Friedrich Adolf Riedesel

Portrait by Artist to Come

3 June 1738 in Lauterbach, Hesse (now in Germany)
6 January 1800 in Braunschweig (now in Germany)




Friedrich Adolf Riedesel was a German military officer and nobleman who lived from 1738 to 1800. He was born in 1738, in Lauterbach, a town in the state of Hesse, Germany, to Johann Wilhelm Riedesel and his wife, Sophia von Borcke. The Riedesel family was a prominent and wealthy family in Hesse, and Friedrich Adolf was the second son.

Riedesel began his military career at a young age, joining the Hessian army at the age of 16. He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a lieutenant in 1759 and a captain in 1761. He served in the Seven Years’ War (1756—63), a conflict between several European powers that lasted from 1756 to 1763. Riedesel fought on the side of the British, serving as a commander of Hessian troops under the British General John Burgoyne.

After the Seven Years’ War, Riedesel returned to Hesse and married Frederika Charlotte Louise von Massow. The couple had nine children together. In 1776, Riedesel was sent to North America to fight in the American Revolutionary War, again serving under Burgoyne. He was given command of a regiment of Hessian troops and fought in several battles, including the Battles of Saratoga (1777).

Riedesel was captured by the Americans at Saratoga, along with General Burgoyne and his army. He and his men were held as prisoners of war; Riedesel was finally released in a prisoner exchange in 1780. During the winter of 1780—81 he commanded troops on Long Island. He returned to Europe in 1783 and continued his military career, serving in the Hessian army and rising to the rank of lieutenant-general. He retired in 1793 and died in 1800.

Friedrich Adolf Riedesel was a skilled military officer and a devoted family man. He is remembered for his bravery in battle and his dedication to his country. His memoirs, which he wrote during his captivity in America, are considered an important historical document and provide valuable insights into the life of a German soldier during the American Revolutionary War.



But with the British army evacuated [from Philadelphia in 1778] and the Patriots now in charge, Philadelphia Loyalists were doubly vulnerable to censure and punishment for siding with the Crown and for having consorted with the enemy. The Philadelphia Assembly Appointed [Charles Willson] Peale and four others to be Commissioners of Forfeited Estates, and for that the commissioners would receive a 5 percent commission. Peale’s group had extraordinary power to interrogate suspected traitors, break into houses, remove property, and sell off estates. Writs were issued to seize 118 estates ...

Paul Staiti
Of Arms and Artists: The American Revolution Through Painter’s Eyes (2016)