My Cousin
A Hessian Grenadier
in the
American War Of Independence 1776-1783

Edmund G. Maul

Click here for reenactment photo

The following is a brief story of Nicolaus Schilling from Germany to Northamerica. As the sources did not always specifically mention the Minnigerode regiment the story was gleaned from the writings wherever the Hessian grenadiers were mentioned or the Minnigerode was specifically mentioned. There is a great deal more of history that occured at this time but I left out these events to concentrate on Nicolaus in his last year of life. For a complete picture there is a list of some of the books that were used for my sources.

Nicolaus Schilling , was my 3rd cousin, 6 generations removed. He was born on, 25 June 1747, in Niederdünzebach, Hessen-Cassel and married Elisabeth Barbara Pippart in Niederdünzebach, on 6 March 1773. (Niederduenzebach is very close to the city of Eschwege). They had a son, Conrad, born 29 Feb 1776. The son Conrad later served in the Erbprinz regiment. Conrad Schilling, his father's brother was his Godfather.

1776 Hessen-Cassel:

The sovereign, Landgrave Friedrich II of Hesse-Cassel was the second to agree to send troops to North America but he did provide the largest contingent of troops, more than 20,000 men..

With a total population of about 300,000, the principality of Hesse- Cassel had a relatively large army at the beginning of 1776. Nicolaus Schilling was in the army in 1775, (probably making him a professional soldier). In the treaty of February 12, 1776, between Friedrich II and George III of Great Britain, 12,000 soldiers of Hesse-Cassel were to be sent to fight the British (Civil War) in North America. Nicolaus had to swear and oath to both his Hessian soverign and to the British King George III.

Pay for the Hessian soldiers would be the same as for the British soldiers. The Hessians provided their own uniforms, and equipment. The Hessian uniforms and equipment were to be replaced every two years but in reality this never happened.

The Hessian War Department organized the Hessian troops for service in America by combining the grenadier companies in each infantry regiment into a grenadier battalion, consisting of 4 companies each.

Nicolaus was a Grenadier in the Grenadier-Battalion Von Minnigerode 1st Company, named for the commanding officer, Colonel Minnigerode. The von Minnigerode was formed from the fusilier companies from the four regiments, .i.e., Erbprinz, Dittfurth, Lossberg and Knyphausen and were organized simultaneously in Wolfhagen and Immenhausen, Germany. Nicolaus Schilling was a grenadier in the Regiment Prince- Successor (Erbprinz).

Each company still wore the uniforms of their own regiments. The grenadier wore a high mitre-shaped brass or white metal cap, with scrolls and heraldic emblems on front. The cap had a white metal plate and crown, pink( really old rose color) bag with white lace and a pink pompon, pink shoulder strap, white lace (6 on lapels, 2 below the lapels and 2 on the sleeve above the cuff) . In service, he carried the mitre cap on side and used a forage hat or Feldmütz. His uniform was a medium blue wool coat with pink lining, collar, cuffs, and lapels, white buttons, and was long and had turned-back skirts; his wool white vest or waistcoat was long and belted; and his wool breeches were tight and fitted into wool black gaiters with brass buttons. The breeches and vest was different from other units or corps, and his lapels, cuffs, and collars, as well as the facings and trim, were distinguishing colors. His grenadier uniform was distinctive and colorful but definitely not suited for field duty, especially when it involved, as it did in America, long marches in rough terrain and under a hot sun, and maneuvering and fighting in woods and fenced-in fields. Hessian soldiers had their long 'rattenschwanz' or rat tail hair that was about 1 foot long and wrapped up in black cloth.

As a grenadier Nicolaus, was the elite of the infantry. For one, a grenadier was taller than other soldiers, and generally was considered more intelligent. His musket was a heavy flintlock firearm. He was also were fitted out with short-sword and bayonet. He was trained to use the bayonet on the end of his musket, being bayoneted seemed to have a more fearful effect on the Americans. His cartouche box and powder pouch were attached to his belt slung from the left shoulder to the right hip, and the firearms, to slings crossing the belt.

The Elector inspected the Regiments and reviewed them as they marched in the presence of a large crowd, which cheered them heartily. It was not until February 29th that Nicolaus finally began his journey to Northamerica. He and his grenadier comrades marched through Bremen past great numbers of spectators. The battalions then marched onto the port of Bremerlehe (Bremerhaven) and after the final review, embarked at the beginning of April 15, 1776 with the first Hessian Division. On the 23rd of April, loading the troops on the transports ended.

