‘Nescit Pericula’: My AWI Hessian Army (Part 1: Grenadiers)

As recently mentioned, I was getting a bit bored with all those tricorn hats and mitre caps of the Seven Years War, so decided to dig out my old 28mm AWI collection with its TOTALLY different tricorn hats and mitre caps…

Having got the troops out for a game a few weeks ago, I thought I may as well photograph them properly, starting with the Hessian Grenadiers.  The word ‘Hessian’ is often used as a generic term for all German contingents with the ‘British’ Army in North America, but here I am specifically talking about the Army of Hesse-Cassel (the other contingents being Brunswick, Hesse-Hanau, Ansbach-Bayreuth, Anhalt-Zerbst and Waldeck).

There were four Hessian combined grenadier battalions in North America.  Three (initially titled ‘von Block’, ‘von Minnigerode’ and ‘von Linsing’) were formed from the detached grenadier companies of line infantry (musketeer & fusilier) regiments and the fourth (initially titled ‘von Köhler’) was formed from the grenadiers of three garrison infantry regiments and the ‘flank’ grenadier company of the Grenadier Regiment ‘Rall’.

As each battalion was formed from four grenadier companies, each from a different regiment, each battalion therefore included four different uniforms.  As they weren’t permanent regiments, grenadier battalions did not carry colours and were known by the name of their Commanding Officer in the field, rather than by the name of an honorary Colonel/Inhaber/Chef.

Carl von Donop

The first three grenadier battalions, along with the Hesse-Cassel Jäger-Corps, were initially brigaded under the command of Oberst Carl Emil Ulrich von Donop and served as part of Lieutenant General Leopold Philipp von Heister‘s Hessian Corps for the New York Campaign, which kicked off in August 1776.  However, after fighting for a few weeks with the Hessian Corps on Long Island, von Donop’s brigade was transferred to Cornwallis’ ‘Elite Corps’ for the assault on Manhattan Island, being grouped with other prestigious units such as the British Grenadiers, the Light Infantry and the Foot Guards Brigade.

Donop soon proved himself as a capable officer, though his superiors found him prickly to deal with and he was known to be brutal to both his own subordinates and to any rebels unfortunate enough to be captured by his troops.  Nevertheless, he distinguished himself at the Battle of Harlem Heights.

Having fought under Cornwallis’ command for the remainder of the New York Campaign, Donop’s brigade continued to serve under Cornwallis for the remainder of 1776 and the invasion of New Jersey.  During this time they were reinforced by the Grenadier Battalion ‘von Köhler’ and 42nd Highlanders.

In December, Donop was placed in overall command of several garrisons in New Jersey.  His own brigade was the southernmost garrison, at Bordentown, while to the north was the Hessian brigade of Oberst Johann Rall, garrisoning the town of Trenton.  A few days before Christmas, Donop led his force southward to repel a marauding force of rebel militia.  Having pushed back the enemy force, his officers recommended that they return to Bordentown, in order to remain within supporting distance of Rall’s brigade.  However, Donop despised Rall and according to Captain Johann Ewald of the Jäger Corps, Donop would far rather spend Christmas Day in the company of a beautiful young widow than spend it marching back to Bordentown!  This was to prove a fateful decision, as on Christmas Day, George Washington famously crossed the Delaware and surprised Rall’s command at Trenton, resulting in the death of Rall himself and the capture of two-thirds of his force.

Despite his now tarnished reputation, Donop continued to command the Hessian grenadier brigade throughout the Pennsylvania Campaign of 1777.  In October of that year, Donop was ordered to capture Fort Mercer, which dominated the Delaware River south of Philadelphia.  Seizing the opportunity to restore his reputation, Donop launched his assault on 22nd October.  The outcome of the Battle of Red Bank was a disaster for the Hessian grenadiers, who lost over a quarter of their number and failed to take Fort Mercer, despite repeated assaults.  Among the fallen was Carl von Donop.

