Thursday, September 21, 2017

“Weak and Imperfect:” The German Regiment of the Continental Army

Two men of the German Regiment
Dear Reader,

Today we have a guest post, written by Jack Weaver.[1] Jack has a longstanding interest in the German Regiment of the Continental Army.

One of the first ethnic regiments raised by the new United States during the American Revolutionary War was the German Regiment, also known as the German Battalion, which Congress authorized on 25 May 1776.[2] The German Regiment recruited mostly from the ethnic and immigrant German populations of Pennsylvania and Maryland, and served from 1776 until 1781. It was one of the worst regiments in the Continental Army, not because it was actually bad at fighting, but because it had a poor corps of officers, which may have contributed to its soldiers’ habit of mutiny. 



Its first mutiny, in September of 1776, was most tied to its officers’ lack of good leadership. Because many men were not working when they were in barracks in Philadelphia, Lt. Col. George Stricker decided to halt rations of food for any soldiers who did not work, writing: "I shall Hereafter Direct the provisions of the day to be drawn every morning after the return from Duty I Desire that the Capn. Return to me who do not attend his duty"[3] Stricker undermined the enlisted men’s trust, and the men protested the very day he issued that order.

In his book, A Man of No Country, Historian James Davis described what happened: 


"The men gathered on the parade ground and worked themselves up to the verge of rioting. Stricker turned out several soldiers with loaded muskets and threatened to shoot someone if order was not restored. A sullen calm prevailed in the regiment after the incident. Performances did not improve, and Stricker threatened them with dire punishment without taking any action."[4]

A recreated member of the German Regiment, as they might have appeared on the Sullivan Campaign
 The second mutiny occurred a couple of years later, when the German Regiment was part of Hand’s Brigade of Light Infantry during General John Sullivan’s campaign against the Iroquois in 1779. In spring of 1779, soldiers from Pennsylvania petitioned Congress, believing that they had been defrauded into serving for the duration of the war:'
"We Being First Inlisted for three years, and received Ten Dollars bounty, at the Expiration of three months there being Ten dollars more Given to Us, Being Persuadet that it was Only a Present, of the above state, But now we are tould by Our Officers that we are Inlisted During the War. Several of use Having Received the other Ten Dollars, and Several Have not."[5]

On 14 July of 1779, William Rogers, a chaplain in Sullivan’s army wrote that “Last Night thirty three of the German Regiment deserted under the plea of their time being out. They went off properly armed with drum and fife. … a detachment of fifty soldiers on horseback were ordered to pursue them.” [6]The deserters were captured, and made to remain with the army. Some soldiers, such as Jacob Bottomer, claimed that though “his inlistment was only for three years he continued 20 months in the service after the expiration of his time.”[7]


A map of early Pennsylvania
Bottomer, along with other German Regiment soldiers, may have also participated in the mutiny of the Pennsylvania Line at Morristown in 1781, which occurred around the time of his discharge. While there is no direct evidence that the German Regiment participated in the mutiny en masse, its timing is coincidental: the German regiment arrived in Morristown on 31 December 1780, and the mutiny broke out on 1 January 1781.

The enlisted men of the German Regiment may have had such a penchant for insubordination because they lacked a good officer corps. The poor decisions of Lt. Col. Stricker have already been covered, but there were other poor leaders in the Regiment. Its first colonel, Nicholas Haussegger, though a competent commander and administrator, was also a notorious traitor whom the British captured at the Battle of Princeton. He turned his coat while a prisoner in New York City, and Washington refused to parole him.[8] The second Colonel of the German Regiment, Baron d’Arendt, a Prussian volunteer, was unpopular with the men and sought a transfer after a few months of being in charge of the German Regiment.[9] Henry Laurens described Arendt as “an Indolent worthless Creature.”[10] Samuel Smith described him as such: "He was a Prussian; a very military looking man, six feet high, and elegantly formed. Indeed, his whole appearance was that which would commend him to a command, where personal bravery was not required."[11]

The second Lieutenant Colonel of the German Regiment was Ludowick Weltner, who was the commanding officer of the German Regiment from Fall of 1777 until its dissolution. In 1780, the German Regiment was stationed at Sunbury in the Pennsylvania frontier. While in Sunbury, Weltner terrorized the local inhabitants: he encouraged his officers and men to beat the locals, steal from them, and destroy their property. [12] Besides the highest ranking officers in the unit, the junior officer corps also had a bevy of problems, which included physical infirmity, dueling, fraud, embezzlement, and cowardice in battle.

By its dissolution in early 1781, the German Regiment was one of the worst regiments in the Continental Army. It became a career dead end in August 1777 when a board of Generals decided its officers “had better rise regimentally,” meaning that they could only be promoted within the regiment.[13] At its disbandment, the German Regiment also had four vacant companies lacking a commanding officer.[14] The German Regiment was not one of the Continental Army’s worse regiments because its men were actively bad at their jobs. When the Army dissolved it, its men were transferred to other regiments from their respective states, where they continued to serve. However, they had poor leadership, which resulted in poor conduct, and that is why they were one of the worst regiments in the Continental Army. They were not wretched, but they were dysfunctional.


Thanks for Reading,


Jack Weaver


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[1]Jack Weaver is a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia, where he majored in History and minored in German Studies. His Honors Thesis: 'A Corps of much service: the German Regiment of the Continental Army,' received the Ellen Monk Krattiger Award for outstanding work in the study of Colonial North America. He is currently an English Teaching Assistant with Fulbright Austria, and plans to attend graduate school for history.
[2] Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford et al. (Washington, D.C., 1904-37), 4:390
[3] “Head Quarters Philadelphia Septbr. 24. 1776,” Nicholas Haussegger orderly book (Collection Am .623), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
[4] James F. Davis, A Man of No Country: the Case of Colonel Nicholas Haussegger 1729 – 1786 (Lebanon: Lebanon County Historical Society, 1989) 27.
[5] Pennsylvania Companies of the German Regiment to the Continental Congress, https://www.fold3.com/image/356707.
[6] William Rogers, The Journal of a Brigade Chaplain in the Campaign of 1779 Against the Six Nations Under Command of Major-general John Sullivan ed. Sidney Smith Rider (Michigan State University: Sidney S. Rider, 1879) 62.
[7]Jacob Bottomer Pension Application, R1557. Fold3 Military Records, Fold3.com
[8] “From George Washington to John Beatty, 19 August 1779,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified February 21, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-22-02-0151.
[9]To George Washington from Colonel Arendt, 7 August 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified December 28, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-10-02-0541.
[10] January 8, 1778 letter from Henry Laurens to John Laurens, Paul H. Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, Vol. 8, September 19, 1777 – January 31, 1778 (Washington, D.C.; Library of Congress, 1981), p. 547.
[11] “The Papers of General Samuel Smith,” The Historical Magazine, Second Series, Vol. VII, No. 2 (Morissania, NY; Henry B. Dawson, Feb. 1870), pp. 88-89.
[12] To George Washington from John Buyers, 18 May 1780,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 29, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-01780.
[13] To George Washington from a Board of General Officers, 19 August 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 29, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-11-02-0002.
[14] Henry J. Retzer, The German Regiment of Maryland and Pennsylvania in the Continental Army, 1776 – 1781 (Westminster: Family Line Publications, 1991) 96.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Kabinettskriege Update/Hessian Podcast Appearance

Some light summer reading.
Dear Reader,

As you might have noticed, Kabinettskriege has been rather quiet lately. I have been preparing for my comprehensive exams at West Virginia University, which involves a great deal of time spent in reading, study, and deep thought. I appreciate you all bearing with me, and I promise to return to writing after my exams are finished, hopefully on September 12th.

