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William Dawson

Cecil County, Maryland, USA
Death 11 Jul 1824
Wilmington, New Castle County, Delaware, USA
Burial Unknown
Memorial ID 181599424 · View Source
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Biography I wrote when I was working for the Finding the Maryland 400 project ( Used here in hopes of connecting with existing ancestors.

Dawson was born in the 1750s, possibly in Cecil County, Maryland. [1] On January 11, 1776, he enlisted as a private in Edward Veazey's Seventh Independent Company "on Bohemia Manor" in Cecil County. [2] He was five feet, eight inches tall. At the time he claimed to be age 21, putting his birth year as 1755, but later in his life, he said he was born in 1751 or 1752. [3]

Many of those in the Seventh Independent Company were recruited from Kent, Cecil, and Queen Anne counties, and were in the twenties. [4] Overall, the average age was about twenty-five, but soldiers born in the thirteen colonies were slightly younger than those from foreign countries. [5]

The independent companies, early in the war, had a different role than William Smallwood's First Maryland Regiment. They had the role of securing the Chesapeake Bay's shoreline from British attack. Smallwood's men, on the other hand, were raised as full-time Maryland soldiers as part of the Continental Army, and were divided between Annapolis and Baltimore. The Seventh Independent Company was stationed in Kent County's Chestertown and Queen Anne County's Kent Island. [6] During this time, Veazey was uneasy that they did not receive "arms nor ammunition" until June. [7]

While the independent companies were originally intended to defend Maryland, three of them accompanied the First Maryland Regiment when it marched up to New York in July 1776. The transfer of the independent companies to the Continental Army showed that Maryland was more than willing to do its part to recruit the men needed for the revolutionary cause. [8] The independent companies and the First Maryland Regiment arrived in New York in early August, with the Battle of Brooklyn set between the Continental Army and the British Army, joined by their Hessian allies.

Dawson served with his company at the Battle of Brooklyn in late August 1776. Along with the companies of Daniel Bowie and Peter Adams, which suffered heavy casualties, 68 percent of Veazey's company were killed or captured. Captain Veazey was killed while Second Lieutenant Samuel Turbett Wright and Third Lieutenant Edward De Coursey were captured. [9] As a result of Veazey's death, First Lieutenant William Harrison took charge of the company. After the battle, only 36 men remained out of the original force of over 100. [10] The loss of life confirmed the assessment of the British Parliament's Annual Register which described how "almost a whole regiment from Maryland…of young men from the best families in the country was cut to pieces" even as the battle brought the men of the Maryland 400 together. [11]

The Battle of Brooklyn, the first large-scale battle of the war, fits into the larger context of the Revolutionary War. If the Maryland Line had not stood and fought the British, enabling the rest of the Continental Army to escape, then the Continental Army would been decimated, resulting in the end of the Revolutionary War. This heroic stand gave the regiment the nickname of the Old Line and those who made the stand in the battle are remembered as the Maryland 400.

Dawson survived the Battle of Brooklyn and was not taken prisoner. By the spring of 1777, the command of the Seventh Independent Company was uncertain since Wright and De Coursey were prisoners, Veazey had been killed, and Harrison had resigned. [12] As a result, the company, among with the other independent companies, became part of the Second Maryland Regiment.

Dawson reenlisted in the Second Maryland Regiment in January 1777, joining Lieutenant John Hardman's company. He stayed a private, serving for a three year term from January 1777 until January 10, 1780 when he was discharged. [13] During this time period, apart from becoming sick in February 1778, he was present in the company and fought alongside his fellow soldiers. Years later, he recalled fighting at the battles of White Plains (1776), Brandywine (1777), and Monmouth (1778). [14] He possibly participated in the battles of Trenton (1776), Princeton (1777), White Marsh (1777), and Germantown (1777). He was discharged at what he called Wich's Farm in New Jersey, likely referring to Wick's House in Morristown, by Brigadier General Mordecai Gist.

After the war, Dawson returned to Cecil County. On December 29, 1780, he married a woman named Elizabeth Graves, with the matrimony affirmed by minister William Thomson of an Episcopal Church in Elkton, Maryland. [15] By 1783, he was described as a pauper, living on the land, which was likely rented, with nine other inhabitants. [16] While Dawson was granted 50 acres of bounty land in Western Maryland after the war, it sat vacant. He may have felt with fellow veteran Mark McPherson who said the land, located in a remote mountainous area of Western Maryland, was "absolutely good for nothing . . . unfit for Cultivation." [17] In later years, Dawson lived in the Bohemia Manor area, Cecil County, Maryland, staying there until 1810, with his wife Elizabeth and one child. [18] In 1808, he petitioned the Maryland House of Delegates saying he had served in the Revolutionary War and prayed "to be placed on the pension list." [19] The House of Delegates endorsed his plea and in 1810, Dawson, a "meritorious soldier in the revolutionary war," in an "indigent situation" because of his old age, was paid the half pay of a private. [20] He was paid a state pension for years to come.

Dawson moved from state to state over the next few years. In 1810, he was living in Glasgow, New Castle County, Delaware, with his wife and a young child. [21] Eight years later, he was living in New Castle's Pencader Hundred, in Delaware, just over the Maryland line. [22] Two years later, he moved back to Cecil County and settled in Elkton, Maryland. [23]

In Dawson's 1820 application for his Federal veterans pension, he said that his wife was sixty years old and "infirm," just like himself. [24] Additionally, he noted that a young grandchild living with him whom also had to support. He also owned three dollars worth of farm animals (a cow and a calf) and was living in "reduced circumstances" with twenty dollars of debt. His "infirmities of old age," which had "disabled him in "his left arm and leg," led him to be classified as an "invalid." [25] Despite the fact that his discharge papers had been lost, his pension was granted in the fall of 1820. [26]

Dawson's life after this point is unclear. While final payment vouchers say that payments to him ended in 1820, he did not die that year. [27] Instead, he died on July 11, 1824, and his state pension payments were sent to his administrator, Jane Dawson, possibly his second wife. [28]


[1] Descriptions of men in Capt. Edward Veazey’s Independent Comp, 1776, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, MdHR 19970-15-36/01 [MSA S997-15-36, 1/7/3/13]; Pension of William Dawson, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives, NARA M804, Record Group 15, Roll 771, pension number S. 34,732. Courtesy of

[2] Descriptions of men in Capt. Edward Veazey’s Independent Comp; Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 18, 28; Mark Andrew Tacyn, “'To the End:’ The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 34; Pension of William Dawson.

