Partisan in War (1789)
Introduction, Chap. 1-3
Anyone who studies the American Revolution very seriously knows of Emmerich's Chasseurs, a corps of American loyalists who fought for the British. To most everyone else, however, Emmerich's Chasseurs mean little or nothing.
When scholars think of guerrilla warfare on the British side in the Revolution, they think of Banastre Tarleton and his British Legion, John Graves Simcoe and his Queen's Rangers (both of whom fought with Emmerich on a number of occasions). Emmerich, however, is the forgotten Partisan.
Even those who know of him usually spell his name "Emmerick." And with good reason. Most references to Emmerich come from American newspapers and British letters or court martial records of the time period, all of which "anglo-ized" the spelling.
Andreas Emmerich was by birth a Prussian of military descent. At the age of twenty-four, the King of Prussia honored Emmerich by appointing him a Counselor of War. He first came to England at the age of eighteen as an envoy from the King of Prussia to King George the Second of England. The British monarchy reportedly approved highly of the young Emmerich.
Emmerich came to the American Revolution with a great deal of war experience quite a bit more than officers like Simcoe or Tarleton. A veteran of the Seven Years War in Europe, Emmerich served as an officer in General Freytag's corps of Hanoverian chasseurs.
Emmerich's previous war experiences must have whetted his appetite. When war broke out in America, he apparently just couldn't pass up a good fight.
Having friends in high places has always been a valuable asset, particularly to a military officer on the rise. When Emmerich went to London to ask permission to raise a corps of 1,000 German chasseurs, he carried the following letter from British commander-in-chief Sir William Howe to Lord George Germain on December 21, 1776:
"My Lord: Captain Emmerick,
who has been very useful to me in the course of this campaign,
will have the honour of presenting this letter to your Lordship,
on his return to Britain, in order to raise a corps of German
If your Lordship is pleased to recommend such a measure to his Majesty, and it should meet with approbation, I have reason to believe the corps would be well commanded by Captain Emmerick, and can assure that troops of this class are much wanted, and would render essential services in the course of the war.
I have the honour to be, your Lordship's most faithful and most obedient servant,
Emmerich's hopes were shattered when Germain wrote back to Howe on April 19, 1777 saying bluntly, "Captain Emmerick's project to raise German Chasseurs disapproved."
Emmerich, however, was too ambitious to let a temporary setback get the best of him. He returned to America and somehow managed to get himself the corps of chasseurs he wanted. This time, they wouldn't be composed of Germans but rather American loyalists. In the summer of 1777, Sir Henry Clinton ordered 100 active marksmen to be drawn from the Provincial Corps at Kingsbridge, New York and put under the command of Captain Emmerich. (The term "marksmen" referred to the best men in a regiment, singled-out for their skill as shooters, their agility and their ability to execute military drill). These officers and men were drawn from the Loyal American Regiment, 2nd Battalion DeLancey's Brigade, King's American Regiment, New York Volunteers and the Prince of Wales American Volunteers.
Contemporary newspapers of the time provide interesting tidbits of information:
SEPTEMBER 25 . --
Today, as a party of Captain Emmerick's new corps of chasseurs
were bathing near Kingsbridge, in New York, he suddenly beat to
arms, when they, with the greatest spirit imaginable, flew to
their firelocks, and appeared naked, in order to have attacked
any enemy that might be at hand. This so pleased the captain,
that he presented each man with a dollar, and gave them his thanks
for their alertness.
-- Pennsylvania Ledger, October 29, 1777
Emmerich's Chasseurs figured very prominently in the successful attack on Fort Montgomery, New York on October 6, 1777 and the destruction of Continental Village, NY three days later. In consequence, Emmerich was allowed to recruit at large and expand the corps in early 1778. Those loyalist soldiers who had been detached from other Provincial regiments were allowed to return to their former units if they wished. The corps in 1778 went from one rifle company to two troops of lights dragoons, one light infantry company, one rifle company, and three chasseur companies.
In April of 1778 Emmerich was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and the corps were again occupying the highly dangerous lines at Kingsbridge, New York. Kingsbridge was the northernmost British army outpost on Manhattan Island. Beyond it, there was forest and farms and the American enemy, always lurking in the shadows.
By 1779, things were starting to slip. The corps had split into two distinct factions: the American officers who opposed Emmerich and the European officers supported him. The division seems to have been very ugly. The 1779 court martial of Lieutenant George Welbank shows that he was accused of saying that Colonel Emmerich did not command him, that he was a "damned scoundrel" and a coward, and that he would break Colonel Emmerich's head with a sword.