As you may or may not be aware, at the Ph.D level, comprehensive exams involve reading a number of books in your areas of research/interest, and then taking written exams on those fields, followed by an oral exam in front of a panel of historians. I begin my exams tomorrow, and would appreciate all the thoughts, prayers, and good energy you have time to send my way!

After the exams conclude, I'll be returning to work on my dissertation, and hope to write more on here. If any of you are interested in seeing what I've read, I am going to add a "book list" page to the top bar.

Fear not: Kabinettskriege will return.

In the mean time, I'd like to share a podcast I was on recently, in which we discussed Hessian troops in the American War of Independence. It is called the "History to War Games" Podcast, and is hosted by Rob Rhodes.

You can find the Podcast here.

As ever, thanks for reading.

Alex


Thursday, August 10, 2017

"The Rest Set about the Enemy and Hacked Them to Pieces.": the Erzherzog Carl/Ferdinand Regiment


Image of an Austrian Grenadier, possibly from No. 2
Copyright Royal Trust Collection and Lessing Archive
Reproduced here for educational purposes only.
It may seem odd that the first regiment I choose to focus on is an Austrian unit. Indeed, when I suggested this series on facebook, one commenter suggested that Austrian units were mediocre. However, not all Austrian units were created equal. The Austrian army was divided into a number of "national" contingents, and of these, one of the best groups were the Hungarian infantry regiments. Today, we are going to look at one of the best of those Hungarian troops: the Erzherzog Carl infantry regiment.

When examining the Austrian Army of the Seven Years' War era, Dr. Christopher Duffy is the master, and this case is no different. Please refer to his two volume study of the Austrian Army in the Seven Years' War if you have further questions about this capable and oft-maligned fighting force. In his concise and insightful manner, Duffy records that the regiment was "distinguished at Kolin, Breslau, Lethen [and] Hochkirk." He also indicates that at Torgau it took the heaviest losses of any regiment involved, "resulting from its repeated counterattacks."[1]

So- how does the regiment fair under our criteria? Duffy asserts that the regiment had, "a fine reputation," and that it was "crack" infantry regiment, but little has come down to us by way of other Austrian army commentators on the regiment's reputation.[2] However, in two categories, specifically their performance on campaign and the reputation of their commander, we shall see the men of Erzherzog Carl developed a stellar name for themselves.

No. 2's service record was exemplary in the Austrian service. Its officers were distinguished at Kolin, and it displayed remarkable self-control in containing the disaster at Leuthen. When a group of blue coated infantry rushed the regiment's position, the men displayed perfect self-control, waiting to receive them with, "good platoon fire."[3] It quickly came to light that these were allied Würtemburg troops, not Prussians. The men quickly opened holes in the ranks, and then played a vital part in the rearguard defense of the fleeing Austrian army. This was difficult to do in the stress of battle, and the Prince de Ligne commented on the fortitude of regiments who withheld their fire in similar circumstances.

The men of Erzherzog Carl also displayed a great sense of initiative in the face of the enemy. During the advance at Hochkirk, No. 2 had the misfortune to attack a number of heavy enemy entrenchments. Prince de Ligne recalled the scene: "The cries of the Hungarians and of the enemy who were being taken by surprise, and the horror of the night, illuminated only by the musket shots, had something really terrifying about it."[4] After initial repulse and resulting confusion, officers such as Major Jerky rode throughout the regiment, quickly restoring order, and allowing 2nd Lt. Dezier to move forward with sixty volunteers, and clear the redoubts.[5]

A drawing of the regiment taken in 1762
The regiment fought with great determination at the Battle of Torgau, even after it was completely surrounded by Prussian forces. It refused to surrender for some time, resulting in the highest single unit casualties of the engagement. Some men cut their way out, others were forced to surrender. After this massive loss of men, the regiment was placed in reserve duty, in order to recover its strength. A portion of the regiment were placed in the fortress of Schwiednitz in order to protect it from a Prussian siege in 1762. In the course of the siege, the regiment once again made a name for itself, when 1st Lt. Waldhütter and thirty men of the regiment spearheaded a successful sortie against the besieging Prussian forces. Franz Guasco, the fortress commandant, left this description of the sortie:
"Waldhütter and his troops jumped inside without hesitation and found the Prussians on their guard.Some of the opened fire, while some knelt on the floor and raised their muskets, the bayonets fixed to the muzzles. Our men flung themselves blindly among them, sabre in hand; some of them were skewered on the bayonets, but the rest set about the enemy and hacked them to pieces."[6]
So, clearly, these men were not afraid to snuff some powder. Observers praised the regiment's ability to deliver "effective musket fire."[7] It is possible that this ability stemmed from the regimental commander Joseph Siskovics' frequent practice of having the men fire at targets.[8] Jacob Cogniazzo, a veteran of the regiment, described Siskovics as "an excellent drillmaster."[9] It appears that Siskovics placed a high importance for language training among his officers. The Prince de Ligne, another Austrian veteran, marveled at Siskovics ability to exercise and maneuver 4 different regiments at once, when each of those regiments spoke a different national language.[10] Siskovics sponsored language training for some of his officers and was not shy about publicly rating individuals in his officer cadre, "Good" or "Poor" depending on their service with the regiment.[11] He maintained an excellent reputation among the Austrian military, largely because he drilled his regiment into a highly competent fighting force.

As a result of their performance on campaign, the reputation of their commander, and the opinions of historians, the Erzherzog Carl Regiment deserves to be considered one of the best regiments in Austrian service during the Seven Years' War, and perhaps one of the best regiments of the eighteenth century.

Thanks for Reading,


Alex Burns




[1] Duffy, By Force of Arms, 429.
[2] Ibid, 126,; Duffy, Instrument of War, 65.
[3]Cogniazzo, Gestaendnisse eines oesterrichishen Veterans, Vol 2, 419.
[4] Prince de Ligne, Melanges Militaires, Vol 14, 168-169.
[5] Duffy, By Force of Arms, 136-137.
[6] Kriegs Archiv, Vienna, HKR Memoires 1762  880/12, Guasco, Relation du Siege de Schweidnitz, 31 October, 1762.
[7] Anon., Neues Militaerisches Zeitschrift, Vol 4, (1811), 99.
[8] Duffy, By Force of Arms, 427.
[9] Cogniazzo, Gestaendnisse eines oesterrichishen Veterans, Vol 3, 15.
[10] Prince de Ligne, His Memoirs, Letters, and  Miscellaneous Papers, 93.
[11] Duffy, Instrument of War,  65, 173.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Austrian Struggle Against... Vampires?

A Hajduk: and potentially: a Vampire? 
Dear Reader,

In the early to mid eighteenth century, the Austrian Empire, Russian Empire, and Ottoman Empire waged a see-saw battle for control of the Balkans. Historians traditionally see the eighteenth-century as a time of sharp Ottoman decline, but that is not entirely fair, considering Ottoman success in 1711 and 1739 at places such as Prut and Grocka. On the other hand, the Ottomans were defeated quite soundly by Prinz Eugen in 1717, and by the Russians at numerous points throughout the century. See the map below for further details.

