Everyone has seen that painting… the one called “Spirit of 76” with the Revolutionary drummer and fifer proudly trooping through a battlefield despite their bandages.  That’s all I could imagine – I mean, what other context would I have for it, really? – when I discovered that grand uncle Walter was a fifer and drummer in the Revolution… and that he died as a drummer at the Battle of Monmouth.

Well, thanks to the extremely insightful Dr. Glenn Williams, senior historian at the US Army Center of Military History, we now have some better context.  Dr. Williams illuminated the situation in an email today:

“There is a Fifer Walter Maddox listed in the muster rolls of the 7th Maryland Regiment, Continental line.  During the battle of Monmouth on 28 June 1778, it was part of the Main Army’s Right Wing, commanded by Major General Nathanael Greene, and in the 1st Maryland Brigade, commanded by Brigadier General William Smallwood.  The brigade, incidentally spent the “Valley Forge Winter” at Wilmington, Delaware.

“The commander of the 7th Maryland was a Colonel John Gunby, and Maddox served in the company of a Captain John Courts Jones.  The regiment was mostly recruited from the western counties of the state.  Maddox enlisted on
9 March 1777, and was killed in action at Monmouth on 28 June 1778.

“His enlistment/ discharge/ death information can be found in the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis, or on line at http://www.msa.md.gov/ under the Military Records link, specifically “Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution”, which is Volume 18 of the Maryland Archives, page 231.

“I am sorry, I cannot tell you where he may be buried, but my guess is a churchyard near (probably east of) Freehold (formerly Monmouth Courthouse), New Jersey.”

Dr. Williams followed up in a second email…

“Please note that the 7th Maryland Regiment in which Walter Maddox served as a fifer was in the Continental Line (a regular army unit), NOT the militia. While he may have served in the militia, as it was the obligation of EVERY
free, white, male between the ages of 18 and 45 to enroll (one did NOT “join” or “enlist” in the militia, you were enrolled by the county court according to property and tax records as filling an obligation just like jury duty) to do so. His wartime service, according to the muster rolls at the Maryland State Archives, indicates he was serving with the Continental Army, as the 7th Maryland Regiment, Continental Line, was a regular army unit.

“It was a common practice to fill the regular regiments up with men “draughted” (drafted) from the militia for a campaign season (usually six months in duration), these levies were militia temporarily called to the colors for the duration only of a single campaign season.  They would be exempt from the next draft, as men in the succeeding “class” would be eligible, and so as to not draft the same men over and over.

“Given Walter’s enlistment in March 1777, my guess is that he enlisted for the term of “three years or the duration of the war,” the then standard term of enlistment as a regular.”

Now that’s something to go on.