Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Grenadier Bataillon von Minnigerode

One of the four grenadier battalions Hessen-Kassel sent to America in 1776, was the von Minnigerode battalion. It was named after its commander, Oberst (colonel) Christoph von Minnigerode. He was wounded during the attack on Fort Redbank, and died in  New York on October 10, 1778. His successor was Oberst Wilhelm von Loewenstein.
The battalion was formed of the grenadier companies of the Erbprinz, von Ditfurth, von Lossberg, and von Knyphausen regiments. So there are four different uniforms to be found in the battalion. All wore the typical Hesse-Cassel blue coats, but their facings and mitre caps were different, and the von Knyphausen soldiers had buff and not white small clothes.

There is no contemporary pictorial evidence what their mitre caps looked like, the earliest source, the Darmstadt Manuscript (lost in WW II), dating from 1786. And there are no surviving specimens either in the United States nor in Germany. However, there is the "Buchsweiler Inventar" (inventory), a list of equipment of all Hesse-Cassel troups. The remarks there read as follows (in my translation of the vital bits of information):

Grenadier cap: Front plate and headband completely silvered. […] Backing peach-coloured [a pinkish colour], white braids, pompom peach-coloured.
von Ditfurth
Grenadier cap: Front plate and headband completely silvered. […] The backing is yellow with white braids, the pompom yellow.
von Lossberg
Grenadier cap: Front plate and headband of brass. […] Backing and Pompom orange with white braids. […]
von Knyphausen
Grenadier cap: Brass front plate and headband, […]. Backing straw-coloured [“paille”] with white braids, pompom white.

The figures I used are again Black Hussar products, only the colonel on foot and the carpenters are from Minden Miniatures. They are clean and well sculped and paint easily.
Grenadier Bataillon von Minnigerode
(on the right are four extra figures, in case I would need them)
Officer and grenadiers of the von Ditfurth regiment
Officer of the Regiment Erbprinz
NCO and drummer
(they usually stay at the rear of the advancing regiment)

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

2nd Partisan Corps

The 2nd Partisan Corps or Lee's Legion was a crack mixed cavalry and light infantry unit of the Continental army. It was commanded by Henry Lee, nicknamed Light Horse Harry for his abilities as a light cavalry leader.
The biggest problem with the unit are their uniforms. This term must be put into the plural form as the unit obviously changed its attire several times.
For example the infantry wore purple trousers and jackets when in the north (cf. Don Troiani's Soldiers of the American Revolution, p.158).
Don Troiani's version of Lee's infantry in the northern campaign
The dragoons were on several occasions mistaken for Simcoe's Queen's Rangers and Tarleton's British Legion who both wore green uniforms.
Lee's Legion cavalry officer by Don Troiani, wearing the green "coatee"
This does not necessarily mean that Lee's horsemen wore green jackets. However, Lee himself, in his Memoirs speaks of his dragoons wearing "green coatees [i.e. short jackets] and leather [buff] breeches".
A painting by Charles Willson Peale shows Henry Lee in 1782 in a buff coat with green facings, gold buttons and epaulette, and black sword belt.
Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, 1782
Seen from a distance, the green facings and the Tarleton helmets could well cause a misunderstanding.
Supply records suggest  that at least some of the unit were clothed in blue coats with red trim and white linen. A picture of an infantryman in "Uniforms of the American War of Independence" by Digby Smith and Kevin F. Kiley shows a short green jacket and buff gaiter trousers for 1780-81.
Smith and Kiley infantryman of 1780-81
Keeping all this in mind I decided to have my dragoons in buff faced green, and my infantry of the corps in green "coatees" with black facings and buff trousers. One of the officer figures by Perry is wearing a long coat with turn-backs. So he got the blue faced red outfit that an officer is reported to have had made for himself. He could well be the courageous lieutenant Manning.