A Map of Ottoman Decline
Our story begins in the aftermath of Prinz Eugen von Savoyen's victory at Belgrade in 1717. It may greatly enhance your enjoyment of this post if you listen to this commemorative song while reading it.  After this victory and the resulting Treaty of Passarowitz, the Austrian government ruled most of Serbia and northern Bosnia via direct military control. Communities of refugee Serbs, who were induced to resettle the acquired territory, form the heart of our story.

These Serbian communities were protected by militiamen in addition to regular Austrian military forces. These militiamen are occasionally referred to as "hajduk" (today "Hajduci") a term possibly derived from the Ottoman word ""hajdud" meaning Polish or Hungarian soldiers.[1] These soldiers served as border guards against renewed attacks from the Ottoman Empire. One of these Hajduks, Arnold Paole, was one of the first of a series "reported" vampires in the region in the 1720s and 1730s.

Arnold Paole, a Hajduk and former refugee, claimed that he had been visited/attacked by a vampire near Kosovo, before traveling to the village of Meduegna, near modern Trstenik, in Serbia. Likewise, another Serbian, Petar Blagojevich, possibly from the modern town of Kisiljevo, reportedly died and then began to prey upon his family members as a vampire. In both cases, Blagojevich in 1725, and Paole in 1732, Austrian local government officials responded to the events as a serious crisis. Austrian Kameralprovisor Frombald, (first name, alas, unknown), traveled to the village in order to deal with the crisis. Local peasants petitioned Frombald and the parish priest to permit the exhumation of the body, which after some initial hesitation, they permitted.
Hajduks, from the late 17th century

Frombald explained in a report:

"Since I could not persuade them otherwise, by promises or threats, I went to the village of Kisiljevo, taking along the priest from Gradisk, and viewed the freshly exhumed body of [Petar Blagojevich], finding in accordance with thoughtful thoroughness, that first of all I did not detect any odor which normally accompanies the dead, and the body except for the nose... was completely fresh. The hair and beard, and even the nails, of which the old ones had fallen away- had grown on him; the old skin, which was somewhat whitish, had peeled away, and a new fresh one had emerged under it... Not without astonishment, I saw some fresh blood in his mount, which, according to local belief, he had sucked from the people he had killed."[2]
The stunned Frombald looked on as, perhaps unsurprisingly, the villagers took the sane precaution of driving a sharpened stake through Petar's heart, and burning his body. [Of course, I jest. Modern medical analysis indicates that such signs in a recently deceased corpse are rather normal.] However, in the borderland between the Austrian and Ottoman Empires, numerous fears regarding death and violence trumped the rational concerns of the Kameralprovisor.

Around the same time, Serbian Hajduk Arnold Paole reported being menaced by a vampire, but that he had employed folk remedies to free himself of its dark influence. In 1725, shortly after returning to his home village, he died after falling from a hay wagon. Almost immediately, villagers began to complain of being visited by Arnold in vampire form. Four villagers died under mysterious circumstances, and the local village Hadnack ordered an exhumation of Paole. His body displayed almost the same symptoms Blagojevich, and the villagers performed the same remedy, repeating it on the four individuals who were supposed to be his victims.

The matter was considered closed, until around 6 years later, villagers in Meduegna once again began to die under mysterious circumstances. 13 villagers died after brief illnesses, and their deaths were reported to Lt. Colonel Schnezzer, the local Austrian army officer. He sent for Imperial-Contagions-Medicus Glaser, who ignored the vampiric assertions of the villagers. According to the villagers, both of the young women who had initially died were infected during their time on the Turkish side of the border. According to the villagers, in the Turkish lands, "Vampires were everywhere, in great strength."[3] Glaser began to investigate the deaths and concluded that the deaths were a result of malnutrition and extreme Eastern Orthodox fasting.[4]

Austrian Infantry in the 1740s, by David Morier

The villagers would not budge and demanded that the vampires be exhumed and executed. Consenting to an exhumation, Glaser discovered that those who died earliest were in a perfect state of preservation, while those who died later had partially decomposed. Glaser reported these findings to Botta d'Adorno, the vice-commandant in Belgrade, who organized a secondary commission, consisting of five army officers:  a Lt. Colonel, Ensign, and three military surgeons.

These military men concluded that a number of the villagers who had died were indeed in "vampiric condition," (Vampyrenstand) and ordered that those in such condition were to be executed via stakes, burned, and ashes scattered over water. The villagers concluded that Arnold Paole must have been feeding on local cattle, which were then consumed by the new victims, transmitting vampirism to them. [5] While doubtless pleasing the local villagers, the conclusions of the military men had annoying repercussions for Austrian army reformers.

Gerhard van Swieten, a figure of the Austrian enlightenment, railed against army physicians who allowed themselves to be taken in by superstition. He argued, "the stories about vampires in Moravia are still recent, and too much in need of rebuttal, for me to have a favorable opinion of the local physicians, who would never have allowed themselves to be taken in by these fables if they had been good doctors."[6] For van Swieten, rationalism and education needed to trump superstition, in order for Austrian military medicine to compete with other leading states of Europe.

So, even as Ottoman pressure and Serbian fears created stories of vampiric activity, Austrian officials were divided on the response. Should local beliefs and the vampire threat be taken seriously, as the military commission suggested, or should superstition be banished in the name of education and efficiency? All of these sentiments were at war, as the Austrian army and state attempted to control the Balkans in the mid-eighteenth century.

Feel free to share this post if you know individuals who might be interested.


Thanks for Reading,




Alex Burns








[1] Aleksandar Petrovic, The Role of Banditry in the Creation of National States in the Central Balkans During the 19th Century, MA thesis, 2003, Section: Terminology.
[2]Frombald, Wienerisches Diarium, July 21, 1725, 11-12.
[3] Klaus Hamberger, Mortuus non mordet: kommentierte Dokumentation zum Vampirismus, 48.
[4] Ibid, 46.
[5] Don Augustin Calmet, Treatise on the Apparitions of Spirits and on Vampires or Revenants: of Hungary, Moravia, et al. (2015), 333-335.
[6] Quoted in Christopher Duffy, Instrument of War, 332.

Monday, July 31, 2017

How Religious were Eighteenth-Century Soldiers?


A group of men from the 7th, 8th, and 17th Regiments of the British Army

Dear Reader,

Today, we are going to look at a question very near and dear to my heart. At a reenactment last weekend, sitting around the camp fire, I heard a reenactor loudly proclaim that he would not go to church parade, (a military formation/church service held on Sunday mornings) regardless of what the practice was in the eighteenth century. This post does not intend to get into modern religious debates: indeed, nor am I trying to force anyone to do anything against their conscience. However, with that statement rolling around in my head, I decided to give a cursory glance at the sources, with the following question in mind: How religious was the average soldier of European armies in the eighteenth century?

Although I cannot hope to answer this question in the statistical detail of my "average" soldier posts, I still thought that it might be worth a crack, as there is certainly some information regarding this topic available.  In answering the question, I am indebted, as usual, to the fine work of Christopher Duffy, as well as the writings of Michael Snape, Charles Royster, Caroline Cox, and Richard Gawthrop. Once again, I am truly standing on the shoulders of giants.

