Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wilhelm zu Inn und Knyphausen

Lt. General von Knyphausen
I have been hunting down information about Lt. General Baron von Knyphausen, the commander of the Hessian forces in North America during the American Revolution. I happened to stumble across this picture of the general in what looks like the uniform of the Hessian Lieb Garde, although it could well be his own regimental uniform of the von Knyphausen fusilier regiment. Maybe senior offiers had more gold or silver lace on their lapels.  I found the picture in Christopher Duffy's book, The Best of Enemies, Germans Against Jacobites, 1746 published by The Emperor's Press (Chicago) in 2013.

So far, this is the only picture that I could find of the Baron in uniform. The other pictures depict him in what I call "studio armour", i.e. he is posing in a cuirasse and a white kollet instead of his regimental officer's coat, as shown below (thanks to Pete Lamb for finding this picture). It appears that Knyphausen is wearing the Prussian Pour-le-Merit medal and accompanying sash. He was a general in the Prussian army before serving in America, so I am assuming that he received a Prussian award for his service. On the other hand, it could be a Hessian Order or Medallion that he is wearing as the Landgraf Friedrich II of Hesse Kassel is wearing the same order in his portrait.

Wilhelm von Knyphausen, at at younger age than shown in the first picture at the top of the page.

Prussian Order of St. John
One of our readers suggested that Knyphausen might be wearing the Prussian Order of St. John medal, which is shown above. This looks very similar to the medal on his cuirasse studio armour. Another reader suggest that Landgraf Friedrich II is wearing the Order of the Garter, rather than the Black Eagle and I think that he might be correct.

A little more pictorial research provides this picture of the Landgraf Friedrich II of Hesse Kassel wearing his Lieb Garde uniform and the same award as Knyphausen has. Friedrich also wears the Prussian Order of the Black Eagle over  his heart.

Frederick II of Hesse Kassel
Thus the picture of the Landgraf provides us with the clue to the color of Knyphausen's sash (blue) as they both wear the same order.

Here is a brief biograph of Knyphausen, copied from Wikipedia:

His father was colonel in a German regiment under the Duke of Marlborough. Knyphausen was educated in Berlin, entered the Prussian military service in 1734, and in 1775 became a general officer in the army of Frederick the Great. In the army of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel), Knyphausen was a lieutenant general. In 1776, with 42 years of military experience, he came to the Thirteen Colonies of North America as second in command of an army of 12,000 so-called “Hessians” under General von Heister.

I tried searching on -line to see if I could determine which Orders Knyphausen had received, but I did not find his name in the limited lists of Pour-le-Merit or Order of the Black Eagle recipients that I found on-line. Perhaps someone has a book that would list this information for the 18th Century and could confirm or disprove the Orders for our general.

Oh, by the way, the information that I am collecting is going to Richard Ansell so that he can sculpt the von Knyphausen personality figure that is one of the rewards in the Fife & Drum Kickstarter project that closed in July 2013. We want to tie down some of the information on Knyphausen before the sculpting begins.


  1. Best of luck with the research. It seems to be going well.

  2. What a great idea for a sculpt. You know, you look at these fellows, and they seem to be more at home with a fork in hand than a saber.

  3. Frederick's sash is likely the garter

  4. Sorry to rain on your parade, but for once the swarm intelligence of Wiki got it wrong: Though educated in Berlin, K. entered Hessian service in 1734, thus breaking his East Frisian family's strong links with Brandenburg-Prussia (His father had at one time served in the Brandenburg Marines). Apparently this caused some resentment in Frederick II, so it seems unlikely that K would have been awarded a Prussian order?

    According to 'Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie', K was a Major of grenadiers at Bergen in 1759 (possibly commanding the grenadier detachment of Gilsa's vanguard ?), and a Lt.Col. in Regiment Gilsa in 1760 - the regiment he later took over as 'Inhaber'. He became a Hessian Lt. Gen. in 1775.

    Best wishes, M.

  5. My apologies, to be perfectly clear this should have read "resentment in Frederick the Great" since the Landgrave of Hesse was also called Frederick II.

    The order worn by both men in their portraits is most likely the Hessian 'Militär-Verdienstorden' created in 1769.

  6. Late to the party, but I believe Knyphausen received the Hessian "Pour le vertue militaire," a medal which was modeled both in spirit and physically after the Pour le Merite; the designs are nearly identical.

    Other info on the man: after de Heister was recalled from America (following the defeat at Trenton), Knyphausen was made commander of Hessian forces (though several units, particularly detachments of Jäger, were frequently subordinated to British command). Much of his correspondence survived the war and is available in translation in the Lidgerwood Collection in Morristown, NJ.