Mordecai Gist Redefines Dandy

Mordecai Gist Redefines Dandy

Mordecai Gist was a Brigadier General in the Revolutionary War.

His most notable action was as leader of the Maryland 400 who held off the British at the Battle of Long Island while the rest of the Continental Army made their retreat.

The Baltimore Independent Company

When the hostilities of the American Revolutionary War began, several young men in Baltimore, Maryland met to discuss how they could help.  Their decision was to form a Militia and go off to the front lines.

The Baltimore Independent Company, as these men styled themselves, needed a Captain to lead them to war.  As this regiment was self-organized, these soldiers-to-be decided to take a vote.

The group chose Mordecai Gist from among their ranks to serve as commander.

Mordecai Gist

Being chosen by the very men you are expected to lead demonstrates the respect held by Gist’s colleagues, not to mention the talent which would be expected to succeed in this position.

Gist came from a moderately wealthy Maryland family (his uncle, Christopher Gist, had served with George Washington in the French and Indian War for several years).  

Mordecai was a merchant who’d studied surveying for a time under Washington.  He had taken to the Revolution quickly, which no doubt helped him secure his new title.


Gist led his men to New York where they joined the Continental Army.  

Mordecai was assigned to serve under William Smallwood, who himself was commanded by Lord Sterling.  Gist’s men, many of whom were financially comfortable, showed up well dressed and with bayonets on their guns.  

They were called ‘dandy’ and ‘macaronis,’ both of which were insults at the time. (Much like the song Yankee Doodle was first sung by the British to make fun of Americans.) These words would be re-appropriated by the end of the Revolutionary War and are now viewed as complimentary, if little used, parts of the American lexicon.

The Immortal 400

Gist first saw action in the disastrous Battle of Brooklyn.

The Continental Army were surrounded and attempted to retreat.  Mordecai was instructed to use his men to cover the Americans as they fled.  These brave soldiers provided Washington the time he needed to escape, but were almost completely annihilated.  

Known at the time as the Maryland Line, these soldiers were soon dubbed the Immortal 400.

Brigadier General

Somehow, Mordecai Gist survived the Battle of Brooklyn.

By the midway point of the Revolutionary War, Gist was commissioned as a Brigadier General. With this post, he was sent to the Southern Department.

Bad luck struck again as Mordecai was present for the Battle of Camden.  

Despite all accounts suggesting that Gist performed well during Camden, his best efforts were not enough to prevent the poor decision making of Horatio Gates from almost single-handedly losing the War of Independence to the British that day.


The following year, Mordecai Gist was present with the Continental Army for the Victory at Yorktown.  

Gist retired soon after the war ended, taking a backseat for the creation of the Federal Government. Mordecai never showed much interest in politics and did not hold any positions of note after hostilities ceased.

One thing he added to the Founding were his sons, whose names were Independent Gist and States Gist.  What could be more American than that?

No really, what is more American than that? Leave a comment and let me know what the most American thing you can think of is.

If you’d like to read about other Founders who participated in the Battle of Brooklyn, click on Samuel John Atlee or Lambert Cadwalader.

To learn more about the Battle of Brooklyn and the early Revolutionary War in New York at large, pic up ‘The Campaign of 1776’ from the Amazon affiliate link below.

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