The only anecdotes of military-religious fatalism even approaching those of the Swedish and Russian armies, come oddly enough, from an army supposed by many in North America to be irreligious: the British Army. The rise of Methodism, described by Michael Snape in The Redcoat and Religion, created a swell of religious feeling in the British army during the War of Austrian Succession. The French military of the eighteenth century did not have an official chaplaincy, as a result of the Louis XIV's unwillingness to submit to papal authority. Rather, regimental commanders appointed their own chaplains, and were responsible for their pay. By contrast, Phillip V of Spain appointed a vicariate general of armies, who supervised the chaplaincy in 1705. Jean-Paul Bertaud asserts that in both cases, "Chaplains were not able to halt the de-Christianization of the armies."[15]


Would period soldiers have engaged in such debauchery?
With the caveat that religiosity and belief varied greatly from army to army, we can safely say that European and North American armies of the eighteenth century were incredibly religious, much more religious than society today. The remainder of the post will compare religious views across different armies, and attempt to "take the pulse," of religion in these armies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, soldiers in the earlier part of this era display fanatic levels of religious devotion, so we will start there.



A 19th Century depiction of Swedish Karoliner at prayer, by Gustaf Cederstrom

The Armies of the Great Northern War: Sweden and Russia

Both Swedish and Russian soldiers were fiercely religious in the early eighteenth century and directly applied their religious beliefs to their job as soldiers. A writer accompanying the Swedish army in Livonia during the Great Northern War noted that at the outset of an engagement, the Swedish commander:
“Count Lewenhaupt then addressing himself to the Lord of hosts and victories, ordered the prayers usual upon the like occasions; the cavalry alighting, and the whole two lines kneeling upon the field. The prayer ended with a verse taken from a hymn, which was echo'd by the whole army, and then the signal was given: with the help of God, and in the name of Jesus.”[1] 
Such sentiments were still clearly being expressed by men such as Leopold von Anhalt Dessau thirty years later. The religiosity of Swedish army did not apply only to the high command. If you peruse the enormous collection of Great Northern War era Swedish soldiers' writings published in 1913, letters such as the following are common:
“It was a great sorrow to behold the poor men, who were frozen by means of the slow march. Indeed, many a cavalrymen and dragoon sat frozen to death still on their horses. The day after, which was the 24th of December, the companies were surveyed, and each had 25 or 26 men found frozen, and regrettably, this forced the amputation of hands, legs and feet. There was more sorrow and sadness than one could believe. ...Blessed be the Lord my God, who has brought me warmly through so many dangers. Blessed be my God, in both good and bad times, in all times. Indeed, Eternal glory , thanks, and praise to my God, full of grace, goodness and mercy. To me, the proof is now evident that the day of my death is swift approaching. So, I ask you, my God, with a humble heart, full of grace, send your peace and blessing to me, remain with me, and allow me to abide with you forever. Oh my Lord God, hear and grant me this, for the sake of Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Amen, Amen.”[2]
Such displays of military-religious fatalism were common in the Swedish army, but matched by the Russian army of the same era. From the writing of European observers, and the few diaries of the lower rank men who could write, we can see that military-religious myths arose in Russia, such as the belief that a man killed in battle would be brought to life again three days later in his native village.[3]

An Orthodox Priest blesses Russian soldiers in the Napoleonic Era


The Russian military planners often disregarded the dietary requirements of Eastern Orthodox soldiers, leading one western military observer to note that there were, “religious fanatics who preferred to die rather than take a meat broth.”[4] Peter I’s response was to make the religious soldiers eat by threat of force, whereas other generals obtained permission from the Holy Synod for their soldiers to abstain from the dietary requirements. This would seem to indicate that the religious nature of Russian military life came from inside the army, and was not forced on it by the state in hopes of creating a fearless body of soldiers.

These ideas remained in place in the Russian army for much of the century. Charles Immanuel Warnery, a Prussian cavalry officer, described the battle of Kunersdorf, where the Russian Corps of Observation was caught in a heavy artillery crossfire: “This respectable Corps, did not defend themselves, but instead lay on the ground, and allowed themselves to be massacred by thrusts of the bayonet, in the honor of St. Nicholas. “[5] In both the Swedish and Russian armies, then, observers noted an acceptance of the will of God, which applied to military affairs.



This British soldier, painted by Morier in the 1740s, was likely not a Methodist

Religion in Anglophone Armies: British and American Piety

British soldiers such as John Haime converted to the Methodism of John Wesley, and recorded intense bouts of religious emotion on the battlefield. At the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745, Haime recalled:


"The spring following, we took the field again : and on Mayllth,.l745, we had a full trial of our faith at Fontenoy. Some days before, one of our brethren, standing at his tent-door, broke out into raptures of joy, knowing his departure was at hand ; and, when he went into the field of battle, declared, 'I am going to rest in the bosom of Jesus.' Indeed, this day God was pleased to prove our little flock, and to show them His mighty power. They showed such courage and boldness in the fight as made the officers, as well as soldiers, amazed. When wounded, some cried out,  'I am going to my Beloved.[Christ]' Others, 'Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!' And many that were not wounded earnestly desired  'to be dissolved and to be with Christ.' When W. Clements had his arm broken by a musket-ball, they would have carried him out of the battle ; but he said,  'No ; I have an arm left to hold my sword : I will not go yet.' When a second shot broke his other arm, he said, 'I am as happy as I can be out of paradise.' John Evans, having both his legs taken off by a cannon- ball, was laid across a cannon to die : where, as long as he could speak, he was praising God with joyful lips."[6]
From the perspective of 2017, such words might seem almost haunting, and some readers may doubt the sincerity of the men who wrote them. However, far from being the outlier, these types of sentiments abound in the writings of British soldiers who had joined Methodist societies. We cannot know with certainty how much of the army joined these societies, but indicators in the letters and memoirs consistently make Methodists out to be a sizeable minority. Methodist preacher John Wesley received a letter from soldiers at the front, describing the same battle, which expressed similar sentiments:
But we were all endued with strength and courage from God, so that the fear of death was taken away from us. We left our brother Mark Bend in the field; whether he be alive or dead we cannot tell; but the last of our brothers that spoke to him, after he was wounded, found him quite resigned to the will of God. We that he has spared a little longer, desire you to return thanks to God for all his mercies to us."[7]
Methodism would remain a force within the British army until 1815 and after; during the Peninsular War, Wellington expressed fears that Methodism was again on the rise, and requested Anglican chaplains to combat this sentiment.[8]Despite this, we should not assume that ALL British soldiers held these views, in fact, some commentators observe that the British were less religious than other eighteenth-century soldiers. A German Subsidientruppen from Ansbach-Bayreuth, Johann Dölha serving alongside the British army in the era of the American Revolution, recalled,"
The common English soldier is swift, marches easily...[w]hen they go against an enemy, they are fresh, optimistic, and do not worry about their life... The English keep their clothing very clean and have only the vices of cussing, swearing, drinking, whoring, and stealing, and these more so than other people.[9]


It would also seem that the British Soldier of the era got into some trouble
When specifically describing the British navy, Dölha informed his reader,  On the other hand, the seamen are a thieving, happy, whoring, drunken lot and much inclined to swearing and cursing people. They can hardly say three words without their curses ‘God damn my soul, God damn me…’ toward us they are rather rough, impolite, and rude."[10]

The British army, then, seems to have been a contradiction, with both fervently religious and more profane elements. This should not surprise us, it is quite likely that the British were simply more expressive of this contradiction, existed in most eighteenth century armies. Another Anglophone army of the era, the Continental Army, was deeply religious, but perhaps less fatalistic than the Swedish, Russians, or Methodist Britons.


