Friedrich Riedesel

1738–1800 — Hessian General, American Revolutionary War

General Friedrich Riedesel was a soldier who led Hessian troops in support of Great Britain during the American Revolutionary War. His is most famous for his participation in the failed Saratoga Campaign of 1777.

Friedrich Adolf Riedesel, General, American Revolutionary War

General Friedrich Adolf Riedesel. Image Source: Wikimedia.

Who was Friedrich Riedesel?

Baron Friedrich Adolf Riedesel (1738–1800) was a German General born in Lauterbach, Hesse. He rose through the military ranks during the Seven Years’ War, distinguishing himself at the Battle of Minden. He led troops to America in 1776, where he joined the American Revolutionary War during the American Invasion of Quebec. Afterward, he played a significant role in the Saratoga Campaign, serving under General John Burgoyne. Praised for his bravery despite setbacks, Riedesel returned to Europe after the war, where he continued to serve in various military capacities until his death. His wife, Friederike Riedesel, published a famous memoir detailing their experiences in America during the war.

Friedrich Riedesel Facts, Early Life in Europe

Early Life and Military Career

  • Baron Friedrich Adolphus Riedesel was born on June 3, 1738, in Lauterbach, Hesse.
  • Riedesel attended law school at Marburg before joining the Hessian battalion as an ensign at the age of 18.
  • He served in the Seven Years’ War in Europe, becoming aide-de-camp to Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick.
  • Riedesel achieved notoriety for his service at the Battle of Minden.

Transition to Brunswick Service

  • Feeling limited in his advancement within the Hessian army, Riedesel entered the service of the Duke of Brunswick.
  • His friendship with Duke Ferdinand helped his career, and by 1761 he commanded two Brunswick regiments.

Friedrich Riedesel Facts, Role in the American Revolutionary War

American Invasion of Quebec

  • In January 1776, Riedesel was stationed as a Colonel of carabineers at Wolfenbuttel when the Duke of Brunswick contracted with King George III to send troops to America.
  • Promoted to Major General, Riedesel led the first contingent of troops, comprising 2,282 infantrymen and 336 dismounted dragoons.
  • He arrived in Quebec on June 1, 1776, and reinforced General Guy Carleton to maintain British control of Canada during the American Invasion of Quebec.
  • Riedesel spent a year in Canada, during which his family joined him.
  • He left Canada as part of General John Burgoyne’s expedition into the Hudson River Valley, known as the Saratoga Campaign.

Saratoga Campaign

  • Riedesel played a significant role in General John Burgoyne’s Campaign, which was aimed at isolating the New England Colonies from the Middle Colonies and Southern Colonies.
  • He led troops during the Battle of Hubbardton (July 7, 1777).
  • He opposed the ill-fated raid that led to the Battle of Bennington (August 16, 1777).
  • General Burgoyne surrendered to General Horatio Gates on October 17, 1777, and Riedesel was taken as a prisoner
  • Riedesel and General William Phillips were eventually exchanged for General Benjamin Lincoln on October 13, 1780.

Plan to Attack America in 1782

  • After being promoted to Lieutenant General and appointed Commander on Long Island, Riedesel was sent back to Canada in the summer of 1781.
  • On his return, he carried a military plan from General Henry Clinton, which he delivered to General Frederick Haldimand, the Governor of Quebec. 
  • The plan proposed a British invasion of the north that would be launched from Canada. 
  • However, Haldimand did not receive the plan until September 25, 1781.
  • Within a month, General Charles Cornwallis surrendered at the Battle of Yorktown (September 28–October 19, 1781), effectively ending the significant fighting in the American Revolutionary War.

Friedrich Riedesel Facts, Later Years and Legacy

Return to Europe

  • In mid-August 1783, the Riedesel family left Quebec and arrived in England a month later, where they were welcomed by the Royal Family.
  • Following a stay in London, the Riedesel family returned to Brunswick.
  • Of the 4,000 troops who had accompanied Riedesel to Canada, only 2,800 returned.
  • On October 8, 1783, Riedesel led these soldiers in a grand review for the new Duke of Brunswick, being received as a hero.
  • Unlike General Leopold von Heister, who faced blame for the defeat at the Battle of Trenton and was recalled in 1777, Riedesel was praised for his bravery during the Saratoga Campaign.
  • In 1787, Riedesel was promoted to Lieutenant General and tasked with commanding Brunswick troops to support the Stadtholder of the southern provinces of Holland.
  • After six years in this role, he retired but was later recalled to serve as Commandant of the city of Brunswick until his death on January 6, 1800.

Legacy and Memoirs

  • Following his death, Riedesel’s wife, Friederike Charlotte Riedesel (1746–1808), published a highly regarded memoir, considered one of the most important about the American Revolution.
  • First published in Berlin in 1800, the memoir provided valuable insights into Riedesel’s experiences and the events of the war from his perspective.
  • The memoir famously includes her version of the death of General Simon Fraser at the Battle of Freeman’s Farm (see Facts About the Death of General Simon Fraser).

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Friedrich Riedesel
  • Date 1738–1800
  • Author
  • Keywords Friedrich Adolf Riedesel, Hessian Mercenaries, Invasion of Quebec, Canada Campaign, Saratoga Campaign, General John Burgoyne, Siege of Fort Ticonderoga, Battle of Hubbardton, Friederike Charlotte Riedesel
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date April 18, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update February 21, 2024