All during this time, it was still business as usual. The corps still took part in a number of raids, but many of the officers were placed under arrest. In turn, many of the men deserted. To rectify the situation, Sir Henry Clinton ordered the corps drafted into other regiments. Emmerich became a seconded officer on August 31, 1779.
Remaining in America, Emmerich was often to be found in the area around Kingsbridge. He went on a few expeditions but his ambitions had come to naught. He never commanded his own corps again.
After the war, Emmerich married and wrote two books in 1789: one, The Partisan in War and a second work entitled The Culture of Forests; in which the state of the royal forests is considered, and a system proposed for their improvement. The works were apparently written out of dire financial need.
Literary pursuits aside, he wasn't the sort of person to stay out of trouble for long. When the Napoleonic Wars erupted, Emmerich still had some schemes up his sleeve.
In 1809, he reportedly attempted to abduct Jerome Bonaparte, the King of Westphalia, Germany (and Napoleon's youngest brother). For his trouble, he was shot by decree.
When Emmerich died, his notoriety died with him. Simcoe's journal of partisan warfare with the Queen's Rangers and Tarleton's book detailing his brutal exploits in the Carolinas would be the works on the subject of light warfare remembered from the Revolutionary era. Emmerich's The Partisan In War drifted from memory until hardly anyone knew it existed at all.
Until very recently, The Partisan In War wasn't readily available on microfilm and only a handful of copies of the book are known to exist in libraries available to the public. Consequently, what Emmerich's work could teach to military historians and 18th century reenactors and aficionados was lost. Fortunately, with the arrival of the internet, Emmerich's book can now be instantly assessable to millions.
Sit back and transport yourself back to the turbulent years of the American Revolution and the Seven Years War in Europe. Savor the quint spelling, the odd turn of phrase and Emmerich's impossibly long sentences.
It is easy to imagine the middle-aged Prussian sitting at the head of the table in a tavern in British-occupied New York, dispensing the war tales and advice that are in this book as men like Simcoe and Tarleton sit across from him, listening very, very carefully.
As Andreas Emmerich fills your mind with images of patrols and surprise attacks, relish the fact that few people (until now) have had the chance to read what you are reading now. Enjoy.
M. Christopher New,
To His Royal Highness
The Duke of York,
&c. &c. &c.
I had, the honour to serve His Majesty, your Royal Father, as Partisan to the allied army under the command of Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick, during the last war in Germany, until the peace in 1762.
I had also the honour of serving in the British army during the late war in America, until the peace in 1783.
The distinguished attachment your Royal Highness shows to the profession of a soldier, and the hopes with which the public spirit of your example animates the army, have made me therefore solicit the permission with which I am honoured, to lay the observations I made, during my various expeditions in that capacity, at your Royal Highness's feet.
In hopes, that an account of my failures, as well as successes, will be of use to those, who, in future, undertake the same duty, and advance the service to which I have the honour to belong, I most respectfully beg leave to subscribe myself,
Your Royal Highness's
Most obedient, and
Most devoted humble servant,
St. James's Park, London,
March 14th, 1789.
I. Of a Partisan in general.
II. Of the men, &c. proper for a light corps.
III. Of the cloathing, &c. necessary.
IV. The particular duties of a Partisan.
V. Of marching by day.
VI. Of marching by night.
VII. Precautions to be observed by the Partisan.
VIII. Of Spies.
IX. Of expeditions with cavalry.
X. Rules to be observed on service.
XI. Mode of attack to intercept couriers, &c.
XII. Of expeditions with infantry.
XIII. Of surprises by night.
In war, no army can act without light troops. Its operations, and even existence depends upon them.
Such light troops ought properly to be composed of select chasseurs with rifles, light infantry with bayonets, and light dragoons or hussars; though sometimes, and particularly by the English, the light infantry of different regiments, are formed into battalions, and supported by grenadiers.
A corps composed of those three sorts of light troops, ought not to be less than a thousand, nor exceed seventeen hundred men in number, who should all be volunteers, it being unsafe to compel men into such a service.
When an army is in motion, the business of the light troops is to form the advance guard, to protect the flanks, and provide in every respect possible for the safety of its march; and when the army of the enemy retreats, to harass their rear.
