The Hessian Jägerkorps in New York and Pennsylvania, 1776-1777


May 14, 2015
by David Ross Also by this Author


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In December 1775, British Colonel William Faucitt and Hessian minister Martin Ernst von Schlieffen drafted a treaty promising the Hessian Landgraf Friedrich II a large sum of money in return for soldiers.[1] The British had spent the fall of 1775 offering subsidies to German states of the Holy Roman Empire they were allied with in return for manpower.[2] The Germans who “were used to being sent outside their own country to server under foreign flags” were happy to oblige.[3] Many Germans were eager to fight in America.[4] When the treaties were finished and the call to arms went out across the German states, many men, especially from the State of Hessen-Kassel, volunteered. Those already conscripted did not complain much when they received word of their expedition to the colonies.[5] This is because the Germans had an “unfriendly disposition toward a people who rebelled against their rightful king,” and were perfectly content with getting paid to fight such an enemy.[6]

The treaty with the German state of Hessen-Kassel was signed on January 15, 1776, and promised 12,000 men to the service of King George III of England.[7]Hessen-Kassel provided the British fifteen regiments of infantry, each with five companies of men, four grenadier battalions and two companies of Jäger (known as chasseurs or sharpshooters in English).[8] The Jäger in particular were in high demand.[9] Jäger, a German word that translates to “hunter” and can be used as both a singular and plural word, were recruited from huntsmen and foresters who were skilled in the use of rifled weapons normally used to hunt boar.[10] They were skilled shots, self-sufficient in battle, and swift, able to efficiently load and fire a rifle, a skill which took greater dexterity than firing the muskets of the day. Most importantly, they were valiant. Though the Jäger did not play a pivotal role in the American Revolution and suffered from the defeats of their regular counterparts, the actions of the Hessian Jägerkorps as a whole positively contributed to the British war effort. This was especially true in the campaigns in New York in 1776 and Pennsylvania in 1777.

The Jäger differed in appearance from other Hessian troops, wearing a green jacket with crimson facings instead of the blue jackets of Hessian infantrymen.[11] A Jäger company consisted of four commissioned officers, 16 non-commissioned ones, one non-combat officer, and 105 men.[12] Unlike the disciplined line of a foot or grenadier regiment, the Jäger fought in a more scattered skirmish formation. Because of this, the Jäger had to be “good shots, agile, intelligent, and self-reliant.”[13] This self-reliance allowed a member of the Jägerkorps the freedom to make decisions on his own during a skirmish, or during battle. Jäger were considered partisan troops. The duty of partisan troops was “to keep the enemy from his own main force…”[14] This was a duty that Jäger would accomplish many times during the early parts of the American Revolution.

The most prominent difference between Jäger and regular infantry was the use of a rifle. Jäger were expected to be proficient in the use of a rifled weapon. The Jäger rifle was much shorter than an infantry musket, and instead of a smooth bore a rifle barrel was grooved, giving the bullet spin as it exited the barrel. The spin gave the rifle greater accuracy, making it an ideal weapon for sharpshooters who wished to keep their distance from their opponents. The rifled grooves made it significantly more difficult to ram the bullet down the barrel, making the rate of fire much slower than a musket in an age where rate of fire could turn the tide of battle. The long loading time paid off when it came to firing, which could be done accurately up to 400 yards away from the enemy.[15]

Johann von Ewald
Johann von Ewald

Along with a longer loading time, another downside was that a rifle could not carry a bayonet. This left the Jäger vulnerable to being attacked by an enemy who charged with bayonet or cavalry looking to take advantage of the Jäger skirmish formation. To counter this, Jäger would often advance with grenadiers.[16] Captain Johann Ewald, a company commander in the Jägerkorps who later wrote extensively about military theory, would mix Jäger with regular troops, so the latter could provide cover to the former. [17] This tactic proved especially useful during the crossing of the Schuytlkill River in 1777. Jäger under Captain Werden and Lorey and a battalion of Hessian grenadiers were able to quickly cross the river and secure its fords.[18] This move assisted British General Sir William Howe in capturing Philadelphia.[19]

