Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Riedesel, Friedrich Adolph

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
589252Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography — Riedesel, Friedrich Adolph

RIEDESEL, Baron Friedrich Adolph (re-deh-zel), German soldier, b. in Lauterbach, Rhine-Hesse, 3 June, 1738; d. in Brunswick, 6 Jan., 1800. His father, John William, was government assessor at Eisenach, and his mother, Sophie Hedwig, was the daughter of Baron von Borke, a Prussian lieutenant-general and governor of Stettin. He was educated at the law-school of Marburg, but while attending that school became an ensign in a Hessian battalion of infantry in garrison in that city, which soon afterward was received into the English establishment. He served as general aide on the personal staff of Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick in the seven years' war, and, having acquitted himself gallantly in the execution of an important commission at the battle of Minden, was rapidly promoted. He became captain of the Hessian hussars in 1760, lieutenant-colonel of the black hussars in 1762, adjutant-general of the Prussian army in 1767, and colonel of carbineers in 1772. Soon after the beginning of the American Revolution, England having hired of the petty German sovereigns 20,000 troops, of which 4,000 were from Brunswick, Col. Riedesel was at once advanced to the rank of major-general and given the command of the Brunswickers. On his arrival at Quebec, 1 June, 1776, he drilled his men to meet the American style of fighting, exercising them on snow-shoes in winter and making them fire at long range and from behind bushes and trees. After spending a year in Canada, he accompanied Burgoyne on his unfortunate expedition. He rendered special service at the taking of Ticonderoga, and, by bringing up re-enforcements, in dispersing the Americans at Hubbardton; and, had his advice been followed, the disastrous raid on Bennington would not have occurred. At the battle of 19 Sept., 1777, he alone, by bringing up his Brunswickers at a critical moment, saved the English army from a complete rout; and, had his suggestions been carried out after the action of 7 Oct., Burgoyne would, in all probability, have made good his retreat into Canada. He was made prisoner at Saratoga on 17 Oct., exchanged in 1779, and in November of that year received from Gen. Clinton a command on Long Island, with headquarters on what are now Brooklyn heights. He returned to Germany in the summer of 1783, was advanced to the rank of lieutenant-general in 1787, and appointed to the command of the Brunswick contingent that was sent into Holland to support the cause of the stadtholder. In 1794 he was appointed commandant of the city of Brunswick, which office he held until his death. His “Memoirs, Letters, and Military Journals,” edited by Max von Eelking, have been translated by William L. Stone (2 vols., Albany, 1868). —

His wife, Frederica Charlotte Louisa, b. in Brandenburg in 1746; d. in Berlin, 29 March, 1808, was a daughter of von Massow, commissary-in-chief of Frederick II., and married Baron Riedesel, after a romantic courtship, in 1702. She followed her husband to Canada in 1777, and was with him during the Burgoyne campaign, and wherever he was afterward stationed in this country. She tenderly nursed Gen. Simon Fraser on his death-bed, and, while the British army were besieged by Gen. Horatio Gates, ministered to the sick and wounded after sharing her own scanty rations with the half-starved soldiers and their wives. Her letters to her husband before joining him in Canada, and to her mother while she was in this country, have become classic. She was handsome, and rendered herself an object of wonder by riding in thick boots, and what was then called “the European fashion.” She visited some of the principal families near Charlottesville, Va., being always a welcome guest. Of her nine children, three were living in 1856. Frederica, the second daughter of Madame Riedesel, who accompanied her in her wanderings in this country, became one of the most distinguished women of her day. She married Count Reden, who died in 1854, and resided at Buchwald, which was the resort of many celebrated men. After her death the king of Prussia, Frederick William, caused a beautiful monument to be erected to her memory. She left one daughter, who married Baron von Rotenhan, at Reutweinsdorf, in Bavaria, with whom this branch of the family of Riedesel dies out. Madame Riedesel's letters were published in Berlin in 1800, and a defective English translation in New York in 1827. A complete translation was made by William L. Stone with the title “Letters and Journals relating to the War of the American Revolution” (Albany, 1867).