When the army halts, and forms an encampment, the partisan or officer, who has the command of the light troops, advances with his corps, and takes his station at such a distance from the army as circumstances may require, fixes his picket guards, places his centinels, sends out patrols, and from time to time makes his reports to the commander in chief of the situation, strength, advanced posts, motions and probable designs of the enemy.
When the army retreats, the corps of light troops must form the rear guard, in order to cover its retreat; and when it halts, the partisan must keep his station behind, detach his picket guards, centinels and patrols, and carefully prevent desertion to the enemy, which is often attempted in the retreat of an army. If the enemy should advance, the partisan must not only immediately inform the commander in chief of their motion, but likewise the troops in the rear of the army, that they may instantly prepare and hold themselves ready for whatever may happen. When the army has retreated, and after a fatiguing march is at rest in its encampment, it is then the particular duty of the light troops to prevent its being surprised, or disturbed, and alarmed by trifling causes.
It is of the utmost consequence therefore to an army, that the person appointed to the command of a corps of light troops, should not only be an officer of approved good conduct, experience in service, and in whom the greatest confidence may safely be reposed, as from the nature of his command, it may sometimes be found necessary, by the commander in chief, to entrust him with the paroles and countersigns for several days together; the disclosure of which might be attended with fatal consequences to the whole army; but a partisan should also be a person of a strong constitution and active mind, and capable of undergoing the greatest fatigue of both. Great caution is likewise necessary in the choice of the other officers of a light corps, who should be men of known sobriety, activity, fidelity, and hardy constitutions; such a corps being infinitely more exposed to laborious and difficult service, than any other troops whatever; more especially as they are never to be incumbered with tents; the security of an army depending chiefly upon the vigilance of the partisan.
A partisan who suffers himself to be surprised by an enemy, is, in my humble opinion, inexcusable; his corps may happen to be attacked, and cut to pieces, but he must never suffer himself to be surprised, either in camp or in quarters. -- That such a corps, while properly attentive to its duty, can never meet with this accident, will not, I believe, be doubted, from the following fact.
General Freytag, in the Hanoverian service, commanded during the whole of the last German war, a respectable corps of light troops, composed of mounted and dismounted chasseurs, which, though on constant actual service, from the vigilance, strict discipline, and good order, invariably observed by him, were never in any one instance surprised. This is a proof of the extreme utility of such troops, when acting under the direction of an experienced officer, who makes this part of the profession his particular study.
On the contrary, the extreme danger to be apprehended from remissness, or want of circumspection and alertness, in troops entrusted with the advanced posts of an army, the two following instances will fully demonstrate.
In the year 1760, a corps of French troops, consisting of between five and six thousand men, under the command of General Clauwitz, among which there was a regiment of hussars, (called the regiment of Pirchiney) was stationed at Emsdorff, in the Hessian dominions, near Ciginhain. The present Duke of Brunswick, at that time hereditary Prince, took his measures so properly, that he surprised and made the whole body prisoners at twelve o'clock at noon. -- Had the Pirchiney regiment been careful, even so far as to have kept patrols out, they must have discovered the Prince's intentions, and defeated his design, as he was not two miles distant from the French encampment, when he formed his plan of attack. This circumstance sufficiently shows, that however, secure troops may think they are, they should never relax in their vigilance, as the French did upon this occasion; for a small detachment, to which I then belonged, from General Freytag's corps, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Frederick, kept hovering in front of General Clauwit's army for several days, and occasionally sending patrols, to harass their advanced posts, which so effectually amused them, that they left themselves entirely exposed to this coup-de-main of the prince.
The second instance occurred in the late American war, to Colonel Rall, who was stationed with three battalions of Hessian grenadiers, some chasseurs, and a detachment of light dragoons, by the commander in chief, at the advanced post of the British army, at Trenton, on the river Delaware. Through the want of the same circumspection and vigilance, which proved fatal in the foregoing instance, he suffered himself to be surprised by the troops of Mr. Washington, who finding his situation at that time desperate, was disposed to try his last and only effort, for a change of fortune; he accordingly succeeded, and made prisoners of almost the whole of that noble corps, which, by the shameful neglect and want of attention to discipline in their commander, became an early conquest to an undisciplined banditti; but had they been duly watchful, and prepared for such an attempt, they might have confidently opposed Washington's whole force, and baffled his design.
