Johann Julius Anthon Christoph Specht's story - from Germany to North America to fight against the colonists as a mercenary to his capture by General Washington's army to settling in Nova Scotia as a British subject.

Johann Julius Anthon Christoph Specht is one of my 5th Great Greandfathers. I trace back to him thru my father, Watson T. Fisher (1925- ), his father Watson T. Fisher (1887-1925), his father Walter H. Fisher (1853-aft 1887), his mother Elizabeth Ells (1811- aft 1853), her mother Leah Susanna Specht (1793-aft 1823) and her father was Johann Julius Anthon Christoph Specht (1748-aft 1830)

Confusion: First lets get it straight about who we are talking about here. There has been much confusion on other web sites and family trees between my ancestor, Johann Julius Anthon Christoph Specht, and Colonel Johann Friedrich Specht. My guy was an Ensign in the German military, commonly called Hessians (more on Hessian's soon), who apparently came to North America around the same time as Colonel Johann Friedrich Specht, fought in the same areas for the British, both were captured by the Americans and both were apparently from the same area in Germany. With the similar names they most likely were related but these are two different people. Ensign Julius Anthon Christoph Specht was not promoted to Colonel as some have claimed.

Colonel Johann Friedrich kept a journal that has been published in English. There is one reference in it to Ensign Specht.

Information about Johann Julius Anthon Christoph Specht mostly comes from a journal kept by a doctor in his regiment as well as some colonial records, and canadian documents.

Spelling variations: Many variations of his name exist. Anthon is sometimes Anton. Once he settled in Nova Scotia it can be found as Anthony. Chistopher is also spelt Christoph. Johann is sometimes Joseph. Various spellings of Specht are Speicht, Speight, Spaicht, Spaight, Spate, Spates, Spacht, Spachts, Spait..

Hessian - what's that?

Lets start with the definition From

During the American Revolutionary War, Landgrave Frederick II of Hesse-Kassel (a principality in northern Hesse) and other German leaders hired out thousands of conscripted subjects as auxiliaries to Great Britain to fight against the American revolutionaries. About 30,000 of these mercenaries were hired, and they came to be called Hessians, because 16,992 of the total 30,067 men came from Hesse-Kassel. Some were direct subjects of King George III; he ruled them as the Elector of Hanover. Other soldiers were sent by Count William of Hesse-Hanau; Duke Charles I of Brunswick-Lneburg; Prince Frederick of Waldeck; Karl Alexander; Charles Alexander of Ansbach; and Prince Frederick Augustus of Anhalt-Zerbst.

One of the most famous incidents involving these mercenaries was the Battle of Trenton, where about 900 Hessians were captured out of a force of 1,400. General George Washington's Continental Army crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night, 1776, to carry out a highly successful surprise attack.

The troops were not mercenaries in the modern sense of professionals who fought for money. As in most armies of the 18th century, the men were mainly conscripts, debtors, or the victims of impressment; some were also petty criminals. Pay was low; some soldiers apparently received nothing but their daily food. The officer corps usually consisted of career officers who had served in earlier European wars. The revenues realized from their service went back to the German royalty. Nevertheless, most Hessian units were respected for their discipline and excellent military skills.

Hessians composed approximately one-third of the British forces in the Revolution. They included jaegers, hussars, three artillery companies, and four battalions of grenadiers. Most of the infantry were chasseurs (sharpshooters), musketeers, and fusiliers. They were armed mainly with smoothbore muskets, while the Hessian artillery used 3-pound guns. Initially, the average regiment was made up of 500-600 men. Later in the war, the regiments had only 300-400 men.

About 18,000 Hessian troops arrived in Colonial America in 1776, with more coming in later. They first landed at Staten Island on August 15, 1776, and their first engagement was in the Battle of Long Island. The Hessians fought in almost every battle, although after 1777 they were mainly used as garrison troops. An assortment of Hessians fought in the battles and campaigns in the southern states during 1778-80 (including Guilford Courthouse), and two regiments fought at the Siege of Yorktown in 1781.