The first division of 8,000 Hessians, with one of the two Jäger companies, set off for America on May 6, 1776 and arrived at Staten Island in early August.[20] General Howe had waited for the Hessian forces to arrive before launching his attack on New York City. Historian Rodney Atwood states that Howe did this because the British knew they could not subdue the American rebels without the help of the German. Atwood says, “without them [the Hessians] the subjugation of the rebels would be unthinkable.”[21]

The first action the Hessian Jägerkorps saw was on Long Island, at the village of Flatbush, New York, where the Jäger, along with other Hessians, had stationed themselves on August 22.[22] The Jägerkorps had been placed with the brigade under the command of Colonel Carl von Donop, and were led by Captain August von Wreden.[23] Wreden would distinguish himself throughout the war, eventually earning, along with four other Jäger officers, the order Pour la Vertu Militaire, a prestigious award of Hessen-Kassel.[24]

The fight at Flatbush began the following day when three hundred American riflemen under Colonel Edward Hand began a skirmish with the Hessians.[25] The previous day, the Americans had withdrawn from the Hessian advance and took position in the wood that lay ahead of the village, giving them an advantageous position to skirmish with the Germans. An observer, Johann Heinrich von Bardeleben, from the Donop regiment, which was stationed near the village, wrote a marginal note in his diary: “As the enemy had a detachment in the woods in our front, they attacked single outposts, from that place.”[26] Several houses and crops were burned by the Americans, but after a day and a night of skirmishing, the Americans only succeeded in wounded twelve men and killing one Jäger.[27] The Jäger clearly showed they were comfortable with this type of fighting, proving their effectiveness as a skirmishing force. Captain Max O’Reilly of the Block Grenadier Battalion described how the Jäger “crept about through the fields like Croats on their bellies.”[28] There is no mention of how many men the Americans under Hand lost, but it can be assumed it was enough to make Colonel Hand reconsider his position. Hand eventually withdrew from outside the village when the grenadiers brought their cannons forward and the Jäger advanced quickly while the Americans were cannonaded.[29]

At the Battle of Long Island, which took place in the early morning of August 27, 1776, the Hessian forces were placed in the center under the command of General Phillip von Heister.[30] The Jäger, along with some grenadiers, deployed in skirmishing order and advanced before von Heister’s forces.[31] The Hessians were stationed near two passes named Flatbush and Bedford.[32] While the British maneuvered to get behind the Americans guarding this pass, the Hessians spent the early stages of the battle cannonading the Americans under General John Sullivan.[33] The British attempt to get behind the Americans was an outstanding success; Sullivan found himself in a catastrophic situation. He left piquets to slow any Hessian advance, and turned to face the British.[34] Unfortunately for Sullivan, he was not expecting a quick advance by the Hessians, and when the British signaled the Hessians by firing two heavy cannons, the Jägerkorps attacked.[35]

The Jäger “had dashed forward, reached the top of the wooded ridge, taken cover as they had been trained to do, and advanced from one protected point to another, driving back the American outposts.”[36] This allowed for the advance of Donop’s grenadiers and some Scottish Highlanders who “broke through Flatbush Pass and began to move up through the woods, flushing out the enemy at the point of the bayonet.”[37] The quick capitulation of the American outposts proved the effectiveness of the Jäger as skirmishers. A member of the Mirbach Regiment, Lieutenant Karl Friedrich Rueffer, described the American soldiers posted in Flatbush: “The enemy were hidden in the thickest bushes and no one could have known where they were if they had not made their presence known by firing on their opponents. They were all so fearful and would almost rather be shot than surrender.”[38] Sullivan and many of his men were captured. The Battle of Long Island was a complete victory for the British, a victory that would have been impossible without the assistance of their Hessian allies.

It was the terrain of the field of battle that also helped to prove the usefulness of the Jäger. Bardeleben described the “terrible hills” in his journal entry on the day of the battle, and how the enemy “could not be attacked en masse, but only by groups.”[39] The Jäger were nonetheless easily able to maneuver about these hills. The Journal of the Hessian Mirbach Regiment had described the terrain having “large and very thick woods.”[40] As the Jäger had been recruited from woodsmen and hunters, it is no surprise that they would be able to perform so valiantly during the battle.

