnell notes. Although outmatched and outmaneuvered, the Marylanders proved to be stalwart and daring soldiers, helping to cover the Americans’ retreat and causing Washington to cry, “Good God! What brave fellows I must this day lose!”
While O’Donnell focuses on the Marylanders, his absorbing narrative takes readers into the larger story of the Revolutionary War itself. In the process, he makes a compelling case for honoring these forgotten heroes with more than a rusted sign.