George Washington in prayer at Valley Forge, a later artist's reimagining
Charles Royster argues that religious language was one of the primary ways through which Continental Army soldiers understood the world.[11] Preachers followed the Continental Army, and frequently distributed religious literature to soldiers, who eagerly lapped up any insights from the gospel on their current situation. British army officers believed that religious thinking had led the colonies to war in the first place.[12] Especially during the early war, religion mattered a great deal to the Continental Army. Even army officers from supposedly more secular areas of North America, such as the Chesapeake region, frequently used religious injunctions in their orders.[13] Coming out of the harsh winter at Valley Forge, George Washington ordered May 6th to be a day of thanksgiving for providential protection.[14]


French Soldiers of the Seven Years' War Era, Don Troiani

Armies of the Catholic Powers: Austria, Spain, and France


The Austrian army possessed an official chaplaincy, and as a result of the work of Christopher Duffy, we know a good deal more than we otherwise might. In the mid-century, the average Austrian chaplain was 39 years old, with five years of service under his belt.[16] The Austrian chaplains "exercised a considerable moral authority over officer and man alike." [17]

Considering the Austrian Empire's  status as a polyglot religious state, we should not be surprised that many Austrian soldiers were openly Eastern Orthodox or secretly Protestant. Only a chaplaincy for Catholics existed, but the army regulations indicate that: "Religion is something you should never speak about. Rather it is something you should strive to live by. Upon pain of severe and unfailing punishment, we forbid any behaviour which may create ill-feeling between those of different faiths."[18] The Austrian army managed to keep its soldiers fighting together, despite the religious, ethnic and politic divisions holding them apart. Such an achievement is truly remarkable. 


Menzel's Reimagining of a Prussian Infantry Chaplain

The German Protestants: Prussia and the Western German States

There were deep, heartfelt religious motivations among many of the common soldiers and officers fighting in German Protestant armies in the eighteenth century. In places as diverse as modern Poland and upstate New York, soldiers in Protestant German armies could be heard singing hymns as they marched into battle.[19] Most of these armies also contained numerous Feld-Predigers, or chaplains, who ministered to the men, and occasionally made rousing speeches on the day of battle.

Hessian soldiers such as Dölha complained about the lack of religious feeling in British soldiers and even deployed religious complaints about slavery in North America. August von Dinklage, a Lt. Colonel of a Hessian grenadier battalion,  he thought that the whites used religion to mistreat African slaves. Dinklage believed that the animal-like treatment of the blacks was, "to the shame of so-called Christians." He went on to say, "it is a sad sight when one views these people, who in their capacities and the quality of their intelligence yield nothing to the whites, sold like cattle in the market to the highest bidder."[20] The Hessians brought their chaplains with them to North America, and many of those chaplains recorded their thoughts on the young United States. Unlike many eighteenth-century armies, the Prussian army contained ministers of Catholic, Calvinist, and Orthodox faiths, in addition to the official state sanctioned Lutheranism. [21] The Lt. Colonel of the Brunswick Prinz Friedrich Regiment, Christian Julius Prätorius, allowed his Catholic soldiers to attend mass separately from the rest of his men.[22]

Many men of an earlier generation, such as Leopold von Anhalt Dessau, were rough Christian soldiers of a simple, childlike faith. Though Leopold was an effeciency-minded reformer, he nonetheless possessed a firm, gruff sense of religion. His order to attack at the Battle of Kesselsdorf was a simple, "In Jesus Nahmen marsch!" (In Jesus name, forwards!).[23] He and men like him were consistently in conflict with the more intellectual officers of the Prussian army, and both added a necessary ingredient in Prussian success.


Richard Knötel's depiction of  Leopold von Anhalt Dessau at Kesselsdorf
So, for most eighteenth-century Protestant German soldiers, religion was a moderating force, which provided cohesion, stability, and occasionally empathy. An observer noted of a Prussian regiment at prayer:
"you could imagine nothing more elevating than to see this band of heoes, who make provinces and kingdoms tremble, bow down before the Almighty. The generals, the officers, and the rank and file stand in a circle around the preacher, who makes his altar out of two drums, and they all pray to Lord with bowed heads."[24]
Frederick II was a deist, not an atheist 

Non-belief in Eighteenth-Century Armies

As better and more famous historians than I have noted, measuring non-belief before the twentieth century is indeed a difficult proposition.[25] What we can say with certainty is that members of the upper classes expressed Deistic ideas. Frederick II, himself a deist, was not afraid to resort to theistic language in order to inspire his troops. At one point, he and General Seydlitz were listening to one of these religious speeches, and Frederick commented on the religious language: "That's just for the baggage drivers!"[26]

In the Austrian service, despite the incredibly high level of religious devotion among the rank and file, many officers were less devout.  Describing a particular brand of young Austrian officer, a commentator noted that, "few of them have religious beliefs, and they scorn those who harbour them..."[27] Still- despite the efforts on modern atheists (such as Christopher Hitchens on Thomas Jefferson) to read back atheist into the eighteenth century, real atheism was quite rare, if not unheard of. Frederick II strongly defended the deist position against atheism in the later years of his reign.[28]

In summary: despite being "the age of reason," in a military context, the European eighteenth century was a highly religious place. Although the highest echelons of society may have espoused deism, most ordinary soldiers remained extremely devout. Although Christian religious belief in Europe was quite diverse, most states still divided their official military-religious ceremonies along sectarian lines. A few North German states such as Prussian and Brunswick were making small strides in the areas of military-religious freedom.

Please feel free to share with anyone you think might be interested.


Thanks for Reading,


Alex Burns




[1]Gustavas Adlerfeld, The Military History of Charles XII, Vol 2, 138.
[2]August Quennerstedt, Karolinska Krigares Dagböcker Jämte Andra Samtida Skrifter., Vol 3, 232.
[3] Christopher Duffy, Russia's Military Way to the West, 135.
[4]C. J. Ligne, Oeurves Choisies (Paris, 1890), 73.
[5]Charles-Emmanuel De Warnery, Campagnes De Frédéric II, Roi De Prusse: De 1756 à 1762 (1788), 312.
[6] Thomas Jackson eds, The Lives of the Early Methodist Preachers, Vol 4, 137.
[7] John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, Vol 2, 37.
[8] Richard Holmes, Redcoat, 117. 
[9] Dölha, A Hessian Diary, 71-2
[10] Ibid, 15. 
[11] Charles Royster, A Revolutionary People at War, 18. 
[12] Ibid, 19. 
[13]P. Benson de Lany, "Biographical Sketch of Robt. Kirkwood," Graham's Magazine, vol 28, pg 104.
[14] Royster, A Revolutionary People, 250-4. 
[15] Michel Delon eds, Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment, 1247. 
[16] Christopher Duffy, Instrument of War, 344. 
[17] Duffy, Army of Maria Theresa, 133. 
[18] Reglement für die sämmentlich-kaiserlich-königliche Infanterie, (1769), 60. (Duffy's Translation.) 
[19] Alexander Burns, Honor, Religion, and Reputation, MA Thesis, Ball State University, 25. 
[20]Landesbibliothek Kassel, 4̊ Ms. hass. 186, Tagebuch des Obrist Lieutenants von Dinklage 1776-84. fol 202.
[21] Duffy, The Army of Frederick the Great, 208.
[22]Lt. Colonel Christian Prätorius to Karl I of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, NdsStA Wf, 38 B (Alt 237), Acta Militaria.
[23] Duffy, Army of Frederick the Great, 245. 
[24] Ibid, quoted on page 207. 
[25] Jon Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith, 20. 
[26] Kalckreuth, 'Kalckreuth zu seinem Leben und zu seiner Zeit' , Minerva, Vol IV, 144. 
[27] Duffy, Instrument of War, quoted on page 187. 
[28] Duffy, Army of Frederick the Great, 207. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

