William Smallwood, 4th Gov. of Maryland

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William Smallwood, 4th Gov. of Maryland's Geni Profile

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William Smallwood

Birthdate: (60)
Birthplace: Charles County, Province of Maryland
Death: February 14, 1792 (60)
Mattawoman Estate, Charles County, Maryland, United States
Place of Burial: Charles County, Maryland, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Bayne Smallwood and Priscilla Smallwood
Brother of Eleanor Grayson; Margaret Stoddard and Hebard Smallwood

Occupation: Major General, fourth Governor of State of Maryland, planter
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About William Smallwood, 4th Gov. of Maryland

From his English Wikipedia page:


William Smallwood (1732 – February 14, 1792) was an American planter, soldier and politician from Charles County, Maryland. He served in the American Revolutionary War, rising to the rank of major general. He was serving as the fourth Governor of Maryland when the state adopted the United States Constitution.

Early life

William was born in 1732 to planter Bayne Smallwood and Priscilla Heaberd Smallwood. He had a sister Eleanor and a brother Hebard, who served with him later in the Revolutionary War. His parents sent the boys to England, for their education at Eton. His grandfather was James Smallwood, who immigrated in 1681 and became a member of the Maryland Assembly in 1696. James' son Bayne followed him later in the Assembly.

Smallwood served as an officer during the French and Indian War (also known as the Seven Years War). He was elected to the Maryland provincial assembly.

When the American Revolutionary War began, he was appointed a colonel of the 1st Maryland Regiment in 1776. He led the regiment in the New York and New Jersey campaign, where the regiment served with distinction. For his role at the Battle of White Plains, in which he was twice wounded, Smallwood was promoted to brigadier general. He continued to serve under George Washington in the Philadelphia campaign, where his regiment again distinguished itself at Germantown. Thereafter, he quartered at the Foulke house, also occupied by the family of Sally Wister.

In 1780 he was a part of General Horatio Gates' army that was routed at Camden, South Carolina; his brigade was among the formations that held their ground, garnering Smallwood a promotion to major general. Smallwood's accounts of the battle and criticisms of Gates' behavior before and during the battle may have contributed to the Congressional inquiries into the debacle. Opposed to the hiring and promotion of foreigners, Smallwood objected to working under Baron von Steuben. He spent the remainder of the war in Maryland. He served as the first President-General of the Maryland Society of the Cincinnati in 1783.

Smallwood never married. The 1790 census shows that he held 56 slaves and a yearly tobacco crop of 3000 pounds. When he died in 1792 his estate, known as Mattawoman, including his home the Retreat, passed to his sister Eleanor. By one account she had married into the Stoddard family, which was related to the Smallwoods. (e.g. Smallwood's nephew William Trueman Stoddard was orphaned at age 9 and raised by his maternal grandfather, Bayne Smallwood). In another account, Eleanor married Col. William Grayson of Virginia, and in 1827 the Mattawoman estate passed to Grayson's son William.


Smallwood was elected to Congress in 1785. He was elected Governor of Maryland before he could take up the Congressional seat and chose the governorship. In 1787 he convened the state's convention that in 1788 adopted the United States Constitution.


Local historical signs in Calvert, Maryland, note that General Smallwood occupied the "East Nottingham Friends House" at the intersections of Calvert Road and Brick Meetinghouse Road (near the intersection of 272 and 273) about 6 miles east of Rising Sun, Maryland. During his occupation of the building in 1778, Gen. Smallwood used the building as a hospital. Some of the soldiers who died in the building were buried in the graveyard directly outside. General Smallwood frequented the "Cross Keys Inn" (built in 1774), at the time a several-room inn and bar. This building stands as a private residence at the intersection of Calvert Road and Cross Keys Road directly down the hill. His restored plantation home, Smallwood's Retreat, is located at Smallwood State Park. Smallwood Church Road leads from the State Park toward Old Durham Church, where he was a vestryman.

Smallwood's name was honored in places and organizations.

The Baltimore chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is called the General William Smallwood Chapter (established 1907).

The General Smallwood Middle School in Indian Head is another namesake.

In Anne Arundel County, Maryland, the Fort Smallwood Park is named in his honor.


From the Maryland State Archives biography:


Smallwood, William (1732-1792), military officer and government official, was born in 1732, probably at "Smallwood's Retreat" in Charles County, Maryland, the son of Bayne Smallwood (c.1711-1768), planter, merchant, and politician, and his wife Priscilla Heabard (?-1784). Smallwood had one brother and five sisters.

Smallwood was educated in England, first at Kendall and then at Eton. He was a communicant of the Church of England and served at least one term as a vestryman of Durham Parish in Charles County. Other local service included terms as a justice of the peace in 1762 and from 1770 to 1773. Smallwood represented his county as a delegate to the Lower House from 1761 through 1774. He then served in several of the extra-legal conventions that governed the colony between 1774 and 1776.

Having already fought in the French and Indian War, Smallwood returned to military service on 14 Jan 1776 when commissioned as a colonel in the First Maryland Regiment. In April he led a contingent of 1,400 men from Annapolis to join the Continental Army, where they participated in the Battle of Long Island, protecting the retreat of Washington's forces. Smallwood was wounded in October of that year at the Battle of White Plains, but continued to serve, now as a brigadier general, in subsequent engagements in New York and New Jersey.

