Back to Posts


“German” (more specifically Brunswick and Hesse Hanau) units served under both Burgoyne and St Leger during the 1777 campaign. Men from both states made up the left wing of Burgoyne’s army, under Baron Riedesel (note just plain old plain old, no “von”) and a few Hesse-Hanau jaeger joined St Leger’s expedition. “Hessian” jaeger, grenadier, musketeer and artillery figures, can be used to represent both contingents.

The mythology surrounding the “sold soldiers” and their greedy, despotic princelings, makes it worth noting that the contract signed in January 1776 with Duke Charles of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel (the first of the six rulers to agree to send troops to North America and a blood relation of George III), was approved by the duchy’s Landstands (parliament). The money received was invested for the general good and the interest was still helping to relieve the tax burden on the general populace of the region in 1918! The corps of 4,300 men (176 officers, 389 NCO’s, 102 Drummers, 3372 soldiers and 261 servants) received their pay direct from the British government – at the higher rate paid to its own troops – and all equipment was purchased in Brunswick in order to support the local economy (the story of the crooked British contractor supplying 5,000 pairs of dancing slippers is completely apocryphal).

Duke William of Hesse Hanau, son of Frederick II of Hesse Cassel, was the third ruler to sign an agreement to supply troops, in April 1776. He agreed to send a corps of 900 infantry, jaeger and gunners to North America on similar terms to those agreed with his father; both rulers waived the taxes of families with men serving in America.

1. Order of battle of the German troops under Burgoyne

(Brunswick units are denoted [BR], those marked [HH] are from Hesse Hanau):-

Left Wing of the Army under Lt Gen Burgoyne

  • Headquarters:: Maj Gen Baron Friederick Riedesel [BR]
    • Artillery [HH] – four 6-pounders
    • Dragoon Regiment Prinz Ludwig [BR]
  • Advance Corps: Lt Col Heinrich Breymann [BR]
    • Artillery [HH] – two light 6-pounders, two light 3-pounders
    • Grenadier Battalion von Breymann [BR]
    • Light Battalion von Barner [BR]
  • 1st Brigade: Brig Gen Johann von Specht [BR]
    • Regiment Rhetz [BR]
    • Regiment Riedesel [BR]
    • Regiment Specht [BR]
  • 2nd Brigade: Brig Gen Wilhelm von Gall [HH]
    • Regiment Prinz Friedrich [BR]
    • Regiment Erbprinz [HH]

