Military Records of Peter Hasselbacher, 1778-83

As far as I previously knew, there was only a single "official" reference to Peter Hasselbacher's service in the British military. Peter's name was said to appear in a list of soldiers who did not return to Germany at the end of the Revolutionary War. In fact, such a list is easily found on the internet on the website of Herr Seidel, a scholar of the Ansbach/ Bayreuth Regiment with a special interest in the non-returning soldiers. Herr Siedel's list had a notation that Peter came from the village of Münchsteinach, but the source of that information is not known to me. Here is the information from Herr Seidel's website that many of you already had.

From Complete list of soldiers from the Ansbach-Bayreuth regiments who deserted or stayed in North America after the war. (From J. Seidel)
ID 252 of 714
Surname Hasselbacher
Given Name Peter
Rank Gemeiner  (Private?)
Regiment A IV  (Ansbach Regiment 4th Company)
Status Abwescend seit  (Absent since)
Last mentioned Juni 1783
Born Münchsteinach

This was wonderful information, seeming to confirm his birthplace and the family legend that he was a conscripted German soldier. What the information did not tell us was when he came to America. After the first main force shipped in March 1777, there were several ergänzung, or reinforcements, any one of which might have included Peter.   Additionally, the date Peter was declared "Abwescend" is not easily interpretable, leading some to have speculated that he deserted from the Long Island, NY staging area. However, June 1783 is the date given to most or all of the Abwescend, suggesting that it was a date assigned more for the administrative "closing of the books," than an actual date the soldiers left the regiment.

Two things happened toward the end of this past summer that shed new light and pointed to new directions for inquiry.   The first was when Craig Hazelbaker and his colleagues in Europe were able to find Peter's name in a muster list of soldiers departing Europe for America in 1777.

Ansbach-Bayreuther Truppen
Muster rolls Nijmegen [Netherlands]
Source:  Public Record Office [England],  SP 81/187
2.) Captain v. Ellrodt       25th March 1777
Company 2, No. 108
Name: Hasselbacher, Peter
Rank: soldier

“That means, that on the muster rolls of Nijmegen, where the troops were put on ships for England, he was in Captain v. Ellrodt's company of the Ansbach regiment. It is listed here as second company of all 12 Ansbach-Bayreuth companies, but it was the 4th company in the battalion counting.”

Courtesy of Horst Lochner
by way of Andy Braeunling of Germany, and Craig Hazelbaker

I had somehow (incorrectly) understood that the departure lists were no longer in existence. With this spectacular find, we have "hard" primary documentation of Peter's conscription, and specifically, the date of his departure.

The second lucky occurrence was when I stumbled across a copy of the 1955 dissertation about the Ansbach/Bayreuth Regiment by Dr. Erhard Städtler. This was a principal source of information for Herr Seidel and other scholars. My German is still rudimentary, but it is already clear that Städtler was aware of the departure muster lists in the British Archives. He also shows an page from a muster list taken on return from America in 1783. Städtler divides the regimental soldiers into three non-overlapping lists: Heimkehrer (Returning Home); Gafallene und Gestorbene (Fallen or Deceased); and Deserteure, Überläufer und Neusiedler in Amerika (Deserter, Defector, New-settler in America). Peter's name appears in the latter list, but there is no mention of his birthplace!   Supplementary information was available from other sources for many soldiers, but not for our Peter. I do not know the source of the names in Städtler "non-returning" list. It may be that it was derived secondarily from the lists of departing soldiers, known casualties, and the muster on return. It is likely that answers to these questions are available in the dissertation if I could only read it!

I do not know how the village of Münchsteinach became associated with Peter's name in this literature. It may well have been contributed by genealogists in America who were making an assumption that (the very real) Peter of Münchsteinach is the same person as Peter the soldier. I believe such as assumption is reasonably safe, but it would be better to have direct and primary documentation. If anyone has such knowledge, how about sharing!

As a final thought, isn't it interesting how the body of even such old information can grow and crystallize further when you take the trouble to look. Lets do more of that!

[See also the military slides from my August 2009 presentation.]


Peter Hasselbacher, 5 Nov 2009