The Photo Request has been fulfilled.


David Plunket

Death Apr 1794
Burial Body lost at sea, Specifically: Died in the West Indies as part of a trading venture
Memorial ID 181697755 · View Source
Suggest Edits

Bio of David Plunket written by Taira Sullivan for the Finding the Maryland 400 project (

David Plunket was an early advocate of American independence and would continue to champion the Republican cause throughout his life. Plunket became involved in radical politics early on. In 1774 he joined Mordecai Gist’s Baltimore Independent Cadets, with whom it is possible that he participated in the burning of the Peggy Stewart.[1] During his military service he served with bravery and distinction at the Battle of Brooklyn, and later managed to escape from British captivity. Following his military service Plunket went on to become a prominent merchant and civil and political leader in Baltimore.

Plunket served in the First Maryland Regiment from January 1776 to January 1777, beginning his military service as a Second Lieutenant of the Sixth Company. In August of 1776, he was moved to the Fifth Company, commanded by Captain Nathaniel Ramsey, where he would serve during the Battle of Brooklyn.[2] A combination of poor intelligence reports, a misjudgment of British strength, and the resulting ineffective deployment of American troops, almost led to the destruction of the entire Continental Army. The battle began at three o’clock in the morning on August 27, 1776, when the British engaged in a frontal assault on American troops led by Hessian mercenaries. This attack however, was a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from the approaching British flanking maneuver. Using the unprotected Jamaica Pass, the British Army circled the American left to attack the rear of the Continental Army. Badly routed by General William Howe, General William Alexander Stirling ordered a retreat covered by Colonel William Smallwood’s First Maryland Regiment and Colonel John Haslet’s Delaware Continentals.[3] Sustaining heavy cannon and mortar fire, the Maryland and Delaware troops stood “coolly and resolutely,” holding off the enemy forces while the Continental Army withdrew to safety.[4]

Upon falling back, the Fifth Company was ambushed by an advanced company of British soldiers who pretended to surrender.[5] “The Major, Captain Ramsey, and Lieutenant Plunket were foremost, and within forty yards of the enemy’s muzzles,” when the company was attacked.[6] Fighting “with more than Roman courage,” Plunket and the Fifth Company forced their way through the enemy line to the swampy Gowanus Creek.[7] There the British were temporarily forced back, and the companies divided. The First, Second, Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth Companies waded through the swamp while the Third, Fourth, Sixth, Ninth, and Seventh Independent Companies skirted the edge.[8] Plunket escaped uninjured and the Fifth Company suffered minimal casualties while crossing the swamp, before rejoining the main body of the Continental Army. Those companies who skirted the swamp suffered severe casualties when they were forced to make a last stand at the Old Stone House.[9] After the Battle of Brooklyn, Plunket saw action at the Battle of Harlem Heights, the Battle of White Plains, and the Battle of Fort Washington, as the Americans sought to regain control on New York.[10]

When the Maryland troops were reorganized at the end of 1776, Plunket left the infantry and was commissioned as a Captain of the newly-formed Fourth Continental Dragoons on January 10, 1777, under Colonel Stephen Moylan.[11] As a Captain, Plunket returned to Baltimore in June of 1777 to recruit men for his company. During his tenure as Captain of the Fourth Dragoons, Plunket participated in both the campaign to regain control of New York and New Jersey, and the defense of Philadelphia. It was during the Philadelphia campaign on October 20, 1777, that Captain Plunket was taken prisoner on the road between Philadelphia and Germantown, Pennsylvania by a band of Hessian mercenaries.[12]Plunket however, was not held captive long. Taking matters into his own hands, Plunket made a daring escape a month after his captivity, reportedly by "impersonating a British officer in passing five sentries who guarded his room & afterwards by putting on the Cloathes of a Quaker girl." He remained unscathed, although as he fled, he horse was shot five times.[13] Despite the odds, Plunket made it back to Moylan’s Dragoons by November 1777.[14] Until his resignation in March of 1779, Plunket participated in the Philadelphia campaign, as American troops sought unsuccessfully to protect the American Capital at Philadelphia at the battles of Brandywine, Germantown, and White Marsh. Plunket also waited out the winter at Valley Forge and saw action at the Battle of Monmouth, which marked the turning point of the war.