The consequences that followed their misconduct, are too well known to make it necessary for me to say more, than that the Landgrave of Hesse Cassell can never forget the indignity suffered by a corps of his bravest troops on that occasion, owing to the want of vigilance and good conduct in an officer entrusted with an advanced post of such importance. This is a still more striking example of the accidents that may arise from an officer, who has the command of an out-post, ever suffering himself to be a moment off his guard, even if he should think himself secure from danger or insult. Colonel Rall had, on all former occasions, proved himself a brave, experienced, and attentive officer; it was therefore particularly happy for him, that he lost his life in that unfortunate event, for had he survived, it must have fixed a stigma on his character, in the opinion of all military men, and most probably have occasioned him to experience the resentment of his prince.
From the foregoing examples, it is sufficiently evident, that too much caution cannot be used in the choice of an officer for the command of a corps of light troops, which are always to occupy the out-posts of an army; and as it must, in a very great measure, be left to himself to take advantage of every favourable opportunity that may occur, to annoy the enemy, and frustrate their intentions. The frequent change of circumstances that daily, and perhaps hourly, happens on service, does not admit of a propriety, or even possibility of his adhering invariably to any fixed instructions; he must often therefore be guided by his own discretion, in the occurrence of the moment, while he acts as a careful and vigilant watch to the army, and a spy to the commander in chief: neither is it to be considered to his discredit, when he apprehends an unsurmountable danger, from a superior force of the enemy, or from any stratagem laid for himself, if he should fall back towards his own army, and thereby defeat their designs, either of cutting him off from the main body, or of getting between his corps and any part of the army.
1. The men who are admitted into a corps of light troops should not be under eighteen, nor exceed thirty-five years of age.
2. No man should be taken into the corps who does not enter voluntarily, or who is not very active, and free from all bodily complaints.
3. The chasseurs ought to be selected for their activity, and to be tried and approved marksmen.
4. The light dragoons or hussars ought to be sprightly, lively and active men.
As light troops are intended for rapid movements, the men at their first entering into the corps, should be made perfect in their exercise, such as in loading quick, marching well, manuvering with great exactness, forming the line, divisions, or columns, with equal regularity and speed, expert in firing, and taught also to level well, in order that their fire may always have proper effect.
When the men are perfect in all the essential parts of their duty, it will be unnecessary to fatigue or harass them with field days, as such a corps is intended solely for active services, and not for parade; but they should notwithstanding never be suffered to relax in their discipline. And they should on every convenient occasion be particularly instructed how to cover a retreat, which requires every movement to be made with the utmost regularity, that the men may always be ready to form in a moment, to take advantage of any opportunity that may offer to repel the enemy; for in conducting a retreat well, an officer is put to the severest trial of his judgement, fortitude and skill.
In the year 1760, Duke Ferdinand had intelligence that a brigade of French cavalry, consisting of sixteen hundred men, were detached from the French army, but being unable to learn their route, he immediately sent orders to the different corps of light troops to be on their guard, as he suspected the brigade was out upon some enterprize. General Freytag's corps of Hanoverian chasseurs, being at that time stationed at Newhause, Major Hatdorff of the same corps, under whose command I had then the honor to be, took with him four hundred mounted, and two hundred dismounted chasseurs, and marched in quest of the French, to Paderborn, where he left his infantry for the purpose of covering his retreat, in case there should be occasion for it. Moving forward with his cavalry about three miles from Paderborn, he came in the afternoon into a wood, within two hundred yards of the French brigade, before either party discovered the other. The French had at this time nearly saddled all their horses, with a view, as it was afterwards known, to join some other French troops, and make an attack on Freytag's corps that night.
But on discovering Hatdorff's small detachment so near them, they instantly mounted, came forward, flushed with confidence of making prisoners of the whole party, and then of carrying their original design into execution; but Major Hatdorff manuvered with so much judgement and skill, as to resist every effort they made to break his ranks; -- And although often surrounded, and at the same time occasionally skirmishing with them, he, in a more masterly manner than it is possible for me to describe, so as to do justice to that officer, in an open level country effected a retreat, in the face of an enemy, consisting of sixteen hundred men, reckoned amongst the best cavalry in the French army, and got into Paderborn under cover of his infantry, with the loss only of a trifling number of his detachment.
In America, in 1780, the commander in chief, Sir Henry Clinton, having reason to suspect that the French troops under the command of Count Rochambeau, lately landed at Rhode Island, were on their march to form a junction with Washington at the White Plains, ordered me, with a small detachment of about one hundred and fifty infantry, Hessians and Provincials, to move in the evening towards Philips's Manor, to gain what intelligence I could respecting their motions. Having proceeded to a place above Colonel Philips's house, I fell in with a detachment of Washington's army, attacked it, and made some prisoners, from whom I learned that the French had actually joined Washington, and that both had marched towards Kingsbridge.