"He was a Blue and Bloody Man!": The Von Bose Regiment (No. 8)


A reenactor portraying a soldier of Regiment von Bose
Photo Credit: Andrew Shook

Dear Reader,

Despite the harsh criticism of Regiment Prinz Friedrich by Riedesel, the "German" forces who served alongside the British in the American War of Independence were not inferior to their Anglo counterparts. Despite several notable defeats, Germanic Subsidientruppen were capable of fighting as well as their British allies and American foes. Today, we are going to examine one of the best regiments in the American War of Independence- the von Trümbach/von Bose Regiment.

The regimental name change indicates a change in the regimental Chef, or colonel-proprietor. Raised in 1701, the regiment had a long history of serving as British allies. In 1746, the regiment served alongside Hanoverian forces in Scotland, during the suppression of the Jacobite rebellion. Though not serving at Culloden, the regiment was involved in combat operations, and blocked the movement of the Jacobite army. Around this time there was a small confrontation between Jacobite forces and Hessians. This small action received a mention in Jacobite Dougal Graham's lyric history of the rebellion, in which the Jacobites beat a hasty retreat after the Hessian battalion guns opened fire:

"Their grenadiers had caps of brass,
Thus order'd were the men of Hesse
Who' camp'd for some time near Dunkel'
And kept that pass, till they heard tell...
How at Culloden all were broke
And they had never fought a stroke,
Except one cannonading 'bout.
The Clans afar came on a scout,
To view their camp from a hill-top
Who soon retir'd when they drew up;
Whene'er their cannon began to play,
They skilled [scattered] like rams and ran away:
Described the Hessians even as they can,
Said, 'He was a blue and bloody man!'"[1]

Later, on October 11th 1746, at the Battle of Rocoux, the regiment (at this point in the time, called the Mansbach Regiment) served with distinction. Christopher Duffy described the scene: "Frederick, [the future landgrave of Hessen-Kassel], with tears in his eyes, succeed in rallying his battered troops, and at the end of the battle the regiment of Mansbach... stood its ground to cover the allied retreat and was almost wiped out."[2] Likewise, The Gentleman's Magazine for 1746 reports that the Mansbach regiment, "stood their ground to the last, and refused quarter, so that few of them escaped."[3]

Hessian Troops at the Battle of Krefeld (Richard Knötel)

During the course of the Seven Years' War in Europe, the regiment served with Prinz Ferdinand of Brunswick in the western European theater. In the course of this war, the regiment served in a number battles, such as Krefeld, Minden, Bergen, Emsdorf,  Vellinghausen, and Wilhelmsthal. It served directly alongside Prussian troops at the combat of Langensalza. Although not performing poorly in any of these engagements, the regiment also failed to win great distinction and fame in the course of the Seven Years' War. Rather, they provided good, solid service.

For much of the American War of Independence, the Trümbach Regiment was not heavily engaged. The regiment took part in the New York and New Jersey campaign of 1776, but failed to accompany the main British army on campaign around Philadelphia in 1777.  Clinton utilized it in the abortive move to assist Burgoyne.  In 1780, the British transferred the newly renamed Von Bose Regiment to the Southern theater of war. Some authors claim that they fought in other battles of the Southern theater, such as Eutaw Springs. If so, it is likely that this means a company sized force or smaller, since the main regiment stayed with Cornwallis, or that the author is refering to the Von Rall/Von Trumbach regiment, rather than the Von Trümbach/Von Bose Regiment.


Two soldiers of varying ages in Regiment von Bose 
During the Southern Campaign in 1781, the average age in the regiment was 33, compared with the American age of 23, and the British age of 28.[5] As a result, experienced men such as Sargeant Berthold Koch were prevalent in the regiment. Koch was born in 1742, (not recruited into the army that year, as Rodney Atwood claims), and joined the (then) Mansbach Regiment at 15, at the onset of the Seven Years' War. During this time, he served in battles such as Bergen.[6] The commander of the regiment in the Southern campaign, Johann Christian du Buy, had joined the military at 14, and was now in his mid-forties. He was a veteran of 13 major battles in the European Seven Years' War.[7]

Von Bose at Guilford in miniature
However, the regiment fought its most famous action on March 15th, 1781, at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. In the course of this battle, the Von Bose Regiment, together with the 1st battalion of British Guards, broke through two lines of American defenders. Circumstantial evidence suggests that by this point, the regiment had adopted the British standard style of advance during the War of Independence. Sargeant Berthold Koch noted that the regiment moved with a high degree of speed in this engagement.[8]Johann Christian du Buy reported the following to Knyphausen:
"After quickly laying aside our tornisters and everything that could impede a soldier, the 71st and von Bose recieved orders to more forward and attack the enemy... We had not advanced more than 300 yards when we found a deep ditch in front of us, with tall banks and full of water. After crossing it with difficulty, we then came to a fenced wheat field; on the other side of this field 1500 continentals and militia were deployed in line... I formed the battalion into line with the greatest of speed and we ran to meet the enemy in tolerable order."[9] 
A Soldier of the Von Bose Regiment, reimagined by Don Troiani


It was then, together with the 1st Guards, drawn into a running firefight in the woods. Major du Buy, and Major von Scheer first fought the Regiment back-to-back, and then led the regiment in two parts against the colonial enemy.  Bertold Koch, a sergeant with Von Bose, recalled,
"before we knew it, the enemy attacked us again in the rear. The regiment, therefore, had to divide into two parts. The second, command by Major Scheer, had to attack toward the rear, against the enemy who were behind us, and forced them once again to take flight... during this time, Colonel du Buy advanced with the first part of the regiment, and Major Scheer returned with the second part of the regiment and rejoined the first..."[10]  
It may seem a bit odd that Koch refers to du Buy as a Lt. Colonel, most sources from the battle indicate his rank as major. It is likely that Koch is simply remembering things in the wrong order, du Buy's April 18th after-action report indicates that he was a Lt. Colonel at that time. Whatever the case, in his own after-action report, British General Cornwallis reported that, "the 1st Battalion of Guards and Regiment von Bose were warmly engaged, in front, flank, and rear."[11]

After this battle drew to a close, the regiment continued with Cornwallis to Wilmington, and then to Virginia and finally Yorktown. At the close of the siege, the Von Bose regiment went into captivity, alongside some of the best regiments in the British army, including the 23rd Regiment of Foot. So, with their eighteenth-century service briefly described, let us turn to the other criteria, aside from service on campaign, that were outlined in the series introduction.

