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Friedrich Ludwig Kempfer


Friedrich Ludwig Kempfer was born May 5, 1739 in Neuhanau, Hesse, Germany. His parents were Johann Henrich Kempfer and Johanna Peternella Holtzheimer. Friedrich's father Johann was a sergeant in the Waldenheimische Regiment of the German army and was stationed in Neuhanau at the time of his birth. Like his father before him Friedrich joined the German army sometime before 1776. In this period the American colonies were just starting their war of Independence against the British. Since the British resources were stretched very thin they had to turn to their friends in Germany for help. The German Princes' had large armies that were expensive to support when not fighting a war so they agreed to supply troops to the British, for a price and that was how Friedrich Ludwig Kempfer became a Hessian Mercenary. The Hessians were not mercenaries in the traditional sense. They collected their regular pay from their various regiments while their Leaders back in Germany received compensation from the British for their services.
The Muster Rolls, collected in the German-American Genealogical Research Series place Frederick in Nymegen, Holland on March 22nd, 1776. The Hesse-Hanau Infantry Regiment Erbprinz was being reviewed by a Colonel Rainsford just before setting sail for Canada. Frederic Louis Kempfer, name now anglicized, was an Ensign with his own servant and along with his superior officers he signed the muster roll to certify the review. His regiment is listed as "Regiment of Infantry of His Serene Highness the Hereditary Prince of Hesse, Company of Lieutenant Colonel Lentz." His superior officers were Colonel Wilhelm von Gall, Lt. Col. Jean Lentz, Captain Frederigue von Geismar and Lieutenant Charles von Lindau.
Frederick was one of the 668 men from the Hesse-Hanau that were under the command of Major General Friedrich von Riedesel. Riedesel left Brunswick on February 22nd, 1776, heading for Stade where, sometime between March 12th and 17th he embarked with 2282 men from the first Brunswick division. The Hesse-Hanau troops, taking a different route, left Cassel at the beginning of March, were reviewed on the 22nd in Nymegen, Holland, embarked from Bremerlehe and later joined the Brunswick troops, most likely at Portsmouth. Riedesel and the Brunswick troops reached Portsmouth, England on March 28th.
The first Brunswick division and a fleet of thirty ships set sail for Canada on April 4th, 1776. After a difficult and crowded journey, North America finally came into view on the cold rainy morning of May 16th, 1776. A few days later on May 20th the fleet reached the mouth of the St. Lawrence River and finally dropped anchor at Quebec city on June 1st, 1776 at 6:00 in the evening. This division of German auxiliaries consisted of:
Commander-in-chief of the German troops: Major General Baron Friedrich von Riedesel
Headquarters .................................................................................................. 22 men
Grenadier Battalion von Breyman, (Lt, Col. H. C. von Breyman) .................... 564 men
Dragoon Regiment Prinz Ludwig, (Col F. Baum) ............................................ 336 men
Regiment Prinz Friedrich, (Lt. Col. C. J. Praetorius) ...................................... 680 men
Musketeer Regiment von Riedesel, (Lt. Col. E. L. W. von Speth) .................... 680 men
Total Brunswickers ......................................................................................... 2,282 men
   
The Hesse-Hanau Regiment, (Col. W. R. von Gall) ......................................... 668 men
   
Hanoverian volunteers wearing English uniforms (Lt. Col. Scheiter) ............. 250 men
   
Wives of German soldiers ............................................................................... 77 women
General Carleton, the governor of Quebec, welcomed Riedesel and his reinforcement troops. Carlton had just successfully driven the American revolutionaries from Trois-Rivières. The English plan was to liberate Montreal, driving the Americans back beyond the Canadian border. The British fleet and a land army commanded by Generals Carleton, Burgoyne and Philips were to make their way to Trois-Rivières, Sorel and Montreal. Col. Von Gall's infantry regiment, under the command of Riedesel was ordered to proceed to the Sorel region and set up camp near the Americans. Riedesel was in command of the left flank, comprising all of the regiments from Brunswick plus the one from Hesse-Hanau.
The fleet left for Montreal and anchored off Sorel on the evening of June 14th. The Americans had just withdrawn from Sorel to Fort St. Jean, so some of the troops went ashore to claim the town. The next day the English took possession of Montreal while the German troops, who had just landed on the shore of the St. Lawrence, began a long and difficult march to La Prairie. They spend their first night on Canadian soil at Verchères before continuing on their journey. An exhausted Riedesel wrote to Ferdinand of Brunswick from La Prairie on June 22nd, 1776: "We have left the ships without taking any of our luggage, as the teams required for transporting it were needed for other purposes. We have marched about fourteen miles in three days; during the whole of which journey myself and the other officers were obliged to go on foot. This is the seventh day that I have worn the same shirt and stockings. At first it was disagreeable, but we stood it. All the officers manifest the very best spirit, and our troops are the strongest and have the fewest sick."