His political activism was not stunted by his military service. Upon its formation in 1777, Plunket joined the Whig Club in Baltimore, possibly while recruiting for Moylan’s Dragoons. The Whig Club was a coalition of soldiers, politicians, and businessmen dedicated to the ideals of republicanism. Prominent members included Nathaniel Ramsey, and David Plunket, of William Smallwood’s regiment, and merchants David Stewart and Daniel Bowly. The club, while holding no true officially appointed or recognized power, ran itself as a policing body with the silent support of the Committee of Observation. The Whig Club was committed to combating toryism, acting as judge and jury when dealing with citizens they believed to be lacking in colonial patriotism. If members of the club found sufficient evidence suggesting that a resident was “an enemy of America,” a trial date was set and the accused was given the chance to present a defense.[15] Often times “convicted” individuals were threatened with destruction of their property and sentenced to banishment.[16]

In 1779, Plunket was involved in a mob attack, organized by the Whig Club, on William Goddard. Goddard, co-owner and publisher of the Maryland Journal, fell out of grace with the Whig Club after refusing to disclose the name of the anonymous author referred to in the newspaper as Tom-Tell-Truth, who the Whig Club believed was employed by the British Commissioners.[17] After refusing a summons issued, the club sent “six men to wait upon me [Goddard], as they express[ed] it, but with positive orders to use force if required.”[18] Goddard was found guilty of crimes against the American cause and was subsequently run out of town.

Plunket’s involvement in this incident echoed his earlier involvement in the burning of the Peggy Stewart and the attempted arrest of Maryland Colonial Governor Robert Eden in 1776. Just prior to his commission into the First Maryland Regiment in 1776, Plunket played a key roll in the attempted incarceration of Governor Eden. In 1776, it was discovered that Eden was in secret correspondence with British officials, discussing the feasibility of a Chesapeake invasion.[19] Enraged, Samuel Purviance, Chairman of the Baltimore Committee of Observation, issued an order for the arrest of Governor Eden.[20] Captain Samuel Smith, a member of the Eighth Company, and his men left for Annapolis. Meanwhile, Plunket was entrusted by friend and former leader of the Baltimore Independent Cadets, Mordecai Gist, with the duty of hand delivering the incriminating evidence to John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, Philadelphia.[21] Plans for the arrest however, were ultimately thwarted by the Council of Safety that led Maryland’s Revolutionary government. Plunket's central role in the event was a testament to his radical republicanism, which would continue throughout his life.

Plunket returned to Baltimore following his resignation from the army and became deeply involved in the business of shipping and trade. By the early 1780’s Plunket went into the merchant business with David Stewart, another member of the Whig Club in Baltimore. This partnership proved highly lucrative, allowing the pair to purchase multiple ships and a storefront near the wharf in Baltimore. Stewart & Plunket had an extensive trade network that spanned not only Western Europe, but the West Indies and Mediterranean as well. Docking in Fells Point, Stewart & Plunket transported passengers and goods abroad while importing a wide variety of goods including Irish linens, rum, salt, mahogany, and nails. Additionally, Stewart & Plunket brought indentured servants into Baltimore, a good number of whom were from Ireland.