Lieutenant Laurence Manning of the legion's light infantry.
Portrait by John Trumbull
(Yale University Art Gallery)
Dragoon by Don Troiani in the uniform I chose for my horsemen
Supposed guidon of Lee's dragoons
Still the whole unit kept some kind of uniformity. I paid tribute to this. Only the infantry officer is wearing a blue coat faced red.
Legion cavalry
Officer, trumpeter, ensign
And the infantry arm:
Legion light infantry
Officer in blue and red
Rank and file

Regiment Erbprinz von Hessen-Hanau

It is rather intriguing that there were two Hessian regiments with the name "Erbprinz" (hereditary prince). One regiment is from the landgraviate of Hessen-Cassel. The ruler of that state was Landgraf Friedrich II. The other regiment was from Hessen-Hanau which was ruled by his son Graf Wilhelm who succeeded him as Wilhelm IX of Hessen-Cassel in 1785. Both rulers supplied troops for the British Crown, Hessen-Hanau only one regiment of infantry, a company of artillery, a corps of jaegers and - a bit later - a "Freicorps". The infantry regiment was named "Regiment Erbprinz von Hessen-Hanau". This is my regiment. It consisted of five companies of musketiers, and one flank company of grenadiers. The artillery company manned the regimental guns.
We know quite well what the musketiers looked like. A captain of the regiment, Hauptmann Friedrich Konstantin von Germann painted a number of watercolours when in captivity, leaving us also a portrait of a musketier of his own regiment. He should have known what they looked like, shouldn't he?
Musketier of Regiment Erbprinz von Hessen-Hanau
Like the uniforms of the soldiers of his father Frederick, the uniforms of William's little army followed the Prussian model, as can be seen. The main difference is that his men wore halfgaiters reaching up to the knee, not full gaiters.
On the Perry website you can find a substantial article on "German Troops in the Saratoga Campaign" by Brendan Morrissey. There the uniform is described in detail.
One problem remains to be solved though, and that is the question of the grenadier caps. Let's begin with the terms used to describe them:
Hesse-Cassel grenadiers - though following the Prussian example - had metal headbands of the same colour as the front plate. The Prussian caps had textile headbands. This can be studied at the website of the Deutsches Historisches Museum Berlin (
Hesse-Hanau grenadiers caps followed the Prussian pattern more closely, so their headbands were of textile material, probably of the same colour as as the backing.
It is not easy to find correct representations of the regimental colours. Morrissey gives a correct description, after which I produced my models.

Leibfahne of the regiment
Regimentsfahne of the regiment
The grenadier company consists of 6 figures because this company was a bit stronger than those of the musketiers. The splendid uniforms offered some intriguing painting.
The whole Infanterie Regiment Erbprinz von Hessen-Hanau

The drummers
Regimental Artillery

Artillerie-Kompanie von Pausch

Füsilier Regiment von Lossberg

This was one of the three Hessian regiments that had to capitulate at Trenton. The regiment had no grenadiers as they had been used to form the Grenadier Bataillon von Minigerode. So it consisted of fusileers only. As figures I chose the 7YW fusileers by Black Hussar Miniatures because they wear the typical Hessian gaitors. Hessian commanders were very traditionally minded and stuck to the equipment they were used to. So there was no changing breeches and gaitors for gaitor trousers. I didn't mind minor uniform changes that took place between 1763 and 1776 because the general appearance hadn't changed much. But still there were some problems to be solved.
The first of these concerned the colours the regiment was carrying. The earliest contemporary picture is the Thalmann drawing of 1786. It is nice to look at.

However it has got some flaws! First of all the Hessian crowned and armed lion is facing into the wrong direction. It should look forward (towards the staff).
Hesse-Cassel lion of a later period (with split tail)

This can easily be veryfied by looking at the coins of the period.

