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 His memoirs, which he wrote during his captivity in America, are considered an important historical document and provide valuable insights into the life of a German soldier during the American Revolutionary War.



Washington was imperfect. In strictly military terms, he does not merit comparisons that have sometimes been made between him and generals like Marlborough, Frederick the Great, Napoleon, or Robert E. Lee. Yet he remains a remarkable man, one of those Tolstoyan figures whose acts determine the course of history. James Thomas Flexner has called him the indispensable man. Nobody — not Nathanael Green or Henry Knox, and certainly not Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, or John Adams — united the military, political, and personal skills that made Washington unique ... without George Washington there could have been no victory in the Revolutionary War, no United States. As a soldier he was erratic but competent. As a man he was impulsive, vindictive, brave, hardworking, intelligent, and virtuous. And as a leader he was great. Those who mourned Washington’s passing in 1799 were right to regard him, for all his flaws, as the savior of his country.

Edward G. Lengel
General George Washington: A Military Life (2005)