No Doubt, Victory Will be on our Side. New York, 1777

In February 1777, Margrave Karl Alexander of Ansbach-Bayreuth agreed to supply Britain with 1,285 soldiers, belonging to the First, or Ansbach Regiment (also known as Eyb Regiment), and the Second, or Bayreuth Regiment (also known as Seybothen Regiment). The total number supplied by the territory eventually amounted to around 2,500 men, including a Jäger corps.

In the summer of 1777, roughly 1,300 of them, along with about one hundred servants, women, and children, arrived in New York. Like the Germans who had arrived before them, they were excited to see this beautiful and prosperous land that was America. Their impressions of the New York region were universally positive. They were in good spirits, assuming that the war would be over in no time. The defeat of a Hessian garrison at Trenton merely six months earlier had been painful and humiliating. However, this “unfortunate affair,” as most Germans called it, had not turned the tide of the war, which had gone quite well for the British in the fall of 1776. In the summer of 1777, they remained confident that it would end soon, and that the British would be victorious.

The letter included with this post reflects this optimistic outlook. Lieutenant Friedrich Keller wrote to his father in Germany shortly after his arrival in New York that everyone believed that the British would defeat the Americans that year. He probably aimed to reassure his father back home that he need not worry about his son. However, other sources confirm that the Ansbach-Bayreuth troops, like the Hessians that had landed in New York in 1776, thought that it would be relatively easy to overcome the American rebels. Keller had not yet set foot on American soil when he shared this positive outlook with his father.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

America, in New York harbor, 5 June 1777

Dearest gracious Papa,

Our ships have happily crossed the ocean from Portsmouth to New York, which amounts to 3000 English miles. It would be too much to write about all the strange things that occurred. You can see that the stationary has to be very small, and I think that you would not care for it very much anyway as long as you know that we arrived safely, which we did. Thank God I have arrived healthy and well in New York, where we remained at anchor for 2 days before we sailed another half hour away from the city to the island Staten Island. There we disembarked and set up camp. We will stay there for a few days in order to rest after the long sea voyage and to acquire any necessities. We will then march off, but we do not yet know where we will go. New York is beautiful and very large, and I think more than 600 warship and transports are around it. As far as we can tell, the landscape is very beautiful, and I think it is a little warmer than at home. In New York across the water are two English and one Hessian regiments in the city, and three Hessian regiments are encamped in the field. However, they were embarked today and departed, but we do not know to where. We hope that they will be fortunate and be of good effect. There is a lot of talk that the war will be over this year, which we hope for and wish, because victory will be on our side which we do not doubt.

I hope that the dearest Papa is well, which is my only wish, to see you healthy should I be so fortunate to return from here. Thank God I am currently still quite well, as are all of the officers and almost the entire regiment. Captain von Waldenfels sends his regards. I will write again as soon as it is possible. In the meantime, I wish you everlasting health and everything you wish for yourself. I commend myself in fatherly grace and love and remain until death, my dearest gracious Papa, [?] faithful, loving son Friderich V. Keller, Lieut[enant]



“A View of New York from the north west, 1777,” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-7a88-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

TRANSCRIPTION

America im Hafen New York, d. 5ten Juni 1777

Liebster gnädiger Papa,

Unsere Schiffe von Portsmouth nach New Yorck welches 3000 Englische Meilen seynd, haben wir glücklich über das Meer zurückgelegt. Was sich alles merkwürdiges zugetragen hat, wäre zu weithläufig zu schreiben. Sie sehen das Briefpapier muss sehr klein seyn und ich glaube, es wird ihnen auch so gar viel nicht daran gelegen seyn, wenn sie nur wissen, dass wir alle glücklich und gesnd angelangt seynd, welches geschehen ist. Ich bin Gott sei gedankt recht gesund und wohlauf nach New Yorck gekommen, wo wir 2 Tage vor Ancker liegen blieben, und alsdann noch eine halbe Stund von der Stadt weg fuhren an die Insel Staden-Enland, wo wir aufgesetzt wurden, und auf derselben unser lager aufgeschlagen haben, einige tage werden wir uns da aufhalten, um auszuruhen von der weiten Schiffreise, und um das noch nöthige anzuschaffen, alsdann warden wir abmaschieren, wohin wissen wir noch nicht. New Yorck ist schön und sehr gross und stehen glaube ich mehr als 600 Kriegs und Transportschiffe drum herum, Soviel wir noch bisher gesehen haben ist die Landschaft sehr schön und dünckt mich etwas warmer als bey uns. In New York über der See drüben liegen 2 Regimenter Engländer und ein Regiment Hessen in der Stadt und auf dem Feld im Lager 3 Regimenter Hessen, welche aber heute seynd eingeschifft worden und abgefahren, wohin wissen wir aber nicht. Wir wünschen, dass sie glücklich seynd und von einem guten Effect seyn mögten. Mann redet stark davon, dass der Krieg dieses Jahr ein End nehmen würde, welches wir hoffen und wünschen, namlich der Sieg auf unserer Seithe, woran nicht zu zweifeln ist.

Ich hoffe der liebste Papa seynd noch wohl auff, welches mein einziger Wunsch ist, ihnen wiederum gesund anzutreffen, wenn ich das Glück haben sollte, wiederum hieraus zu kommen, ich gottlob bin noch zur Zeit recht wohl auff, wie auch alle Offiziers und fast das ganze Regiment. Der Herr Hauptmann v. Waldenfels last sich ihnen empfehlen. Sobald es wider möglich, werde ich schreiben. Ich wünsche Ihnen inzwischen eine dauerhafte Gesundheit und alles was sie sich selbst wünschen, und empfehle mich in der Väterliche Gnad und Liebe und verbleibe bis in Todt Meines liebsten gdgen Papa [?] getreuer ihren ewig liebenden Sohn Friderich V. Keller, Lieut.

Citation: Letter from Lieutenant Friedrich Becker to his father, New York, 5 June 1777, in New York Public Library, Bancroft Collection, B 64-68 H47 reel 1 *ZL-213-7 [item 151].

For additional information about the Ansbach-Bayreuth corps, see Erhard Städtler, Die Ansbach-Bayreuther Truppen im Amerikanischen Unabhängigkeitskrieg, 1777-1783 (Nürnberg, Germany, 1956).

Image: [Detail from] Capitaine Martin et Charles Aug. de Gironcourt, “Generalplan der Operationen der britischen Armee gegen die amerikanischen Truppen in Amerika seit der Ankunft der hessischen Truppen am 12. August 1776 bis zum Ende des Jahres 1779,” Staatsarchiv Marburg, HStAM WHK 28/12b – 12d.

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