Why the "Dandy Fifth"
Prior to the Battle of Long Island on August 27, 1776, General William Smallwood’s Regiment composed in a large part of the sons of the best families in Maryland was nicknamed the “Macaronis” by the Tories of New York due to perfect equipment and pride in being distinguished as the best drilled and disciplined of the American forces.
Inspired by reading of the stand of the Maryland Line, John Williamson Palmer, a Baltimore poet penned “The Maryland Battalion: In the Battle of Long Island”. In the opening stanza of the poem Palmer wrote:
Spruce Macaronis and pretty to see,
Tidy and dapper and gallant were we.
Blooded fine gentlemen, proper and tall,
Bold in a fox hunt and gay at a ball.
Prancing soldados, so martial and bluff,
Billets for bullets, in scarlet and buff.
But our cockades were clasped with a mother’s low prayer,
And the sweethearts that braided the sword knots were fair.
The use of the term “Macaroni”, signifying socially elite dandies, was a poetical gesture as the officers, at the Battle of Long Island, were attired in the handsome scarlet and buff uniform.
From its reorganization in 1867 until World War I the Fifth Regiment paraded annually in Baltimore, usually on May 10th the anniversary of its reorganization and often on such holidays as the Fourth of July and Defenders’ Day. The Regiment frequently turned out, too, to honor distinguished visitors.
Always the Fifth was outstanding in the perfection of its uniform and the precision of its drill. Its members were drawn from the city’s well-educated young men, as had been Mordecai Gist’s “gentlemen of honor, family and fortune”, but intrinsically the Regiment was marked by a spirit of democracy and fair play.
Membership as enlisted men or officers came to be an honor eagerly sought. Speedily the reorganized Fifth attracted the interest and friendship of Baltimoreans and Marylanders, who soon reflected their affection for the pride in the Regiment by referring to it as the “Dandy Fifth”.