The History of the Brunswick Regiment


Note: This is a short History of the American Revolutionary War as well the History of the Brunswick Regiment. It is told from a Canadian point of view.

The contract with Great Britain.
In 1730 the Duchy was politically aligned with the Kingdom of Prussia. In 1733 the then Hereditary Prince Carl married the sister of the future King Frederick the Great, who in turn married a Princess out of the House of Brunswick. The Princes of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel have served since that time in the Prussian army. Four of the Princes gave their lives serving the Kingdom of Prussia. They are all entombed in the cathedral in Brunswick. By 1775, the Duchy was in great financial difficulties. The main reasons for the difficulties were the Seven Years War and the French occupation which had drained the little country. At the end of the war in 1763, the Duchy had an army of 16,000 men. The army was too big for the size of the country. To save money the Duke reduced the size of the army. The savings were, however, still not enough to cope with the financial problems of the Duchy. Duke Carl did not want to impose new taxes on the population, because he wanted to just see first a recovery of the industrial sector. A new way had to be found to bring money into the treasury of the Duchy. Such an opportunity was created by the unrest in British North America. The reigning Duke Carl I., was very reluctant to send his troops to North America. It took the Hereditary Prince Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand to convince the Duke to exploit this possibility to improve the financial situation of the Duchy and at the same time to help his relative King George III. of England fight against the rebellious colonies in North America. The money from this contract helped the taxpayers of the Duchy until 1918.

The Sold Soldiers - A Long Time Legend.
In the Eighteen's Century the renting out of troops was a normal occurrence. At the time, there was no national Army like today and the soldiers were paid by the Duke or King and fought where they were sent to. The best example was the French troops fighting on the side of the rebels in North America. Today, nobody claims that these troops were sold to fight in North America. They did the same as the troops sent over by the different German states. The difference was, that the French troops were fighting on the side of the Americans, the side of the winner. The winner always writes history the way it suits him. The money paid under the contract did not go into the pocket of the reigning Duke, but was used in the budget of the Duchy.Over the years, a lot of misinformation was published and today, the Mass Media spreads this misinformation even further in our homes. Changes in the political climate led to further distortions of the facts, especially by our great neighbor, the USA. We are unable to ascertain exactly who spread the misinformation about the so called SOLD Soldier's or MERCENARIES. It could have been Thomas Jefferson, who directed the propaganda war against the British Crown. He used it as a propaganda tool to draw European nations onto the side of the Americans. Historians still help today to keep alive this false picture about the German troops in North America. The so called Urias-letter was the worst tool of the American propaganda machine. This letter was always attributed to the Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel. In the letter the writer states that only 1700 Hessian soldiers died at the engagement at Trenton. The official records of the time show that instead of the 1700 dead soldiers mentioned in the Urias-letter, only 17 died. The letter was probably written by no other then Benjamin Franklin and not the Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel. Franklin was the master of American propaganda. The purpose of the letter was to find European allies to fight on the side of the Americans.