2. General comments on organisation:-

  • Organisation – like their colleagues from Hesse Cassel, both the Brunswick and the Hesse Hanau contingents followed Prussian customs and practices. The strengths quoted in the notes on each corps are from the returns of 1 June 1777, amended to reflect the numbers actually sent on the campaign. They include officers and combatants (ie NCOs, musicians and rank-and-file) only; servants – who were exactly that, rather than serving soldiers as in the British Army – clerks and surgeons are excluded, as are detachments left in Canada.
  • Brigades – initially, there were two German infantry brigades, but after the fall of Fort Ticonderoga, the Infantry Regiment Erbprinz [HH] was left behind as a garrison, whilst the Infantry Regiment Prinz Friedrich guarded the baggage train and bateaux, leaving the brigade of Specht as the only combat formation.
  • Regiments/Battalions – all German infantry regiments in Canada had only one battalion, consisting of one company of grenadiers (usually detached) and five of musketeers. However, the company was a purely administrative formation and in action, the battalion fought in two “wings” each of two “divisions”, with each division having two platoons.
  • Companies – on paper, every company, regardless of type, had 4 officers, 5 sergeants, 7 corporals, 105 privates and 3 drummers; there were also several non-combatant personnel (four servants, a surgeon and a clerk). In theory, three of the five companies were commanded by the senior regimental officers (Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel and Major); in practice, they were usually absent attending to regimental duties, or commanding larger formations – at various times, all four Brunswick colonels commanded brigades during 1777.
  • Platoons – as mentioned above, in battle each regiment/battalion would divide its five companies into eight equal platoons for firing and movement. This odd arrangement often attracts adverse comment, but since all commands were transmitted via the NCOs, the fact that a soldier might find himself under different officers in combat meant little (and certainly did not affect the Prussians!). A platoon had about 60 men – 30 files in two-rank line or 20 in three ranks; odd files went into a small ninth platoon that guarded the colours and provided a tactical reserve. By the Seven Years’ (3rd Silesian) War, it seems that the Prussian infantry had gone from firing by platoon to firing by division (ie pairs of platoons); given their adherence to all things Prussian, it is likely that the line infantry of both contingents may have done the same.
  • Grenadier companies – the grenadiers of the four Brunswick line regiments were detached to form a “converged” battalion (that of the Hesse Hanau regiment Erbprinz remained with its parent unit). As there were only four companies in the grenadier battalion, each formed exactly one division, thus avoiding the need to mix men from different regiments in one platoon. It should be noted that, as with the Hesse Cassel troops, it was as common for the jaeger to be supported by platoons of grenadiers as by the Light Battalion.
  • Light companies – there were NO integral light companies in ANY German line infantry units in Canada in 1777; nor was the Light Battalion von Barner (whose primary role was to provide musket-and-bayonet support for the jaeger company) formed from such troops. However, after Saratoga, the loss of all of the Brunswick light troops may have led the remnants left in Canada to follow the Hesse Cassel forces in creating ad hoc “chasseur” companies by drafting men temporarily from the line regiments (this is possibly what the plate of the Riedesel Regiment “light infantryman” in Mollo/McGregor is depicting).
  • Dragoons – this unit was composed of six troops, one of which was mounted quite early on in the campaign; this troop avoided the disaster at Bennington as it was serving as orderlies, headquarters’ guard, and personal security for senior officers.

