am not qualified to write an introduction for transport ships, but I feel a
small article should be on the site for those interested in how their Hessians
got to North America or home after the completion of the war.
friend states that basically Hessians and members of the Royal Navy did not mix,
that he does not recall a single event where Hessians manned Royal Navy warships,
and he is an expert. He does state "however, at the end of the war, a lot of warships
were used in lieu of using transport ships. The transport ships were hired
by the Navy Board and about the only involvement of the Royal Navy was to
provide escort vessels and to provide "Agents of Transports" who
"mothered" the transports.. The resupply ships were hired by
either the Victualling Board, the Ordnance Board, or the Treasury, depending
upon their cargoes."
provides a source for you to read:
Syrett wrote the only book on the subject, viz - Shipping and the American
War 1775-83: a study of the British transport organization (London: Athlone
Press, 1970), x, 274 p.
He goes on to say
in a different email:
1782 replacement recruits included detactments from all six of the German states
supplying troops (Hesse-Cassel, Hesse-Hanau, Brunswick, Anspach-Bayreuth,
Waldeck, and Anhalt-Zerbst). The detachment comprised 2018 officers and
men, 112 women, and 33 children. They embarked at Bremerlehe on 01 June
1781 and sailed on 09 June I do not have a copy of the embarkation
list but the citation is: "Liste von der Einschiffung der nach Amerika
bestimmten Troupen zu BremerLehe den 31ten May 1782," Bestand 13, A. 6.
(accession 1930/5), Nr. 198, 9. 108, Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg. Also
"Return of the German Recruits, destin'd for America, after their
Embarkation, Bremer Lehe, 1st June 1782" signed by Major General William
Fawcett, UK/TNA/PRO, SP 81/195. The fleet comprising two frigates and 14
transports arrived at Halifax on 13 or 14 Aug 1782. The Frigates were HMS Emerald,
32-guns, Captain William Knell, and HMS Cyclops,
28-guns, Captain Brabazon Christian. The transports were the Rebecca,
Ocean, Littledale, Chudleigh, Hesperus, Berwick, Diana, Elizabeth & Molly,
Montagu, Enterprise, Soverign, Neptune, Apollo, and
an email in the mailing list archives, from Robert Brooks dated 11 April
Bob Brooks, 2005
North American naval commander-in-chief can't be bothered with the task of
convoying transports. VAdm Richard Lord Howe flew his flag from HMS
*Eagle* (Capt. Henry Duncan, 64 guns, 520 men). HMS *Eagle* was
commissioned 7 Feb 1776. She sailed alone about 11 May (she tried to leave
10 May but had to anchor).
The 'gaggle' of ships which showed up off Sandy Point on the morning of 12
Aug 1776 comprised two basic groups:
(1) Capt. William Hotham was given a broad pennant as Commodore with the
specific task of escorting the British reinforcements for North America
from his flagship HMS *Preston* (Capt. Samuel Uppleby, 50 guns, 365 men,
commissioned 26 Jan 1774). His naval fleet included four Frigates (1 with
44 guns & 3 with 32 guns) plus a bomb vessel, a fireship and a
hospital ship [HMS *Jersey* which was to become the infamous prison hulk].
This convoy departed 6 May 1776 and included the first part of the First
Division or von Heister's Division of Hessians comprising the following
1. Liebregiment/Guard Regiment 688
2. Regiment Erbprinz/Hereditary Prince 698
3. Regiment Prinz Carl/Prince Charles 690
4. Regiment von Ditfurt 684
5. Regiment von Donop 696
6. Regiment von Loßberg 687
7. Regiment von Knyphausen [4 companies] 525
8. Regiment von Trümbach 677
1. Grenadier-Bataillon von Linsing 548
2. Grenadier-Battailon von Block 553
3. Grenadier-Battailon von Minnigerode 555
Jägerkompanie/Company of Chasseurs 138 Artillery 242
Depending on the size of the transports employed, the number of transports
required would be at least 27 but probably less than 54. In addition there
was at least one ordnance ship and nine victuallers. The 11/14 May 1776
issue of the "London Chronicle" reproduced an extract of
a letter from Plymouth dated 10 May: "Yesterday passed by this place
all the fleet, amounting to upwards of 120 sail, with the Hessian troops
and guards, and train of artillery on board, bound for America...."
(2) Captain Henry Davis, HMS *Repulse* (32 guns, 220 men) sailed 26 May
with the balance of the First or von Heister's Division of Hessians. Davis
reported arriving with 25 sail. I do not know the number of ships that
departed with the convoy but would estimate the Hessian transports
numbered between 6 and 11. The Hessians included:
Regiment von Knyphausen [1 company] 154
Regiment von Mirbach [estimated at] 690
Grenadier-Regiment Rall [estimated at] 690
AND THE REST OF THE STORY: In a twist of fate so implausible that a
novelist would reject it as being unbelieveable, but at sun-up on August
12th, HMS *Preston* and HMS *Repulse* awoke to find themselves within
sight of each other a few miles SEbS of Sandy Hook.
