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John McClain

Death unknown
Burial Unknown
Memorial ID 181599158 · View Source
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Biography written by Owen Lourie for the Finding the Maryland 400 project ( Used here in hopes of connecting with existing ancestors.

John McClain enlisted as a private in the Sixth Company of the First Maryland Regiment on January 23, 1776, volunteering to fight in the Revolutionary War's earliest days. The regiment was Maryland's first contingent of full-time, professional soldiers, raised to be part of the Continental Army. Most of the company was raised on the Eastern Shore, an area which was largely not supportive of the Revolution. That spring, the company traveled across the Chesapeake Bay to Annapolis, joining the five other companies stationed there; three additional companies were in Baltimore. [1]

In July, the regiment received orders to march to New York, in order to defend the city from an impending British attack. The Marylanders arrived in New York in early August, where they joined with the rest of the Continental Army, commanded by General George Washington. On August 27, 1776, the Americans faced the British Army at the Battle of Brooklyn (sometimes called the Battle of Long Island), the first full-scale engagement of the war. The battle was a rout: the British were able to sneak around the American lines, and the outflanked Americans fled in disarray.

During the retreat, the Maryland troops fought their way towards the American fortifications, but were blocked by the swampy Gowanus Creek. Half the regiment was able to cross the creek, and escape the battle. However, the rest, including McClain's company, were unable to do so before they were attacked by the British. Facing down a much larger, better-trained force, this group of soldiers, today called the "Maryland 400," mounted a series of daring charges, which held the British at bay for some time, at the cost of many lives, before being overrun. They took enormous causalities, with some companies losing losing nearly 80 percent of their men, but their actions delayed the British long enough for the rest of the Continental Army to escape. In all, the First Maryland lost 256 men, killed or taken prisoner. [2]

It is not certain what McClain's fate at the battle was, in part becasue there were two men with that name in the Sixth Company. One of them, known as John McClain of Harford County, was taken prisoner by the British. There is no information about whether the other McClain was a prisoner as well. Likewise, one of the two men reenlisted as a corporal in the First Maryland Regiment in December 1776, serving in that role until the end of 1779. Which John McClain that was, however, is not known. Several others served in the Maryland Line during the war as well. [3]

What became of this soldier after his military service is unknown, as there were many people with the same name.


1. Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution. Archives of Maryland Online,vol. 18, p. 14; Pension of John McFaddon. National Archives, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land-Warrant Application Files, S5755, from

2. Return of the Maryland troops, 27 September 1776, from; Mark Andrew Tacyn "'To the End:' The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution" (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 48-73. For more on the experience of the Marylanders at the Battle of Brooklyn, see "In Their Own Words," on the Maryland State Archives research blog, Finding the Maryland 400.

3. Pay Roll of Prisoners Taken on Long Island, 14 February 1777, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, box 19, no. 2, MdHR 19970-19-2 [MSA S997-19-2, 01/07/03/015]; Archives of Maryland, vol. 18, p. 137, which lists him as an "OS," or "Old Soldier," indicating that he had served from the beginning of the war; p. 227; p. 393; Corp. John McClain, First Maryland Regiment, Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, National Archives, NARA M881, from


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  • Created by: historyhermann
  • Added: 20 Jul 2017
  • Find A Grave Memorial 181599158
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John McClain (unknown–unknown), Find A Grave Memorial no. 181599158, ; Maintained by historyhermann (contributor 49112035) Unknown.