Dec
02

Louis von Linkensdorf: Swiss Officer of the German Regiment

I apologize for the short post, much of it is an excerpt from writing my chapter about the officer corps of the German Regiment. The end of the semester is coming and I have much other work that requires my attention.

 


 

In eighteenth century Europe, it was very common for officers to serve in the militaries of foreign countries. Foreign armies often offered a chance to win glory and fame when the officer’s home nation was at peace, and with it the ability to be promoted and raise one’s social rank. The German Regiment had its fair share of foreign officers, among them a Swiss officer named Louis von Linkensdorf, who had been in the King of Sardinia’s Swiss Regiment. The Swiss were a unique case in early modern Europe: an enormous number of nations did not just have Swiss officers in their officer corps, but often had multiple Swiss regiments in their service. Linkensdorf came to America when the Revolutionary War broke out, and he presents an interesting case. he did unfortunately have a hard time getting that job: when he first presented himself before Congress and received a commission in the German Regiment, he may not have spoken English. However, the Regiment still found a way to put him to use. On the first page of the German Regiment’s Orderly book are the words, written in German: “made known through me Louis von Linkensdorf.”[1] In the German Regiment, Linkensdorf did find himself a job. He had been originally chosen to serve as a First Lieutenant in Captain Woelpper’s Company, which will is discussed in further detail in the chapter about the common soldiers of the German Regiment. On December 11th, 1776, he petitioned Continental Congress, for an advance in his pay to buy a new horse, as his “duties in the present Situation of Affairs can hardly be performed without an Horse and some Equipage, of which he has lately had the Misfortune to loose an considerate part and cannot afford to replace without some Advance”[2] Linkensdorf probably did not write his memorial to congress: the handwriting is completely different to his German handwriting, and his name is spelled different than how he usually does it Adjutants served an administrative function in the regiments they served: they along with the Major and Sergeant-Major were tasked with dealing with the mountains of paperwork that accumulate in any military organization.  Linkensdorf seems to have taken on a role as liaison between the common soldiers, the under officers, and the commanding officer. Linkensdorf left American service about halfway through the war, and there is not much to suggest where he went. It is quite possible that he returned to serving in a Swiss Regiment back in Europe, or possible retired from military life altogether. Linkensdorf’s involvement in the German Regiment shows that the war in the United States was internationally thought of as almost another European war: it also shows Continental European confidence in the ability of America to win the Revolutionary War, even before the official entrance of major European Powers such as France and Spain into the conflict.

 


 

[1] “Head Quarter Philadelphia Sept.br 17.th 1776.”  Nicholas Haussegger orderly book (Collection Am .623), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The original German is bekannt gemacht durch mich.

[2] Louis von Linkensdorf, “ Lewis de Linkensdorff Memorial to the Honorable Continental Congress” Papers of the Continental Congress, Fold3 Military Records, fold3.com.

Comments

  1. jackweaver says:

    Thank you for the comment! Linkensdorf is part of a larger trend of foreign officers who served in the Continental Army, the most famous of which was probably the French Marquis de Lafayette. Among other foreign volunteers in the Continental Army were Friedrich von Steuben, who was the first Inspector General of the Continental Army; Kazimierz Pulaski, a Polish cavalryman killed at the Siege of Savannah in 1779; Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a Polish Engineer who went on to lead a rebellion against Russia in Partitioned Poland; and Henry Leonhard Philip, Baron d’Arendt, a Prussian engineer who was the second colonel of the German Regiment. There was a long tradition in Europe of ambitious soldiers serving in foreign militaries in order to advance their careers, and Linkensdorf was a participant in that tradition.

  2. sarahstratton says:

    This is very interesting! I had thought that only the Americans, French, and British were involved in the Revolutionary War. I believe it is a bit of a stretch to say that a single man is evidence of the Continental European confidence in America’s ability to win the War. Perhaps Linkensdorf was a single man who really didn’t like the British and wanted to give them a hard time or else had aspirations for how he might be reimbursed in helping America to gain independence. Either way, your conclusion would be better support with additional examples, such as other people serving in the German Regiment who did not identify as American citizens. Really neat research though! It looks like you’ve put a lot of time into this project.

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