George Baylor was born on January 17, 1752, into the affluent family of John & Fanny Baylor of Caroline County, Virginia. His father owned a large plantation named “Newmarket” as an homage to the renowned horse racing course in England. Although George Baylor may have received some education in England, the lessons he learned on his father’s farmstead would prepare him for a future in the saddle.
As tensions with Great Britain increased, George Baylor volunteered as an officer in the local “Independent Company” and was elected to the Caroline County Committee of Observation. News of the clash of arms in Massachusetts elicited such a “Military Ardor” in Baylor, that he traveled to the camp of the newly appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army with an endorsement from the Virginia delegates to the Continental Congress. General George Washington agreed and named George Baylor an aide-de-camp in the General Orders for August 15, 1775. In the subsequent months, General Washington found his aide “as good, and as obliging a young Man as any in the World, and… Serviceable in Riding, & delivering verbal Orders,” but thought him lacking in the necessary skills of penmanship and composition. Washington chose Baylor to deliver the news of the success at the Battle of Trenton to the Continental Congress, commenting on Baylor’s “spirited Behaviour upon every Occasion” in his letter to John Hancock. As was the custom of the time, Congress rewarded Baylor for delivering the report with, “a horse, properly caparisoned for service,… and that he be recommended to General Washington to be appointed to the command of a regiment of light horse.”
Shortly thereafter, George Baylor was appointed to command the 3rd Regiment of Light Dragoons with the rank of Colonel. He returned to Virginia to recruit and equip his new unit and maintained a correspondence with George Washington, who counseled him on the selection of gentlemen for his corps of officers. Acquiring and fitting-out horses, as well as training recruits in the duties of mounted solders, was slow going. As ranks were filled, they were forwarded to the main army. So, it would not be until the following summer before the unit was altogether fielded. But as Baylor’s regiment began to fulfill its mission, it suffered a crippling blow in the predawn hours of September 28, 1778. A detachment of the British Army, under the command of Brigadier General Charles “No Flint” Grey, surprised them in the neighborhood of Old Tappan, New Jersey. Before the assault, General Grey ordered his troops to use bayonets only and for no quarter to be given. After quickly subduing the American guards, the British fell upon Baylor’s sleeping soldiers with “savage cruelty.” The best estimate of losses was sixteen killed, twenty-four wounded, and thirty-eight prisoners, with Colonel Baylor himself severely wounded. He was taken as a prisoner of war to New York City and, when he was able to travel, paroled to his home in Virginia.
Exchanged by October 31, 1781, Colonel George Baylor set about to refitting his command from Petersburg, Virginia, in preparation for rejoining the main body of the regiment in South Carolina. He arrived in General Nathanael Greene’s camp in the early summer of 1782, but his poor state of health forced him to return to Virginia after only a few months of duty. The “fatigues of the war and the effects of wounds” continued to plague him and, seeking relief in the Caribbean, George Baylor died on November 9, 1784, at Bridgetown, Barbados.
Samuel K. Fore
Harlan Crow Library
Katheder, Thomas. The Baylors of Newmarket: The Decline and Fall of a Virginia Planter Family. New York: iUniverse, 2009.
Maurer, C. F. William. Dragoon Diary: The History of the Third Continental Light Dragoons. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2005.
Piecuch, Jim, ed. Cavalry of the American Revolution. Yardley, PA: Westholme, 2012.