Regiment von Riedesel was formed from the 2nd Battalion of the Prince Friedrich Regiment before the troops left Brunswick-Wolfenbutel. It was one of the four musketeer regiments (Prince Friedrich, von Rhetz, von Specht and von Riedesel) sent to Canada, along with a single dragoon regiment (Prince Ludwig Ernst), a combined battalion of grenadiers (von Breymann) and a light infantry battalion (von Barner).
The regiment, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Ludwig Wilhelm von Speth, was made up of five companies (Liebcompany, the Lieutenant-Colonel von Speth Company, Captain Morgenstern's Company and Captain von Pollnitz's Company). The sixth company (Major von Mengen's Grenadier Company) formed part of the von Breymann Grenadier Battalion.
Liebcompany was commanded by Staff-Captain Christian Friedrich von Bartling. His staff included First Lieutenant Christian Firedrich Reinking, Second Lieutentant Heinrich Ernst Brandes, Ensign Carl Christian von Meybom, and Surgeon Philipp Gettinger. The company included twelve NCO's, 3 drummers and 165 privates.
The Brunswick troops, including Regiment von Riedesel, departed Wolfenbutel on February 22, 1776 and marched to the port city of Stade, on the Elbe River, boarded 10 vessels on the 12th through 17th of March and headed out to sea on March 22nd anchoring at Portsmouth, England on March 28th. At Portsmouth the Brunswick troops were reviewed and mustered into the service of Great Britain by Colonel Faucitt.
On April 3, 1776 the fleet of thirty sails carrying the German troops set sail from Portsmouth and met the forty sail fleet of English troops at Plymouth also heading to Canada. Land was sighted on May 12th and Quebec was reached on June 1st.
General von Riedesel, with orders from General Burgoyne disembarked the Prince Ludwig Ernst Dragoon Regiment on June 6th to strengthen the Quebec garrison. The two first division musketeer regiments and grenadiers were to continue on to Trois Rivieres. Governor Carleton gave General von Riedesel command of a corps consisting of the regiment von Riedesel and Hesse Hanau regiments, the Brunswick Grenadier battalion, the British McClean regiment, a division of Canadian troops and a mixed group of Abenakis, Iroquois, Ottowas, and Huron. This corps departed for Trois Rivieres on June 7th and was ordered to move up the south side of the St. Lawrence, while Burgoyne and the other English troops moved up the north side of the St. Lawrence, to relieve Montreal that was besieged by the Americans.
The Regiment von Riedesel, under the command of Col. Von Speth, fought in two skirmishes between Quebec and Trois Rivieres on the 8th and 9th of June, 1776. Arriving at Trois Rivieres, on June 11th, the Regiment continued towards Montreal as part of the left wing of the relief. The Americans abandoned the siege on June 15th and the Brunswick troops were marched to Chambly, nine miles north of Lake Champlain, where Governor Carleton ordered them into cantonments. Regiment von Riedesel and the Grenadier battalion were detached to La Prairie. While in containment, the regiment was trained in American methods of target practice and fighting in loose order.
Colonel von Speth, on August 11, 1776, took Liebcompany to Fort St. Johns to establish a supply depot.
On September 28th, 1776, the Regiment von Riedesel, with the joined two divisions of Brunswick troops were ordered to the Isle aux Noix to embark on 103 long boats for transport down Lake Champlain as part of Governor Charlton's 1776 expedition against Arnold as part of Gen. Burgoyne's First English brigade. The newly arrived second division (regiments von Specht and von Rhetz, and the von Barner's light infantry) didn't arrive at Chambly until October 13th. General von Riedesel was ordered to remain at the Isle aux Noix until the arrival of the English Second division under Powell and help construct new works and magazines, and organize supplies coming down from St. Johns.
On October 12th, having missed the battle of Great Island, the Brunswick divisions were ordered to Riviere la Colle, taking ten days rations, to relieve the English First Brigade. Burgoyne then orders the Brunswick force to Point au Fer, on October 15th, as part of the English advance with his first division down Lake Champlain. On October 20th, Burgoyne brings orders to send the Brunswick divisions into winter quarters scattered between Trois Rivieres and Chambly. This ended the troop movement during the year of 1776.