Hessen-Cassel Thaler (dollar)
Hessen-Hanau Heller

The lion facing backwards is the Hessen-Hanau version. Probably the artist used it in 1786 when Wilhelm IX of Hessen-Hanau, the hereditary prince, became the ruler of Hessen-Cassel. A kowtow to the new ruler. So much for that.
The next mistake in the ensign is the "tulip" in the orange fields between the corner flames. Of course these ought to be exploding grenades!
When I made my two colours of the regiment I didn't bother though to correct these mistakes. I just used my Picture Publisher programme and my printer to produce paper colours for the regiment. The design was just too much for my artistic painting abilities - and I forgot that I could just as well have used my computer for the correction.
Corrected colours
As you will notice there is a third difference to the original Thalmann drawing: the ducal crown in the top field section is larger, and there is no grenade there.
The next question arose when I started painting the fusileer caps. Fortunately some caps and remains of caps have survived. They all belong to another regiment that was captured at Trenton, Fusilier Regiment von Knyphausen But the construction of the cap was the same.
Mitre cap of the Fusilier Regiment von Knyphausen
(National Museum of American History)
So I could start painting. Here is my Füsilier-Regiment von Lossberg, NCO and drummer marching at the rear:

With flying colours (the one with the white staff is the Leibfahne)

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Battle of Wide Plains

Well, we were planning our next battle. We were fed up with rivers, hills, and forts and farms all over the place, and wanted a plain table with only a few obstacles. So  I drew the map of "Wide Plains", with a road in the centre, and a single farm and a dense forest on both ends to limit the room on the table. I also proposed roughly the positions of the Rebel and Crown forces on the table. Harald volunteered again in inventing one of his fantastic scenarios for our game.
Here it is:

Battle of Wide Plains

Situation on March 21, 1778

Preliminary Note

This scenario is intended to give us the possibility to simulate a battle on March 21, 2015

·        in which the Crown forces attack the Rebels who have already taken their positions,

·        first units of the attacking British forces of the first line are already in contact with the enemy, while the forces of the second line are still advancing and will have to deploy into line,

·        the fighting quality of the Rebel forces has increased, the winter quarters at Valley Forge 1777 / 1778 being regarded a turning point in the professional development of the American army, using the command module of our rules.

Wherever possible names and unit sizes in this fictitious scenario have been derived from Greg Novak, The American War of Independence, A Guide to the Armies of the American War of Independence, vol. 1 (The Northern Campaigns), Old Glory.

General Situation

In March 1778 there was no co-ordinated and approved plan for operations of the Royal troops in North-America for the spring of that year.

After the capitulation of Burgoyne’s army at Saratoga France has officially entered a coalition with the Rebels, having recognized the convincing tactical achievements of the Continental army at Germantown.

The British army under Sir William Howe had occupied Philadelphia the previous year; the majority of its troops are still in winter quarters there.

Howe, meanwhile convinced of the impossibility to reach a military solution in the colonies, got his requested demission. His successor Clinton has not yet arrived.

Chester County is situated north-west of the Delaware and south-west of the Schuylkill in the rear of the British winter quarters round Philadelphia. This predominantly agricultural region is an important foraging area for Howe’s troops. Since February there have been more and more raids of the rebels from their near winter quarters at Valley Forge. The Crown Forces have not been in the offensive here up to now; they have restricted their activities to securing the area.

The road from West Chester to Norristown divides the area into a northern part, dominated by the rebels, and into a southern part controlled by the British. It crosses the marshy headwaters of Derby Creek by an about 3 miles wide dry corridor at Freeman’s Farm and thus overcomes this important obstacle in the course of the road.

Centre of Chester County is the settlement of West Chester, from where roads run north-eastwards to the Schuylkill crossing at Norristown, eastwards to Philadelphia, and southwards to the Delaware River.The majority of the inhabitants of Chester County have stayed neutral since the arrival of the British troops. On the whole the situation is quiet, but unstable.

Starting Point

It is March 21, 1778, at 10:00 hours, near Freeman’s Farm. The previous days were rainy, the ground is soaked. The night was frosty; it is still rather chilly in the morning, the maximum temperature being 9 degrees C. The morning mist is rapidly dissolving.

The battle ground is flat grassland; there are only single groups of trees and bushes. Freeman’s Farm consists of a cluster of isolated buildings; next to it there are fieldworks that were constructed by the militia the year before.