A clause in the signed contracts, between the British Crown and the different German States, stipulated that a specific fee be paid by England to the different governments for every soldier who died in combat in North America. The amount was identical to the fee paid to the soldier when he signed up for fighting in North America. The story of the sold soldiers is now unfortunately a part of our history, but the truths looks slightly different. The troops from Brunswick and from Hessen-Kassel were all professional soldiers, who served voluntarily in the Army. Later into the war, as reinforcements were needed for North America, it occurs then, especially with the Army of Hessen-Kassel that soldiers were taken against their will to serve in North America. It cannot be denied, but the bulk of the soldiers serving in North America were volunteers. The muster rolls of the time period show this point clearly. Many of the soldiers had served already for a long time in the army of the Duke. Few of the Brunswick soldiers deserted. The recruiting practice in the English army and specifically the navy showed a complete different picture. There, it was normal to press personnel against their will into the army or navy. The actions of the press gangs are well known and normal for the time period. A lot of the people pressed into service were unemployed or came from the criminal elements of the population. Life 200 years ago was much harder, then it is today. At the time, no state run social programs existed. A person had two options, he could starve or serve in the army. Here at least he felt secure and did not go through life hungry. Criminal elements recruited into the army made strict discipline procedures necessary. The tactics of the armies of the time, also ,necessitated a strict discipline. Taxpayers were not pressed into the army, because it was they, who paid for the army. The English Crown signed a defence-treaty with Hessen-Kassel and Brunswick, which stipulated that if Hessen-Kassel or the Duchy of Brunswick were attacked, England itself would come to the aid of these countries. Help from England was to come in a military and financial form. The pact was to counterbalance the French expansion politics in Germany. The contract was approved by the Landstands of the Duchy. According to the signed contract the Duchy was to send a corps of 4,300 men to North America to fight against the rebels. The troops were to be paid by England. All equipment for the corps had to be bought in Brunswick. This was to help the industry in Brunswick create new jobs. All the recruits were to be supplied by the Duchy. The money from the contract was invested by the government of the Duchy and the interest helped to ease the tax burden of the taxpayer to 1918. In peacetime, the Duke had to pay for the expenses of a standing army, in wartime the money came from the budget of the Duchy. The Brunswick army was a professional army, whose members served voluntarily. The soldiers had to swear an oath to the duke. This oath was not broken by most of the soldiers. Duke Carl I. appointed Friedrich Adolf Riedesel as Commander, who served for 15 years in the Brunswick army. Friedrich Adolf Riedesel was a very experienced, but he was also well liked by his soldiers. He enjoyed the trust of the Duke and the Hereditary Prince. According to the signed contract, every soldier who volunteered was to receive 30 Talers as a bonus. He was also to receive the same amount of pay as the British soldiers received. British soldiers were paid much more than the soldiers of the different German states.

The Duchy received an annual sum of 64,500 pound Sterling. At the end of the war the amount of money doubled and was paid to the Duchy for 2 more years. For every soldier killed in action, Britain had to pay again the 30 Taler bonus money and also had to pay the monthly pay for the Brunswick soldiers. For the length of the war the Duchy of Brunswick received a sum of 774,000 pound Sterling in cash. This amount of money was worth over 5 million Talers in German currency of the time, which went into the treasury of the Duchy. Similar contracts were signed with the other German states.
The Reasons of the War.
The reasons why the war started are published in many publications. Most of the publications unfortunately show only one side of the argument. Therefore a wrong picture of the war and the troops serving in the fighting in North America is created. The truth unfortunately looks somewhat different. In the late summer of 1775, the American army attacked Canada, to liberate the French-Canadians as the Americans said. All the Canadian cities except for Quebec City fell quickly to the invading Americans, because England had too few troops stationed in Canada and the rest of North America. As the attack came, England was not prepared for it and it had to find troops as fast as possible somewhere else. King Georg the III., the Elector of Hanover, turned for help to his relatives in Germany. Already at the Seven Years War they were his most trusted allies.

The reasons of the war go back further then the year 1775. The depiction's of the War of Independence are made up of patriotism, feelings and before all misinformation. We are only informed about the American point of view, which is very often is not the true view of the war. The view mentions tyranny, high taxation, no representation in parliament and it shows the leaders of the revolution, as men with a great far sight. We are misinformed over the true reasons of the revolution and awakens in us the thought, that most of the colonists in the years before the revolution were not happy with the government of the King of England. This picture is not the true picture.

The war was a European conflict fought in North America. The Seven Years War finished in 1763 and had later massive after-effects for the English colonies in North America. Threads of French raids from Canada into the colonies existed up to the end of the conflict. The French defeat and the conquest of New France, the present day Canada, through Great Britain ended the threat.

The war did not just bring Great Britain new large land returns, but brought the colony's security and wealth. This wealth was funded partly by the English Army. The troops that guarded and defended the colonies also needed food and equipment. The English Crown didn't confiscate what was needed for the army, but everything was bought for a price. A price naturally inflated by the merchants in the colonies. Until the outbreak of the war the colonies paid substantial less taxes as the homeland England. Most of the colonies were pure agricultural colonies. The landowners in Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas owned great plantations, which in turn made them huge profits. This in return was made possible through the employment of slaves that were brought in from Africa. A land that rebelled against the English King, which mastered itself as a champion of the free people, brought in slaves as manpower for the plantations. In this situation it was normal that the English parliament saw the colonies also as a tax-basis for the homeland. The reason for the tax basis had is origin in the expenses that occurred when the British troops were stationed in the colonies and defended them against the French. The colonies wanted British troops for their protection but did not want to pay for the troops.

At the time of the Seven Years War, Canada was still in French hands, the colonies demanded that British troops protect the colonies from attacks out of Canada. British troops defended the colonies and after some hard fighting they were able to beat the French decisively and conquer Canada. It was made possible because French troops and equipment were badly needed in the fighting in Germany and it could not be spared to be send to Canada to reinforce the garrison in New-France. The conquest of Canada through the British stopped any further threat against the colonies through the French.

After the fighting was over voices were raised in the colonies to reduce the strength of the British army. The colonies made no effort to make some payments for the expenses that had occurred at the defense. Soon the situation changed again, as in 1763, the big Indian uprising under Chief Pontiac began. Because of the reduction of the British troop strength the colonies feared that not enough troops were in North America to protect the colonies from any attack by the Indians. Protests by the colonies forced Britain to increase the troop strength by 7,000 soldiers. After the uprising was put down, the English parliament wanted parts of the expenses that occurred at the defense, to be refunded by the colonies. English parliament turned to the colonies with the plea, to raise the money through taxes. The Stamp tax was levied. Parliament gave the colonies a period of a year, to decide through their governors if this tax could be replaced by a better and fairer method. Parliament showed thereby, that it would take suggestions from the colonies to find a better tax system. After the Pontiac uprising the English government decided in 1763, to make the Appalachian Mountains the western border of the colonies. The land to the West of the mountains was the land belonging to the Indians and was closed for settlers. The government of Great Britain saw in this action a good solution to the problem, because the colonies were a long way from getting overcrowded and additional land was not needed yet. Great Britain wanted to secure land for the Indians.

The drawing of the new border did not please some circles in the colonies. Fur traders and especially the land speculators were not very happy with this solution. They saw their massive profits disappear. More problems for England brought the so-called money law, which prohibited the colonies to bring their own money into circulation. At this time the colonies still paid less taxes then the homeland England. The taxation levied, was not laid onto the shoulders of the working class people, but the taxes were to be paid by the rich planters and merchants. We take for example the already mentioned stamp tax. The tax was only levied if letters were send away. Here exactly as in Europe, the lower classes of the population could not read and write and the tax hit only the rich merchants, lawyers, plantation and factory owners. The rich merchants and land speculators saw through this taxation their huge profits shrink. Big profits could no longer be made, because the Indian land was off limits. It needs no mentioning that the rich people of the colonies were not content with this solution. It was this group of people who did everything to stir up the dissatisfaction in the colonies. Men like Patrick Henry, a rich lawyer from Virginia, and groups like the Sons of the Revolution seeded the seeds for the revolution. The leader of the group was Samuel Adams. Groups like these stirred up the population through false propaganda. The situation in the colonies grew quickly worse. Officials of the Crown were attacked and their houses burnt down. Many of these actions were orchestrated by the Sons of the Revolution. In 1765, the delegates of the colonies met in New York City. The congress professed to the English parliament that the stamp tax should be taken back. These actions were not enough for Samuel Adams and his supporters. They wanted more drastic actions.

Congress decided now, to boycott all English merchandise. This patriotic decision had naturally also other reasons. The delegates of the congress, mostly manufacturers, merchants and lawyers, who saw it as their own goal to make the decision for the hard working population the way they saw it best. The boycott of English merchandise, created a better market for their own merchandise, because their own merchandise was substantial more expensive as comparable English products. Their profits were driven thereby much higher. The English parliament was not sure if the stamp tax should be abolished or not. In 1766 the Declamatory law was enacted.This law said that parliament still had the right, to enact legislation for the colonies. The colonies urged the English parliament to abolish the Stamp tax. Samuel Adams brought forward other reasons to stir up the confrontation between colonies and Great Britain. It is not mentioned anywhere, that parliament itself showed an open mind to satisfy the wishes of the colonies. At the time big political changes took place in Great Britain. William Pitt, a friend of the colonies, stepped back and Charles Townshend came to power. Tonwshend know that the colonies were against direct taxation. He worked out a plan to introduce an indirect taxation. He introduced in 1767 the Revenue tax, which was to replace the Stamp tax. The new taxation increased prices in the colonies, because the merchants passed on the new taxes to their customers. It was the goal of the parliament to stop with that law the smuggling in the colonies, which hurt British manufacturers. The ties between Great Britain and the colonies had grown much colder by 1768. British soldiers and customs officers were attacked. Officials of the Crown complained to their superiors to improve their protection, so that no more attacks against their person would occur. Parliament decided to send more troops to North America to protect the interest of the Crown. A Man of War was sent to Boston, to fight smuggling and to maintain the English interests. On June 10 the sloop "Liberty," on the way to Boston was intercepted with a cargo of contra-band on board. The logbook showed that the ship was loaded with smuggled products and that it belonged to John Hancock another "hero" of the revolution. The "Liberty" was towed into Boston harbour. This naturally led to a riot that was started by Adams and Hancock. More troops were sent to Boston. The majority of the population wanted the time turned back to the time before 1764, when the colonies prospered, but Adam's and his supporters stirred up the anti English opinion. He published the magazine "Journal of the Time," that only published anti English propaganda. Later John Otis a worker of the journal admitted that 90% of the news were freely made up and had nothing to do with the truth. The goal of the propaganda was to influence and stir up the opinion of the population against the English Crown.

In 1773 the British East India Company suffered heavily under the boycott of there merchandise in the colonies. The sale of tea, which was taxed in England, was boycotted. Smuggled Dutch tea, even more expensive then the imported British tea, brought the merchants high profits. Parliament decided to send tea directly into the colonies. This made the British tea substantial cheaper in the colonies, as the smuggled Dutch. Parliament was trying to put the smugglers out of business. Samuel Adams and the merchants were naturally against the decision by parliament. The smuggling had made them wealthy.

In 1774 the so-called Quebec law was introduced by parliament. The law extended the borders of Quebec into the valley of the Ohio- and Mississippi River. This law took naturally the wind out of the sails of the land speculators. Both sides were on a collision course and both were responsible for this development. As the war broke out only 33% the population supported the revolution, 33% were neutral, and 33% stayed loyal to the King. It showed that the majority of the population did not support the cause of the revolution.
The goal of our program is, to bring back some pride in the history and achievements of our country, Canada.

Our Living History program has the goal to inform the public of the major role the German Troops played in the defense of Canada. When Canada was attacked by the American Armies in 1775, they helped defend Canada against the American thread from 1776 to 1783. When the rebellion broke out in the colonies to the south, soon, what is today Canada was attacked by the rebels. The English Crown was not capable of putting a large Army into the field to defend British North America. The British Crown had to find troops quickly to fight the Americans. King George III from the house of Hanover, was also the Elector of Hanover in Germany. The house of Hanover was a line of the house of Brunswick At this time, the Duchy of Brunswick was in financial trouble. The Seven Years War and the French occupation had left the country financially poor. It was for this reason that the Duke of Brunswick had to find a way to get the Duchy out of this situation. The supplying of troops to the British was the best way. The Brunswick Army at that time was a professional Army, all members were VOLUNTEERS, They could not be called MERCENARIES, because they were in the Army of their own free will.