A soldier of von Bose in the wilds of North America
The Von Bose Regiment won the praise of its army commander. In the aftermath of the Battle of Guilford Court House, Cornwallis praised Von Bose, and listed them directly behind the Guards in his dispatches. Cornwallis believed, "The Hessian Regiment von Bose deserves my warmest praises for its discipline, alacrity, and Courage, and does honour to Major Du Buy who commands it, and who is an Officer of superior merit."[12]

On that note, let us turn to evaluations of the regimental commander in the field: Major du Buy. Aside of the praise of Cornwallis, du Buy was praised as an astute soldier by his commanders and fellow officers. Reichsfreiherr Wilhelm von Knyphausen the commander of the Hessians in North America for much of the war, suggest that du Buy was a, "most capable, gallant, and meritorious man."[13] John Graves Simcoe, observed du Buy's conduct of the surprise attack on Paramus in 1780. According to Simcoe, du Buy directed the attack with great skill, "The plan of this expedition was well laid, and as well executed: Major Du Buy seemed to be the master of the country through which he had to pass... the major was particularly attentive..."[14]

Reenactors portraying Von Bose perform drill at the Guilford Court House 

Finally, a point of analysis might be helpful in understanding the adaptability of the regiment to conditions in North America. It seems possible, if not concretely proven, that Major du Buy had a knack for knowing when British or Hessian practice was superior. There was a problem with the two-rank open order system adopted by the British in the American War of Independence: it failed to produce the volume of fire that troops with closed ranks might. This is not new information, Stephen Brumwell clearly points to this as the cause of the British defeat at Sainte-Foy in 1760.[15] Likewise, Matthew Spring indicates that a reliance on open-order bayonet charges may have become detrimental to the British by the end of the war.[16]

By contrast, at the Battle of Guilford Court House, du Buy led the regiment at great speed, speed which matched the standard British style of advance. His statements that von Bose, "ran to meet the enemy" taken together with Koch's assertion that the regiment moved, "at the double," indicates a departure from normal Hessian practice.[17] Although it is possible that these commands came directly from Campbell or Cornwallis, the relative amount of independence (especially at Guilford Court House) displayed by regiment commanders indicates that these orders were du Buy's ideas, especially considering his astute attention to terrain.

An image of Von Bose circa 1785
At this juncture,  having rambled on a bit, it may be helpful to condense my points. I believe that the Hessian Regiment Mansbach/Trümbach/Von Bose deserves to be considered as one the best regiments in the American War of Independence (and perhaps the whole of the eighteenth century), for the following reasons:

1) The regiment possessed a tradition of admirable service, from Rocoux to Guilford.
2) The praise of its fellow/superior/army officers, even when serving with allied forces. 
3) The great depth of military experience present in the regiment by 1781.
4) The reputation and skill set of the man commanding it: Johann Christian du Buy. 
5) The tradition AND adaptability present in the regiment. 

Please feel free to share this post if you know anyone who might be interested.

Thanks for Reading,


Alex Burns







[1] Dougal Graham, An Impartial History, 64.
[2] Christopher Duffy, The Best of Enemies, 150.
[3] The Gentleman's Magazine, (1746), 541.
[4] Babits and Howard, Long, Obstinate, and Bloody, 89.
[5] Rodney Atwood, The Hessians, 41. The source Atwood cites makes a different claim: K. Rogge-Ludwig, Mitteilungen an die mitglierder des Vereins für Hessische Geschichte und Landeskunde, 1876, 1-2.
[6] Atwood, The Hessians, 138.
[7]Berthold Koch, The Battle of Guilford Courthouse and the Siege and Surrender at Yorktown, 8.
[8]Du Buy, Raports vom Oberst Lieut. du Buy Regts v. Bose zu der General Lieutenant v. Knyphausen, Staatsarchiv Marburg, Best. 4h Nr. 3101.
[9]Berthold Koch, The Battle of Guilford Courthouse and the Siege and Surrender at Yorktown, 9.
[10] British National Archives, CO 5/184 112.
[11] British National Archives, CO 5/184 114-5
[12]Staatsarchiv Marburg, quoted in Atwood, The Hessians, 138.
[13]John Simcoe, Simcoe's Military Journal, A History of the Operations..., 142, 140.
[14]Stephen Brumwell, Redcoats, 261
[15]Matthew Spring, With Zeal and With Bayonets Only, 244.
[16] Koch, The Battle of Guilford Court House, 9, Matthew Spring, With Zeal and With Bayonets Only, 146-149

Monday, July 24, 2017

"In what a bad condition I found the Regiment Prinz Friedrich!": A Worst Regiment



Staff and volunteers at Ft. Ticonderoga doing a phenomenal portrayal of Prinz Friedrich .


Dear Reader,

Having examined one of the best units in the eighteenth century, the Delaware Regiment, we will now turn to examining one of the worst: Brunwick Regiment Prinz Friedrich. Some reenactors portray this unit quite well, particularly when displaying its garrison duty at Fort Ticonderoga. This post is not intended to be a hit-job on anyone's favorite unit, or reenacting career.

Despite all of that, I have to assert that Regiment Prinz Friedrich was one of the worst regular infantry units in Revolutionary era North America. This pains me to say, as the regimental commander, Christian Julius Prätorius, is one of my favorite figures from the revolutionary era. I have worked with his records a number of times, in the course of writing my masters thesis, as well as an article I wrote for the Seven Years' War Association Journal.[1]


Members of the recreated Regiment Prinz Friedrich enjoy garrison service at Fort Ticonderoga
The regiment hailed from the small state of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel in the latter half of the eighteenth century. It served in the Seven Years' War in Europe, before being sent to Canada during the American War of Independence. The main evidence against Regiment Prinz Friedrich comes from the second and third factors of our criteria: performance on campaign and opinions of its army commander. In the other three areas, we are left with a relatively slim pile of evidence, Prinz Friedrich was certainly mentioned by the diarists of the Burgoyne campaign, but only in passing, Christian Julius Prätorius had a rather normal reputation, and historians have been relatively silent on individual qualities of the regiment, preferring to examine Burgoyne's Brunswickers as a whole. Finally, in a rather unique case, the reputation of the regiment suffered as a result of a scandal involving a regimental chaplain.

In the course of its tour to North America, Regiment Prinz Friedrich was usually utilized as a garrison force. Excepting the advance to Fort Ticonderoga, and a minor role in the Battle of Hubbardton, the regiment spent most of the war in garrison service. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, its very role as a garrison prevented the regiment from being captured at the debacle of Saratoga. In John Brown's raid on Fort Ticonderoga, Regiment Prinz Friedrich performed very well, certainly outshining the efforts of the British 53rd Regiment of Foot. So, if it performed adequately, if not exceptionally under fire, why might we think it was a poor regiment?

First of all, garrison regiments did not enjoy a high reputation in Germanic military circles and were often referred to as Mauerscheisser, a less than polite term intentionally calling out their status as low-quality fortress soldiers.[2] Thus, by choosing to leave Regiment Prinz Friedrich behind, Brunswick General Riedesel indicated it was the least trustworthy of the regiments he had available. In an ironic twist, the American rebels captured Riedesel and his regiments in the Burgoyne campaign. However, since the Regiment Prinz Friedrich stayed at Fort Ticonderoga, they remained in British service, out of American hands. At times, it paid to be a poor soldier.

