by Mary Jo
Most states have nicknames that reflect their nature and sometimes show up on license plates. California is the Golden State, New Hampshire is the Granite State, Kansas is the Sunflower State, and so on. (I think Arizona's motto must be, "But it's a DRY heat!" <G>)
One of Maryland's nicknames is the Old Line State. Not being a native, I had only a vague knowledge of the origin of that: something about a Revolutionary War battle in which a Maryland regiment bravely held the line against the British. I didn't know any more until I read an article in the Baltimore Sun.
The battle that inspired the nickname was the Battle of Brooklyn on August 27th–August 30th, 1776. The revolution was new. The British had been pushed back in New England after the Siege of Boston, the traitorous colonials had had the audacity to issue a Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776, and Britain was going to end this nonsense RIGHT NOW, a mere six weeks after independence was declared.
Wanting to crush the rebels, the Empire sent 32,000 troops, both seasoned British army regulars and tough Hessian mercenaries. The idea was to crush the inexperienced Continental Army under General George Washington, which was in New York guarding the strategically important harbor. Destroy the army, cut the rebellious colonies in half, and be home in time for Christmas.
But that didn't happen. I've read that the Battle of Brooklyn (also known as the Battle of Long Island) was the largest of the war in terms of troop numbers, and also the bloodiest. Hammered by the British, the untested Continental Army largely fell apart and withdrew.
Fighting on swampy ground, the 1st Maryland regiment was holding down the right end of the line. Over half the men were able to retreat with the rest of the rebel army, but a group called the Maryland 400 stood their ground. (The number was probably nearer 270.)
It's not clear if they were trapped and had to keep fighting, or that they were really brave and really stubborn. Whatever their motivations, they charged the enemy again and again, blocking the advance of the British troops and allowing the battered Continental Army to ferry all 9000 surviving troops to lower Manhattan with no further casualties.
Watching from a hilltop, it's said that Washington wept and said, "My God, what brave men I must this day lose!"
As for the Marylanders–numbers vary, but I've read that 256 of the 270 Maryland soldiers were killed and buried in an unmarked grave. Excavations are currently going on at a Brooklyn site that might be where their bones were laid to rest.
And Maryland earned the proud title "The Old Line State."
There's a memorial monument to the brave soldiers in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Other states, other countries, also have their heritage stories that may not be well known outside the area. What stories has your part of the world earned?