At the time of the American Revolution, Great Britain was the largest colonial empire in the world. This global empire was built upon a grand fleet of ships that commanded control of the high-seas, but maintaining order in its colonies took a lot of man-power. In order to raise the number of troops necessary for putting down the Revolution in America King George III drew upon his allies in the independent provinces of Germany. Family, religion and blood tied these allies together, and Prince Carl of Brauschweig-Wolfenbuttel agreed to provide his men to his brother-in-law, King George, about 4,000 men under the command of General Baron Riedesel for their service in putting down the upstart rebels.
The treaty between King George III and Prince Carl stipulated that Britain pay the troops’ commission –including two months advance – and that the Brunswick troops take an oath of service to King George III. George was to pay Carl 7.4 British Pounds for each man killed in action, with three injured men being equal to one killed. On the other hand, Carl had to pay George for any deserters or soldiers that fell sick with anything other than an “uncommon contagious malady.” It was specially agreed in Article II, that “His majesty of Great Britain, not deeming it advisable that his corps should be mounted, the same shall serve as a corps of infantry. But should the service demand that they should be mounted, then his majesty agrees to do it at his own expense.” Like U.S. troops serving in peacekeeping missions for the United Nations, these men were not mercenaries or soldiers of fortune as their government was reimbursed their commission. The troops fought for the glories of victorious battle to which title and honor were attached in feudal Europe during the 18th century.
It is curious that Burgoyne entrusted Baum to the campaign. Very little is known about the Brunswick officer prior to the American Revolution, other than that he had fought alongside the British in the European theater of the Seven Years War. For Baum, this was likely an opportunity to prove himself as a leader, but it is possible that Burgoyne was simply ridding himself of what he considered his least effective troops.
Despite being on foot, the Dragoons wore light blue coats, cocked hats and carried broadswords weighing 10-12 pounds. They had traded their traditional thigh-high riding boots for marching boots, but were encumbered by heavy gear and had been trained to fight on horseback, not on foot. This made warfare in the wilderness even more challenging for the foreign troops. Wasmus writes:
Last night, another detachment of 50 men came to us; they were from our corps and under the command of Captain Dommes. We set out at 6 o’clock in the morning and marched up a mountain on our left and into the woods.
Julius Wasmus, July 12, 1777
From William Leete Stone’s MEMOIRS AND LETTERS AND JOURNALS OF MAJOR GENERAL RIEDESEL DURING HIS RESIDENCE IN AMERICA TRANSLATED FROM THE ORIGINAL GERMAN OF MAX VON EELKING MEMOIRS pg. 21 It must not be overlooked that Prince Carl was forced to participate in the war.
“You hereby promise and make oath to God upon his holy word, that, in consequence of a subsidiary treaty made between the most excellent, high and mighty prince and lord, George III, by the grace of God, king of Great Britain, of the first part, and his excellency, the prince and lord, Charles, by the grace of God, duke of Brunswick Luneburg, of the second part, you will give [this amount of money here inserted] to his highness, the royal majesty, in service from this day.