The speed at which the Jäger moved, and the well drilled tactics they utilized, won them a great amount of renown and recognition. A British officer noted “Nothing could behave better than the Hessians, and particularly their Jägers, or riflemen, who are much superior to those of the rebels as it is possible to imagine.”[41] Captain Wreden earned a reputation as an effective leader, and the morale in the Jägerkorps soared.[42] Both von Heister and von Donop noted how effective a force the Jäger were and proposed to General Howe that they raise the number of companies present in North America.[43]

In August 1776 only one of the two companies hired in the treaty with Hessen-Kassel had arrived in America. The other would not arrive until October 22, under the command of Captain Johann Ewald.[44] Four more Jäger companies were hired by the British; one was mounted on horseback in America not to fight as cavalry but to move quickly to where needed.[45] Some of these Jäger were from the state of Ansbach-Bayreuth, while others were from Brunswick and Hessen-Hanau. The latter two were sent to Canada where they would participate in the defense of Canada and the 1777 Saratoga Campaign and St. Leger Expedition in New York. After arriving in America, the Ansbach Jäger under Captain von Cramon were attached to the Hessian Jägerkorps in 1777 and followed them on many campaigns.[46]

After the Battle of Long Island, and while there was still only one company of Hessian Jäger in North America, the next action was planned. The Jäger participated in the landing at Kip’s Bay on September 15, 1776, where they were placed in the advanced corps.[47] The Americans retreated wildly from the Hessian advance and many were captured.[48] Though the Jäger did nothing spectacular in this engagement, it is clear that the Americans quickly came to respect their German opponents. An American who had been present at Flatbush during the Battle of Long Island wrote that “The idea which we at first conceived of the Hessian Riflemen was truly ridiculous; but sad experience convinces our people that they are an enemy not to be despised.”[49]

The following day, the Jäger were present for and actively participated in the Battle of Harlem Heights. The Jäger were brought forward with the reserves when according to Bardeleben, a “strong enemy troop moved into position ahead of the English outposts and immediately attacked the Light Infantry.” Here the Americans “discovered the weakness of the English.”[50] The Jäger, under Donop, were instructed to make “rapid succors,” which according to Donop provided relief to the British Light Infantry and some Scottish Highlanders.[51] For two hours the Jäger fought a spirited battle, but were forced to withdraw when their ammunition ran low.[52] Washington did not pursue, opting to avoid a larger engagement.[53] Bardeleben notes in his journal that the Jäger only suffered eight men wounded, a relatively low number for a unit that participated in a fiercer part of the battle.[54]

On October 22, 1776, the second company of Jäger arrived under Captain Ewald.[55] Ewald would quickly become one of the most successful Jäger commanders, earning recognition from his superiors on many occasions due to his frequent successes. He was a brave man, who truly cared about his men. Shortly after arriving in New York, he was ambushed by a group of Americans, while on a patrol near Mile Square.[56] He was set upon by Americans from two sides, and when ordered to retreat by Colonel Donop he responded that he could not do so, since it would result in many of his company being captured.[57] He instead held his position, while Colonel Donop gathered some English light infantry to reinforce the Jäger.[58]

At the Battle of White Plains, fought on October 28, both Captain Ewald and Wreden proved their effectiveness as leaders of an advanced force. When the British had broken up into two columns to advance towards the American camp at White Plains, each column had a company of Jäger at its head.[59] They encountered the enemy quickly after they had begun to march, and battle began. Ewald wrote in his journal how he drove off the American advance corps, allowing the British to take position on a hill.[60] As the British and Hessian forces fought a more pitched battle, Ewald described how the two Jäger companies “had to work their way, under the heaviest enemy cannon fire, through the ravines and marshes which lay between the two wings.”[61] In the ravines, they chased off some riflemen, who ran after only a brief skirmish.[62] The Americans put up a tough fight, mainly due to the rough terrain Ewald described, but withdrew from the field.