Above:  When I was first building my Hessian force, neither Perry Miniatures or Wargames Foundry produced any specific Hessian mounted officers, so I used a Seven Years War Prussian officer by Front Rank to depict Carl von Donop.  He’s dressed in the straw-coloured facings and small-clothes, with gold buttons and lace of his own Musketeer Regiment ‘von Donop’.  The accompanying grenadiers belong to the Grenadier Company of the Musketeer Regiment ‘Prinz Carl’, which formed part of the Grenadier Battalion ‘von Block’.

Above:  The Grenadier Battalion ‘von Block’, commanded by Oberstleutnant Justus Heinrich von Block, was formed from the Grenadier Companies of the Musketeer Regiments ‘von Wutginau’, ‘von Donop’, ‘von Trumbach’ and ‘Prinz Carl’.  Command of the battalion changed in 1777 to Oberstleutnant Georg Emanuel von Lengerke and the battalion was thereafter known as ‘von Lengerke’.

Above:  The grenadiers of the ‘von Wutginau’ Regiment (here on the right of the photo or the left flank of the line) had red cuffs, but no lapels.  On each side of the breast were four pairs of white lace buttonholes and a pair above each cuff.  Smallclothes were pale straw.

Next along the line are the grenadiers of the ‘Prinz Carl’ Regiment, led here by an officer and a pair of drummers.  This regiment had red facings, including lapels and white smallclothes.  The lapels and cuffs were edged with yellow lace.

Next are the grenadiers of the ‘von Donop’ Regiment, who had straw facings and smallclothes.  They also had a pair of yellow lace buttonholes below each lapel and above each cuff.

Above:  On the right of the line is the grenadier company of the ‘von Trumbach’ Regiment (who became the ‘von Bose’ Regiment in 1778).  They had white facings and smallclothes.  They also had a pair of white lace buttonholes below each lapel and above each cuff.

All four contingents had yellow ‘metal’ and poppy-red tail-turnbacks.

Above:  A rear view of the ‘von Block’ Grenadiers, showing the colours of the mitre-caps.  The front-plate and band of the cap always matched the regimental ‘metal’ colour, which here was yellow for all four regiments.  The cap of the ‘von Wutginau’ Regiment (here on the left) had a red bag, piped yellow and a white pompom with a yellow centre.  The ‘Prinz Carl’ Regiment had the same colourings, though with a light blue pompom.  The ‘von Donop’ Regiment had a straw bag with yellow piping and pompom.  Lastly, the ‘von Trumbach’ Regiment had a white bag with red piping and pompom.

Above:  The Grenadier Battalion ‘von Minnigerode’ was initially commanded by Oberst Friedrich Ludwig von Minnigerode and consisted of the Grenadier Companies of the Fusilier Regiments ‘Erbprinz’, ‘von Ditfurth’, ‘von Lossberg’ and ‘von Knyphausen’.  In 1780 command of the battalion passed to Oberst Wilhelm von Löwenstein and was thereafter known as Grenadier Battalion ‘von Löwenstein’.

Above:  The ‘Erbprinz’ Regiment had crimson facings decorated with white buttonhole lace, white ‘metal’ and white smallclothes.  The officers’ uniform should be decorated with silver buttonhole lace, but Hessian officers, like their British comrades, tended to remove their coat-lace while on campaign in America.  It’s often said that this was done to avoid marking them out as officers to enemy marksmen, but the retention of their gorget and silver & red striped officers’ sash would tend to make that rather pointless!  Silver and gold lace buttonholes were expensive items, so they were probably removed merely to save them from being lost or tarnished on campaign.

Note also that the drummers’ lace should be striped red & white, but I took the easy option and just painted it plain white. I may revisit these and add the fine central red stripe.

Above:  The grenadiers of the ‘von Ditfurth’ Regiment had yellow facings, with white lace edging to the lapels and cuffs.  ‘Metal’ was white and smallclothes were white.