[3] Pension of William Dawson.

[4] Tacyn, 24-25, 97.

[5] For more information, see "Demographics in the First Maryland Regiment" on the Finding the Maryland 400 research blog.

[6] Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, July 7-December 31, 1776, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 12, 4; Tacyn, 33-34.

[7] Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, August 29, 1775 to July 6, 1776, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 11, 318, 468; Tacyn, 37, 39.

[8] Arthur Alexander, "How Maryland Tried to Raise Her Continental Quotas." Maryland Historical Magazine 42, no. 3 (1947), 187-188, 196.

[9] "Mortuary Notice," Salem Gazette, Salem, Massachusetts, March 1, 1833, Vol. XI, issue 18, p. 3. Veazey died at the side of Sergeant Hezekiah Foard.

[10] Revolutionary War Rolls, NARA M246, p. 92, From; Tacyn, 98.

[11] Tacyn, 4.

[12] List of Regular Officers by Chamberlaine, December 1776, Maryland State Papers, Red Books, MdHR 4573, Liber 12, p. 66 [MSA S989-17, 1/6/4/5].

[13] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 18, 101; Service Card of William Dawson (Second Maryland Regiment), Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, National Archives, NARA M881, Record Group 93, Roll 0399. Courtesy of; Muster rolls of the Second Maryland Regiment, Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, National Archives, NARA M246, Record Group 93, Roll 0033, Folder 15. Courtesy of; Pension of William Dawson. Dawson's pension makes it clear when he served and when he was discharged, making it clear which William Dawson he was in the Maryland line.

[14] Pension of William Dawson.

[15] Marriage of William Dawson and Elizabeth Graves, 1780, Cecil County Court, Marriage Licenses, MdHR 9435, p. 23 [MSA C632-1, 1/11/6/38]; Collections of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Vol. 1 (Philadelphia: John Pennington and Henry C. Baird, 1853), 338-389.

[16] William Dawson record, 1783, Cecil County Fourth District, General Assembly House of Delegates, Assessment Record, p. 6 [MSA S1161-39, 1/4/5/47].

[17] Westward of Fort Cumberland: Military Lots Set Off for Maryland's Revolutionary Soldiers (ed. Mary K. Meyer, Westminister: Heritage Books, 2008), 21, 103; William Dawson's lot in Western Maryland, Land Office, Lots Westward of Fort Cumberland, MdHR 17302, p. 27 [SE1-1]; Pension of Mark McPherson and Widow's Pension of Mary McPherson. The National Archives. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. NARA M804, W 2144. 1-73. From His lot was number 273.

[18] Census for Bohemia Manor, Cecil County, 1790, First Census of the United States, 1790, NARA M637, Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, roll 3, page 320. Courtesy of; Census for Bohemia Manor, Cecil County, 1800, Second Census of the United States, 1800, NARA M32, Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, roll 10, page 53. Courtesy of

[19] Journal of the House of Delegates, 1808, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 556, 16, 31, 73.

[20] Session Laws, 1810, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 599, 100.

[21] Census for Glasgow, New Castle, Delaware, 1810, Third Census of the United States, 1810, NARA M252, Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, roll 4, page 261. Courtesy of

[22] Pension of William Dawson.

[23] Pension of William Dawson; Census for Elkton, Cecil County, 1820, Fourth Census of the United States, 1820, NARA M33, Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, roll M33_40, page 135. Courtesy of

[24] Pension of William Dawson. Dawson had been applying for pension benefits since 1818.

[25] Pension of William Dawson.

[26] Dawson specifically accused Lieutenant John Sears of losing his discharge, saying that "this despondent cannot produce the said discharge, having sent by Lieutenant John Sears to Annapolis" after he was discharged.

[27] Final Payment Voucher for William Dawson, 1820, Final Revolutionary War Pension Payment Vouchers: Delaware, National Archives, NARA M2079, Record Group 217, Roll 0001. Courtesy of; Final Payment Voucher for William Dawson from General Accounting Office, 1820, Index to Selected Final Payment Vouchers, 1818-1864, National Archives, Record Group 217, box05_00005. Courtesy of It is clear that William Dawson is not the same as a Justice of the Peace in Talbot County.

[28] Record of pension payment to William Dawson, Treasurer of the Western Shore, Military Pension Roll, MdHR 4534-4, p. 31 [MSA S613-1, 2/63/10/33]; "Sheriff's Sale," American Watchman, Wilmington, Delaware, June 5, 1827, page 3. He may have died in Delaware but this cannot be confirmed. By 1827, his heirs may have been living in Delaware, as a sale by a local sheriff in Wilmington, Delaware, mentions "heirs of William Dawson." However, it is not known if this the same as Dawson, who may have moved back to Delaware before his death.


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  • Created by: historyhermann
  • Added: 20 Jul 2017
  • Find A Grave Memorial 181599424
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for William Dawson (unknown–11 Jul 1824), Find A Grave Memorial no. 181599424, ; Maintained by historyhermann (contributor 49112035) Unknown.