The winter of 1777 was long and severe, over eight feet of snow had fallen by the 1st of the year, Blue wool winter gaitered overalls, a blue woolen cap, four wool-lined mittens, one large underwaistcoat with sleeves, made of strong white wool, and a Canadian hooded capote made from a white blanket, with a blue stripe at the bottom was issued to each soldier for warmth. The cost for these items was deducted from the salary of the troops totaling 33 shillings and nine pence.
The Brunswick regiments were inspected at the end of February through the beginning of March by Captain Foy, under orders of Governor Charlton, and were found to be in good condition and of exemplary conduct.
General Burgoyne returns from England on May 6, 1777 as commander of all operations outside of Canada and was transferred 3600 German troops as part of his 8000 man force. The German corps, commanded by General von Riedesel, in two brigades, made up the left wing of the expedition. Regiment von Riedesel was part of the first brigade, along with the von Specht and von Rhetz regiments, under command of Colonel von Specht. Every unit of Brunswick troops left companies of men in Canada, approximately 600 troops, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel von Ehrenkrook, in case the Americans again attacked Canada.
The army embarked at Fort St. Johns on June 13th and began the moved down Lake Champlain to Crown Point. On June 26th the German corps arrives at Crown Point and on June 30th was issued eight days of rations and travel along the east shore of Lake Champlain camping at Three Mile Point on July 1st. This camp was ill prepared and many troops were lost in the woods until the next morning. On July 2nd the reassembled German corp. advanced upon Fort Independence, the right wing of the American defenses at Ticonderoga, and arrived in time to fire a few parting volleys at the fleeing American army.
The main body of the American army retreated by the road to Hubbardton, in what is now Vermont, and was followed closely by General Fraser with twenty companies of British light infantry and grenadiers. General von Riedesel moved in support of General Fraser with three battalions, Breymann's grenadier battalion, von Barner's light infantry battalion and jaegers on July 6th. The battle at Hubbardton commenced at 5:00 AM the morning of July 7, 1777 and by 10:00 AM was concluded when the jaegers and the grenadier battalion outflanked the colonial line and forced a withdrawal towards Rutland, Vermont.
Leaving musketeer regiment Prince Freidrich in garrison at Fort Independence the German corps proceeds to Skenesboro (Whitehall, NY), via boat, and reforms with the German troops that participated in the battle at Hubbardton on July 10th.
Burgoyne dallies at Skenesboro as decisions were finalized as to which route was to be taken to reach the Hudson River. The land route, via Fort Ann to Fort Edward, being chosen, the army leaves Skenesboro on July 24th leaving 50 musketeers, taken from all the German regiments, to keep communications and supply lines open with Fort Ticonderoga. Two days are spent on the march to Fort St. Ann, a distance of 14 miles.
On July 29th the army marches to Pine Plaines, 2 miles from Fort Edward, and the next day captures the fort that has been abandoned by the colonials and remains until August 11th, when the army marches eight miles south along the Hudson to Fort Miller. During this bivouac at Fort Edward a plan for a forage mission eastward to forage horses for Prince Ludwig Ernst Dragoon Regiment, capture supplies rumored to be at Bennington, Vermont, and acquire more loyalist militia. Lieutenant Colonel Baum is placed in command of the mission. The Brunswick troops included in this expedition were 205 men and 11 officers of the Prince Ludwig Dragoons, 24 men and one officer of von Breymann's Grenadier Battalion, 57 men and 2 officers of von Barner's Light Infantry Battalion and Jaeger Company, and a mixed group of musketeers totaling 37 men and one officer. The Musketeer Regiment von Riedesel supplied 19 of these soldiers and Ensign Andrea as the officer in charge of the line infantry detachment.
Baum's expedition reached Cambridge, NY in two days and sent a message back to Burgoyne that 1800 colonial militia were reported in Bennington, but would begin the attack August 14th. Advancing nine miles further, to the Walloomsac River, Baum saw that he was greatly outnumbered, nearly 4.5 to 1, and set up a defensive placement for his troops, and sent a message to Burgoyne for help. During the battle of Bennington, August 16, 1777, the detachment of Regiment von Riedesel and the other line infantry was ordered to secure the ford over the Walloomsac River, along with one three-pound canon manned by the Hesse-Hanau artillery detachment. Around 3:00 PM, this detachment was overwhelmed by General Stark's colonial reserve after stiff resistance and running out of ammunition. All 37 men and Ensign Andrea were captured, wounded or killed. The rest of Baum's expedition was also destroyed with only nine Germans and six British returning to Burgoyne's army from the 723 men who left on this expedition. A relief column of 644 men, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Breymann, composed of the Brunswick Grenadier Battalion and von Barner's Light Infantry Battalion, sent by Burgoyne, was late on its arrival to reinforce Baum. Breymann's corps is also attacked and suffers heavy casualties of 231 missing, wounded and dead. This was the major turning point of the 1777 Canadian campaign as Burgoyne had lost 15% of his command.
