Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Freiherr von Jungkenn Papers, 1775-1784

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, May 1998

Summary Information
Title: Freiherr von Jungkenn papers
Creator: Jungkenn, Frederick Christian Arnold, freiherr von, 1732-1806
Inclusive dates: 1775-1784
Extent: 1.75 linear feet
The von Jungkenn papers comprise one of the major resources in North America for study of the "Hessian" auxiliaries to British forces during the American Revolution. The involvement of German auxiliaries in many of the most significant campaigns of the war make the von Jungkenn collection of great importance for understanding both military and social aspects of the Revolution.

Language: The material is in English, German, and French
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1932. M-147.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Alternate Format:

Parts of this collection have been published. See the Additional Descriptive Data for a list of publications.


From the end of the Revolution, the von Jungkenn Papers were kept at Schloss Hüffe in Westphalia. They lay there in family hands, forgotten, until discovered during an archival survey of private holdings in 1929.

Preferred Citation:

Freiherr von Jungkenn papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


European warfare during the 18th century was an international affair. An international martial culture shaped elite attitudes toward the conduct of war, and equally significantly, foreign mercenaries were employed throughout Europe and the European colonies to supplement the small standing armies at the core of each nation's defence. From an American vantage, the most famous of these mercenaries were those drawn from six independent German states that were attached to British forces during the American Revolution. With the overwhelming majority of these mercenaries coming from Hesse-Cassel, the whole force came to be refered to as Hessian.

Frederick Christian Arnold, freiherr von Jungkenn, was the youngest son of a German family of the lesser nobility. Although his youth was spent near the family home in Colgenstein, the military was his only true home. At an early age, von Jungkenn entered a Prussian infantry regiment commanded by a cousin, and by the age of 21, had been commissioned as ensign. Like many military men of his generation, however, his break came during the Seven Years' War when at age 25 he accepted a 2nd Lieutenant's commission in a regiment commanded by Frederick, the hereditary prince of Hesse-Cassel. In this capacity, von Jungkenn earned some notice for himself in campaigns in Silesia and Bohemia, but it was the personal connection with the future ruler of his principality that paved his path to fame. When Frederick was elevated to Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel in 1760, von Jungkenn followed into his court. Transferring to the 1st Hessian Guards as a captain, he was appointed 3rd Adjutant General under Frederick, and from there, his rise through the ranks was as rapid as it was assured. By 1776 he was colonel, by 1777, major general and Lord High Chamberlain at court, and by 1781, he had attained the rank of lieutenant general. In court, von Jungkenn climbed just as steadily, taking a seat in council in 1779, and succeeding Baron Martin von Schlieffen as Minister of State in 1780, an appointment which included the duties of secretary of war. Von Jungkenn's military and administrative acumen was highly prized by the Landgrave and his successor, so much so that his requests to resign his post were refused three times before they were finally accepted in 1789.

The seeds of von Jungkenn's association with America were planted during the spring and summer, 1775, when armed insurrection began in the colonies. With only about 18,000 men at his disposal, and unable to increase his ground forces sufficiently by recuitment in England, George III sought to hire troops from abroad to quell the rebellion. Rebuffed by Catherine of Russia, George loaned himself five battalions from his Hanoverian army, but few Hanoverians ever reached American service. Instead, offers to supply troops from the Count of Hesse-Hanau (a nephew of the King), the Markgrave of Ansbach-Bayreuth, and the Prince of Waldeck formed the nucleus of a mercenary army.

The first contract for the provision of mercenary troops was struck in January, 1776, when an English veteran of the Seven Years' War, Col. William Faucitt, reached an agreement with Duke Charles I of Brunswick. The Duchy ultimately supplied over 5,700 soldiers to the British cause, of whom only about half ever returned to Germany. In short order, similar treaties were arrived at with Hesse-Cassel -- long allies of the English -- Waldeck, Ansbach-Bayreuth, Anhalt-Zerbst, and Hesse-Hanau, each desperate for the infusion of money that mercenary activity afforded. The Waldeck troops served mainly in the Floridas, the Hesse-Hanauers largely in Canada, while the others served variously in the colonies. Von Jungkenn's principality of Hesse-Hanau supplied the greatest number of soldiers, almost 17,000 out of the total mercenary force of 30,000. In another measure of the commitment of the principality to the counter-Revolutionary cause, approximately one of every four able-bodied adult men in the principality saw American service. Among the rulers of other German states -- those that did not contract in mercenaries -- the princes who supplied mercenaries were viewed as traffickers in blood, though the practice was common and widely accepted. In America, the troops were viewed with loathing and disdain, symbolizing the tyranny of the monarchy and the barbarity of British rule.