3. Some general comments on uniforms and equipment:

  • Overall – there is no record that the modifications introduced by Burgoyne for the uniforms of the British contingent were also taken up by the Germans, except for the adoption of one-piece gaiter-trousers (sometimes also called overalls) during the winter of 1776-1777. Most of the statements concerning the poor quality of the Brunswick uniforms are simply untrue, although it is possible that they were less well suited to the greater extremes of the North American climate than those of their British comrades and the tighter fit of the coats (emulating Prussian style and economy) may have limited how much extra clothing could be worn underneath.
  • Headwear – for grenadiers, mitre caps with a metal front plate and circular rear base – “yellow” (brass) or “white” (pewter) according to button colour – and a cloth back in the regimental colour with three vertical strips of worsted tape, the whole item topped by a coloured tuft, also in the facing colour. All other troops wore black tricorne hats, with a black cockade, coloured pompoms (in the case of the line infantry, matching the tufts on the mitres of the regiment’s grenadiers), and facing-coloured coloured lace and cords.
  • Uniform coats – Prussian-style dark blue coats with regimental facing colour on the cuffs, and also the collar and/or lapels; all units, except the jaeger and dragoons, had red linings and turnbacks. A distinction of the Brunswick coats was that there were only four buttons on the lapel – set one, two and one – and two above the cuff. (As far as the author is aware, the uniforms were dyed with indigo, and there is no connection between the blue of these uniforms and the artists’ pigment “Prussian blue”.)
  • Small clothes – waistcoats and knee breeches (when worn), were white for all except the dragoons and jaeger.
  • Legwear – Riedesel had one-piece gaiter trousers made for all his men for the winter of 1776, using old British tents and sailcloth; given the type of material used, these were likely to be plain and off-white in colour (the only evidence of striped overalls, as in Mollo/McGregor, appears to relate to the Dragoons – possibly because this was a smaller unit and therefore could be clothed using material that was only available in a limited quantity. Other corps may have worn striped material later in the war, but there is no evidence of widespread use in 1777 (good news for those of us who cannot paint pin-stripes in 28mm).
  • Officers – all regimental officers, including grenadiers, wore a tricorne hat with lace, hat cords, and loop and button for the cockade in either gold or silver (according to button colour). Official badges of rank were the silver waist sash with coloured stripes – gold (or possibly yellow) for Brunswick, red and blue stripes for Hesse Hanau (Lefferts states black stripes for some units, but this was the Prussian colour); and a gorget carrying either the running white horse (Brunswick) or red-and-white striped lion rampant (Hesse Hanau). It is unclear if officers carried pole arms or firearms in the field; Hesse Cassel officers left the spontoons in Europe and took fusils to America and as the Brunswickers were more enthusiastic in adopting British practices, the latter seems more likely.
  • NCOs – sergeants were distinguished by the ash-brown cane suspended from the second button from the top on the right lapel, metal lace on the collar, lapels and cuffs, a black/white pompom and hat cords, and a black/white sword knot; corporals had white lace on their cuffs. Those NCOs who carried muskets wore a smaller cartridge box around their waist (known as a “belly-box”) rather than the standard cartridge pouch; consequently, they had no shoulder strap on their coat. It is not known if the sergeants of grenadiers and musketeers retained polearms – the unteroffizierskurzgewehr – engraved on one side of the blade with the ducal cipher and on the other with the running horse [lion HH]. There is evidence that Hesse Cassel NCOs – unlike their officers – carried these weapons in the field until late in the war, but as stated above, the Brunswickers were more receptive to British ideas, so muskets or fusils seem more likely.
  • Musicians – Brunswick drummers had yellow coats lined red, with different facings and lace for each regiment; the lace was on the edges of the collar, cuffs, and shoulder wings, but only the senior drummer in each unit had the typical “seam and chevron” lace on the coat sleeves; drums were brass with the ducal cipher on the front, and had wooden hoops – the latter may have been decorated with distinctive regimental patterns, or with a standard design of yellow, black and red triangles. Hat cords were mixed yellow-and-white and the pompom was white with a yellow centre. There is little evidence of what Hesse Hanau drummers wore, but possibly they followed the Hesse Cassel style with a blue coat covered in white lace, possibly with red and blue “worms”. There is no clear information on Hesse Hanau drums, but the ducal cipher on the front, as for the Brunswickers, seems likely.
  • Dragoons – contrary to popular myth, their uniforms were adapted for dismounted duty (see above on legwear) and even in Europe, the heavy jacked boots were worn only when mounted, being replaced by gaiters at other times. The oft-quoted description from Lt William Digby of the 53rd which refers to the wearing of the sword and boots, may well refer to a member of the one troop that was mounted , rather than the main portion of the regiment that remained on foot. Note also that the monstrous piece of footwear in the Bennington museum is a postillion’s boot and does not belong to a dragoon.
  • Generals – senior officers of both contingents wore the uniforms of their own regiment, with appropriate colour lace and aiguillette on the right shoulder; the only apparent distinction was the white feathers around the brim of the hat.
  • Equipment – belts were probably kept white apart from the jaeger, who had black; all firearm slings were red leather. The knapsack (tournister) was still worn satchel-style over the right shoulder, and left “natural” (ie brown and hairy); the haversack (bread bag) was off-white linen and tin water bottles – larger than the British version – were left dull metal, or possibly painted black.
  • Weapons – most, if not all, Brunswick rank-and-file had Brunswick-made weapons, but some (and possibly also the Hesse Hanau troops) had Prussian Potsdam muskets. It is unclear if any German troops in Canada were issued British muskets, but those in other theatres were, so it may have occurred as the war dragged on and original equipment wore out. The jaeger rifle was 0.67” calibre, accurate to about 175 yards, and came with a mallet to load the patched rounds, a process that took about a minute (an un-patched round could be rolled down the barrel for more rapid firing). Jaeger also carried a short sword (hirschfänger), rather than a conventional bayonet, although it has been suggested that some swords were customised to be attached in much the same manner as those of the 95th Rifles in the Napoleonic period. In any event, it was rare – and generally not advisable – for jaeger to operate without support from men armed with muskets and bayonets (a lesson the Continentals had learned the hard way in the New York campaign of 1776). As stated above, officers and sergeants probably handed in their pole arms and carried fusils or muskets, but there is no certainty on this (contrast the British policy on this with Washington’s insistence that dismounted Continental officers of captain’s rank and above carry spontoons, to keep their minds focussed on leadership, rather than loading and fire a weapon themselves).
  • Colours – according to one Brunswick officer (and the lady herself) all the Brunswick colours were smuggled back to Canada by Baroness Riedesel in a mattress, so it appears that German regiments did take them on this campaign. As to design and colour, it seems that almost every regiment was an exception to the rules in some way (suggesting that perhaps there were no rules), but in general terms, each unit seems to have followed the Prussian system of one colour per musketeer company, that of the senior company being the colonel’s colour (“leibfahne”), with the other four (“regimentsfahne”) reversing the colour scheme of the former. The basic design for the Brunswick colours was a central device of a red circle surrounded by a laurel wreath and ducal crown in the button colour; the circle contained the white running horse on black earth; each corner had a crowned cipher surrounded by a laurel wreath, in the button colour (except for the red cloth of the crown) and each of the “flames” (which formed an upright cross) had an exploding grenade in the button colour pointing towards the centre. The only Hesse Hanau unit with colours was the Infantry Regiment Erbprinz; they are described fully within that unit’s details.