Burgoyne dallies for nearly a month before committing his troops to further action. On September 13, 1777 the army crosses the Hudson River to the west bank just north of the Batlin Kill River at Saratoga (Shuylerville, N.Y.). The remains of Breymann's regiment acting as rearguard was ordered to destroy the bridge over the Hudson behind the Army effectively cutting Burgoyne's last ties with Canada. The German units again formed the left-wing of the Army, the third column. Progress southward averaged only 2-3 miles a day as obstacles needed to be cleared and new bridges constructed because of American forces delaying tactics. Breymann's corps, still acting as rear-guard, continues to destroy the bridges behind the advancing army after all baggage and supplies are across. On September 17th, the three columns of Burgoyne's army converge on the Swords Farm, having moved only 14 miles since leaving Fort Miller, and bivouac for 48 hours until the High road towards Stillwater was further cleared.
On September 19, 1777 begins the first battle of Saratoga, Freeman's Farm. Burgoyne learns that Morgan's rifleman were in an exposed position three miles south of the Swords Farm. The army is divided into three columns. Major-General von Riedesel, with Regiments Riedesel, Specht and Rhetz, accompanied by the forces British of Major-General Phillips were ordered to march along the river road to hold the colonial forces of Major-General Gates right wing. The Brunswick von Barner's light infantry and von Breymann's grenadiers were to accompany Brigadier-General Simon Fraser westward and then south towards Bemis Heights to strike Gates' left wing. General Burgoyne was in command of the Armies center.
The advance starts at 9:00 AM and continues until noon when all three columns are in position. Signal guns were fired when all troops were in position to begin the final coordinated thrust against the Americans. The battle begins at about 1:00 PM, at Freeman's Farm, when the British center's pickets are engaged and routed by Morgan's rifleman. Fighting in the center intensifies as more British and American units are brought into action spreading the front both east and westward. Fraser's column engages and nearly flanks Gates' left wing but is also stalled by fresh American units. General von Riedesel hears the musket fire and leads the von Riedesel regiment, with two companies of von Rhetz regiment acting as skirmishers, westward towards the action a mile away, up steep hills, through thick woods and across muddy ravines. The British were taking severe casualties and were being forced to withdraw when von Riedesel arrives and strikes the American right wing nearly in the rear with musketry. Canon fire from the Hesse-Hanau artillery arrives and opens up on the Americans front. This combination of artillery and Brunswick musketry swings the battle in favor of Burgoyne. As darkness fell, about 6:30 PM, the American units withdraw to the south leaving Burgoyne with a costly victory.
The general officers surveyed the battlegrounds of the Freeman's Farm on September 20, 1777 to set up a defensive position. On the right flank was built a redoubt to be manned and protected by Breymann's grenadiers. On the left flank was a hill that commanded the whole valley; the Hesse-Hanau regiment and artillery was posted there. The Brunswick regiments were posted on the high ground extending from the hill protecting the British left flank. In the center of the Burgoyne's line was Balcarres Redoubt, a very strong works that was supported by well placed outworks.
On October 7, 1777 the battle of Bemis Heights begins when a combined reconnaissance in force and foraging expedition moved out from the Balcarres Redoubt at about 10:00 AM down the south-west road heading towards the Barber Wheatfield. This force of 1,200 men included 300 men of Regiment von Riedesel, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel von Speth, in the center, supported by von Rhetz and Hesse-Hanau regiments.