In the foreground stands a Pioneer, resplendent in the red-leather apron and straw-leather gauntlets that were two of his badges of office.  The most obvious badge of office was his axe, which is slung across his back while he primes his musketoon (short musket).  At the front of his waist he has an additional cartridge-box, decorated with the cypher ‘FL’ for ‘Friedrich Landgraf’, the ruler of Hesse-Cassel.

Above:  On the opposite flank of the line stand the grenadiers of the ‘von Lossberg’ Regiment.  This regiment had orange facings without lace decoration, yellow ‘metal’ and white smallclothes.  The NCO on the flank has gold lace edging to cuffs and lapels as a mark of his rank.

Speaking of smallclothes, it’s worth mentioning that these Perry figures are depicted wearing ‘American Trowsers’ that were made in America of canvas or ticking (a hard-wearing fabric used to make mattresses).  The ticking tended to come in red, blue or brown stripes.  ‘American Trowsers’ tended to be quite tight-fitting and included a gaiter-style ‘lap’ over the shoe and securing-strap under the instep.  They were a reasonably common and popular item of campaign dress among the British, German and American armies, being often worn in lieu of the traditional breeches and gaiters.  Somewhat confusingly, recent research has shown that a lot of Hessian units probably wore their regulation breeches and gaiters anyway, but the trousers do make them look suitably ‘American’.

Above:  For some reason I didn’t do a close-up of the ‘von Knyphausen’ Regiment’s grenadiers.  They had black facings without lace, yellow ‘metal’ and pale straw smallclothes.  They’re the second base from the left, including the gauntleted officer firing his musketoon.

Above:  A rear view of the ‘von Minnigerode’ Grenadiers, showing the colourings of grenadier caps and tail-turnbacks.  The caps of the ‘Erbprinz’, ‘von Ditfurth’ and ‘von Lossberg’ Regiments each had a bag in the regimental facing colour, with a facing-coloured pompom and white piping.  The caps of the ‘von Knyphausen’ Regiment had a pale straw bag and pompom, with red piping.

The turnbacks of the ‘Erbprinz’ and ‘von Lossberg’ Regiments matched the regimental facing colour (crimson and orange respectively), while the other two regiments had the standard poppy red turnbacks.

Above:  The Grenadier Battalion ‘von Linsing’ (also referred to as ‘Linsingen’) was commanded by Oberstleutnant Johann Wilhem von Linsing (or possibly ‘Linsingen’) and consisted of the Grenadier Companies of the 2nd & 3rd Battalions of the Guard and the Musketeer Regiments ‘Leib’ and ‘von Mirbach’.

Above:  Another view of the Grenadier Battalion ‘von Linsing’.  I do love these goose-stepping Hessians… 🙂

Above:  The grenadiers of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the Guard Regiment wore near-identical uniforms, namely red facings with broad white buttonhole lace, white ‘metal’ and lemon yellow smallclothes.  Most unusually, the red & white-striped ‘lion rampant’ of Hesse was enameled in full colour on the front-plate of their caps (for all other regiments the badges were merely embossed).  Both units had red bags to their caps, piped white with a white pompom.

However, it’s been 15 years since I painted these and I can’t now remember which is which!  The unit on the left (which I think is the Grenadier Company of the 2nd Battalion of the Guard) has much broader lace buttonholes and a light blue enameled disc below the lion badge.  The unit on the right (which I think is the Grenadier Company of the 3rd Battalion of the Guard) has slightly narrower lace buttonholes and a red enameled disc below the lion badge.

Above:  The grenadiers of the ‘Leib’ Regiment had lemon yellow facings, white buttonhole lace, white ‘metal’ and lemon yellow smallclothes.

Above:  The grenadiers of the ‘von Mirbach’ Regiment had poppy red facings with white lace edging, white ‘metal’ and white smallclothes.  In 1780 the ‘von Mirbach’ Regiment became the ‘von Jung-Lossberg’ Regiment.

Above:  A rear view of the Grenadier Battalion ‘von Linsing’.  All four constituent regiments had poppy red tail-turnbacks and white ‘metal’.  The ‘Leib’ Regiment had a yellow bag to its grenadier cap, which was piped white with a white pompom.  The other three regiments all had a poppy red bag with white piping.  The 2nd & 3rd Guards had a white pompom, while the ‘von Mirbach’ Regiment had a light blue pompom.