However, being relegated to a minor, garrison role did not necessarily mean that that the men of Regiment Prinz Friedrich were poor soldiers. What possible reason could Riedesel have had for placing them in the garrison at Fort Ticonderoga? Why did he choose Prinz Friedrich, rather any of his other five regiments?

A detachment of Prinz Friedrich, looking much better than they did on August 27th, 1776

It is possible that Riedesel's reasoning dates to an inspection in the late summer of 1776. In a report to headquarters on August 27th, 1776, Riedesel notes, "But as regards the Prinz Friedrich Regiment, I regret to say that I did not find it in the condition I desired, and which I had hoped for after the assurances given me by Lieutenant-Colonel Prätorius."[3] Riedesel unpacked his objections even further in a subsequent letter to Praetorius: "In what a bad condition I found the Regiment Prinz Friedrich! I am convinced that as long as the regiment has existed, it has never drilled so badly as on the day I saw it."[4] Riedesel included a number of specific complaints, which read like a litany of poor soldiering:
"Most of the men rest their heads on the right shoulder, consequently the left point on their hats is in a line with their guns. There is no life in their manual exercises, and their running fire lasts a quarter of an hour. After each exercise the men move their hands, knees and feet, touch their faces or grasp their hats, and even look to the left. The regiment is never in step when advancing, the line wavers constantly, the men bend their knees and stick out their heads, and they load their guns so slowly that not one of them has it resting firmly on his shoulder at 30 [seconds]. The platoons do not fire at the same time when advancing, and after the men have loaded they run back to the battalion line just as unevenly. The officers have no method when issuing commands, they give orders every moment and are not certain about anything, and when advancing they waver quite as much as the privates. In short, there are faults to find with everything, and that lies in the fact that the men have not been properly drilled in companies."[5]
The man dishing out the pain: Friedrich Adolph, Freiherr von Riedesel

 Ouch! It may seem from the following litany of complaints that Riedesel was a drill-square, by the book, soldier, but there is much evidence to suggest that he adapted to fighting in North America quite well. Context is everything, the proper drill-square performance was an invaluable part of the life of an eighteenth-century soldier, even if it usually did not match up with combat experience. You can see some of Riedesel's own thoughts on the importance of adapting to wilderness warfare in this post.

So, don't read the following to suggest that Riedesel was a drill-square tyrant (indeed, he was a dashing hussar officer in the Seven Years' War). Rather this is a display of his keen knowledge that drill-square perfection was an important indication of the quality and determination of the men performing it. Perhaps the most telling part of his indictment is that he saves his criticism at the speed of loading for the last, most important critique. So, how could Regiment Prinz Friedrich remedy the situation?

Riedesel sadly noted, “You will have to commence again from the beginning, first in files and then in companies, to march, do manual exercises, load, and repeat this until all the companies are equally well drilled.” He exhorts Prätorius to, “make the maladroit and the ignorant stop forward every time,” for punishment. The letter made clear that Riedesel no longer trusted Prätorius. Riedesel appointed another Lt. Colonel, Baum of the Braunschweig Dragoon Regiment, to oversee the drilling of Regiment Prinz Friedrich. “Baum… has received orders from me to see them drill frequently, and to tell you when he finds the companies so far advanced that you can draw the battalion together, and then you will unite all the companies[.]” By placing the decision making power in the hands of Baum, rather than Prätorius, Riedesel showed his lack of faith in Prätorius’ judgment. [6]

Riedesel continued,

"as soon as Lieutenant-Colonel Baum finds that the regiment drills well and reports it to me, you can cease drilling when [Baum] has given you permission, and then only drill once a week, so that the men do not forget what they have been taught. But until the regiment gets into proper condition, you must drill 4 times a week, and leave 2 days for resting." [7]

Riedesel closed his letter on a rather hopeful note, indicating that Prätorius would be able to achieve the outlined requirements. Regiment Prinz Friedrich did indeed join the invasion south into the rebellious colonies, even if Riedesel assigned them to a garrison role after the fall of Ticonderoga.

Finally, it is possible that the reputation of the regiment suffered in another way. The regimental chaplain (Feldprediger) Friedrich Fügerer, was brought up on charges of ill-conduct, which according to the morals of the time, included censure for homosexual relations. Regimental Auditor P.G. Wolpers worried that, "“not only everyone in the regiment, but the Canadian nation itself has been scandalized by him [Fügerer].” Wolpers indicated that the Prinz Friedrich Regiment's chaplain, as well as his perceived indiscretions, had become "the general talk at parties."[8]

Sketches of the Brunswick Infantry Regiments drawn by Ensign von Hille

A member of another Braunschweig infantry regiment, Lieutenant von Papet of the Rhetz regiment, recorded his views on Fügerer in his diary. On January 15th, 1779, Papet records that the commander of the Rhetz regiment received a letter of apology from Fügerer. According to von Papet, in this letter Fügerer, “cloaked all of his infamous actions under the influence of drunkenness.” Thus, according to Papet, Fügerer had much to hide. He also informs his reader that the letter, “will be put aside as future proof that he cared as little for us spiritually as bodily.” Thus, it is apparent that Fügerer had indeed created a bad name with the other regiments in Canada.[9]

It is certainly unfair to imply that this scandal impacted the military readiness of Regiment Prinz Friedrich, but it may have impacted the perception of the regiment, both among other regiments, and internally. As a result of their garrison assignments, censure from the army commander, and scandal marring the regimental reputation, it appears as though Regiment Prinz Friedrich may have had a low status during their deployment to North America.

Therefore, without demeaning the sacrifice of the soldiers, it may not be out of the realm of probability to suggest that Regiment Prinz Friedrich was one of the worst units in the American War of Independence. While the regiment's performance under fire was not necessarily poor, it drew censure from its army commander, and as a result, was placed in low-status garrison service. Oddly enough, this meant that Regiment Prinz Friedrich would escape capture with Burgoyne's army at Saratoga. Regiment Prinz Friedrich was then able to do what it apparently did best: relatively obscure garrison service.


Thanks for Reading,


Alex Burns








[1] Alexander Burns, "Honor, Religion, and Reputation: The Worldview of the German Subsidientruppen who fought in the American War of Independence." Ball State University, Masters Thesis, 2014. A portion of this post is taken from my 2016 article, "'A Question of Doing it Quickly:' Essential Qualities of North Germanic Infantrymen, 1756-1783," published in the Journal of the Seven Years' War Association. 
[2] Cathal J. Nolan, Wars of the Age of Louis XIV, 1650-1715: An Encyclopedia of Global Warfare and Civilization, 286.; Duffy, Fire and Stone: The Science of Fortress Warfare, 81.
[3] "Correspondence of General Riedesel," in Hessian Documents of the American Revolution (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1989), H.Z. 929, microform.
[4] Ibid, H.Z. 930.
[5] Ibid, H.Z. 930-1.
[6] Ibid, H.Z. 932.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Proceedings of the Military Court of the Prinz Friedrich Regiment, October 12, 1778, NdsStA Wf, 38 B (Alt 237), Acta Militaria.
[9] Von Papet and Burgoyne, Canada during the American Revolutionary War, 105.