In addition to firepower, American rebels used propaganda against Hessians. They enticed Hessians to desert to join the large German-American population. In April 1778, one letter promised 50 acres (0.2 km) of land to every deserter. Benjamin Franklin wrote an article which claimed a Hessian commander wanted more of his soldiers dead so that he could be better compensated.

17,313 Hessians returned to their homelands after the war ended in 1783. Of the 12,526 who did not, about 7,700 had died, some 1,200 were killed in action and 6,354 died from illness or accidents. Approximately 5,000 Hessians settled in North America, both in the United States and Canada, some because their commanders refused to take them back to Germany because they were criminals or physically unfit. Most of them married and settled amongst the population of the newly-formed United States. Many of them became farmers or craftsmen. The number of their direct descendants living in the U.S. and Canada today is still debated.

In 1786, the British Government paid the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel a total of 471,000 in compensation for the loss of Hessian troops. (end info)

Now with regards to the Hessian's being mercenaries or not: there are some web sites that are very serious about denying that the Hessian's were mercenaries using the argument that they cannot be called such because the were "Volunteers". These sites are posted by Canadian's that apparently feel ashamed by the use of the word "mercenary".

I've email a few of them this definition from of a mercenary:

mercenary (mr's?-ne(r'e-) Pronunciation Key adj.

1. Motivated solely by a desire for monetary or material gain.

2. Hired for service in a foreign army.


1. a person hired to fight for another country than their own

I seems to me the only debate about calling the Hessian's mercenaries or not is that they were not hired and paid as individuals but as an entire army. They certainly were not allies of England or fighting for any cause except because there was payment between the English and German governments. I would also propose that this description of the Hessian's has been corrupted by the same web site authors that make the bogus claim that they were not mercenaries because they were voluteers. Whether they recieved payment beyond food as noted above is debatable. Other websites state they did recieve payment and certainly for my ancestor he recieved British land in Nova Scotia and I don't think that was because he was such a good looking guy alone! Anyway, the title is not that important but I felt the urge to rant on it a little to counter my revisionist Canadian brothers.

Its interesting to note that the Hessian's seem to pop up everywhere once you know their story. I was driving through the small town of Temple New Hampshire last week and pulled off to the side of the road to make a cell phone call. The historical marker below was at that location.

The beginning:

From what I have found so far Johann was born in Braunswchweig (called by most these days Brunswick -click for a link to a site with an excellent history of the region) between 1745 and 1748. It was mentioned in the Hatsfield Land Grant of 1801 that he was born about 1745. I have also found a date of 23 Mar 1748/49 on several family trees on and's OneWorldTree but none cite a source for this date. His father was Pastor Anthon Christoph Specht (1713-1789) and his mother was Sophie Breymann (1727-1754). His grandparents were Anthon Christoph Specht (1675-1721) and Anna Elizabeth Breymann (1687-1716) and his great-great grandparents were Christoph Specht (1646-1706) and Ilse Louise Steding (1650-aft 1675). I have not been able to find anything else about his life in Germany.

In 1775 he was in the Light Batl. "von Barner", Company Captain Ludwig Thomae (retired 1783),Prem.-Lieutenant Gottlieb von Gladen (1783 to the Land Militia Regiment),Second-Lieutenant Andreas Meyer (1783 to the Land Militia Regiment),Ensign Johann Julius Specht (stayed in Canada 1783),Surgeon Brandes.

The Journey


The first German troops to start for America were the Brunswickers. These marched from Brunswick on February 22d, 1776, two thousand two hundred and eighty-two strong, and were embarked at Stade, near the mouth of the Elbe. The second division of Brunswickers embarked at the end of May - about two thousand men. The first Hessians set out from Cassel early in March, and were shipped at Bremerlehe, near the mouth of the Weser. The second division was embarked in June. Together they numbered between twelve and thirteen thousand men. They were for the most part excellent troops and well equipped, for the Landgrave's little army was one of the best in Germany.