4. Notes on the individual Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel units:

Dragoon Regiment Prinz Ludwig – Lieutenant Colonel Friederich von Baum o Composition – six troops [total 20 officers and 287 combatants].

  • Uniform – horizon-blue coat, yellow facings and lining; white aiguillette; “white” buttons; straw waistcoat and either straw breeches and tall black gaiters, or blue-striped one-piece gaiter-trousers for dismounted duty.
  • Headgear – plain black tricorne bound with black tape, and a black cockade with a black loop and “white” button; yellow cords, short white plume.
  • Officers – Silver aiguillette on right shoulder; narrow silver lace on cuffs and buttonholes; sash, sword knot and gorget as described above.
  • Musicians – Yellow coat with horizon blue facings and lining, and white lace; there are rumours the unit had a band, but its members would probably have been drawn from the rank-and-file and worn normal uniforms.
  • Colours – believed to be swallow-tailed guidons, four or six in number; the field colour was the same as the coat, with gold decoration and a white horse running on green grass on one side, the ducal arms on the other, both in full colour; the guidons do not appear to have been carried when dismounted.
  • Equipment – the men were armed similarly to Prussian dragoons of this time, namely sabre and carbine, with the sabres most probably stored in the baggage wagons and not worn on the march; personal kit would be similar to the infantry whilst operating dismounted.

Jaeger Company – Captain Carl von Geyso (or Geisau)

  • Composition – probably four platoons [total 4 officers and 120 combatants]; the company was part of the Light Battalion, nominally its 2nd Company, but often operated separately.
  • Uniform – dark green coat with green lining and dark red facings; sleeveless green waistcoat; straw breeches, tan/grey under-knee gaiters; “white” buttons.
  • Headgear – plain black tricorne bound with black tape; green cockade, white/yellow cords, pompom white with yellow centre.
  • Officers – gold button and loop on cockade, no gorget or sash, gold aiguillette on right shoulder; gold/silver sword knot; cavalry boots were regulation, but black versions of the gaiters worn by the men were more likely in the field.
  • Musicians – two hornists in normal jaeger uniforms, with silver laced “wings” and cuffs, otherwise the same lace as the Light Battalion drummers.
  • Colours – this unit carried no colours.
  • Equipment – jaeger rifle with belly-box cartridge pouch (probably without a plate) holding 20-24 rounds; short sword (hirschfänger).