This information naturally led me to consider of the best means of effecting my retreat; hearing, almost at the same instant, a sharp firing towards Kingsbridge, which I concluded was between the enemy and a detachment of Hessian chasseurs, who were ordered to join me the next morning, for my support. I directed my march close along the North River, to secure my right flank; but had not proceeded far, when I saw a great number of boats coming up the North River, after having landed General Lincoln at a place below me, called Spiking Devil, and which was the only place at which I could pass, Mr. Washington's army having occupied all the ground to my left, as far as Morrisino. Thus situated, I continued my march as close and as silent as possible, along the North River, until I was discovered by Sheldon's regiment of rebel dragoons, who tried to take me, and offered me favourable terms to surrender; but finding me disinclined to accept of them, and seeing that my detachment bore a firm and steady aspect, they were obliged to let me pass, until I arrived at Spiking Devil, to which place the Hessian General Losberg sent a reinforcement to secure my retreat.
When I found upon my return
from beyond Philips's Manor, that the enemy had taken possession
of all the ground between Kingsbridge and Spiking Devil, I saw
many difficulties in my way; but having still in my remembrance
the retreat made by Major Hatsdoff, and consequently what was
possible to be done by troops of a cool and determined temper,
I encountered them all, and was happy enough to execute the business
on which I was sent, to the satisfaction of the commander in chief;
and brought all my men safe back.
An idea of a complete establishment for a Corps of Light Troops.
2 Quarter-Masters of Infantry.
1 Surgeon to the Corps.
6 Surgeon's Mates.
5 Quarters-Masters of Cavalry.
10 Drummers and Fifers.
1,500 Private Men.
1 Master Sadler.
Having proposed the number of officers, non-commissioned officers and private men, of which a corps of light troops might consist, it may not be improper to mention the cloathing, arms, &c. necessary to equip them for the kind of service which may be required of them in an active campaign.
1. Their cloathing should be made of good materials, as they are to be constantly in the field, and without tents, and require therefore that they should in other respects be as comfortable as the nature of their service will permit.
2. Their arms should in every particular, be of the best kind, and shorter and lighter than those commonly used by other troops: Their accoutrements should likewise be light, and entirely adapted for the nature of their service.
3. No more baggage ought to be carried with them on actual service, than what is absolutely necessary. An officer should be allowed only six shirts; a non-commissioned officer and soldier, three shirts each, and other necessaries in proportion.
4. To every hundred men with their officers, either of cavalry or infantry, there should be allowed one cart with two good horses; this cart should be of a particular construction, with a cover, and so calculated as to be able to pass in any sort of roads.
5. The commanding-officer of the corps ought to be allowed one cart of the same kind, and one bât horse.
6. One cart should be allowed to the surgeon, to carry his medicine chest, &c.
7. One cart for the carriage of some cloathing and spare arms of every kind.
8. One cart for the farrier-major to carry his tools, horse-medicines, ready made horse-shoes, nails, &c.
9. Two sutlers to such a corps will be found necessary and extremely useful. They should be allowed two carts and two bât horses each. Whenever the corps marches, the sutlers are constantly to be provided with a quantity of biscuit and bread &c. which is to be carried on their bât horses, that in case of the carts not being able to come up where the corps takes its ground, which may often happen to be in forests or on mountains, the troops may not at any time be distressed for a small supply of provisions.
10. One ammunition cart, particularly well secured, in which an ample supply of ammunition for rifles, muskets and carbines, is constantly to be carried, in order to be ready at all times, in cases of emergency.
11. The officers ought to have as few servants as possible, and those, as well as every other person belonging to the corps, ought to be cloathed in the same uniform, that they may be always known to the corps, and that strangers may thereby be prevented from ever mixing with the soldiers, or coming to them, on any pretence, without being discovered.
12. Thirty pioneers, who should be men well used to the axe and saw, would be found of very great utility, for the purposes of facilitating the movements of the corps, by repairing or destroying bridges, &c. &c.
13. Every light dragoon should
constantly be provided with two spare horse-shoes, fitted to his
horse's feet, and eighteen nails; the shoes to be fastened to
the holsters, that whenever a shoe is lost, another may be immediately