This book written by Capt Johan Ewald is a must have for any person interested in the down and dirty level of fighting in the American Revolution. Captain Ewald and his jager corp (sharpshooters) arrived with the first wave of German mercenary troops that came with the British to New York City. He they landed and eventually drove the American army from Long island and onto the mainland if you will into New York proper.
This book provides an excellent view of the American Revolution from the viewpoint of an ally of the British army. It was never intended to be published, but was meant as a history of Ewald’s experiences during that war for his family. His account of the siege of Charleston SC is especially detailed and provides a gripping view of the British assault.
The book is loaded with period maps, often drawn by officers and engineers shortly after the action. As I mentioned this level of fighting is what is called skirmish level warfare. often times there are less that a few hundred men involved in an action. Encounters were brief and deadly. One side usually getting the best of it and being eliminated.
He gives very detailed accounts of the actions he served in. One that comes to mind is when he was dealing with American row galleys, a sort of ship that would come out onto the Hudson River and keep the British troops pinned down. At night they returned to their docks in a local town. He led an expedition to take this ships out. Another incident that stands out in my mind is the use of a small cannon often called a an amusette. His mixed force of mounted and foot jaegers had trapped a force of American militia in a barn that was quite heavily made. The bullets from his men did not seem to penetrate the heavy walls. They brought up a small cannon called an amusette. This was probably a 1 pounder but it threw a ball hard enough to punch holes in the barn. needless to say the militia surrendered.
Captain Johan Ewald and his jagers were later transferred to the Southern Campaign and fought for General Cornwallis. He eventually made his way to Yorktown with the remaining army.
Captain Johann Ewald was acknowledged by the British for whom and with whom he fought in the American Revolution as one of the best light infantry officers in their service. A dedicated, trained professional from Hesse-Cassel, who was ‘hired out’ by his sovereign for the American War, he knew his job and was an excellent leader, as well as a shrewd observer of what he saw. Fortunately he also wrote all of it down.
This book is one of the most valuable, if not the most valuable, memoirs of the period. The petite guerre (little war), also called partisan warfare, of the period is of great importance in understanding the picture of the whole for the American Revolution. The jagers that Ewald commanded were also some of the most deadly light infantry in the world at the time, and they were greatly feared by their American opponents. Armed with short German hunting rifles and dressed in green and brown, they not only blended in with their surroundings, but they served in almost every action and battle of the war.
Captain Johann Ewald’s direct, observant prose paints a vivid picture of the war, his British comrades, and his American opponents. He respected the Americans, especially their officers’ attempt at becoming more professional as the war progressed.
Captain Johann Ewald ended up in the surrender at Yorktown and was eventually sent home to Germany. He later resigned from the Hessian service, entered the Danish service, and ended up a general serving Napoleon in 1813. An interesting career, a superb memoir.
A must in any collectors library!
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