By agreement, the German mercenaries were required to swear allegiance to the British crown, though without having to renounce their allegiance to their own rulers, and although they had their own commanders, they were under the overall command of British forces. The first contingent of Germans arrived at Halifax in June, 1776, soon numbering almost 22,000, a figure which remained nearly constant throughout the war. By special agreement, the Hesse-Cassel troops were commanded by their own generals -- successively Leopold Philipp von Heister, Wilhelm von Knyphausen, and Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Lossberg. The officers of all of the German regiments regularly reported to Jungkenn as one of the highest-placed officers in the command.

In all, fifteen Hessian regiments were authorized by the Landgrave, including infantry, grenadier, dragoon, jäger, and artillery regiments. During their service in America, they and other German mercenaries took part in nearly every major land engagement, fighting with varying degrees of efficiency and prominence, particularly during the southern campaigns of 1780-1781. Their reputation for rapacity, pillaging, marauding, and plundering may well have been deserved, but Hessian behavior was probably little different than that of other European soldiers -- or that of many American soldiers in dealing with their Loyalist foes.

After von Jungkenn was allowed to resign as minister in 1789, he retired to Schloss Hüffe, Kreis Minden, Westphalia, remaining there until his death on November 11, 1809.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The von Jungkenn papers comprise one of the major resources in North America for study of the "Hessian" auxiliaries to British forces during the American Revolution. The correspondence, diaries, and military returns of German officers hired by the British during the American Revolution provide a thorough documentation of the military activities involving German forces, and insight into the martial culture that bound them to the British authority. As professional soldiers, serving for pay, rather than patriotism, von Jungkenn and his fellow German officers were often more candid in their assessments of the war and less inclined to the self-serving or wishful myopia that hindered some of their British colleagues. The involvement of German auxiliaries in many of the most significant campaigns of the war make the von Jungkenn collection of great importance for understanding both military and social aspects of the Revolution.

Nearly all of the correspondence received by von Jungkenn is written either in German or French, reflecting the linguistic difficulties posed in fielding a multi-national, multi-lingual force. The letters in German are written exclusively in the old script. The correspondence of Adj. Gen. Maj. Bauermeister comprises the most extensive single correspondence in the collection -- almost one third of the von Jungkenn Papers -- and has been fully translated and published by Bernhard Uhlendorf.

Subject Terms

    • Charleston (S.C.)--History--Siege, 1780.
    • Great Britain. Army.
    • Long Island, Battle of, New York, N.Y., 1776.
    • Philadelphia Campaign, 1777-1778.
    • Saratoga Campaign, N.Y., 1777.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Campaigns.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Participation, German.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Freiherr von Jungkenn papers [series]:
    Box   1  
     1775 November 20-1778 May 31 [subseries]:
    Box   2  
     1778 June 1-1779 September 30 [subseries]:
    Box   3  
     1779 October 1-1781 February 28 [subseries]:
    Box   4  
     1781 March 1-1781 October 31 [subseries]:
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements contains numerous collections relating to the role of German auxiliary forces during the American Revolution. Overwhelmingly most important are the vast holdings in the papers of Sir Henry Clinton, which include a broad spectrum of information on the deployment, performance, and fate of German auxiliaries as seen by the British headquarters. The papers of Lord Shelburne (vols. 42, 51, 68, 69, 136) and George Germain contain additional information on the employment of German mercenaries, some from previous wars. From an American vantage, Nathanael Greene and Benjamin Gilbert comment on "Hessian" soldiers, and commentary on the use and performance of German auxiliaries can be found in many of the remaining Revolutionary War collections at the library.

    The J. R. (Hessian) journal at the Clements Library is an anonymous journal kept by a Hessian soldier serving in America during the Revlution.

    On the documentary end, the German Muster rolls collection contains muster rolls and a small number of returns relating to German auxiliary forces. These represent a small portion of the soldiers who served in auxiliary regiments, with the greatest number dating from 1781, but many include valuable information on individual soldiers, indicating notations on capture, illness, or death. The Frederick Mackenzie Papers includes a significant number of returns and other documents of German forces, including casualty reports and returns for transport and arrival, and the George Wray Papers and journals includes information on German troops in South Carolina in 1780-1781.

    Publications of material in the collection include the following:

    Hubbs, V.C., ed. and trans. "Journal of the Brunswick Corps in America under General von Riedesel," Sources of American Independence; Selected Manuscripts from the Collections of the William L. Clements Library (Chicago, 1978).

    Uhlendorf, Bernhard A., ed. and trans. The Siege of Charleston (Ann Arbor, 1938).

    Uhlendorf, Bernhard A., ed. and trans. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776-1784, of Adjutant General Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces (New Jersey, 1957).