The quarters aboard ship for Nicolaus were very crowded, but he had a small mattress, a pillow and a woolen coverlet, and every sixth man a wooden spoon and a tin cup. The food consisted of peas and bacon on Sundays, four pounds for six men; soup, butter and cheese on Mondays; four pounds meat, three pounds meal, one- half pound raisins, one - half pound suet, for pudding. This was repeated on Wednesdays and the rest of the week. Every sixth men received daily four cans of small beer and a cupful of rum, often increased by an exchange for bread and cheese. On the 17th, the fleet of 44 vessels set sail and reached Portsmouth, England where the British troops already on other vessels, gave them a hearty welcome.

On the 28th divine service was held-in accordance with German piety of the time, every soldier had a prayer book in his knapsack, and men and officers were in the habit of daily pious exercises. On May 6th, the British fleet of 150 ships finally sailed with 12,500 Hessians. The transports were accompanied by British frigates. The voyage was long, tedious, stormy and uncomfortable.

On August 17th, the fleet reached Sandy Hook at the entrance to New York harbor. Only twelve men were lost on the passage, but many were sick with scorbutic diseases ( scurvy, from lack of fresh food). The Germans were warmily welcomed, and gave glowing descriptions of the harbor of New York and the adjacent country.

The first order given was to remove all silver from the uniforms, just as the British had already done, to lessen the risk of the American riflemen, whose unerring aim was greatly feared.

I still read accounts as to how terrible the Hessian soldiers behaved in America, and like some historical facts it is not true. The Hessian soldier was very well disciplined, his officers demanded obedience but the Americans used stories of the Hessian atrocities to stir up hatred of the Hessian, probably to convince undecided colonists to fight on the rebellious American side in the civil war.

On 22 August the Hessians and British were embarked on ships and on the 24th the at 10 a.m. the 22,000 troops landed on Long Island and moved through New Utrecht to Flatbush. In the Battle of Long Island, the 10,000 Americans were badly defeated by the British and Hessian force and pushed into the confines of Brooklyn Heights losing about 1, 400 against the British and Hessian loss of 375.

On the 15th of September, British troops from Long Island, crossed the East River and routed the American force at Kip’s Bay (presently 34th Street). Washington’s moved his troops to northwestern Manhattan (present day Columbia University). A small force of British and Hessians were involved in a small skirmish at Harlem Heights, the Americans held their position.

12 October 1776 - General Howe’s attempt to flank Washington’s force in northern Manhattan started with landing at Throg’s Neck, New York (northern end of modern Throg’s Neck Bridge over Long Island Sound), but British were unable to get across bridge and causeway to dry ground because of stiff American rifle and cannon fire.

18 October 1776 Westchester County - Frustrated at Throg’s Neck, General Howe shifted northward to Pell’s Point and fought an action at Pelham, New York. American soldiers posted there delayed British and Hessian advance and helped Washington’s safe withdrawal with the main American troops from Manhattan to White Plains.

27 October 1776 Upper Manhattan - British attacked Fort Washington, New York, from both land and river sides, but the attack was driven off with considerable loss to the British and Hessians.

28 October 1776, The Battle of White Plains, Westchester County. The British and Hessians having failed to trap Washington’’s main force, attacked General Washington's army on Monday, October 28th, at White Plains. While the assault by British and Hessians left column was taking place, Colonel Donop hurried around the right wing with the Hessian grenadier brigade to support the mounting attack, and tried to keep in alignment as much as possible. Toward six o'clock in the evening, Washington’s army gave way on all sides. The British and Hessians could not pursue the Americans because of the extremely difficult terrain, thus Washington took up new position in the mountains within an hour's distance. Since the Hessians had climbed over nothing but hills, cliffs, and stone walls the whole day, constantly dragging their muskets over all obstacles, it was impossible for them to go on because of their exhaustion. The losses were nearly equal both sides. Hessian Captain Ewald of the jäger Company counted about one thousand dead.

6 November 1776 - The Hessian Grenadiers in the 3rd column formed the rear guard to protect against rebel skirmishes and harassment.

