Friday, December 19, 2014

Me No Go; Me Can Die First

In 1776, the American revolutionary colonists built several forts to defend the western banks of the Hudson river, one of which was located at Paulus Hook. After suffering defeats in New York City, the rebels abandoned Paulus Hook and the British occupied it. The fort was a naturally defensible position that guarded the gateway to New Jersey.

In mid-summer 1779, a flamboyant 23-year-old Princeton University graduate, Major Henry Lee, recommended to General George Washington a daring plan to attack the fort, in what became known as the Battle of Paulus Hook. The assault was planned to begin shortly after midnight on August 19, 1779. Lee led a force of about 300 men, some of whom got lost during the march, through the swampy, marshy land. The attack was late in getting started but the main contingent of the force was able to reach the fort's gate without being challenged.

Frederick II
(from Wikipedia)
They surprised the British, taking 158 prisoners, and withdrew with the approach of daylight. Despite retaining the fort and its cannons, the British lost much of their control over New Jersey. Lee was rewarded by the Second Continental Congress with a gold medal, the only non-general to receive such an award during the war.

Among the prisoners were a number of German soldiers, known as Hessians. Like other German princes were doing, Frederick II of Hesse-Kassel (a small independent country in northern Hesse) had leased 22,000 Hessian troops to his nephew George III of Great Britain to fight against the rebels in the American revolution - for about £3,191,000. They came not as individuals but in entire units with their usual uniforms, flags, weapons and officers.

General Washington needed to find some place to board a growing number of these prisoners, so he paid a visit to John Jacob Faesch of Mount Hope, New Jersey. Faesch, originally from Holland, came to the colonies around 1766 and in 1772 had built the Mt. Hope furnace. He took sides with the colonists on the breaking out of the Revolutionary war, and large quantities of cannon balls for the American army were cast at his furnace.
Erbprinz Regimental colors

While Faesch had the honor of entertaining him at his house, General Washington arranged for Faesch to take 250 Hessian prisoners to board in exchange for their work in chopping wood in Faesch's coaling job. (Making charcoal for the furnace, in other words.) Faesch erected five log houses for them, and for the four years from summer 1779 to the close of the war in April 1783, they lived and worked for him, assisting in the American war effort.

At the close of the war the British had a certain number of days to gather up these hired soldiers, and they were required to pay for every one they did not return to the old country. Among the 250 men was Leopold Zindle, who had been captured in Lee's attack on Paulus Hook.

Leopold was almost certainly a private with the Erbprinz Regiment, born in Essingen. According to writings from other Hessian soldiers, back in Europe they were told they were needed to defend the American Colonies against Indian incursions. Only after they arrived, did they discover they had been hired to fight against the American colonists, rather than the Indians. Some may have taken that deception more seriously than others; some might have gone so far as to adopt the now-independent colonists' side as their own, rather than return to serve the whims of a monarch who would sell their services under such pretexts. Around 5,000 of the 30,000 soldiers sent to fight the colonists elected to stay in the newly independent country after the war.

William F. Wiggins, who knew Leopold very well, and was at his funeral, related this incident1:

When the British officer visited Mt. Hope for the purpose of getting these men he commanded Zindle to go with him. Zindle replied, "Me no go; me can die first." This so aroused the officer that he drew his sword and struck Zindle in the breast, breaking the weapon in three pieces -- one remaining in Zindle's body, one in the officers hand and one falling to the ground.  Zindle still persisted in saying "Me no go, me die first." This occurred in the presence of a large crowd, and seeing the resistance which Zindle made, and the many friends he had, the officer was obliged to retreat to save his own life.

Just a few years later, Leopold married Anna Margareta Schaak in the Zion Lutheran Church of Oldwick at Mount Hope. Their son Charles eventually had a daughter named Mary Elizabeth who married a bloomer foreman (iron worker) named Samuel L. Tuttle. Mary and Samuel were the grandparents of John Jackson Tuttle, one of "My Sixteen," which makes Leopold my 6th great-grandfather.

Leopold died in 1820, an old man who was respected in his community. Presumably, he never returned to Germany.

1. Source: Halsey, Edmund D., History of Morris County, New Jersey,  W.W. Munsell & Co., New York, 1882.

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