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Location: Maryland State Archives
The American Revolution has long captivated Jeffrey Truitt ’14; the history major, who is minoring in philosophy, is writing his senior capstone project on the 1st Maryland Regiment of the Continental Army. And after a summer internship as a Comegy’s Bight Fellow, which he spent in the Military History Research Department of the Maryland State Archives, Truitt’s interest in the famous regiment has only deepened.
“I’m now looking at six different veterans of the 1st Maryland Regiment,” he says. “Three of them left Maryland after the war, and three stayed. I want to look at their reasons and chronicle the whole experience.”
The regiment, which Truitt discovered included one of his ancestors, distinguished itself at the Battle of Long Island on Aug. 27, 1776, by heroically covering the retreat of the Americans against numerically superior British and Hessian forces. The men who fought in that battle are remembered with admiration and gratitude as the Maryland 400.
Truitt’s work at the Archives—a job he shared with fellow intern Daniel Blattau from the University of Maryland, under the supervision of staff researcher Owen Lourie—was to trace the Maryland 400 and find out who they were. Truitt and Blattau worked through reams of documents, from contemporaneous newspaper accounts and battle maps to lists detailing what had happened to supplies of pants—and thus, to the men to whom they’d been allocated.
By the end of the summer, Truitt and Blattau had produced not only a blog about the research but a list of 1,000 names of members of the regiment, as well as online biographies of more than 80 members of the Maryland 400.
“It was fun,” Truitt says. “They have huge databases we had to search and it was really worthwhile, because when you did find something it was truly unique.”
One of Truitt’s favorite discoveries was an especially rich cache of material on a soldier named William McMillan. It included a letter handwritten by McMillan many years after the fact about how he had fought at Long Island, been taken prisoner, escaped from prison at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and struggled back to safety. “The group spent ten weeks traveling through the wilderness, at times only being able to eat ‘grass on the Rocks in the Bays [and] Sometimes Shellfish, Snails,’ ’’ Truitt recounts in his biography of McMillan. “Heading for Boston, Massachusetts, the journey was long and harsh. In McMillan’s words, ‘we suffered Everything But death.’ After traveling for weeks around the bays and forests of Canada and New England, the group finally made it to Boston in the summer of 1777.”
Truitt wants to practice criminal law eventually, a career, he notes, that requires a passion for research and piecing together people’s stories. The research he did last summer was not only good practice, it also helped him refocus his thesis on the personal stories of six of the Maryland 400.
Truitt’s detailed and colorful biography of McMillan can be found at: http://msa.maryland.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc3500/sc3520/016700/016767/html/16767bio.html
His blog about about the project is at http://msamaryland400.wordpress.com.