Recruit Johann Gottfried Moosdorf, 1782

Studies of the War for American Independence typically end with the surrender of the British army at Yorktown in the fall of 1781. There is good reason for this. After all, Yorktown not only turned out to be the last major battle of the war, but it also assured that the end of hostilities was near. However, the recruitment of troops in Germany for service in America continued well into the following year, raising the possibility that Britain was perhaps planning another campaign after all. The six German territories that had concluded subsidy treaties with Britain were more than happy to comply with the demand for additional troops. In late May 1782, for example, a fleet carrying more than 2,000 recruits, 112 women and thirty-three children from all six territories set sail for North America.

The document included with this post sheds some light on the background of one of the thousands of men who enlisted when the war in America was coming to a close: the carpenter Johann Gottfried Moosdorf. He was recruited in April for service in the Braunschweig corps. It is possible that he belonged to the troop reinforcements that crossed the Atlantic in May 1782. His age of 38 years made him relatively old for service in America; soldiers from Braunschweig were typically in their twenties. The fact that he was a veteran was an advantage; the document indicates that he had already spent half his life in the military of the German territory of Saxony when he was recruited. Note that, for his height, this record provides only the inches. It is assumed that he is at least five feet tall. With a height of 5 Fuss, 5 Zoll, or around 170 cm (5 ft. 6 in.), Moosdorf was taller than most German soldiers at the time.

Citation: [printed receipt], in “Amerika,” H V: 9, Stadtarchiv Braunschweig, Germany.

Image: “Braunschw. Jäger” The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library,

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