The contingent of rebels commanded by General Major Lee, composed of Continental troops and militias, has reached the region of Freeman’s Farm the day before without any contact with the enemy.

The mission of this contingent is to get into the rear of the Crown Forces round Philadelphia, to test the reaction of the British command to this advance, to break contact with the enemy before being involved into serious combat in order to retreat across the Schuylkill river towards the main army.

At dawn reports about the unexpected advance of British columns in the vicinity arrive. Obviously the Crown forces consist of at least two brigades. The Rebel commander formed up his forces as shown in the following sketch, and prepares to wage battle.
Arrangement of the Rebel forces
The arrangement of the troops was rarely completed when the left wing consisting of Stockbridge militia and Brook’s New York militia discerned some advancing Jaegers and Light Infantry in the morning mist, and soon got under their effective fire. After this first encounter and the mist further dissolving, British and Hessian advancing regiments become visible. When they reach the road the Rebel militias open fire …

The British at Philadelphia early received news about a strong Rebel contingent leaving Valley Forge, and about the route they were to take. The efforts to improve British intelligence after the disaster of Germantown paid of.

Almost from the beginning it was obvious that the march of this force was directed towards Chester County. Yet, it was unclear what the mission of the Rebels was. The British command, however, saw the possibility to intercept a stronger force of Rebels, and to beat them.

After the months of standstill in winter quarters, this first operation of the campaign of 1778 offered the possibility to win a publicly impressive victory over the Rebels. Thus five brigades under the command of General Major Sir William Phipps were sent forth to get into Chester County via Derby and Chester, and to pin down the enemy there.

In the afternoon of 20th March Sir William received information about the Rebels arriving and putting up camp near Freeman’s Farm. Having got support by Loyalist scouts and guides, he decided to approach the rebels in a night march. The surprise, however, failed. The rebels had got notice of the approaching British and took positions in the morning of 21st March.

The British identified militia forces in the first line and regiments of the Continental army in the second one. On the left wing of the rebels, the cluster of buildings of Freeman’s Farm and the fieldworks were occupied, and their right wing bordered on a dense forest.

Sir William made his units deploy into battle order – as shown in the sketch below. The light infantry on the right wing attacked the covered enemy at once …
Battle order of the British

Order of Battle

The Crown Forces
The Rebels
CinC: Major General Sir William Phipps[1]
CinC: Major General Edward Lee[2]
HQ: Det of Drag.Rgt. Prinz Ludwig
HQ: Washington's Bodyguard
Light Infantry Brigade
1st Brigade
Cdr: Lieutenant Colonel George Fergyson[3]
Cdr: Brigadier General John Glover[4]
2nd Bn Light Infantry
14th Continental Regt. (Marblehead Regt.)
Jaeger Corps (Hesse-Cassel)
Warner’s Additional Continental Regt.
1st Brigade
3rd New York Regt.
Cdr: Brigadier Henry Hopper-Smythe[5]
Sherburne’s Additional Continental Regt.
5th Regt. of Foot
2nd Brigade
9th Regt. of Foot
Cdr: Lieutenant General William Irvine[6]
23rd Regt. of Foot
1st Pennsylvania Regt.
2nd Brigade
2nd Pennsylvania Regt.
Cdr: Colonel John Falstaff[7]
Rhode Island Regt.
27th Regt. of Foot
3rd Brigade
43rd Regt. of Foot
Cdr: Brigadier General Enoch Hampton[8]
60th Regt. of Foot
18th Continental Regt.
84th (Scottish) Regt. of Foot
4th New York Regt.
3rd (German Brigade)
13th Virginia Regt.
Cdr: General-Major Joseph v. Bumsdorff[9]
New Jersey Regt.
Inf.Rgt. v. Riedesel (Brunswick)
4th Brigade - Militia
Füs.Rgt. v. Lossberg (Hesse-Cassel)
Cdr: Major General John Armstrong[10]
Gren.Btl. v. Minnigerode (Hesse-Cassel)
Chester County Associators
4th (German) Brigade
1st Independent Battalion
Cdr: Oberst Alexander v. Aufstreb[11]
Hanover Associators
Gren.Btl. v. Block (Hesse-Cassel)
Brook’s New York Militia
Inf.Rgt. Erbprinz (Hesse-Cassel)
Stockbridge Militia + Graham’s Mass. Militia
Inf.Rgt. v. Bose (Hesse-Cassel)
Lee’ Partisan Corps
Cdr: Major Henry Lee (Light Horse Harry)[12]
Light Infantry
Det of 16th Light Dragoons
Det of 4th Light Dragoons
Det of 17th Light Dragoons
British Artillery 6pdr guns (with crews)
6pdr. + 3pdr galloper gun (with crews)


