Stefan Aumann: Militaria

Stefan Aumann (Hessian State Office for Studies in Regional History, DE)

Studied Medieval and Early Modern History, English Studies and Auxiliary Sciences of History in Göttingen and Dublin. Worked at the Max-Planck-Institute for History in Göttingen, at the Herder-Institute in Marburg and at the University Computer Center of the Philipps-University Marburg. Since 2010 research assistant at the Hessian State Office for Studies in Regional History, since 2014 scientific member of the Hessian Historical Commission.


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TitleThank you very much for the kind introduction. As you have just learned, the paper I am going to present was prepared by my colleague Holger Gräf, which means that whenever I say “I”, it is actually Holger who speaks – though I may have changed the wording now and then.

We will now undertake a considerable leap in time. I am going to talk about biographical data in archival records concerning the early modern military. Let me point out first that the regimental lists, musterrolls, payrolls, lists of casualities and so forth offer information about individuals that may also show up in church registers, but of whom usually very little is known. This holds particularly true with regard to the rank and file.

If these lists and other records where digitized and indexed they would of course be highly welcomed by genealogists. At the same time they would be extremely useful with regard to objects of investigation modern military history currently deals with.They will, for example, deliver vast empirical data on the level and scope of the degree of militarization at the time in question. Moreover, they will promote our knowledge about what was labelled “Military Europe” by Stephen Conway a few years ago, a term that stands for the pre- or multinational armies of the period preceding the French revolution. Last but not least they will help us to understand the military as one if not the crucial factor in early modern migration, as the Dutch researchers Jan and Leo Lucassen pointed out five years ago.The examples I am going to present to you are all taken from the holdings of this archive. Please bear in mind, however, that similar material has been produced by the military administration of other European countries as well.A problem to be noted is that some of the records mentioned are scattered across different holdings, sometimes mixed with other types of records, even correspondences. Anyhow, I would reckon that the approximately 25 linear metres of shelves in question host biographical data for several hundreds of thousands of individuals for the time between the 1670s and the middle of the 19th century – as I said only in this archive here in Marburg!

Unfortunately, however, and due to the lack of formalization in drawing up these lists they differ considerably with regard both to their physical appearance and to their contents. Practically all of them are written on paper, yet some are bound, some folded, some consist of single sheets. The dimensions of the records differ as well. The majority of them is folio-sized, roughly 20,5 by 33 cm. Others measure 10,5 by 33 cm, some small booklets measure only 13 by 17,5 cm.

As you will see the names of individuals are sometimes simply listed one after the other, sometimes they are registered in tables, sometimes they are part of a narrative.
Very few of these records have been digitised so far; let me just mention the HETRINA online database – the acronym stands for hessian troops in America – which offers data on roughly 30.000 Hessian soldiers fighting for the British in the American War of Independence.
Let me now show you four – as I hope quite representative – examples of the records in question.

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The first example you see is the roll of a company of the militia dating from the year 1674. Following the Ensign „Fendrich Boyneburgk“, a sergeant, a quartermaster and a drummer seven files are listed, led by an appointee or first class private. Next to their names, the places of origin of the soldiers are listed.
Sometimes there is further information on the exact location or affiliation of the places mentioned as is the case in the example: „Herman Kempff von Thun auf dem Eyßfeldt“, which is supposed to be Deuna, some 18 Km southeast of Duderstadt in the Eichsfeld.

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The second example is taken from the „Haubt Rolle“, the main roll of the colonel “von Gräffendorffs” company dating from the year 1692. On the left side of the roll you have the rank, name and sometimes information concerning promotions to a higher rank or transfer to another unit. The right side is divided into six columns that hold the place of origin, the age, the occupation, preceding foreign military services, the wife and the number of children are indicated.We learn for example that the sergeant major Merten Kirsten came from Großengottern in the principality of Sachsen-Weißenfels. He was then 26 years old and had already been employed in Swedish (for two years) and in Saxon (for three years) military services.
The company totaled up to 70 men from which 31 were foreigners, which means that they came from outside the landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel.

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One of them is the 28 years old Augustin du Tertre from Caen in Normandy, another one the 40 years old Hans Caspar Trauttwein from Langensalza in Saxony. He was a miller, but had already spent four years in the imperial army and another six years in the bavarian army.

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The third example is taken from a so-called monthly list, in this case of the Regiment of the hereditary prince of Hesse-Kassel. These monthly lists record all changes concerning the personnel. The front-side usually tabulates numerical synopses – that is the numbers of the men actually in service, of entries, transfers, delegations, promotions, desertions, casualities and the like.

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The reverse side then provides the „Explication“ of these numbers, in which the respective individuals and their places of origin are mentioned together with the
reason why they are listed. The example shows Christoph Vogt, in the company Rosenthal, from Grifte Amt Gudensberg who succumbed to his injuries on the 3rd of December 1758 in the sick bay in “Preußisch Münden”, nowadays simply referred to as Minden.Image 7: Rangierrolle Jägerkorps
My final example is taken from the „Maß- und Rangierrolle“ of the Hessian Chasseurs from the end of the American War of Independence. In this roll all members of the regiments are listed according to their rank and then within the different companies and corporalships after their size. The list provide the first and family names, the age, the size, place of origin and the date of their enlistment.I hope you have gained an idea of the look and feel of the records in question. I am quite curious to learn if they do not cause any problems as regards HTR – or if they rather contribute to some disillusionment on the part of the READ partners.Download this text as PDF

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