Lt. John Markland

Lt. John Markland
Courtesy of Francis Swaby Markland,Jr, Member, Pennsylvania Society of the Cincinnati

Several remarkable aspects of Lieutenant Markland’s history set him apart from the other officers of the Society of the Cincinnati of Pennsylvania, but chief among them is a biography produced in 1826 when Markland was an unsuccessful candidate for re-election as a Federalist Commissioner for Philadelphia County. There can be no doubt that this biography, tinged with party spirit though it may be, was written by Markland himself or from his dictation. Much of the biographical material used here is therefore quoted or paraphrased from his account.

John Markland was born in Philadelphia on 12 August 1755, but his family removed to New York while he was still young. “As early as 1775, while yet in his minority, he commenced his military career as an active member of a uniformed company of Minute Men, commanded by Captain [Andrew] Stockholm, attached to Colonel [John] Lasher’s regiment of New York Volunteers.” Markland’s baptism of fire probably came on 23 August 1775 when New York volunteers successfully removed twenty-one cannon, probably the King’s property, from the Battery at the southern tip of Manhattan, and were fired upon by HMS Asia with minimal result.

In August 1776 Markland was present at the Battle of Long Island and successfully escaped to Manhattan when the Americans fled. “The [New York] regiment, after evacuating New York, 15th of September, was stationed at King’s Bridge; from, thence it marched to White Plains, and afterwards to King’s Ferry, etc., on the North River. Markland, along with the army, retired through New Jersey to Princeton, thence to Trenton,…and crossed the Delaware with the Army.”

Most Continental enlistments expired on 31 December 1776 but Washington had long before formulated his plans for an “Army for the War” based upon eighty-eight battalions (regiments), of which twelve were to come from Pennsylvania: the Pennsylvania Line as organized through 1781. Of these, the Sixth Pennsylvania Regiment, Lt. Colonel Henry Bicker, began recruiting in January and February 1777, and Markland was given an Ensign’s commission. Early in 1777, on the new organization of the army, he entered the Continental service, in Captain Jacob Bowers’s [sic, q.v.] company, Sixth Pennsylvania Regiment….In June of that year Ensign Markland was actively engaged in the Battle of Short Hills, in Jersey,… While executing this duty he was unexpectedly cut off by a sudden and rapid detour of a detachment of Lord Rawdon’s Horse, by whom he was surrounded and compelled to surrender….He remained a prisoner only a few minutes, for the officer who captured him, having observed a body of Americans coming round a hill with the intention of cutting him off, immediately gave his horse the spur and fled with his command, leaving the prisoners behind;…

Markland found himself on the 11th of September engaged in the Battle of Brandywine….Before dismissing the subject of the battle it may prove interesting to relate an anecdote of an occurrence which exhibited a noble trait in the female character, showing devotion to their cause and fearless attention to the defenders of their rights. While the battle was raging near Birmingham Meeting House the wives of several of the soldiers belonging to the Sixth Pennsylvania Regiment…took the empty canteens of their husbands and friends and returned with them filled with water, which they persisted in delivering to the owners during the hottest part of the engagement, although frequently cautioned as to the danger of coming into the line of fire….

Captain Bower’s company of Conway’s Brigade of Pennsylvanians, with whom Markland was serving, after a fatiguing march of sixteen miles were the first that encountered the British Troops early on the morning of 4th of October, 1777, being the commencement of the great Battle of Germantown…. among the many who were killed or wounded was a very gallant soldier, Abraham Best, who had his leg shot off just below the knee. Markland, who was alongside, had his pantaloons covered with the poor fellow’s blood and had him immediately removed to the waggons in the rear, appropriated for the wounded….they at length arrived near a large stone house owned by Mr. [Benjamin] Chew, into which Colonel Musgrave had thrown himself with six companies of the British Fortieth Regiment, directly in the way of the Americans. It being necesary to dislodge these troops, Markland, with others, was ordered to the attack…The firing from Chew’s house was tremendously severe, – the balls seemed to come in showers…It was during the height of the attack on this house that the gallant Markland received a ball which severely shattered his right arm near the shoulder.

In April, 1778, Markland rejoined the army at Valley Forge, and, although his arm was useless and still in the sling, he was busily engaged in drilling recruits and other services. [Markland took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States at Valley Forge on 27 May 1778]. From this constant exposure and active use the fracture became so bad that the surgeon, despairing of a cure, insisted on his retiring to the hospital at Yellow Springs. This he did early in June,…but when the British evacuated Philadelphia, June 18, he was soon ordered to that city on the recruiting service, and in September rejoined the army with his recruits. The arm continued to be extremely painful, and pieces of broken bone, one to two inches in length, were frequently extracted….Half a century afterwards, the bent arm remained stiff,…. [That Markland was considered an exemplary officer is shown by his promotion to First Lieutenant on 1 July 1779 and he remained a member of the Sixth Regiment in spite of his disability. Like Major James Macpherson [an Original Member of the Society], Markland in the new year was a member of Lafayette’s Corps of Light Infantry which was, however, dissolved on 26 November 1780].

In the early part of 1781, Markland was engaged in the recruiting service at Lancaster, Lebanon, and other places in Pennsylvania.