Ludwig Wurmb
Ludwig Wurmb

During the Campaign for Philadelphia the performance of the Jägerkorps truly shined. They proved themselves time and again in small skirmishes and large battles, the battles of Brandywine and Germantown in particular. The Philadelphia Campaign also marked the beginning of a journal recounting the operations of the Hessen-Kassel Jägerkorps, which traces their actions from June 23, 1777, and ends with their return to Hessen-Kassel on April 20, 1784. On the June 23, Colonel Ludwig Johann Adolf von Wurmb assumed the command of the Jäger, and would remain in charge of them until the end of the war.[63]

The Battle of Brandywine was fought on September 11, 1777. The combined Hessian and Ansbach Jägerkorps had been placed at the front of a column led by General Cornwallis, who had taken charge of the British army’s left flank.[64] While moving before the column, they ran headlong into three American regiments from Maryland situated in a hilltop village.[65] The Jäger waited for the British and some Hessians to arrive and form for battle on the base of Osborne’s Hill.[66] Guards and grenadiers had been posted on the right and the center of the British line, while the Jäger and some British light infantry formed the left wing of the line.[67] At around four o’clock in the afternoon, the British army began their advance.[68]

It was the Ansbach and Hessian Jägers who reached the hill first.[69] They quickly attacked the Maryland Regiments. The Jägerkorps journal recounts, “the Jaegers attacked the enemy drove them into a bush, and dislodged them three different times, before they retreated back to the main body of the army.”[70] Ewald wrote, “the enemy was boldly attacked along the entire line and driven back as far as Dilworthtown, after a steady, stubborn fight from hill to hill and from wall to wall.”[71] The British Guards and grenadiers who were marching close to the Jäger only advanced forward with their bayonets, not needing to fire due to the effectiveness of the Jäger’s actions. A member of the Ansbach Jäger wrote in his journal, “The small arms fire was terrible, the counter-fire from the enemy, especially against us, was the most concentrated.”[72] The Jäger were able to hold the enemy off, lowering their morale with a constant and precise stream of fire. The Guards and grenadiers reached the hill and proceeded to chase the enemy off with bayonets, against which they did not last long.[73]

Colonel Wurmb also performed valiantly during the battle. Ewald wrote how the Colonel “fell on the flank of the enemy, and Sergeant Bickell with six Jägers moved to his rear.”[74] This maneuver sent the enemy into wild panic, making it easier for the British to take the field. The new commander of the Jägerkorps once again proved his efficiency, earning himself, along with Captain Ewald, the Pour la Vertu Militaire for their actions in this battle.[75] According to the Jägerkorps journal, the Jäger had eight killed and thirty-five wounded.[76]

The Battle of Germantown was fought on October 4, 1777. Here, the Jäger displayed not only a great amount of courage, but used their skills to survive, and win, a numerically uneven fight. Events prior to the battle also demonstrated the quality of Jäger officers. According to Ewald, before the battle he was warned by the man who owned the land where the Jäger captain was staying. The man, named Professor Smith, told Ewald, “My friend, I confess to you that I am a friend of the States and no friend of the English government…You have shown me humanity…You have protected my property. I will show you that I am grateful…Friend! General Washington has marched up to Norriton today!” [77] This may have been an embellishment by Ewald.

Herbert Knötel's Light Infantry battalion Barner. Jaeger, 1776 (Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection).
Herbert Knötel’s Light Infantry battalion Barner. Jaeger, 1776 (Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection).

During the battle, Ewald was posted on a road near the battlefield, where he saw only a minimal amount of action. The remaining Jägerkorps would soon participate in what would be an astounding victory.[78] Under Captain von Wurmb, they fought an incredible action against the Americans under General John Armstrong.[79] The Jäger had been stationed on the very far left of the British army, near a bridge over the Wissahickon River.[80] He and his Jäger were initially chased off by Armstrong’s Pennsylvania Militia, which numbered around 4000 by the Jäger account, but likely was much less than this.[81] Wurmb had his men station themselves on the higher ground that lay across from the bridge. Here they took position and “defended it with rifle fire against the enemy’s repeated attempts to force a crossing.”[82] Armstrong had his cannons fire continuously at Wurmb and his men.[83] Wurmb became dissatisfied with this, and had his men do something very rare for Jäger. He charged.

