A German Regiment Among the French Auxiliary Troops of the American Revolutionary War: H. A. Rattermann’s History


Author: Tolzmann, Don Heinrich
Publication Date: 1999
Reprint Date: 2012
Pages: 57 pp.


While it is widely known that German soldiers from Hesse (Hessians) fought on the British side of the American Revolution, it is less well known that among our French allied forces were a number of German units. For example, more than half of the 300 men recruited in France by Lafayette in 1779 hailed from Alsace-Lorraine and southwestern Germany. According to one authority, it is possible that the German enrollment in the French cause may have equaled the figure of 30,000 ascribed to Germans among the British forces.

One such unit of German soldiers was the Royal German Regiment Zweibrucken, or Deux-Ponts, led by Prince Christian von Zweibrucken. The Royal German Regiment Zweibrucken is the focal point of this publication, which is based upon a heretofore unpublished manuscript by H.A. Rattermann found among the papers in the Rattermann Collection at the University of Illinois-Urbana by the noted German-American authority, Don Heinrich Tolzmann, who also edited the manuscript for publication.

Rattermann’s account follows Prince Zweibrucken and his charges from April 15, 1780, when they sailed for America. After landing in Newport, Rhode Island on July 11, Zweibrucken’s unit encamped at various places in New England. During the spring and summer of the following year, Deux-Ponts was instrumental in launching feint attacks against British General Henry Clinton’s forces in New York, while a large American army was beginning to amass against Cornwallis in Virginia. The German unit eventually arrived in Williamsburg on September 26, 1781, and from October 14-17, contributed to the U.S. victory at Yorktown–ironically by fighting directly opposite Hessian forces.

Augmenting the account of Prince Zweibrucken’s auxiliary forces are an extensive bibliography devoted to the German role in the Revolution, an itemization of a handful of other German allied units, and a clarifying Introduction and Conclusion on the German and German-American presence in this great conflict. Dr. Tolzmann has made a valuable contribution to the literature of the American War for Independence by bringing this manuscript to the light of day.

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