Frederic Kempfer's regiment was stationed at La Prairie until the middle of October, when Carlton ordered his men to repair to their winter quarters. Through out the summer of 1776 the German troops spent their time training and working on discipline as well as transporting provisions, building barracks and blockhouses, and strengthening the defenses. Riedesel taught his men how to win the Canadians' confidence by paying cash and avoiding all forms of credit "in order," he said, "that the people of this province might be kept in good humour." The regiment of Hesse-Hanau was moved to the parishes of Berthier and Masquinonge for the winter of 1776-1777. There were also detachments sent out to occupy St. Francois and Sorel. The soldiers were at first billeted in public buildings but the lack of space forced the authorities to place them in the homes of the people. All of the people except those that served in the army during the campaign. At first soldiers were billeted two or three to a house, but before long, four, six and even more were being assigned to the same lodging. The English authorities were perfectly aware that this situation was potentially explosive, but they wished to show the people that did not support the English King what to expect. The German mercenaries were used to carry out this task of repression. As can be expected, a host of problems quickly arose and by 1777, Carlton was forced to set up a board of inquiry to look into complaints from the Canadian citizens. The daily life of the Germans during the winter of 1776-1777 can be summed up as follows: the soldiers received their provisions and paid the inhabitants for other services. Wood for heating was chopped in nearby woods by soldiers who, according to the archives, were under constant supervision. Weather permitting, Riedesel often had his men practice shooting. The German soldiers seem to have been fairly content in their first winter quarters on Canadian soil. This was especially true for the officers, most of who spoke fairly good French. This was aided by the fact that the winter of 1776-1777 was a very mild one and was so unusual in the Canadian experience that from then on it was known as the "winter of the Germans"
The Hesse-Hanau Regiment of Grenadiers, over the next few years took part in the fighting at Ticonderoga, Freeman’s Farm, Bemis Heights and Saratoga. Plans for a new campaign were made in early March 1777. A three-pronged attack was planed: General John Burgoyne and his men would proceed to Ticonderoga, while Lt. Col. Barry St. Leger would create a diversion by Lake Ontario before advancing towards the Mohawk River to capture the forts established there. Finally, General Howe would approach from the south, joining them to encircle the Americans and capture them within the claw of the combined army. Burgoyne's army consisted of 3,724 English soldiers, 3,016 Germans plus 250 Loyalists and about 400 Indians. General Philips was in charge of the right flank and Riedesel of the left. This campaign was to end in disaster at Saratoga. Nearly 9000 men were killed, wounded or taken prisoner by the Americans. Frederic Louis Kempfer's name does not appear on the lists of men taken prisoner so his fate during the campaign is not known for sure. One possibility is that he remained behind in Canada. There were 667 German soldiers from Brunswick and Hanau left behind, under the command of Lt. Col. von Ehrenkrook. He had assigned to him 1 captain, 9 other officers, 2 drummers and 96 privates from the Hanau, who along with 504 Brunswick troops, maintained order, communications, etc. in Canada. Another possibility is that Frederick was part of the detachment under the command of Capt. Schoell that returned to Canada after the defeat at Saratoga. The German soldiers did not take up their winter quarters in Canada that year until November 1777. The Hesse-Hanau troops were assigned to the region surrounding Berthier.
Carleton was very nervous after Burgoyne's defeat and so he increased the German patrols south of the St. Lawrence and ordered the troops to be prepared for anything. In early 1778 France entered the war as allies of the American rebels. This sparked fears in Canada of a new invasion. As early as January there was talk of troops being mobilized in Albany NY. Governor Carlton, uneasy at the prospect of attack, spread his troops out along the south shore of the St. Lawrence from Sorel to St. Jean and toward the end of the month he placed the militia on full alert. In March the rumors of an impending attack were strengthened by reports from prisoners returning to Canada, followed shortly after by the welcome news that the invasion had been postponed. On June 30th, General Frederick Haldimand took over as the new Governor of Canada and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In July 1778 Ensign Frederic Louis Kempfer was stationed in Trois-Rivières with 66 privates under the command of Lieutenant Seiffert.
Throughout the fall months, no major event occurred to disturb the Canadians' peace of mind. In September, the ranks of Haldimand's forces swelled somewhat by the returning survivors of Burgoyne's campaign. The Brunswick troops had suffered severe losses in this defeat and were reorganized into three new regiments. Lt. Col. Von Ehrenkrook, who was promoted to Brigadier General, commanded these three regiments. Lt. Col. C. J. Praetorius led the Regiment Prinz Friedrich; Major von Barner led his own regiment, as did Ehrenkrook. In mid January 1779, winter quarters were finally assigned. Regiment von Ehrenkrook was assigned to Trois-Rivières.