While growing his business, Plunket continued to throw his support behind the Federalist Party. Plunket expressed his continued support through civil and political leadership and acting as a high level political organizer. In May 1788, Plunket helped organize a parade celebrating Maryland’s ratification of the Constitution, recognizing Maryland as part of “the glorious fabric of American greatness.” [22] Plunket’s continued devotion to the Federalist cause resulted in his January 1789, appointment to the Board for Examining and Licensing Pilots.[23] Shortly thereafter in March 1789, Plunket led an effort to pave the streets of Fell’s Point in Baltimore, which further showed his commitment to the improvement of Baltimore’s commercial industry and commitment to civil leadership.[24] In what would be his last act of public service before his death, Plunket was appointed to lead a welcoming committee for French refugees arranged by the French Vice Consul in 1793.[25]

In October 1793, Plunket left Baltimore en route to the West Indies as part of a trading venture. When Plunket had not returned to Baltimore by April 1794, Stewart concluded, “with infinite regret,” that there was “too much reason to [assume] hi[m] los[t].”[26] Plunket was survived by a wife, whose name is unknown.

[1] Daniel Blattau, “Mordecia Gist,” Archives of Maryland: Biographical Series, last modified August 13, 2013.

[2] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, 1775-1783, Archives of Maryland, vol. 18, 639.

[3] David Hackett Fischer, Washington’s Crossing (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 95.

[4] Extract of a letter from New-York: Account of the battle on Long-Island, 107.

[5] Extract of a letter from New-York: Account of the battle on Long-Island, September 1, 1776, American Archives Online, Series 5, vol.2 , 107.

[6] Extract of a letter from New-York: Account of the battle on Long-Island, 107.

[7] Extract of a letter from New-York: Account of the battle on Long-Island, 107.

[8] Mark Andrew Tacyn “’ To the End:’ The First Maryland Regiment and the American Revolution” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1999), 56.

[9] To read more about the experience of the Fifth Company at the Battle of Brooklyn see “The Fate of the Fifth Company,” on the Finding the Maryland 400 blog.

[10] John Dwight Kilbourne, A Short History of the Maryland Line in the Continental Army (Baltimore: The Society of the Cincinnati of Maryland, 1992), 1.

[11] Rieman Steuart, A History of the Maryland Line in the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783 (Towson: Metropolitan Press, 1969), 44.

[12]MARYLAND STATE PAPERS (Series Red Books) Report from a camp sixteen miles from Philadelphia, October 21, 1777, MdHR 4576 [MSA S 989-20, 1/6/4/008].

[13] Pelatiah Webster to George Washington, 19 November 1777, Founders Online, National Archives, fn. 1; Veterans pension of Lynch Gray, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. NARA M804, S 34908.

[14] Individual Record of David Plunket, Compiled Service Records of Solider Who Served During the Revolutionary War, NARA M881.

[15] Charles G. Steffen, The Mechanics of Baltimore: Working and Politics in the Age of Revolution, 1763-1812 (Chicago: University of Illinois, 1984), 63.

[16] To read more about the Baltimore Whig Club see “The Whig Club: Judge and Jury in Baltimore,” on the Finding the Maryland 400 blog.

[17] William Goddard, “The Prowess of the Whig Club” (Baltimore: printed for the author, 1777), 4-5.

[18] Goddard, 6.

[19] Steffen, 63.

[20] Steffen, 63

[21]Letter from the Baltimore Committee to the President of Congress, 14 April 1776, American Archives Online, series 4, vol. 5, 928.

[22] “Ship Federalist,” Massachusetts Gazette, May 16, 1788.

[23] MARYLAND STATE PAPERS (Series A) J.E. Harvard to Captain David Plunket, January 10, 1789, MdHR 6636-68-160 [MSA S 1004-94-21561, 1/7/3/69].

[24] “Scheme of Lottery,” Maryland Journal, March 17, 1789.

[25] “Baltimore July 12,” General Advertiser, July 16, 1793.

[26] Baltimore Daily Intelligencer, May 1, 1794.


See more Plunket memorials in:



  • Created by: historyhermann
  • Added: 23 Jul 2017
  • Find A Grave Memorial 181697755
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for David Plunket (unknown–Apr 1794), Find A Grave Memorial no. 181697755, ; Maintained by historyhermann (contributor 49112035) Body lost at sea, who reports a Died in the West Indies as part of a trading venture.