Since Jäger did not carry bayonets, they were nothing to fear in close combat. The only close-in weapon they carried was a small, straight sword called a Hirshfanger.[84] Perhaps some of the Jäger had these drawn when they charged, but it is unlikely, as on the rare occasion a Jäger charged, his goal was to get closer to the enemy so he had a better shot. The Jäger stormed across the bridge, quickly taking positions near it, and fired heavily upon the enemy.[85] The enemy withdrew quickly, leaving the Jäger victorious on the field. The charge was a stunning display of bravery by von Wurmb. Twenty Jäger under the command of von Wurmb were killed in the engagement.[86]

In December, 1777, Lord Cornwallis wrote a letter to Captain Ewald before departing back to England. The letter read:

Sir, I cannot leave this country without desiring you to accept my best thanks for your good services during the two campaigns in which I have had the honour to command the Hessian Chasseurs. If the War should continue, I hope we shall again serve together. If we should be separated I shall ever remember the distinguished merit and Ability’s of Captain Ewald.[87]

The letter served not only as a compliment to Ewald, but to the Jägerkorps as a whole.

Throughout the campaigns of 1776 and 1777, the Jägerkorps played an important role in helping to turn the tides of various skirmishes and battles. On numerous occasions, they showed a great deal of skill and valor, making a point to do all they could to either win the day, or keep defeat from turning into disaster. The Jäger would go on to fight in almost every campaign in the Revolution, continuously proving their worth. As the war dragged on, and things got harder for the British, the Jäger fought dutifully to the end. Captain Ewald and many other Jäger surrendered at Yorktown with Cornwallis, while Wurmb continued to guard the outskirts of New York City from encroaching Americans. When the war ended, these men returned to Hessen-Kassel with honor. They were graciously welcomed back by their Landgraf, and given positions of honor in the military. The Jäger and other soldiers from Hessen-Kassel who fought in the American Revolution would become the best soldiers who fought in the French Revolutionary Wars, using the skills and tactics they employed successfully fighting the American Revolutionaries.

[1] Rodney Atwood, The Hessians: Mercenaries from Hessen-Kassel in the American Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 25.

[2] Atwood, The Hessians, 23.

[3] Max von Eelking, The German Allied Troops in the North American War of Independence 1776-1783. Trans. J. G. Rosengarten (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2010), 15.

[4] Daniel Krebs, A Generous and Merciful Enemy: Life for German Prisoners of War during the American Revolution (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013), 40.

[5] Eelking, German Allied Troops, 15-16.

[6] Atwood, The Hessians, 60.

[7] Translation of a Treaty Between his Majesty and the Landgrave of Hesse Cassel. January 15, 1776. (L.S.) William Faucitt, (L.S.M) de Schlieffen.

[8] Eelking, German Allied Troops, 22.

[9] Edward Lowell. The Hessians and Other Auxiliaries of Great Britain in the Revolutionary War (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1884; reprinted CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013), 20.

[10] Atwood, The Hessians, 45, 60.

[11] Atwood, The Hessians, 45. Lowell, The Hessians, 61.

[12] Eelking, German Allied Troops, 22.

[13]  J.F.C. Fuller, British Light Infantry in the Eighteenth Century: An Introduction to Sir John Moore’s System of Training (London, 1925), 69. Quoted in Atwood, The Hessians, 133.

[14] Atwood, The Hessians, 131.

[15] Barnet Schecter, The Battle for New York: The City at the Heart of the American Revolution (New York, Walker & Company, 2002) 144.

[16] Atwood, The Hessians, 132.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid

[19] Ibid

[20] Atwood, The Hessians, 53.

[21] Atwood, The Hessians, 58.

[22] Johann Heinrich von Bardeleben, “Bardeleben Diary,“ The Diary of Lieutenant von Bardeleben and other von Donop Regiment documents, Trans. Bruce E. Burgoyne (Maryland: Heritage Books Inc. 1998), 53.

[23] Atwood, The Hessians, 64, 136.

[24] Atwood, The Hessians, 134.

[25] Barnet Schecter, Battle for New York, 129. Atwood, The Hessians, 65.

