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James Murphy

Death Aug 1789 (aged 34–35)
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA
Burial Unknown
Memorial ID 181661516 · View Source
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Bio by Owen Lourie of the Maryland State Archives (, reprinted here:

James Murphy was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. He fought in only one battle, where he was severely wounded, but he was part of the famed "Maryland 400," which saved the Continental Army at the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776.

In 1776, Murphy was twenty-two years old when he enlisted as a private in the Third Company of the First Maryland Regiment, serving under Captain Barton Lucas. The regiment, commanded by Colonel William Smallwood, was Maryland's first contingent of full-time, professional soldiers, raised to be part of the Continental Army. Most of the men in Lucas's company came from Prince George's and Montgomery counties. In March, the company traveled to Annapolis, where it joined five other companies from the regiment; there were also three companies stationed 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 Murphy'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]

During the fighting, Murphy was seriously wounded, losing his left leg, and was captured by the British. At least twenty two men from his company were captured along with him, making the Third one of the hardest hit units; just twenty seven men--35 percent--escaped death or captivity. Sick and unable to lead his men in battle, Lucas "became deranged as a consequence of losing his company," and left the army not long after. [3]

Murphy was probably released from captivity in a prisoner exchange in late 1776 or early 1777. When he left the army is uncertain; he may not have returned to Maryland until March 1778. At that time, the state granted him about £70.0.0 in back pay, suggesting that he had remained on the army's pay roll long after 1776, even though he was unable to fight. The state seems to have ensured that Murphy received his money because of his status as a seriously wounded veteran; many men in the army did not get all the pay due to them. [4]

Murphy settled in Montgomery County after he returned from the army. He and his wife Mary (Cradock) had five children: Ann, William, Samuel, Oratia, and Benjamin. In April 1781, he began to receive a disability pension from the state of £1.5.0 per month, which he received for the rest of his life. It was not a large amount of money, but undoubtedly was vital to the family. Still, in 1783 the family was listed among the county's paupers. [5]

James Murphy died in August 1789. His family later petitioned for a Federal veteran's pension, but did not receive one, and their fate is unknown. [6]


1. Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18 [hereafter Archives of Maryland vol. 18], p. 9; Mark Andrew Tacyn, “‘To the End:’ The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), p. 21; Pension of John Hughes. National Archives, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land-Warrant Application Files, S5594, from

2. Return of the Maryland troops, 27 September 1776, from; Tacyn, 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. Pension of John Murphy. National Archives, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land-Warrant Application Files, B.L.Wt 105-100, from; Journal and Correspondence of the State Council, 1777-1778, Archives of Maryland Online vol. 16, p. 534; Archives of Maryland vol. 18, p. 632-633; Account for breeches of Capt. Lucas's Company, c. 1777, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, box. 11, no. 19/2, MdHR 19970-11-19/2 [MSA S997-11-21, 1/7/3/13]; Hughes pension.

4. There appears to have been another Maryland soldier named James Murphy, from Queen Anne's County, who lost a leg in the early part of the war. That man was eventually transferred to the Invalid Corps, which was composed of wounded soldiers "who shall be found capable of doing guard or garrison duty," mostly at the American fort at West Point, New York. See Archives of Maryland vol. 18, p. 226, 303, 547, 624; there were also a number of other James Murphys in the army. On the Corps of Invalids, see Robert K. Wright, The Continental Army (Washington, DC: U.S. Army Center for Military History, 1983), 136 and Laws of Maryland, October 1778, Chap. 14, sect. 8, Archives of Maryland Online vol. 203, p. 201; Archives of Maryland, vol. 16, p. 534.

5. Murphy pension; Archives of Maryland vol. 18, p. 632-633; Montgomery County Register of Wills, Orphans Court Proceedings, 1779-1829, pps. 13, 52 [MSA CM747-1, WK 351-352-1]; General Assembly House of Delegates, Assessment Record, 1783 Assessment, Montgomery County, Middle Potomac, Lower Potomac & Georgetown Hundreds, List of Paupers [MSA S1161-8-3, 1/4/5/51].

6. Archives of Maryland vol. 18, p. 632-633; Murphy pension.


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  • Added: 22 Jul 2017
  • Find A Grave Memorial 181661516
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for James Murphy (1754–Aug 1789), Find A Grave Memorial no. 181661516, ; Maintained by historyhermann (contributor 49112035) Unknown.