9/10 November 1776 - Washington's army retired behind the Croton River in Westchester County. Washington then with part of his army crossed the Hudson River and moved into northeastern New Jersey.

12 November 1776 - The British and Hessian force marched back to Van Cortlandt Manor (probably to attack Wahington).

16/17 November 1776 - The Army marched 22 English miles to New York (City) via Kings Bridge to Fort Washington, New York. Fort Washington was situated on a steep hill between the Hudson river and the Harlem Creek. The American’s in Fort Washington surrender to the British and Hessians but not after losing about 450 killed. Nicolaus in the grenadier brigade participated in this successful attack on the fort where some 2,800 Americans were captured..

19 November 1776 - The Hessian Grenadiers marched to Philipsburg on the Hudson River (there mission not specified).

20 November 1776 - A British and Hessian detachment under Lord Cornwallis, crossed the Hudson to attack Fort Lee. The British and Hessian’s crossed the Hudson River in flatboats landing in a district called Tenafly (New Jersey), then onto New Bridge and then to Fort Lee capturing the fort. Fort Lee across the Hudson River opposite Fort Washington was abandoned and taken by the British and Hessians.

21 November 1776 - The British and Hessian army moved to cantonment along the road from Bergen Point to Tappan.

23 November 1776 - The army marched past New Bridge and Hackensack and camped on hills across from the village.

25 November 1776 - The army marched to Second River (The Passaic-Acquackanonck) River.

28 November 1776 - The army marched to Newark (New Jersey) and encamped.

29 November 1776 - The army marched off passed Newark and Elizabethtown and cantoned.

30 November 1776 - The army marched to Rahway (New Jersey) and Woodbridge were it went into cantonment. Donop's Corps (with Hessian Grenadiers) occupied Rahway on the night of the 30th.

1 December-5 December 1776 - The entire army went into cantonment along the Raritan River opposite New Brunswick.

6 December 1776 - The Hessian Grenadiers as part of the armies right column marched up the Raritan to Van Vegliten Bridge and bivouacked along the road at night.

8 December 1776 - The army marched to Trenton and on the right of Trenton was Colonel Donop and the Hessian Grenadier Brigade.

9 December 1776 - Colonel Donop and 300 Grenadiers reconnoitered Burlington (5 hours below Trenton on the Delaware (River) where there was a ferry crossing to Philadelphia.

14 December 1776 - Colonel Rall occupied Trenton.

26 December 1776 - In Jersey (New Jersey), part of the British and Hessian units have posts at Amboy (Perth?), Elizabethtown, Bergen, Powles Hook, Princeton, Bordentown, Pennington, Burlington, Maidenhead, and Trenton. The Hessian Battalions including the Von Minnigerode, Von Linsing Battalions and Hessian Jägers are at Bordentown. General Washington and his American troops cross the Delaware River, surpising and capturing three Hessian regiments at Trenton, New Jersey. Colonel Rall, commanding the three regiments is killed in the attack. In Cassel it was reported that of the 8,000 men, only 800 had escaped, and the whole of Germany was stirred up by the news.(False report, about 900 were captured at Trenton).

2 January 1777 - Colonel Donop with the Hessian grenadiers, the Jägers and light infantry were at Maidenhead. At noon Lord Cornwallis arrived with the whole army. In the evening the army set out towards Trenton. The Grenadier Battalion Von Minnigerode with along with the remnants of a decimated Hessian unit took post upon a height in this area, where a road from Allentown ran into one from Trenton. Washington and his army stood behind the Assunpink at Trenton.

3 January 1777 - At daybreak the British and Hessians suddenly learn that Washington had departed. After hearing heavy carronading in their rear the British and Hessians instantly quick marched to Princeton, where they find the entire field of action from Maidenhead on to Princeton and vicinity covered with corpses. Washington had achieved a success.

1 February - 14 February 1777 - Washington’s headquarters is at Morristown, New Jersey.

15 February - 13 June 1777 - There is a great deal of movement and skirmishing, patrol action and fighting between Americans and the British-Hessian forces in the areas of Bound Brook. Princeton, Rahway, Westfield, Quibbletown, and Amboy.

13 June 1777 - The British-Hessian forces left [New] Brunswick and marched to the Millstone (Milestone) River. They deployed on the high ground around the village of Hillsborough. The three Hessian grenadier battalions took there positions in the battle line.