Light Battalion – Major Ferdinand von Barner

  • Composition – four musketeer companies [20 officers and 478 combatants].
  • Uniform – dark blue coat without lapels, black collar and cuffs, red lining and “yellow” buttons; white aiguillette on right shoulder.
  • Headgear – plain black tricorne
  • Officers – gold button and loop on cockade, no gorget, gold aiguillette on right shoulder; gold/silver sword knot and sash; black gaiters; coat had no turnbacks
  • Musicians – yellow coat, black collar and cuffs (no lapels), red turnbacks; white lace with black and yellow broken lines; white and yellow hat cords/pom-pom; drum hoops had yellow/red/black triangles.
  • Colours – this unit carried no colours.
  • Equipment – known to have carried the lighter and shorter artillery carbine when in Europe; bayonet; short sabre with sword knot in the company colour (1st – or Leib – Company white, others unknown, but possibly followed the Prussian system).

Grenadier Battalion – Major Otto von Mengen (vice Breymann)

  • Composition – grenadier companies of the Brunswick regiments Rhetz, Riedesel, Specht and Prinz Friedrich [17 officers and 439 combatants]
  • Uniform – as per their respective parent regiments (see under each entry).
  • Headgear – ditto.
  • Officers – ditto.
  • Musicians – ditto.
  • Colours – this unit carried no colours.
  • Equipment – as for the infantry generally; two light 6-pdrs (from the Hesse Hanau company) were attached to the battalion.

Infantry Regiment Prinz Friedrich – Lieutenant Colonel Christian Praetorius

  • Composition – five musketeer companies [24 officers and 509 combatants]
  • Uniform – dark blue coat with yellow collar and cuffs (no lapels), “white” buttons, white small clothes
  • Headgear – (grenadiers) “white” metal mitre, yellow cloth back piped white, yellow tuft with white centre; (musketeers) black tricorne laced white, yellow/white cords, yellow pompom with white centre.
  • Officers – silver tricorne lace, silver cockade loop and button; gorget was worn; gold and silver sword knot and sash.
  • Musicians – yellow coat with light blue collar and cuffsand red turnbacks, white lace (possibly with a yellow broken line)
  • Colours – (regimentsfahne) black field with yellow flames; (leibfahne) probably the reverse
  • Equipment – musket, bayonet and short sword; standard personal kit.

Infantry Regiment Riedesel – Lieutenant Colonel Ernst von Speth

  • Composition – five musketeer companies [25 officers and 512 combatants]; originally the second battalion of the Regiment Prinz Friedrich
  • Uniform – dark blue coat with yellow cuffs and lapels (no collars); “white” buttons; white small clothes
  • Headgear – (grenadiers) identical to Infantry Regiment Prinz Friedrich; (musketeers) identical to Infantry Regiment Prinz Friedrich.
  • Officers – identical to Infantry Regiment Prinz Friedrich.
  • Musicians – yellow coat with light blue cuffs and lapels, and red turnbacks, white lace; yellow/white hat cords and pompom
  • Colours – (regimentsfahne) light blue field with yellow flames; (leibfahne) probably the reverse.
  • Equipment – as for Infantry Regiment Prinz Friedrich

Infantry Regiment Rhetz – Major Balthasar von Lucke

  • Composition – five musketeer companies [23 officers and 512 combatants]
  • Uniform – dark blue coat with white lapels and cuffs (no collars), “yellow” buttons; white small clothes
  • Headgear – (grenadiers) yellow metal mitre, white cloth back piped red, red tuft; (musketeers) black tricorne laced yellow, red cords, red pompom.
  • Officers – gold tricorne lace, cockade loop and button.
  • Musicians – yellow coat with white lapels and cuffs, red turnbacks; silver lace; “yellow” buttons; yellow/white hat cords and red pompom
  • Colours – (regimentsfahne) green field with white flames; (leibfahne) probably the reverse.
  • Equipment – as for Infantry Regiment Prinz Friedrich.