[26] Johan Heinrich von Bardeleben, “Bardeleben Diary,” 54.

[27] Atwood, The Hessians, 65.

[28] Karl Alexander Schweinsburg, “Briefe eines hessischen Offiziers [Maximilian Michael O’Reilly] aus Amerika“ (1902) p. 69, quoted in Atwood , The Hessians, p. 65.

[29] Eelking, German Allied Troops, 29.

[30] Christopher Ward, The War of the Revolution (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2011), 214.

[31] Atwood, The Hessians, 68.

[32] Ward, War of the Revolution, 222.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ward, War of the Revolution, 223.

[35] ibid.

[36] ibid.

[37] Michael Stephenson, Patriot Battles: How the War of Independence Was Fought (New York, Harper Perennial, 2007), 238.

[38] Lieutenant Karl Friedrich Rueffer, “Rueffer Journal,” in The Hesse-Cassel Mirbach Regiment in the American Revolution, Trans. Bruce E. Burgoyne, (Maryland: Heritage Books Inc., 1998), 54.

[39] Johann Heinrich von Bardeleben, Bardeleben’s Diary, 56.

[40] ”Journal of the Illustrious Young von Lossberg Regiment” in The Hesse-Cassel Mirbach Regiment in the American Revolution, Trans. Bruce E. Burgoyne (Maryland: Heritage Books Inc. 1998), 9.

[41] J.K. Laughton, “The Journal of Henry Duncan,” in The Naval Miscellany I (Naval Record Society, 1902), 125. Quoted in Rodney Atwood, The Hessians, 69.

[42] Atwood, The Hessians, 137.

[43] Atwood, The Hessians, 133.

[44] Eelking, German Allied Troops, 45.

[45] Atwood, The Hessians, 133.

[46] Atwood, The Hessians, 137.

[47] Atwood, The Hessians, 70.

[48] Ward, The War of the Revolution, 244.

[49] Major Jasper Ewing to Jasper Yeates, August 30, 1776, in John B. Linn and William H. Egle, “First Pennsylvania Continental Line,” Pennsylvania Archives (Harrisburg: Clarence M. Busch, 1896), Second Series, 10:316.

[50] Bardeleben, Bardeleben’s Diary, 64.

[51] Atwood, The Hessians, 71-72

[52] Ward, The War of the Revolution, 251.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Bardeleben, Bardeleben’s Diary, 65.

[55] Eelking, German Allied Troops, 45.

[56] Captain Johann Ewald, Dairy of the American War: A Hessian Journal, trans. Joseph P. Tustin (New Heaven: Yale University Press, 1979), 9-10.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Atwood, The Hessians, 73. Ewald, Diary of the American War, 11.

[60] Ewald, Dairy of the American War, 12.

[61] Ewald, Dairy of the American War, 13.

[62] Ibid.

[63] “Jaeger Corps Journal” in The Journal of the Hesse Cassel Jaeger Corps and Hans Konze’s list of Jaeger officers, trans. Bruce E. Burgoyne (Maryland: Heritage Books, 2008), 1.

[64] Atwood, The Hessians, 134.

[65] Ward, War of the Revolution, 350. Ewald, Diary of the American War, 84. Ewald, Diary of the American War, 86.

[66] Ward, The War of the Revolution, 350.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Ibid.

[69] Ibid.

[70] Jaeger Corps Journal, 14.

[71] Ewald, Diary of the American War, 86.

[72] Heinrich Carl Phillip von Feilitzsch, “Feilitzsch Diary” in Diaries of Two Ansbach Jaegers (Maryland: Heritage Books, 1997), 18.

[73] Ward, War of Revolution¸350.

[74] Ewald, Diary of the American War, 86.

[75] Lowell, The Hessians, 199.

[76] Jaeger Corps Journal, 15.

[77] Ewald, Diary of the American War, 92.

[78] Ewald, Diary of the American War, 93.

[79] Ward, The War of the Revolution, 370.

[80] Jaeger Corps Diary, 21

[81]Jaeger Corps Diary, 21. Ward, The War of the Revolution, 370.

[82]Jaeger Crops Diary, 22.

[83] Ibid.