Under Haldimand, the same problems arose regarding lodging, provisions, borrowed vehicles and unpaid bills. On January 7 & 9, 1779, he wrote to Ehrenkrook and his men and to the captains of the militia defining once and for all the duties and obligations of both soldiers and civilians. From then on, offenders could be quickly identified and the proper punishment administered. The winter of 1778-1779 was typically Canadian, long and difficult. The German soldiers were still not used to the cold nor were they properly dressed for it. Right from the start of the war the German army's clothing was poorly planned. No overcoats were provided for a Canadian campaign and no winter footwear! In July 1779 Lt. Col. von Speth returned to Canada as part of an exchange of prisoners with the Americans. Speth relieved Ehrenkrook of his temporary command and took control of the German forces. He reviewed his troops at the end of August and sent back to Germany all those soldiers that were too old for combat duty. In October 174 new recruits arrived from Anhalt-Zerbst and a little later quarters were assigned for the winter of 1779-1780. Headquarters and the Regiment von Ehrenkrook would be at Berthier, the Regiment von Barner in Montreal, and the Regiment Prinz Friedrich would remain at Fort St. Jean and Ile-aux-Noix.
In the following year, 1780, the German troops in Canada were occupied much the same as before: they worked at rebuilding the fortifications, while also serving as policemen and counterespionage agents. The German regiments were composed of men from all walks of life, such as carpenters, masons, blacksmiths, carters, engineers etc. all skills that were put to use on the building projects. Their work as policemen and counterespionage agents led to the arrest of many American sympathizers. In August news reached Canada that Duke Karl of Brunswick was dead and his son, Karl William Ferdinand, had succeeded him. The Americans in a prisoner exchange released Major General von Riedesel in 1780. They had held him since his capture in October 1777. In September 1781, Major General von Riedesel announced his forthcoming return to Canada from his command on Long Island. The return of Riedesel, his men released by the Americans and additional recruits from Europe necessitated a second restructuring of the army.
The winter of 1781-1782 was another very difficult one, with lots of snow and bitter winds. On February 19th, 1782 Frederic Louis Kempfer received a transfer to Co. 4 of the Erb Prinz Regiment under the command of Germann. At the same time he was promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant. Haldimand was asked to strengthen the Canadian defenses throughout the summer months of 1782. Riedesel and his men worked on the fortifications at Ile-aux-Noix, which was crucial to the defense of Lake Champlain. Haldimand was concerned about the fate of the Vermont Loyalists and wanted to offer them the protection of the British Crown. Therefore he sent a large detachment of soldiers to the Vermont border in early 1782. By the end of the summer of 1782, an invading army was secretly built up at Ile-aux-Noix. But it never received marching orders do to the defeat of Cornwall at Yorktown.
On December 29th, 1782, Riedesel finally ordered his men to wear appropriate footwear: "The frequent snows in this province render it necessary that those who go on expeditions, perform advance duty, etc., should wear snow shoes. This cannot be done unless each man is supplied with moccasins; the wearing of which in winter, in place of shoes, on or off duty shall be allowed." The British and American authorities signed a provisional peace treaty on November 30th, 1782 but it was not until the end of March 1783, that the war officially came to an end. By mid-June Riedesel received orders to make the necessary preparations for his and the Brunswick troop's return to Germany. On the evening of August 2nd, 1783, the Riedesel family and part of the German army boarded the ships, which would take them back. The fleet consisted of sixteen ships in the first division and eight in the second. The first battalion of the Hesse-Hanau Regiment, led by Col. Lentz was part of this group. In August 1783, Frederic Louis Kempfer was granted a discharge from the German army with permission to remain in Canada.
At the end of the war there were about 6000 refugees and discharged soldiers in Canada. General Haldimand sent scouting parties to the Kingston and Gaspè Peninsula areas to look for sites for resettlement. In February 1784 Haldmand place an advertisement in the Quebec Gazette. Those who wished to go to Gaspè to settle were asked to place their names with the military secretary to the Governor at Quebec and to hold themselves in readiness to be transported to Baie Des Chaleurs in the early summer. All applications to be in by the 9th of May. Almost 400 people ended up going down river to the Baye de Chaleur in four ships of the King’s Navy and four whaleboats.
Frederic Louis Kempfer married Elisabeth Caldwell daughter of Robert Caldwell and Sarah Todd. They settled in New Carlisle, Quebec in about 1786. How and when he arrived at New Carlisle is not known, as his name does not appear on the lists of settlers on that first small fleet. He is however listed on the January 1786 Cox Muster for Crown Grants in New Carlisle, so he arrived sometime before that date.
On July 25th, 1795 Frederic's name was recorded on a list of associates of Richard Nevison Esq. of Chaleur Bay, Township of Auckland, town of New Carlisle. The list was for petitioners for land grants in the Township of Auckland. A second list dated April 10th, 1796 certifies Frederic and twenty-five other "Loyal Subjects" of the King as "deserving of the King's bounty in the present distribution of the waste lands of the Crown."
On August 30th, 1796 Henry Kempffer was approved for lot #56 in the second concession of the Township of Cox. Henry was Frederic and Elisabeth’s son and he is recorded as the recipient of the lot because Frederick had died, it appears, between April 10th and August 30th, 1796.