Infantry Regiment Specht – Major Carl von Ehrenkrook

[Often confused with Lt Col Johann von Ehrenkrook (Infantry Regiment Rhetz) who remained in Canada with the battalion of detachments and invalids.]

  • Composition – five musketeer companies [24 officers and 512 combatants]; originally the second battalion of the Regiment Rhetz
  • Uniform – dark blue coat with red collar, cuffs and lapels; facings, yellow buttons; white small clothes
  • Headgear – (grenadiers) yellow metal mitre, red cloth back piped white, white tuft with red centre; (musketeers) black tricorne laced yellow, red/white cords, white pompom with red centre.
  • Officers – as for Infantry Regiment Rhetz.
  • Musicians – yellow coats with red collars, cuffs, lapels and turnbacks; white lace; “yellow” buttons; yellow/white hat cords and pompom
  • Colours – (regimentsfahne) red field with white flames; (leibfahne) probably the reverse.
  • Equipment – as for Infantry Regiment Prinz Friedrich.

    5. Notes on the individual Hesse Hanau units:

Infantry Regiment Erbprinz – Lieutenant Colonel Otto von Lentz (vice Gall)

  • Composition – one grenadier and five musketeer companies [24 officers and 522 combatants]; this unit is often wrongly described as being all grenadiers.
  • Uniform – dark blue coat with red collar, cuffs and lapels; six pairs of white lace “brandenburgs” in the shape of an horizontal “8” – three pairs on the lapels, one below the lapels, one pair above each cuff, one pair on each pocket (these last may have be vertical); straw small clothes; black gaiters (below the knee); white buttons,
  • Headgear – (grenadiers) white metal caps, yellow cloth back piped white, red tuft topped by a yellow circle with a red centre; (musketeers) black tricorne with white scalloped lace, black cockades, pompom as for grenadiers’ tuft.
  • Officers – (all companies) black tricorne with silver scalloped lace ; silver sword knot; silver sash with red/blue stripes; gorget.
  • Musicians – (probable) dark blue coats with white lace, with a red and a blue line; brown apron; brass drum with red/white/blue diagonal hoops and a brass shell with the ducal cipher
  • Colours – ordinarfahne: rose pink field (no cross); red and gold ducal crown over silver scroll over red-and-white Hesse lion on black ground in a dark blue field surrounded by two silver laurel branches; a crowned ducal cipher within silver laurel branches in each corner, pointing towards the centre; leibfahne also plain pink field, but with just the ducal arms and supporters in the centre. (Note that the Hesse Hanau lion has horizontal stripes and faces right; the Hesse Cassel lion has diagonal stripes (from top right) and faces left.)

Artillery Company – Captain Georg Pausch

  • Composition – one company [3 officers and 100 combatants]
  • Uniform – dark blue coat with bright red facings and lining; white waistcoat and gaiter trousers
  • Headgear – black tricorne laced white, black cockade, red pompom and cords
  • Officers – silver sash with red and blue stripes; gorget; gold hat cords
  • Musicians – possibly as for Infantry Regiment Erbprinz
  • Colours – this unit carried no colours
  • Equipment – four 6-pdrs, two light 6-pdrs, and two light 3-pdrs – all supplied by the British, so carriages were probably light grey (the four 6-pdrs were French guns captured in 1759 and mounted on British carriages); the “light” guns were allocated to Breymann and Barner, respectively, as battalion guns.