14 June 1777 - The British and Hessians pitched camp in a square formation between Millstone and Middlebush. Washington sent out several detachments to constantly harass the incamped troops.

22 June 1777 - Being well informed of everything that was happening, General Washington advanced with his army and occupied the exits of Bound Brook, Quibbletown, and Samptown.

23 June 1777 - The British and Hessians set out towards Amboy, they then deployed near Bonhamtown.

25 June 1777 - The Americans were attacked by the Hessian grenadiers with bayonet and drove them back. Nicolaus with his grenadier comrades greatly distinguished themselves, taking from the Americans three Hessian guns that were captured at Trenton in December.

26 June 1777 - Twenty men died on the march from heat.

27 June 1777 - The British and Hessians withdrew in two columns to Rahway, where it was protected by the Rahway River.

28 June 1777 - They army marched back in two columns to Amboy to it’s former encampment.

28th and 29th June 1777 - On the night of the 28th and morning of the 29th the greater part of the army crossed Prince’s Bay to Staten Island.

30 June 1777 - The entire army took up camp from Billop’s Ferry

4-9 July 1777 - The von Minnigerode along with the other grenadier battalions embarked at Decker’s Ferry, Cole’s Ferry, Simonsen’s Ferry and Reisen’s Ferry on Staten Island.

9-20 July 1777 - On the 20th the wind was right for the fleet of two hundred sixty ships to put to sea with British General Howe’s 15,000 British and Hessian troops for operations against Philadelphia. From the embarkation at Staten Island at the entrance of New York harbor they sailed up to the landing at Turkey Point in the Elk River. (Probably Elk Neck State Forest)

21-31 July 1777 - The ships were at 39 degrees north latitude at the promontories, Capes Henlopen and St. James which border on the mouth of the Delaware River. In the regimental reports, Nicolaus died in July, the month after is 30th birthday. According to the military record he died either of an accident, disease or some other non-battle death. What happened to his body God only knows. He may not have seen his newborn son before he sailed to Northamercia. Our relative was in America long before we thought that any Schilling set foot on this continent.

Nicolaus was one of more than 30,000 German soldiers that fought on the British side in North America from 1776 through 1783.


Nicolaus Schilling's son Conrad born in Feb. 1776, went on to serve in his father's regiment Erbprinz in 1799.


Birth and marriage records in letter and copies from original church records, 31 July 1997 Kirchliches Rentamt für die Kirchenkreise Eschwege und Witzenhausen, An den Anlagen 14 a, D-37269 Eschwege, Germany.

From:Hessische Truppen Im Amerikanischen Unabhangigkeitskrieg (HETRINA), Bd.I, Bearbeitet vom 11. wissenschaftlichen Lehrgang unter der Leitung von Eckhart G. Franz und Otto Fröhlich, Marburg 1972.

Diary of the American War A Hessian Journal Captain Jophann Ewald Field Jäger Corps Translated and edited by Jopseph P. Tustin New Haven and London Yale University Press 1979 (I did some research for Joe Tustin for this book)

The German Allied Troops in the North American War of Independence 1776-1783 Translated and Abridged from the German of Max von Eelking by J.G. Rosengarten Baltimore Genealogical Publishing Company 1969

Bicentennial Publication The War of the American Revolution Narrative, Chronolgy, and Bibliography by Robert W. Coakley and Stetson Conn Center of Military History, United States Army Washington, D.C., 1975

Revolution in America Confidential Letters and Journals 1776-1784 of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf Rutgers University Press New Brunswick, New Jersey - 1957

The Organization of The British Army In The American Revolution. By Edward E. Curtis, AMS Press, Inc., New York, NY, 10003 Reprinted from edition of 1926, New haven, First AMS EDITION published 1969, Manufactured in the USA

Westchester County during the American Revolution 1775-1783 By Otto Hufeland with Four Maps, Harbor Hill Books, Harrison, New York 1973

Encyclopedia OF British, Provincial and German Army Units- 1775-1783 By Philip R. N. Katcher Published by Stackpole Books, Harrisburg PA 17105 1973

Send any comments to the author, Ed Maul

Ed Maul writes about his cousin Willi Maul,
a German soldier in WW II


"I feel a strong presence of his spirit and truly believe that this spirit lead me to search, find and write about him. This is what I call ‘echoes’ from our ancestors and relatives...

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