[1] Average leader ; scrupulous, but without initiative.
[2] Good leader ; imaginative, but impulsive.
[3] Excellent leader , experienced and exemplarily courageous.
[4] Excellent leader  and experienced planner.
[5] Average leader ; arrogant and disloyal.
[6] Inexperienced leader .
[7] Good Leader ; experienced, but without support of the CinC.
[8] Average leader , pedantic and cautious.
[9] Average leader ; narrow minded, but methodically experienced (Bruswick).
[10] Average leader , but has got a hand with militia soldiers.
[11] Good leader , experienced and with a sense of responsibility (Hesse-Cassel).
[12] Excellent leader of cavalry and light infantry, extremely courageous, but difficult to control.
* * *
When we met on a Saturday morning we arranged the tables, and lay out the "landscape".
The Councel of the War Gods discussing the affair (Tino, Harald, Daniel, and myself; Horst is behind the camera.)

Horst and Daniel documenting the initial setting
(You can see the result at the end.)

You can see the West Chester - Norristown road in the middle, Freeman's Farm in the foreground, and the trees of Walton's Forest in the far background. The Rebel forces are on the right, already arranged for battle, the Redcoats and their German allies are approaching on the left. (Some of them are still on the side table.)
The green spot in the foreground is our notorious corn field, and again you can discern some Indians lying hidden in it.

The first line of the Crown Forces
(the scraps of paper are our newest invention, they contain informatio about the unit, and on the rear space for notes)
The Perfidious Rebels
Then the battle began. The British approached, and the German Jaegers on the right flank got under devastating fire from the corn field.
The Hesse-Cassel Jaegers of the right British flank
They had to withdraw under heavy losses. (For the rest of the battle they didn't play any decicive role and rather remained in the background.) Obviously this was owing to the grave mistake of Maj.Gen. Phipps not ordering them to reconnoitre the scrub on their right, and to their stubborn German obedience (they should have known better). Of course this was not a very history orientated incident.

The British forces pushed on, and the Scotsmen of the Royal Highland Emigrants and the Light british infantry drove the American militia out of Freeman's Farm and the old fieldworks.

Soldiers of the 84th Foot storming Freeman's Farm

The 2nd Battalion Light Infantry overrunning the old fieldworks
On the left wing of the Rebels things were beginning to look like doom. On their right wing things seemed to develop differently. Reconnoitering British 16th Light Dragoons were easily diven off by an overwhelming majority of Light Horse Harry's dragoons.

Lee's dragoons vs. 16th Light Dragoons
However Henry Lee went on with his attack, and was stopped by a steadfast Brunswick intantry regiment. This regiment hen took position between the swamp and the forest. And that was it on the right American flank.
In the centre things went even worse for the Rebels. The attacking British forces wrre not impressed by the musket salvoes of the Militias. These withdrew as ordered. However the regular Continental regiments stood too densely packed, and there was disorder.
Chaos of battle in the American centre

The Rebel Centre on the point of breaking

Only the falling night saved the rebels from annihilation - and the exhaustion of the five War Gods after hours of gaming and historical discussion. It was a great day!F

Finally, here is a flight over the battle field: