The German Battalion
THE GERMAN BATTALION
Sources: The Society for the History of Germans in Maryland, Charles Francis Stein; http://www.emmitsburg.net/cgi-bin/pf/ha/pf.cgi The Emmitsburg Area Historical Society.; Journal & Correspondence of the State Council of Maryland, 1779-1780-Bernard Christian Steiner, Editor. Maryland Historical Society 1924.;
1776-Congress authorized the establishment of a number of additional regiments. One was a German Battalion comprised of officers and men selected from among the German settlers of Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Resolution: Continental Congress, May 25, 1776
“Resolved that one Battalion of Germans be raised for the Service of the United Colonies”
Resolution: Continental Congress, June 27, 1776
“Resolved that four companies of Germans be raised in Pennsylvania and four companies in Maryland to compose said regiment.
Resolution of the Maryland convention, July 6, 1776:
“Resolved that this Province will raise four companies and that two companies of Germans be raised in Baltimore County and two in Frederick County.
“Resolved that another company be added to the German Battalion and that David Woelper be appointed Captain of said company” This, the ninth Company consisted of both Marylanders and Pennsylvanians under command of Captain Woelper.
Each company consisted of ninety enlisted men and the following officers: a Captain, a 1st Lieutenant, 2nd Lieutenant, Ensign and non-commissioned officers: 4 Sergeants, 4 Corporals, 2 Drummers or one Fifer and one Drummer and 80 privates.
The German Regiment was organized under the command of Colonel Nicholas Haussegger of Pennsylvania. Next in rank was Lieutenant-Colonel George Stricker of Frederick. His commission was dated July 17, 1776. He resigned his commission April 29, 1777. George Stricker was born in Frederick Maryland in 1732. His parents were Swiss and settled in North Carolina before coming to Maryland. He served as an officer in the French and Indian War in 1755 and took part in the defense of Western Maryland against the Indians. He was commissioned as a Captain January 14, 1776 and was stationed near Annapolis for several months. When the German Regiment was organized, he was appointed Lieutenant Colonel on July 17, 1776 and was its highest ranking officer. He was a member of the German Reformed church in Frederick. He fought with the German Battalion in battles around New York City and New Jersey. He became the field commander when Colonel Haussegger was taken prisoner by the Hessians in Trenton. He led the Battalion at the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777. His oldest son was General John Stricker. He died on November 29, 1810.
He was succeeded by Major Ludwig Weltner of Maryland. Ludwig Weltner was an officer in the Frederick County Militia during the French and Indian War and also took part in the defense of the western frontier. He was born in Germany. When the German Battalion was organized, he was commissioned as a Major. He too took part in the battles in New York and New Jersey. He was raised to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on April 29, 1777. In that position he was in charge of what was left of the German Battalion at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-1778. When the Battalion was reorganized in the spring, he became the field commander, serving as such at the Battle of Monmouth. He was an outstanding officer. He continued to serve until he retired when the Battalion was retired on February 19, 1781. General Washington wrote to the Board of War commending Weltner’s leadership and urging them to give him the retirement of a full Colonel. Colonel Weltner was also active in the Lutheran Church in Frederick County.
The Chaplain of the unit was Rev. James Francis Armstrong of Maryland (appointed December 3, 1777). He resigned on February 1, 1778. Dr. Charles Ritter served as the unit Surgeon from September 1, 1776 to August 1778. He was succeeded by Pennsylvania Dr. Peter Peres. The Surgeon’s Mate was Alexander Smith of Maryland, who served from August 1778 to January 1, 1781. The Ensign Jacob Raybold was the Maryland born Quartermaster.
The two Baltimore County Maryland companies of the German Battalion had the following officers in July, 1776:
Captain Henry Fister’s Company
Captain Henry Fister-appointed Captain of the German Battalion on July 12, 1776. He was apparently from Baltimore County, as were the majority of his men. After serving the first year, he resigned as a result of wounds on April 7, 1777.
1st Lieutenant Charles Balzell-born in Alsace (which was at that time a territory of Germany) on October 15, 1737, he came to the U.S. and settled in Frederick. He later moved to Baltimore. He took part in the defense of Western Maryland against the Indians. He was appointed 1st Lieutenant in the German Battalion on July 12, 1776 and raised to Captain on May 10, 1777. He was wounded at the Battle of Germantown, October 4, 1777. He recovered and continued his service until the Battalion was retired on January 1, 1781. He died on December 31, 1813 in Woodstock, Maryland.
2nd Lieutenant Michael Mayer-was promoted to Captain in the spring of 1778.
Ensign Jacob Grommet
Captain George Keeport’s Company
Captain George Keeport-George Keeport (KÜHBORD) was from Baltimore County. His family was active in the German Reformed Church. He began his military career on January 4, 1776 as a lieutenant in the Seventh Company. He enlisted many men for the German Battalion. He received his Captain’s commission on July 12, 1776 and fought with his men in the battles around New York and Brooklyn as well as the battles of Trenton and Princeton in the winter of 1776-1777. He resigned his commission on May 4, 1777 and became the supply officer and purchasing agent for the Continental Army. He opened an office in Baltimore City and supplied the armies of General Washington. Much of the supplies (ammunition, powder, guns, etc.) were supplied by the German artisans of the area. After the war, he was a leading merchant in Baltimore and built a large home at the corner of Pratt and Charles Streets, which was demolished in 1973 for ‘Harborplace’.