I still have the Grenadier Regiment ‘Rall’ waiting in the lead-dungeon to be painted.  Being a ‘proper’ regiment as opposed to a composite battalion, all members of this battalion wore the same uniform, namely a coat without lapels, but with red cuffs and turnbacks and yellow ‘metal’.  The coat lacked lace for the rank and file, though officers and NCOs had gold buttonhole lace when in full dress.  Smallclothes were straw.  The grenadier cap (whcih was worn by all companies in the regiment) had yellow metalwork with a blue bag, white piping and white pompom (some sources show a red band piped white instead of the usual metal band).  The regiment also carried rather striking colours in green and white, with white staves.

It’s doubtful that I’ll ever get around to painting the Grenadier Battalion ‘von Köhler’, but if you’re interested, it was initially commanded by Oberstleutnant Johann Christopher von Köhler’, but changed hands (and title) several times; in 1778 to Major Wilhelm von Graf and in 1782 to Major Frederick von Platte.  The battalion comprised the Grenadier companies of the Garrison Infantry Regiments ‘Wissembach’ (‘von Knoblauch’ from 1780), ‘von Stein’ (‘von Seitz’ from 1778) and ‘von Bunau’, plus the ‘flank’ Grenadier Company of Grenadier Regiment ‘Rall’.  The uniforms of the Garrison Regiments were very plain; all had coats without lapels or lace and they all wore blue smallclothes, poppy red tail turnbacks and white ‘metal’.  Facings were displayed at collar and cuffs, being white for ‘Wissembach’/’Knoblauch’, orange for ‘Stein’/’Seitz’ and crimson for ‘Bunau’.

If you’re waiting for my Battle of Bunker Hill AAR, I’m afraid that my mate Andy ‘pulled a sickie’ again last Saturday, so we’re going to try to squeeze it into our normal Thursday club-night.  In the meantime, I’ve been painting some much-needed British light company skirmishers, so the delay means that these will now be able to be fielded in the game.

This entry was posted in 28mm Figures, American War of Independence, British Grenadier! Rules (AWI), Eighteenth Century, Painted Units. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to ‘Nescit Pericula’: My AWI Hessian Army (Part 1: Grenadiers)

  1. Paul smith says:

    Hi Mark

    Another superb post! I’m constantly amazed at how you get your detailed information on specific units, uniforms etc. I’m beginning to think you must have an old blue police box around the house that you use to actually go back in time!

    Coincidentally I was just watching on YouTube a video review of the British Grenadier rules that you might find interesting:

    Looking forward to the report on Bunker Hill.

    Cheers Paul

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Thanks Paul!

      Ah, I dunno about that… I did the research some 16 years ago, painted the figures and then lost all my notes… And a lot more research has been done since then. AWI is most definitely NOT my historical comfort-zone!

      Brendan Morrissey will shortly be along to list the manifest things I’ve got wrong. 🙂



  2. Steve Johnson says:

    Lovely figures and some nice sculpts there to really animate the units and command stands. Nice history too:).

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Thanks Steve!

      Yes, I think the Perry Hessians are some of my favourite-ever figures. There’s just so much character in every face, especially the command sets, as you say.



  3. Nick Atkinson says:

    Another very good article
    Makes me want to go down the AWI

    Although my 6mm will not be painted as well as these 28s

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Cheers Nick!

      The great thing about the AWI is that the battles are small enough to do, in their entirety, in 28mm. In 6mm the entire armies would be short work! 🙂

  4. Pingback: ‘Nescit Pericula’: My AWI Hessian Army (Part 2: Musketeers & Fusiliers) | Jemima Fawr's Miniature Wargames Blog

  5. Pingback: ‘Nescit Pericula’: My AWI Hessian Army (Part 3: Jäger & Artillery) | Jemima Fawr's Miniature Wargames Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.