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Information on the Hesse Hanau Frei Corps

Janecke’s Frei Corps

Transcribed by Justin Boggess Kings Royal Yorkers


Lt. Colonel Michael von Janecke Jan 4 1781

Major Carl August Scheel Jan 5 1782

Capt Just Fridrich von Franck Jan 3 1781

Capt Carl Dittmar Spangenberg Jan 4 1781

Capt Graf von Leningen Jan 13 1781

Capt Christian Ludwig von Schelm Jan 15 1781

Capt Lt. Thylo von Westerhagen Jan 21 1781

1st Lt. Godfried Heinrich von Kerner Jan 14 1781

1st Lt. Johann Georg Kock Jan 15 1781

1st Lt. Carl Philipp Eytelwein Jan 16 1781

1st Lt. Conrad Bernhardt Zipff March 18 1781

2nd Lt. Christian Hoelcken Jan 15 1781

2nd Lt. Philipp Schaeffer Jan 15 1781

2nd Lt. Friedrich Goerdewk Jan 18 1781

2nd Lt. Jerome Conradi Jan 31 1781

2nd Lt. Johann Godfried von Stockel March 19 1781

2nd Lt. Friedrich Just Genner March 24 1781

List from: The German Allied Troops in the North American War of Independence 1776-1783, Max von Eelking, JG Rosengarten trans. Heritage Books, Bowie MD, 1987

Illustrious Hereditary Prince, Gracious Sovereign and Lord

Your Highness’ gracious letter of 6 August with the enclosed orders for Lieutenant Colonel Janecke was received by me a few days ago. I will make my greatest efforts to fulfill your most gracious orders and to make myself worthy of the gracious trust which you have been pleased to show me.

Immediately upon the receipt of Your Highness’ order, Lieutenant Colonel von Janecke reported to me and informed me of the state of the Free Corps under his command. From now on, I will be informed of all conditions and make the most minute inquiries and will keep a close watch over it, which I have been unable to do previously due to the short time, and because it marched yesterday, with the Hessian and Anspach Jaegers, to Kingsbridge.

If any changes are necessary in one of the other units, I will attempt, in so far as possible, to make them and will not fail to inform Your Highness of everything in my humble reports.

I have the pleasure to assure Your Highness that Lieutenant Colonel von Janecke, who is a capable individual, has exerted himself at all times to maintain good order and discipline and to work against the usual short-comings of new troops, and that it will not be his fault if, in the present situation, they are not fully successful, initially.

The local climate and a winter spent in self built huts are the cause of an unusual amount of sickness and discontent, especially among the young troops who are not accustomed thereto.

Since that time, not only are the deaths fewer, but also the appearance and conduct and duty throughout the corps is in better condition than I had been led to expect by Colonel von Wurmb, who previously commanded it for a time.

Uniforms, as I have seen for myself, are not in good condition. Lieutenant Colonel von Janecke will himself, in so far as possible, maintain them by repairs, which because of the expensiveness of the English cloth and the scarcity of trading companies, is very difficult.

I assume that Your Highness’ local Free Corps is to remain under the command of Colonel von Wurmb and will be quartered this winter on Long Island with the Hessian Jaeger Corps. Colonel von Wurmb will do everything in his power to support it and make conditions better.

York Island, 30 October 1782

F. von Lossberg

In compliance with Your Highness’ order, I will not neglect to present the details of the condition of your corps under me.

The outer appearance, or what might be missing in outer appearance, consists primarily of the poor uniform items, which were supplied when the corps marched out of Hanau. As the result of an impartial investigation, the green cloth for the coats, shirts, and trousers was delivered by too greedy providers who knew nothing about such item. Already on the transport ships it was apparent that these uniforms were not only old and had been in storage for a long time, but the colors must have been scorched in the dying process, because the cloth fell off the troops in places even though at that time they had been little worn. Even the numerous patches would not stay on the rotten material, and I was not a little embarrassed thereby upon our debarkation here. After we had been on land here for some time, the great growth among the many young people in the corps caused an even greater embarrassment about the uniform items, especially concerning the length of the trousers, which showed furthermore, that they had been cut improperly and too short, in general, in Hanau. To alleviate this evil in part, the tails were cut from the coats and short jackets were made thereby, in order to provide the necessary improvement patches. But even this, because of the rottenness of the cloth, did not help for long, but the various companies were forced to make so called long-trousers (long breeches) from grey beaver as there is not much green cloth of similar color to be found in New York, and in this expensive land, there is no money to pay for it either. These above mentioned trousers, in the not easy winter duty and during the bad weather, have served the corps well, and so as soon as the season again turns milder, all the companies will be provided with similar long white linen breeches, which are wearing even now, until such time when yellow wool breeches and shirts can be made, and this work is progressing diligently for the entire corps at this time.

From all the above circumstances, Your Highness will be inclined to notice how disappointing it has been for me not to be able to keep the corps in durable, proper uniforms, and to maintain proper fitting uniforms. However, because the individual coats, or more correctly now, jackets, can not be further stretched, patched, nor used as rags, no further improvement can be made. These are the reasons which I have humbly made to my Illustrious Hereditary Prince in all my previous letters and have diligently sought gracious relief from this embarrassment. In considering the internal condition of the corps, I have the honor to present to Your Highness, that during the fourteen weeks sea-voyage, the corps had 27 deaths. I flatter myself then, that upon my arrival on land, the health conditions in the corps, by further diligent attention, and an anticipated better diet, would improve and could be maintained. However, how very wrong my expectations became, considering the latter, I have learned from sorry experience.

As soon as we set foot on Long Island, the corps had to undertake the long march from Brooklyn to Flushing the same day, which set the pattern for much sickness, because enroute we bivouacked, and after our arrival at Flushing, and for three days, we went without bread, without drink, or other necessary provisions.

The troops, who had been starved aboard ship, despite the strong disciplinary measures taken against raw food, and all the care taken, could not be prevented from secretly eating unripe fruit, which, in addition to the necessity of withstanding frost-filled nights in barns, under living conditions the troops were still not accustomed to, had to give the first occasion for frequent dysentery. The corps remained at Flushing for only five days and then at once had to march back to the region of Brooklyn again. There I hoped to obtain winter quarters and to let the troops recover. After a five week stay, however, the corps again had to move out, and entered winter quarters in huts and barracks near Fort Knyphausen. That this is one of the most unhealthy regions of this entire province, must be known to Your Highness without my so stating. The sickness increased rapidly and although remedies were applied, during the worst season of the year, it could not be so easily controlled. Nothing for the care and attention of the sick had ever been wanting. I have even had their own hospital established, which was sanitized by fumigating with smoke and spraying with vinegar. To be even more sure, I requested a special medical commission from General von Knyphausen, which after an investigation of the existing conditions, could find nothing to recommend but more cleanliness, which could not be done regularly at that time by the half-dead troops, and more warmth in their quarters, which however, was not possible because of the very thin boards of the barracks, and a shortage of straw, which was not always sufficient, during the most severe season. All winter long I have had to help and it must be known to Your Highness that among the long-established Hessian regiments, upon their first arrival at this especially unhealthy spot, they fared no better in the number of deaths experienced. How can one think that something better could be expected of a new corps, which for the most part consists of very young men or of emaciated old men.

As a result of the many deaths, which primarily took only the most infirm troops, the corps has been rather cleansed, as is proved by the present appearance. However, if it is to remain in its present condition, and furthermore be improved, it requires the utmost necessities, which I most dutifully request Your Highness’ intercession be applied to, as that the troops soon, or at least by the coming spring, can finally be dressed for the local climate and duty, in which they are now to be used. All the captains of the corps have done everything that they could. However, as it was equally difficult for them, they have previously made oral solicitations to me daily, but yesterday they submitted the accompanying memorandum, the original which I enclose for Your Highness’ examination.

In camp near Morris House, 30 October 1782


To Lieutenant Colonel von Janecke, Sir!

Right Honorable Sir, as our commander it is known to you that we have been placed on the same footing by His Highness, Our Gracious Prince, as the troops of His Serene Highness of Hesse-Cassel. However, we do not enjoy the same advantages, without which we can not endure those things, as known, which it pleases their prince to graciously offer, as for example:

  1. we can not be promoted to any vacancies

  2. we receive no recruiting money, and

  3. As those troops are allowed, we do not receive our small clothes items at as cheap a price, as can be had in Hesse from the government commissariat.

On the contrary, with what we receive for small clothes we can not manage, as we

receive yearly 104 pounds, ten shillings in small clothes money for 156 men, and with that must figure for each man:

One shirt at four shillings, eight pence, or for two shirts, nine shillings, four pence.

One pair of shoes at seven shillings, or two pairs, fourteen shillings.

One pair of shoe soles, two shillings, four pence, or for two pair, four shillings, eight pence.

One pair of breeches, or pants, four shillings.

One scarf or hair ribbon, three shillings.

A total of one pound, fifteen shillings, eight pence, which for 100 men amounts to 178 pounds, six shillings, eight pence, and for 156 men, 278 pounds, four shillings. In this situation it is clear that all of us must be entirely ruined, or placed in irredeemable debt, without giving any consideration to all the other necessary expenses.

Despite all of this, until now we have sought to keep the companies in the best possible discipline and dress, by going into debt. Furthermore, it is impossible for us to maintain the companies entrusted to us in good condition, and thre remains nothing else for us in such unbearable circumstances but to lay this openly before His Highness, Our Gracious Prince and Lord’s eyes, and ask that he graciously reassure us, for which reason we pressed our sorry situation and justifiable complaints also to our right honorable sir, and request it be laid before His Excellence, Lieutenant General von Lossberg with the request that he present it to His Highness, Our Gracious Prince, with a recommendation for consideration of our pressing circumstances, and the resulting certain ruin of our fortunes, as well as that of the companies most graciously entrusted to us.

In camp at Morris House, 28 October 1782



Comte de Leiningen

Schelm von Bergen

The Anspach and Hessian Jaeger Corps and Your Highness’ Free Corps have left their quarters area, and had to move forward to Huntington, and the three Hessian regiments, D’Angelelli, Benning, and Knoblauch, have entered the quarters which the first units vacated.

New York, 17 January 1783

F. von Lossberg

Lieutenant Colonel von Janecke has just reported to me that Major von Scheel, who died on the eighth, left few effects, but considerable indebtedness, and from his previously large deductions it is assumed that he left even more debts behind in Germany. Lieutenant Colonel Janecke asked me what he should do in this situation. I knew no other course to recommend than that the estate generally received the pay, as well as any moneys still owed him in the regimental accounts. His creditors could prepare a disposition to liquidate their claims. Then however, Your Highness’ gracious order must be awaited if the local claims on the estate, in so far as it reaches, can be paid, or if those creditors in Germany should compete also.

I take the permission most humbly to recommend Captain Franck to Your Highness’ grace, as a conscientious officer, who as far as I know, has always done his duty.

New York, 15 March 1783

F. von Lossberg

…and thank you also for your fatherly support of the Free corps company chiefs, and furthermore for providing them an increase in their pay. Lieutenant Colonel von Janecke has made known Your Highness’ gracious order to improve the situation concerning the uniforms, and will exert every possible effort thereto, although I believe that in the present situation it may be impossible to acquire sufficient green cloth for that purpose. He will not fail to obtain a sufficient supply of small clothes, and will strictly assure that the troops are issued the necessary items.

F. von Lossberg

As the desertions from the Hessian Jaeger Corps are especially numerous, and as they are not assigned in the open country where that can not be prevented, they are to be put into cantonment quarters on this island [Long Island], together with Your Highness’ Free Corps, on orders of the commanding general, at my suggestion.

…The Hessian Jaeger Corps and Your Highness’ Free Corps moved to this island on the 28th of this month [May]

F. von Lossberg

Captain von Eschwege and the men in his charge departed from here during the previous month, and on the ninth of this month, 200 men of Your Highness’ Free Corps were embarked on the 64-cannon ship Nonsuch, which sailed the following day. Lieutenant Colonel von Janecke and the rest of the corps are to follow next week, and by the same means, the Anspach, Waldeck, and Zerbst troops are gradually to be sent off.

I most humbly report to Your Highness that several officers of Your Highness’ Free Corps have incurred considerable indebtedness here, which some of them can not pay before their departure. I fear therefore that the creditors possibly must have the accounts satisfied by the English side, and Your Highness’ War Treasury.

New York, 12 July 1783

F. von Lossberg

Since the twelfth of last month [July], and the departure of Your Highness’ troops from here under Lieutenant Colonel von Janecke and Captain von Eschwege, I have sent no further humble reports to Your Highness. I hope those mentioned above have already given Your Highness news of the arrival of the troops in Germany.

New York, 30 August 1783

F. von Lossberg

The accounts above are from: Revolutionary War Letters Written by Hessian Officers, Bruce E. Burgoyne trans. Heritage Books, Bowie MD, 2005.

In the mean time, they will do service, as will also the Brunswick and Anhalt-Zerbst recruits, who have been sent to Brooklyn, Long Island, to be quartered with the Hesse Hanau Jaeger Corps. The latter is quartered at Flushing, where Lieutenant Colonel Emmerich is to acquaint their commander, Lieutenant Colonel Janecke, with that region, especially with the coast of the East River sound.

New York, 19 August 1781

The Hesse Hanau Free Corps has been moved from Flushing to Brooklyn, since more than half of them are ill and forty six men and one officer have died.

New York, 24 September 1781

This regiment [Bunau] is now under orders to relieve the Hanau Free Corps, which is quartered in the huts below Fort Knyphausen and has lost more than one third of its men through illness. One hundred and eighty-three men were absent from the muster, and on the 15th of this month another sixty three men were reported missing, among them eleven sharpshooters who had deserted. Lieutenant Colonel Janecke, the commander of this corps of volunteers, requested his Excellency General von Knyphausen to send Dr. Michaelis to investigate the cause of all this illness. He found that it was due to the filth in which the men lived, and his only prescription was a plea for cleanliness.

New York, 26 February 1782

The Hesse-Anspach Jaeger Corps and the Hesse Hanau Free Corps were transferred from Long Island to McGown’s Pass on this island on the 29th of May in order to guard against desertion.

New York, 1 June 1783

The accounts above are from: Revolution in America: Bauermeister Journals, Bernhard A. Uhlendorf trans. Rutgers U. Press, Brunswick, 1957.

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