Frederick Baron de Weissenfels

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search




One of the heroes of the Revolution. Compiled from authentic papers left by his daughter and only heir, the late Mrs. Harriet De la Palm Baker, deceased.

Baron de Weissenfels was a native of Elbing, in the Kingdom of Prussia. A town in Germany bear the name of his family. He was trained to arms under Frederick the Great; and peace having been conquered by that great captain, Weissenfels sought employment in the British service, in North America, in 1756. He ascended the Heights of Abraham with brave Wolfe, and saw him expire in the arms of victory. He was an officer in the Royal American regiment at the attack on Fort Ticonderoga, and participated in the descent upon and capture of Havana in 1762.

When peace was concluded with France in 1763, Weissenfels was among the reduced officers, and settled in New York. He has served in the same regiment with St. Clair.

When the Whigs of the Colonies in 1775 raised the standard of liberty and struck for their rights, Weissenfels was one of the first who embarked in the cause, though it was in strong opposition to his interests and the wishes of his friends, for, as a loyal subject, of a noble family, and an officer of the King's army, titles, and honors, and wealth lay in his path before him. But he hesitated not to sacrifice them all on the altar of liberty. While others more prudent paused to stipulate for indemnification for such losses, he lost sight of them all in the dazzling brightness that invested the principles which he flew to sustain. His military science and tact, together with his dauntless courage, rendered his services a great acquisition, and shortly afterwards he was again at Quebec, Brigade Major with Montgomery.

Returning from that disastrous expedition, he received from the American Congress, in March, 1776, a commission of Lieutenant Colonel, commandant of the third New York battalion.

“The Colonel who commanded the second regiment of the New York line, to which he then belonged, having deserted, Lieut. Colonel Weissenfels, was invested with the command by General Washington, and bravely fought the enemy at White Plains.”

After the battle at White Plains, he accompanied Washington with the army over the Hudson river and across New Jersey to Pennsylvania, and assisted in the capture of the Hessians at Trenton. He was also with his regiment at the capture of Burgoyne.

“In the attack upon the British army at Monmouth court-house, he commanded the second New York regiment, (the Colonel, Van Cortlandt, being under orders at another place,) and for the first time, with fixed bayonets, drove the invincible British regulars from their ground. He accompanied the same regiment, as second in command, in the campaign against the Indians in 1779, and under Gen. Sullivan, in a severe battle with them at New Town, on the Tioga river, charged them with bayonets and secured a victory. General Washington esteemed Col. Weissenfels a brave, intelligent, efficient officer, punctual in duty, always at his post.” (Genl. Colfax's letter 15th March 1838)

And thus he was employed to the end of the war, enduring, with his compatriots in arms, untold privations, hardships, and dangers. Had he fallen into the hands of the enemy — having left the British service without a discharge — he would have been liable to all the dreadful penalties for desertion.

For his faithful services in the Royal army before the revolution, he was entitled, by a proclamation of the King, to a large tract of land. This, together with his half-pay of a lieutenant, he lost by entering into the service of the United Colonies. He ever disdained to ask for remuneration for these losses, though he greatly needed it, “from an unwillingness to give a seeming mercenary character to service which had been prompted solely by the most noble and generous impulses.”

Colonel Weissenfels is dead! And his daughter and only heir, the inheritor of his poverty as well as his exalted virtues, also is dead. Her children survive her, also needy, but trusting that the country which has become great, and rich, and powerful, through the wisdom and the valor of the patriots of the revolution — of whom their grandfather was a distinguished one — will accord to them that justice which, had he demanded it himself, could hardly have been denied, and the claim to which has descended to them.


This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.