[84] “Edged weapons of the Hesse-Kassel Jäger Korps,”, accessed Dec. 9, 2014.

[85] Jaeger Corps Journal, 22.

[86] ibid.

[87] Charles, Earl Cornwallis, to Johann Ewald, December 16, 1777. Quoted in Ewald, Diary of the American War, 110.


  • Thanks for the great post. I’ve always been fascinated by the Jagers. In “The Road to Guilford Courthouse” I encountered Ewald for the first time. I wish Buchanan had spent a little more time on him.

    I have been able to trace my family line back to the Hessians:

    I see you are just down the road from me at KSU. Stop on buy sometime and maybe you can help me convince my wife that I need a Jager rifle for historical study. 🙂

    1. How did they know that a grooved barrel was producing more precise shots? That’s an interesting question that gets out of the Journal of the American Revolution’s scope, but here’s a very quick overview:
      Rifled barrels were first developed in Germany in the 16th century. It had long since been determined that arrows remained more accurate over long distances when a spin was imparted with the fletching (fins); experiments with rifled gun barrels proved that the same was true for round balls.
      The important thing to recognize is that spin stabilization, as it’s called today, improves accuracy at long ranges. Over short distances the accuracy of a musket or a rifle can be similar, just as the accuracy of arrows fired at short ranges is not significantly affected by spin. So rifling alone does not make a rifle superior to a musket; instead, it gives the rifle an advantage in specialized situations.
      By the time of the American Revolution the benefits of rifling were well known, but accuracy at long range was only one of many factors that influenced the overall utility of a military firearm, and was not the most important one. Rifling did not supplant smoothbores until well into the 19th century when other technologies (bullet shape, reliable breech loading, etc.) also became commonplace.

      1. Don. I’m just finding out that I had replies and comments waiting…I thought that I would be automatically advised of these replies.

        It came on the same day that I discuss one of your articles on my blog (in French though). Your article about desertion.

        Thanks for the explanation. Much appreciated.

  • Richard Leo — FYI — The Jägers with Burgoyne’s Army were not members of the Jägerkorps.

    As a nitpicker, I take exception to the term “Hessian Jägerkorps” used in the title because at one time the Ansbach-Bayreuth Jägers made up 25% (2 of 8 companies) of the Jägerkorps.

    The term “Hessian” was the derogatory term used by the Americans for the German auxiliary troops but the troops were actually supplied by six independent ‘states’: Hesse-Cassel, Brunswick [Braunschweig], Ansbach-Bayreuth, Hesse-Hanau, Waldeck, and Anhalt-Zerbst, of which only the Waldeckers were true mercenaries (as were the ‘von Scheither recruits’ which joined British Regiments).

    Following the surrender of the two Ansbach-Bayreuth infantry regiments at Yorktown in Oct. 1781, the Margrave ordered the remaining troops and incoming recruits to be organized into a six company Ansbach-Bayreuth Jägerregiment. This finally occurred ‘on paper’ on 01 May 1783; however, the 1782 recruits had been diverted Penobscot from whence they returned to Germany.

  • “The rifled grooves made it significantly more difficult to ram the bullet down the barrel, making the rate of fire much slower than a musket in an age where rate of fire could turn the tide of battle.”

    Just one point of clarification; the patched ball made it significantly more difficult to ram the bullet down the barrel. The cloth patch made the ball engage tightly with the barrel and rifling, thereby imparting the spin required to stabilize the shot at long ranges. As the barrel became fouled with the residue of black powder after several shots, loading became even more difficult.

  • I interested in where the accounts payable to the Germanic Princes are and the list of Soldiers, plus their home locations. They must exist in British records at a minimum.

  • “The Jäger, under Donop, were instructed to make “rapid succors,” which according to Donop provided relief to the British Light Infantry and some Scottish Highlanders.”
    To be fair, Atwood the cited source opines that Donop’s observation “is almost certainly an exaggeration of the Hessian’s role.”
    In fact the “Scottish Highlanders” in question, the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment, were part of the force that advanced n conjunction with the jägers to cover the retreat of the Light Infantry companies as they fell back from Harlem Heights.

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