1st Lieutenant Samuel Gerock-the son of Reverend Johann Siegfried Gerock, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Baltimore, he volunteered early and was appointed 1st Lieutenant in the German Battalion on July 12, 1776 in Captain Keeport’s unit. He was promoted to Captain on July 1, 1777. In November of that year, he left the Battalion and was appointed quartermaster to the state hospital. There were some reported issues of ‘improper conduct’ and Gerock was arrested in Frederick under the suspicion of trading with the enemy. He was jailed for three months until his father (well respected) could secure his release. Pastor Gerock’s other son, George, was Captain Keeport’s supply assistant. The pastor’s reputation and his dedication to the United States was never questioned.
2nd Lieutenant William Ritter
Ensign John Lindenberger-from Baltimore and a member of Zion Church, he was appointed Ensign. He served the Battalion throughout the first year of the Revolutionary War. In April 1777, he was transferred to the 4th Continental Artillery as a 1st Lieutenant. He resigned on February 3, 1779.
The two Frederick County Maryland companies of the German Battalion had the following officers in July, 1776:
Captain Philip Graybill’s Company
Captain Philip Graybill-Philip Graybill of Baltimore County was appointed Captain of the German Battalion on July 8, 1776. He served for two years, resigning on March 12, 1778. His family KRÄHENBÜHL was from Emmenthal Switzerland.
1st Lieutenant John Lorah-lived in Frederick and began his military career as 2nd Lieutenant of the Frederick County Flying Camp in June, 1776. He was in active service when the war erupted and the German Battalion was formed. He became the Captain and commanding officer on May 28, 1777 and continued in that post until the end of the winter of 1777-1778. He resigned on February 28, 1778, probably due to poor health. He retired to Washington County and lived there until his death.
2nd Lieutenant Christian Meyers-Served with the German Battalion throughout the war. He began his career on July 12, 1776 and was promoted on May 12, 1777 to 1st Lieutenant. One year later he was promoted to Captain and Company Commander. He continued with the German Battalion, in this capacity until the end of the war and retired when the Battalion was retired.
Ensign Martin Shugart-Appointed Ensign on July 11, 1776 and promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on November 15, 1777. After spending the winter at Valley Forge, he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on May 25, 1778. He continued his service with the German Battalion until it was retired on January 1, 1781.
Captain William Heyser’s Company
Captain William Heyser-born in Frederick, he was appointed Captain of the German Battalion on July 12, 1776. He served for two years, resigning in May, 1778.
1st Lieutenant Jacob Kotz-became the 2nd Lieutenant on July 12, 1776 and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on September 25, 1776. He served with the German Battalion until April 8, 1778 when he resigned and returned home to Western Maryland.
2nd Lieutenant Adam Smith-One of the original Maryland officers, his family name was SCHMIDT. He was made 2nd Lieutenant on July 12, 1776. He resigned May 4, 1777.
Ensign Paul Christian-Was commissioned as Ensign in the German Battalion on July 12, 1776. He service was short as he resigned on November 8, 1776.
The call to arms was well heeded by the German immigrant community and the completion of the unit was complete by the summer of 1776. The original enlistment period was for three years. There were some accommodations made for those serving from the rural/agricultural areas. It was very difficult on the families and the farms when the head of the family was absent over three harvest periods.
January 3-4, 1777 General Washington crossed the Delaware and attacked the British camp at Princeton. The German Battalion fought under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Stricker.
Late spring-the Continental army was reorganized and the Maryland forces were consolidated into two regiments. Five additional Maryland regiments were added. These regiments, with the German Battalion wee organized into the ‘Maryland Line’.
August 1777-the German Battalion was involved in the night raid on Staten Island. The raid proved to be a disaster and the German Battalion suffered severe losses. The German Battalion’s original nine companies had been reduced to two companies and spent the winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge.
Winter 1777-1778-General von Stueben developed a manual of arms, instructed the men and trained them to become an effective fighting unit. The German Battalion was reorganized with several officer changes, many retired or resigned in the spring of 1778.
February 26, 1778-the German Battalion officially made part of the Maryland’s quota and was numbered as the Eighth Maryland.
Fall 1778-the German Battalion participated in operations at Rhode Island and were later stationed at White Plains, New York.
1779-the German Battalion was active in the raids on the Iroquois Indians. The Indian warfare was successfully concluded in September 1779. The German Battalion, under the command of Colonel Ludwig Weltner continued its assignment of guarding the frontier.
1780-the German Battalion was sent to Pennsylvania to guard the frontier.
January 1, 1781-General Washington ordered the army reformed and the Maryland forces were consolidated into five regiments serving in the Southern campaign. The German Battalion was officially disbanded.
The Men of the German Battalion
Notes on Names:
Some names may appear more than once in the above table. This is due to men moving from unit to unit and to replacements in regiments through loss, injury or retirement.
The names in the list for the most part have been anglicized. At least in the early recruitment stages, it was required that the enlistee be ‘German-speaking’. There has been confirmation that one enlistee (James Fox) was removed to another unit due to the fact that he “not being a German or the son of a German could not serve in that Regiment”.