German Auxiliary Units at Yorktown
The Germany of the 1700's was not a unified country like it is today. It was divided up into many different principalities, each one with their own ruler. These princes often found themsleves running short of money. One method they had of making money was to rent out their armies to other countries.
At the beginning of the American Revolutionary war, King George III of Great Britain realized that he did not have enough British soldiers to defeat the rebellious colonists. George III, who also the king of the German principality of Hanover, decided to take advantage of the troops these German princes had to offer. Great Britain signed treaties with six German principalities. Brunswick, Hesse-Kessel, Hesse-Hanau, Waldeck, Anspach-Bayreuth and Anhalt-Zerbst would ultimately send a combined 30,000 men to fight for Great Britain.
Ansbach-Bayreuth Regiment: This unit was formed of two battalions, the first from Anspach and the second from Bayreuth. The regiment arrived in New York in June 1777. The regiment was transferred south in April 1781 to reinforce British troops already in Virginia. At Yorktown, the 1st Battalion consisted of 432 men under the command of Colonel F.A.V. Voit Von Salzburg. The 2d Battalion had 412 men commanded by Colonel F.J.H.C. Von Seybothen. When Cornwallis attempted to escape across the York River on the night of October 17, the Anspach-Bayreuth Regiment was ordered to remain behind as the rear guard. The escape attempt failed and the regiment would surrender with the rest of the British forces. The regiment lost an estimated 12 killed and 34 wounded during the siege. Two members of this unit, Johann Conrad Doehla and Stephan Popp, left detailed diaries of the events at Yorktown.
Fusilier Regiment Erbprinz: This unit from Hesse-Kassel was also known as the Prince Hereditaire Regiment. This regiment arrived August 1776 in the American colonies and saw action in the New York area. The Erbprinz Regiment came to Virginia in March 1781 with troops under the command of British Major General William Phillips. When General Phillips died in Virginia, the unit was temporarily under the command of Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, who was commanding troops in the British army. A week later the unit came under the command of Cornwallis during the Virginia and Yorktown Campaigns. The unit, during the Siege of Yorktown, consisted of 404 men commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Mathew Fuchs. It lost an estimated 23 killed, 57 wounded and 16 missing during the siege.
Musketeer Regiment von Bose: This unit was known as the Musketeer Regiment Von Turmbach until 1778 when Major General C. von Bose became the new commander. This regiment from Hesse-Kassel arrived in New York City in August 1776. It was transferred south in November 1778 and participated in the capture of Savannah, Georgia, that same year. The Von Bose Regiment also participated in the capture of Charleston, SC, in May 1780. It became a part of Cornwallis' army and stayed with him through the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina, in March 1781. Only a portion of the regiment would leave North Carolina and march with Cornwallis into Virginia. Major O'Reilly commanded the 285 men who marched with Cornwallis to Yorktown. Soldiers from the regiment participated in the defense of Redoubt #9 when it was stormed by French troops on the night of October 14th. It lost an estimated 18 killed, 40 wounded and 11 missing at Yorktown.
Jagers: This unit from Hesse-Kassel was formed of expert riflemen who were recruited from game keepers and foresters. Designed to function as light infantry and as a reconaissance unit, they arrived in New York in August 1776. A small portion of the Jagers moved south during the winter of 1780/81 as part of the troops commanded by Brigadier General Benedict Arnold during his raid into Virginia. They fell under the command of Cornwallis when he entered the state in May 1781. The Jagers at Yorktown consisted of 77 men commanded by Captain Johann Ewald. The casualties for this unit are not recorded. Captain Ewald left a diary detailing Jager activity during the American Revolutionary War.
Artillery: A small unit of artillery arrived with the Anspach-Bayreuth Regiment in June 1777. At Yorktown the unit consisted of 55 men with two field guns under the command of Captain N.F. Hoffman.
Atwood, Rodney. The Hessians. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980
Popp, Stephan. A Hessian Soldier in the American Revolution: The Diary of Stephan Popp. Translated from the orginial text by Reinhart J. Pope. Private Printing
Prechtel, Johann Ernst. Hessian Officers Diary of the American Revolution. Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 1994.
Stadtler, Erhard. The Anspach-Bayreuth Troops During The American War of Independence. Special print from Volume 8 of the Free Scripture Series of the Society For Genealogy.
Von Eelking, Max. The German Allied Troops in the North American War of Independence, 1776-1783. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1969.
Compiled for Colonial National Historical Park in April 1988 from The British Defenses at Yorktown - 1781 by Erwin N. Thompson, September 1976
Did You Know?
Thomas Nelson, Jr., is one of Yorktown's most famous residents. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, served as Governor of Virginia in 1781, and commanded the Virginia militia during the 1781 siege of his hometown. His home still bears damage from the bombardment during the siege.