Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Knyphausen, Wilhelm von

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KNYPHAUSEN, Baron Wilhelm von, soldier, b. in Lützberg, Germany, 4 Nov., 1716; d. in Cassel, 7 Dec., 1800. His father was colonel in a German regiment under the Duke of Marlborough. Knyphausen was educated in Berlin, entered the Prussian military service in 1734, and in 1775 became a general officer in the army of Frederick the Great. He came to this country as second in command of an army of 12,000 so-called “Hessians” under Gen. von Heister (q. v.). With 6,000 soldiers he set sail from Bremen for the port of New York, and on 18 Oct. landed at Staten island, after a passage of twenty weeks. In 1777 disagreements between Gen. Howe and Gen. von Heister caused the latter's recall, and gave Knyphausen the entire command of the German auxiliaries. He served in the battles of Long Island, White Plains, Fort Washington, Brandywine, and Monmouth. For several years the main body of his soldiery occupied the upper part of Manhattan island, and during the temporary absence of Sir Henry Clinton, in 1780, he was in command of the city. Bodily infirmity and the loss of an eye caused his retirement in 1782, when he returned to Europe, having, as he said, achieved neither glory nor advancement. At the end of his life Knyphausen became military governor of Cassel. He was a taciturn and discreet officer, who understood the temper of his troops, and rarely entered on hazardous exploits. His was a hireling army of recruits gathered from work-houses, and by impressment, and drilled in the use of arms on shipboard. As he frequently declared, on such forces a judicious commander could place little reliance; they dwindled less by death than by desertion.