In the 18th. Century it was very common to rent out troops to other governments. The Dutch for example rented Prussian troops, the French employed Swiss and Irish troops. The American's had French troops fighting against the English Crown We do not call them Mercenaries either. The English Crown signed a defense treaty with Hessen and Brunswick. It stated that if these states were attacked, the British would intervene and help in their defense. This was designed to prevent the French from attacking these states, again. The two states of Hessen and Brunswick were to supply the British with a corps each, to fight the rebels in North America. Britain was to pay for these troops. The equipment for these troops had to be bought in Hessen and Brunswick. It was to help the industries of both states. The money from these treaties helped the Brunswick tax-payer's till 1918. The soldiers of the Duchy of Brunswick were all VOLUNTEERS, the desertion rate was very low and the soldiers stayed loyal to the King of England and Duke Carl of Brunswick.

Battle Flag of the Brunswick Infantry Regiment

The strength of the two Brunswick divisions were
3964 men Infantry,
336 men Cavalry.
The cavalry unit, the Dragoon Regt. "Prinz Ludwig", came to Canada without their horses. This unit was to receive horses here.

The following units made up the Brunswick Corps:
Dragoon Regiment "Prinz Ludwig".
Grenadier Battalion "Breymann".
Musketeer Regt. "Prinz Friedrich".
Musketeer Regt. "Riedesel".
Musketeer Regt. "Specht".
Musketeer Regt. "Speth".
Jäger Batl. "von Barner".
All together the Corps was 176 officers, 389 NCO's, 102 Drummers, 3372 men and 261 servants strong. Duke Carl appointed Baron von Riedesel as Commander of the troops.

The first Division left Brunswick on Feb. 22nd 1776. The Division arrived after a 13 week journey on June 1st in front of Quebec City.The second Division was not as fortunate. They left Brunswick, March 21th and arrived in Canada on Sept. 17th after a 24 week trip. The troops were rushed into action. All the American troops were driven out of Canada. A fleet was build to destroy the American fleet on Lake Champlain and then advanced into the rebellious provinces to defeat the rebels. In 1776 the British defeated the American fleet on Lake Champlain. By that time it was already too late in the season to advance any further. The troops went into winter quarters in Canada. The Brunswick troops stayed on the St.Lawrence River around the city of Sorel. The winter was spend with guarding the River against an American attack. A new British Commander for the army was appointed. General Burgoyne was now in charge of the Allied army. The new campaign started on June 7th 1777. Every unit of the Brunswick Corps left some soldiers back in Canada, in case the Americans attacked. Around 600 soldiers stayed in Canada and formed the Battalion "Ehrenkrook". The first action was at Ticonderoga. Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence were taken. The first major action was at Hubbardton. It was a defeat for the Americans. Bennington was the next engagement where the Brunswickers were defeated by a force 4 1/2 times larger. The 2 battles of Saratoga were the end for the Allied army. Outnumbered 4 to 1 they had to surrender. The convention of Saratoga was signed, but shortly after the surrender the Americans broke the convention. The troops went into prison camps. From new recruits and survivors of the campaign the units were reformed in Canada and defended Canada unto 1783. After the war almost 2000 soldiers stayed in Canada and settled the land. Brunswick soldiers settled in Quebec and Ontario as far west as Belleville. In 1783 the Brunswick soldiers made up 4% of the male population in lower Canada. They also brought with them a lot of needed trades people.
Join the Duke of Brunswick's troops. Get involved with Canada's living History. Your History.
To join our group please contact:
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Tel. (905) 640 - 5243.
Claus Reuter:
(416) 261 - 9964.
We wish to thank the following companies for supporting this important project, as part of Canada's history:
Volkswagen Canada Inc.
Kuehne & Nagel Forwarding
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