Marching about ¾ of a mile to the Barber Wheatfield foragers were sent out to harvest grain and the officers climbed up on top of building in an attempt to observe the Colonial line. General Gates, the American commander, is notified of the expedition and at around 12:00 PM a simultaneous flanking attack is made by Colonel Morgan and Colonel Poor and sweeps away Acland's British Grenadiers protecting Colonel von Speth's left flank, and hit Simon Fraser's right flank and rear. As the flanks crumble Benedict Arnold leads Colonel Learned's 2000 man brigade against von Speth's center that is able to hold Arnold at bay. Simon Fraser attempts to reestablish the right flank and is mortally wounded. The Brunswick center, now unprotected on both flanks withdraws to Balcarres Redoubt with the loss of its artillery. Colonel Poor attacks the Balcarres Redoubt and is repulsed with heavy losses but Arnold with Learned's brigade and Morgan's riflemen split the British line between the center and Breymann's Redoubt and are able to attack Breymann from behind and capture the redoubt. Colonel von Breymann is killed in this attack and the British right flank has completely collapsed. By 5:00 PM Burgoyne orders a general retreat of the entire Army to the Great Redoubt behind the Great Ravine. Burgoyne blames the defeat on the Brunswick Regiments and Riedesel blames the defeat on the British. In the dark of night Colonel von Speth and 50 Brunswick volunteers attempt to retake Breymann's Redoubt to salvage the honor of the Brunswick but are captured with all his men.
A general retreat northward toward Saratoga and the Hudson is ordered on October 8th. In a heavy rain the Army slowly moves by roads that require the rebuilding of destroyed bridges and by bateaux against a strong current. The rearguard doesn't depart the Great Redoubt until 4:00 AM on October 9th and again destroys the bridges behind them to hinder the advancing Americans. At 5:00 AM Burgoyne halts the entire column for breakfast with less than 5 miles traveled and stalls further retreat for 10 hours in the hopes that the Americans would attack in the rain allowing cannon and bayonet to decide the day. It was after dark when the Brunswick Regiments acting as the advance crossed the Fishkill River at Saratoga. The British cross the next morning and Burgoyne decides to stay at Saratoga and digs in.
On October 11, 1777 General Gates and the Americans, after some morning confusion, are able to surround Burgoyne's Army and are positioned upon the heights overlooking the British camp enabling artillery and rifle fire into it. Burgoyne, Riedesel, Hamilton and Phillips meet to discuss possible options for an attack or further retreat. After reconnaissance shows that no clear opening existed for further retreat and von Riedesel's pledge that the Brunswick regiments could cut a pathway for Burgoyne's Army is denied then all was indeed lost.
On October 14, 1777 Burgoyne calls a counsel of war and discusses the capitulation of his forces which was agreed upon by the senior officers. A armistice was agreed upon by General Gates and Burgoyne until 10:00 AM on October 15th, capitulation to occur at 3:00 PM and grounding of weapons by 5:00 PM. Burgoyne stalls for time and demands from Gates the full honors of war, that the troops would be returned to England, on condition that they would not serve in North America again. A treaty is signed by both commanding Generals, capitulation being changed to convention, on October 17th.
At 10:00 AM on October 17, 1777 the troops of Burgoyne's army march out with the honors of war, ground their weapons by the river, and begin the 200-mile march to Boston. This convention army consisted of 5,895 men of all ranks - 3,018 British, 2,412 Germans, 465 'auxiliaries' - plus 215 British woman and 82 German woman, an assortment of camp followers, and a menagerie of local wildlife pets of the German troops. The march through Massachusetts, to internment at Winter Hill near Cambridge, took 21 days.
On November 17th the Brunswick regiments were placed in the old American barracks built during the siege of Boston. The officers and men were stripped of their personal effects, a violation of the treaty. Further violations of the treaty occur when the Brunswick troops are scattered throughout Massachusetts with private families and forced to work for food and clothing, and induced to desert. With the help and supervisions of General von Riedesel, at the end of December 1777, the Brunswick convention regiments had only lost 20 men to desertion.
Further American violations of the treaty occur when the Continental Congress refuses to accept terms of the treaty and consider the "conventioners" prisoners of war. The Brunswick troops remain scattered until November 1778 when Congress decides to march the "conventioneers" to Virginia. The Brunswick regiments are marched through severe winter weather, without tents or adequate supplies, and arrive at Charlottesville, Virginia in the middle of January 1779. With no provisions for shelter the troops were required to construct a small village to house themselves, grow their own food and generally provide for themselves, and it is here that many remained until the end of the war. In May of 1780 there were still 1,503 Brunswick troops still in Virginia.
The conclusion of the war in Fall of 1783 enabled the remaining Brunswick troops to return to their homeland. Of 5,723 total men who came over to America during the war only 2,708 returned and under 500 of these returning troops were from the convention army.