On 14 August VAdm Lord Howe reported to Admiralty:
"... Commodore Hotham, whose distinguished Abilities gave for every
favorable Expectation, arrived on the 12th with Eighty five Sail of his
Convoy; completing with those few before arrived, the whole of the Hessian
Embarkation that sailed from England under his Direction. He
was joined off of this Port, by Captain David [sic, Davis] (whose Capacity
and Diligence have been particularly exemplified on this Occasion) with
the Transports under his care, that were able to accompany him out of the
British Channel. The Reports delivered by
those Officers are herewith enclosed.
The Loss of the Hessian Troops by Sickness is most inconsiderable, Not
exceeding ten or twelve, as I have yet heard; tho' for the last fourteen
Days of their Passage, the Scurvy began to prevail; But amongst the Crews
of the Ships of War in a greater Degree." [NDAR 6:183 citing PRO ADM
On 13 August Capt. Henry Davis (HMS *Repulse*) reported directly to Philip
Stephens, First Secretary of the Admiralty: "Please to acquaint my
Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that His Majestys Ship *Repulse*
with Twenty five Sail of the Convoy under my Command, arrived
here yesterday; I have also great pleasure in acquainting their Lordships,
that the Troops are in perfect health, having not lost a man during the
Voyage; Inclosed you will receive a Return of the Convoy, that Saild from
St Hellens with me, the 26th of May last...."
citing PRO ADM 1/1706]
Serles wrote: "This Morning, as soon as it was light, we were
gladdened with the Sight of the grand Flight [sic, fleet] in the offing.
The Joy of the Navy & Army was almost like that of a Victory.... The
Fleet came up this Evening to the number of 107 sail. What is very
extraordinary, they have lost but 8 men whole Passage of 14 Weeks; and
just before they
came to the mouth of the Harbor they fell in with Capt. Davis of the
*Repulse*, who convoyed the Remainder of the Embarkation from Portsmouth,
though he sailed some Weeks after the Commodore [Hotham]. So large a Fleet
made a fine Appearance upon entering the Harbor, with
the Sails crouded, Colors flying, Guns saluting, and the Soldiers both in
the Ships and on the Shore continually shouting...."
At this point Serle estimates 350 British ships in NY Harbor.
When Boston was evacuated beginning 17 Mar 1776 the fleet for Halifax
comprised approximately 140 sail of naval (Admiralty), transport (Naval
Board), victualllers (Victualling Board), ordnance (Ordnance Board) and
merchant (privately owned) ships. On 10 June 1776 VAdm Molynrex
Shuldham in his flagship HMS *Chatam* (Captain John Raynor, 50 guns, 370
men, commisioned 7 Mar 1772) together with seven smaller warships and 120
sail of transports departed Halifax for New York. She arrived with 112
transports on 29 June to find 8 transports had arrived the night before.
HMS *Flora* (Captain John Brisbane, 32 guns, 220 men, commissioned 4 Dec
1775) escorted 33 vessels (30 transports, 2 supply ships & a hospital
ship) carrying about 3,200 Higlanders (42nd & 71st Regts) departed
about 27 April from the River Clyde (Greenock, Scotland) with orders for
Boston [already evacuated]. Off Fastnet/Cape Clear in the first week of
May, the convoy was caught in a gale with the result that it disintegrated
into several small batches of ships or single ships. Five of the ships
were captured by the Americans but the other 28 either attached to the
fleet coming from Halifax or arrived a few days later.
In addition to the approximately 120 transports arriving with VADM
Shuldham and the 28 with HMS *Flora* noted above, on 1 August 1776
Commodore Sir Peter Parker returned from his failed attempt to take
Charleston SC. He had some 40 to 50 transports with him. Then there
were about another 40 to 50 warships in port. Yes, 350 sail is a
Duncan, Henry. _Journals of Henry Duncan, Captain, Royal Navy,
1776-1782_, ed. by J. K. Laughton (London, 1902), pp. 105-219 (Navy
Records Society, _Publications_, vol. XX: _The Naval Misscellany_)
Clark, William Bell, ed., _Naval Documents of the American
Vol. 4 (American Theatre: 19 Feb to 8 May 1776; European Theatre: 1 Feb
to 25 May 1776), (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1969), passim.
Morgan, William James, ed., ibid., Vol. 5 (American Theatre: 9 May to 31
July 1776), (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1970), passim.
________, ibid., Vol. 6 (American Theatre: 1 Aug to 31 Oct 1776;
European Theatre: 26 May to 6 Oct 1776), (Washington: Government
Printing Office, 1972), passim.
Serle, Ambrose. _The American Journal of Ambrose Serle, Secretary to
Lord Howe, 1776-1778_, ed. by Edward H. Tatum Jr (San Marino CA: The
Huntington Library, 1940), 369 pp.
Bob Brooks, retired downeast on the coast of Maine
of the Troops on Board the Transports
of German Troops