Jaeger Corps – Lieutenant Colonel Carl von Kreuzbourg

  • Composition – one weak company [2 officers and 87 combatants] present with St Leger, according to his own papers (some historians list the entire corps, some 16 officers, 372 combatants, as being present, but most of the original four companies – a fifth arrived in 1778 – were delayed en route to Canada) and missed the 1777 campaign season.
  • Uniform – dark green coat, faced and lined red; dark green waistcoat and either green or straw breeches with long tan gaiters (this corps adopted black jackets, trousers and short gaiters for winter wear, and later also for general field service).
  • Headgear – black unlaced tricorne with black cockade; white loop and button.
  • Officers – silver sash with red and blue stripes; silver hat cords; possibly a gorget with the ducal cipher, but unlikely to have been worn in the field (the sash may also have been left behind when on active duty).
  • Musicians – unknown, but uniform distinctions were probably not dissimilar to those of the Brunswick jaeger in style.
  • Colours – this unit carried no colours.
  • Equipment – again, very similar to the Brunswick jaeger

The above information was obtained from a wide range of sources, but particularly helpful were the von Germann drawings of British, German and Loyalist troops in Canada (New York Public Library and various other sources), and the very kind assistance of Claus von Reuter of the German-Canadian Museum Service.

Those of you with the excellent two-volume guide to AWI armies by Greg Novak will notice discrepancies between his figures and mine. His appear to reflect the total strength of each British or German unit (ie all personnel in theatre), whereas I have deducted detachments left in Canada, transfers to converged units, sick etc (all based on Hadden’s and Riedesel’s journals) to leave what – as far as I can tell – are the numbers Burgoyne actually took with him. In my opinion, Novak’s figures for most British and German units are too high as campaign strengths, except for the two British flank battalions and Fraser’s Marksmen, which I believe are all too low.


Appendix A

I thought that these two passages – taken from “Memoirs, Letters and Journals of Major General Riedesel” translated by William L Stone – might be of interest in dispelling the myths surrounding the German troops as a whole:

“Riedesel, in the meantime, had drilled his troops diligently, and had instructed them somewhat in the English method of fighting. He made the first attempt with his [own] infantry regiment on the 6th of August [1776]. The manoeuvre consisted in an attack in the woods with skirmishers in advance. This was done in order to surprise General Carleton upon his return from Quebec, when it was expected he would inspect the German troops.”

“On the 3d of September, Generals Carleton, Burgoyne and Phillips, with their respective suits [suites – ie staff], met at La Prairie for the purpose of inspecting the proficiency of the German troops in the drill. The battalion of grenadiers, under Breymann, began at half-past ten o’clock. It drilled with closed ranks, and received the approbation of the English generals. At three o’clock in the afternoon the generals reviewed three hundred men of the regiment Riedesel. Riedesel had already drilled this detachment in an extended line for the purpose of surprising the generals. This manoeuvre, representing an attack in the woods, was, accordingly, perfectly carried out.”

The following translation is taken directly from Riedesel’s own journal:

“As soon as the first line has jumped into the supposed ditch, the command ‘fire’ is given, when the first line fires, reloads its guns, gets up out of the ditch, and hides behind a tree, rock, shrub or whatever is at hand, at the same time firing off four cartridges in such a manner that the line is kept as straight as possible. As soon as the first line has fired off the four cartridges, the second line advances and fires off the same number in the same manner. While this is taking place, the woods have been thoroughly ransacked by the sharp shooters who have thus become familiar with every part of it.”

Appendix B

Translation of a general order to the troops from Riedesel, dated August 26, 1777:

“Since in every situation it has become clear, that the Brunswick troops have acted with the greatest courage whenever they have been engaged, it has nevertheless also become clear that a large number of good soldiers are needlessly lost, if the troops do not break ranks and seek out trees or other cover, that affords them protection, and then run from one tree to another, so that each soldier provides his own defence. This is the only way that we are in a position to attack the enemy without great losses in a wood, and to drive him out.

”Additionally it should be observed, that no soldier should shoot unless he is behind a tree or other cover and can aim with certainty at his enemy. Otherwise he will use up his entire stock of ammunition in less than half an hour without having any effect.

”By contrast, when the enemy is located in a plain, our old method of deploying can be used, that is, we keep closed ranks and, without firing, advance with fixed bayonets against the enemy; for it is clear that in the open this is an enemy of no account, who will offer no resistance against a battalion advancing in close formation.”

Back to Posts