Between 1779 and 1780 Smallwood was headquartered in Wilmington, Deleware, charged with surveillance of the Chesapeake Bay and protection of the Continental Army's stores. In 1780 Smallwood's troops moved south as part of General Gates' army fighting in South Carolina, where in September Smallwood was appointed a major general and division commander. When he refused to serve under a foreigner, Baron von Steuben, Smallwood was sent back to Maryland to raise supplies and enlist troops.

Smallwood left the army on 15 Nov 1783. He was elected to the Continental Congress in 1784 but declined to serve.

Chosen as governor by the legislature in Nov 1785, Smallwood served three one-year terms (the statutory limit). As governor, Smallwood called the Maryland Convention which, despite strong anti-Federalist sentiment in the state, ratified the Constitution in April 1788. White credits Smallwood with encouraging the movement to improve Potomac River navigation, but the negotiations between Maryland and Virginia delegates largely took place before Smallwood became governor, although he was chief executive when the legislature ratified the accord in Dec 1785.

When his third gubernatorial term ended, Smallwood retired for a time to the life of a gentleman planter. He was active in the local Masonic chapter and helped to organize the Maryland chapter of the Society of the Cincinnati, for which he served as the first president. Smallwood returned to public office in 1791, when elected to the state Senate, where he served as president of the first session.

William Smallwood never married and left no known children.

He died on 14 Feb 1792, at "his woodyard" in Prince George's County, according to Annapolis diarist William Faris. Smallwood was buried at his plantation, "Smallwood's Retreat," in Charles County.

During his lifetime, Smallwood amassed landholdings of about 9,500 acres in Maryland and 2,000 acres in Virginia. His estate was heavily indebted, however, and his administrators were forced to sell his land to help settle the claims.

Smallwood is most noted as "an outstanding military leader" (White, 21) but Mereness held a more critical view of his performance, noting Smallwood's complaints that he should have been promoted more rapidly and that Maryland deserved more recognition for her contributions to the war effort, as well as "his offensive attitude toward foreigners. His greatest service in the war was as a drill master, in raising men and supplies, and in administering the other military affairs of his state" (Mereness, 226).

In a more recent evaluation, Brugger records that "[b]y all reports Maryland troops received superior training from Smallwood, a rigorous disciplinarian" (Brugger, 228) and that the Maryland Line fought bravely and well in a number of critical engagements.

New DNB Sources sheet

Subject's name: Smallwood, William


  • 1* E. C. Papenfuse, A. F. Day, D. W. Jordan, and G. A. Stiverson, eds., A biographical dictionary of the Maryland legislature, 1635-1789, Baltimore, Maryland (1985).
  • 2* F. F. White, Jr., The governors of Maryland, 1777-1970, Annapolis, Maryland (1970).
  • 3* R. J. Brugger, Maryland: A Middle Temperament, 1634-1980, Baltimore, Maryland (1988), 128-29
  • 4 N. D. Mereness, "William Smallwood," Dictionary of American Biography, XVII (1964).
  • 5 M. B. Klapthor and P. D. Brown, The History of Charles County, Maryland, La Plata, Maryland (1958).




  • K. William Smallwood Collection, MS.1875, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland


  • C. W. Peale, portrait (oils), 1823, Maryland Commission on Artistic Property of the Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland.
  • R. E. Pine (oils), Mellon Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
  • J. Trumbull, miniature (oils), 1792?, Yale University Art Galley, New Haven, Connecticut
  • R. Peale, portrait (oils), c.1812, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland
  • C. W. Peale, portrait (oils), 1781-82?, Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Value of estate or possessions at death

  • Personal property valued at £4,761.6.7 current money (including 26 slaves and 53 oz. of plate) and approximately 9,500 acres in Maryland and 2,000 acres in Virginia.
  • Smallwood's estate was heavily indebted, requiring the sale of his real estate to cover the debts, estimated in 1798 to total £17,500.

Source of data Biographical Dictionary, 2:742.


New DNB Information sheet


  • Main Name Smallwood William
  • Variants of main names none
  • Alternative names none
  • TITLES none
  • Source of data: Biographical Dictionary, 2:741


  • SEX Male
  • Birth 1732 probably Smallwood's Retreat, Charles County, Maryland
  • Source of data: Biographical Dictionary, 2:741
  • Baptism unknown


    • Main name Smallwood Bayne
    • Birth date c.1711 Death date 1768
    • Occupation planter, merchant (firm of Bayne Smallwood & Company)
    • Maiden name Heabard Priscilla
    • Birth date unknown Death date 1784
    • Occupation none
  • Source of Parents' data: Biographical Dictionary, 2:740-41


  • ?-? Kendall, England; Eton
  • Source of data: Biographical Dictionary, 2:741


  • 1732-1792 Christian: Church of England; Episcopal Church
  • Source of data: Biographical Dictionary, 2:741


  • 1732-1792 Smallwood's Retreat, Charles County, Maryland
  • Source of data: Biographical Dictionary, 2:741


  • By descent England
  • By association Maryland


  • Death 14 February 1792 'His woodyard' in Prince George's County
  • Cause of death unknown
  • Burial Smallwood's Retreat, Charles County, Maryland
  • Source of data: Biographical Dictionary, 2:741; place of death recorded in William Faris's diary, entry for 2/16/1792, MS.2160, Maryland Historical Society
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William Smallwood, 4th Gov. of Maryland's Timeline

Charles County, Province of Maryland
February 14, 1792
Age 60
Charles County, Maryland, United States
Charles County, Maryland, United States