It may seem surprising, considering his physical difficulties, that Markland went south with Anthony Wayne, was present at Yorktown, and was a part of Arthur St. Clair’s command ordered to South Carolina. It is rather a comment on the need for capable and experienced officers at a critical time. The Pennsylvania troops arrived at Round O, General Greene’s headquarters near Charleston, on 4 January 1782. “After their arrival Markland was in an advanced detachment under the gallant Kosciusko [sic], which was stationed on the lines near Ashley Ferry, six miles in advance of the American army. Here they were actively engaged for several months, and in one of the encounters, Markland, with a small body of Americans, succeeded, after many attempts, in drawing a corps of the enemy’s dragoons, who had been very troublesome throughout that neighborhood, into an ambuscade near the Quarter House, four miles from Charleston. The enemy lost eight or ten men killed, and most of their horses, and two prisoners. They were so completely surprised that the Americans came off without losing a man, and returned to their quarters six miles in their rear, near Ashley Ferry.” On 28 March 1782 Markland signed the protest the Pennsylvania officers sent Nathanael Greene regarding a perceived slight to their dignity, and he was included in Anthony Wayne’s provisional arrangement of troops, dated 3 November 1782.

Early in November, Markland, in command of a detachment under and along with Kosciusko, went on an enterprise having for its object the capture of the enemy’s cavalry horses on James Island. The party consisted of about twenty men, and without loss on their part they captured about sixty horses…

On the 14th of November, shortly previous to the British evacuating Charleston, Colonel Kosciusko, Captain [William] Wilmot, Lieutenant Markland, and other officers, with some fifty to sixty men, attempted to surprise a British party engaged in cutting wood on James Island near Fort Johnston….A severe action ensued; the British advance retreated, warmly pressed by the Americans, but being continually reinforced until they numbered about three hundred men, with a field piece, the Americans were compelled to retire,…In this affair Captain Wilmot of the Maryland line was killed, and Lieutenant Moore was mortally wounded. Lieutenant Markland lost three men of his platoon. Some believed that this was the last action, and that in it was the last gun fired in the war for Independence.

On the 14th of December, 1782, the British evacuated Charleston, and General Wayne, marching closely in their rear, as they retired to their vessels, took possession of the city. Markland marched in at the same time under Kosciusko, and after remaining a few days in Charleston, the enemy having left the coast, they joined their respective regiments. The army now marched to James Island, where they erected huts and remained until about August, 1783.

While encamped there the Pennsylvania Line was reorganized on 1 January 1783, and Markland was transferred to the Third Regiment, Colonel Richard Butler.

They then [August 1783] embarked in vessels provided for the purpose, and soon reached Philadelphia, where, in November, 1783, they were honorably discharged at the barracks, the building in Third Street south of Green,…

Before sailing for home the Pennsylvania troops enjoyed what hospitality and amenities the Charlestonians could provide them; there were many commercial and family, ties with Philadelphia. On 29 August 1783 the Society of the Cincinnati of the State of South Carolina was organized at Charleston and either by inclination or special invitation, at least a dozen of the Pennsylvania officers signed the South Carolina “Parchment Roll” and became “Original Members” of that state society. Their own wasnot organized until after the Pennsylvania Line returned to Philadelphia in November. Markland signed the “Barracks Roll” of the Society of the Cincinnati of Pennsylvania in August 1783, their “Parchment Roll”, and the “Pay Order of 1784”.

Soon after the organization of the Society of the Cincinnati of Pennsylvania, Markland with his friend Thomas Bartholomew Bowen [an Original Member of the Society] returned to South Carolina, and on 23 November 1784 the partners commenced publication of the Charleston Columbian Herold, or The Patriotic Courier of North America. Markland left this partnership in 1786 and the next year appeared his short-lived South Carolina Weekly Chronicle of Charleston, succeeded in 1788 by the City Gazette, which Markland published with John McIver through 1794. Markland in 1790 lived at 40 Tradd Street and the firm of Markland and M’Iver [sic] was located at 47 East Bay Street in Charleston. In the 1794 Charleston directory, while the firm of Markland and M’Iver continued on East Bay Street, Markland had moved to 5 Union Street Continued.

Markland had returned to Philadelphia by 4 July 1796 as at the annual meeting of the Society of the Cincinnati of Pennsylvania on that date he was elected a member of the Society’s Standing Committee. He maintained an active interest in the Society, was reelected to the Standing Committee in seven succeeding, not consecutive, years through 1812, became Assistant Secretary in 1801, Assistant Treasurer in 1809 and 1813, Treasurer in 1818, and Vice President in 1828.

John Markland again entered journalism, in a partnership with James Carey, for the publication of the Philadelphia Daily Advertiser, commencing on 7 February 1797 but the partnership was dissolved on 3 July of the same year. In the “Return of the Members belonging to the Society of Cincinnati of the State of Pennsylvania” sent to the General Society in 1798, Markland’s name is annotated “Charleston S. Carolina”: there is thus some reason for believing that he may have returned south however briefly. On 25 January 1798 Lieutenant Markland married Christiana Heisz, and by the time of the census of 1800 Markland was a resident of Philadelphia County with a household consisting of one male between the ages of twenty-six and forty-five (himself), two females between the ages of sixteen and twenty-six and one other free person, not identified. Mrs. Markland died 5 April 1804 and from the evidence of the census was the mother of Emily Eliza, born about 1801, who married Captain John Paul Schott [an Original Member of the Society]. Markland married as a second wife, but at an undetermined date, Sophia, believed to have been the daughter of Lt. Colonel Henry Bicker, Sr. of the Sixth Pennsylvania Regiment, and sister of Captain Henry Bicker [an Original Member of the Society]; the Sixth was Markland’s original Pennsylvania regiment.

In 1823 Markland was elected one of the Commissioners of Philadelphia County and it was in an unsuccessful effort at re-election in 1826 that the résumé herein generously quoted was issued and signed by Caleb North, John Steele, James Glentworth (qq.v.), and Charles Macknet, another veteran of the Sixth Regiment but not a member of the Society of the Cincinnati. On 6 June 1828 a pension was approved for Markland under the terms of the Act of 1828. He died 23 February 1837 in his eighty-second year and was buried in Christ Church Burial Ground, Philadelphia. His wife survived him and died 17 August 1843, aged seventy-five years.