The march from Brunswick or Cassel to the port of embarkation was a comparatively simple matter. The troops passed from the territory of their own prince into the Hanoverian dominions of the King of England, and these reached to the sea. The Prince of Waldeck sent his regiment through Cassel without trouble. The Prince of Hesse-Hanau, the Margrave of Anspach-Bayreuth, and the Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst had a longer road and more difficulties before them.

General Riedesel set out from Brunswick on the 22d of February, 1776, for Stade, on the Elbe, at the head of two thousand two hundred and eighty-two men. The troops were embarked between the 12th and the 17th of March, and got to sea on the 22d of that month. There were seventy-seven soldiers' wives with this division. The remainder of the Brunswick contingent marched to Stade in the month of May. The divisions amounted together to the number of forty-three hundred men. The regiment of Hesse-Hanau, six hundred and sixty-eight strong, joined the expedition at Portsmouth. The Brunswickers were reviewed and mustered into the English service by Colonel Faucitt, who was not pleased with the appearance of the soldiers. Many were too old, many were half-grown boys. The uniforms of the first division were so bad that the English government was obliged to advance 5000 to Riedesel to get his men a new outfit in Portsmouth. He was cheated by the English contractors, and when the cases of shoes were opened at sea, they were found to contain ladies' slippers. For a Canadian campaign no overcoats had been provided. New uniforms for the first division were sent after them in the course of the summer (As late as January, 1779, fourteen Brunswick soldiers and two soldiers' wives froze to death on a march in Canada, and about thirty were frost-bitten; and their officer excused himself on the ground that they were insufficiently clad - Eelking's "Hulfstruppen," vol. 1 p. 187.)

The general was well pleased with the spirit of his troops. "I cannot sufficiently describe the contentment of our soldiers," writes he from shipboard, to his old chief, Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick; "all are bright and in good spirits." (Eelking's "Riedesel," vol. 1 p. 18.) Soon, however, sea-sickness came to add to the discomfort of the crowded ships. "The soldiers have almost all been sick, and most of them continue so, as do also my servants," writes Riedesel to his wife from off Dover. " The poor cook is so bad that he can't work at all, nor so much as lift his hand. This is very uncomfortable for us, for Captain Foy and I have to do our own cooking. You would laugh to see us." Before the end of the voyage the drinking-water was foul (Baroness Riedesel, pp. 13, 22.)

The rest of the story continues into 1778 and beyond but Johann's company must have sailed out right away as I have him arriving in Canada from several sources in 1776.

He crossed the Atlantic on the vessel "Ost-Rust". On board were :

Captain von Geusau, Lieutenants Johann Caspar Hannemann, Philipp Sigismund Cruse, Georg Friedrich Gebhard Fricke, Ensign Johann Julius Anton Specht, Captain Leoplod Franz Friedrich Balthasar von Plessen, Ensign Johann Edmund Fromme and 108 men of the company of Captain Geusau.

he is listed as arriving in Quebec Canada in 1776 per WILHELMY, JEAN-PIERRE. German Mercenaries in Canada. Beloeil, Quebec: Maison des Mots, 1985. 332p. Page: 263

In August of 1777 the Hessian's were under command of British General Burgoyne and were advancing into what is now the Vermont/New York region. Burgoyne decided to split his forces (some call this a blunder) and send several thousand Hessian's to Bennington as reports were the American's had a large amount of stores there that his army could use. Short version is they got their butts kicked and this is where Johann was wounded and captured.

From "An Eyewitness Account of the American Revolution and New England Life", The Journal of J.F.Wasmus, German Company Surgeon, 1776-1783, translated by Helga Doblin.

p.73 (1777) Aug 16th near Bennington "From the Breymann Corps Ensign Specht..wounded and taken prisoner."

p.75 Aug 19th had to sign the parole that we would not desert etc .. Captain name of Johnson..under command of Gen Felloes who will accompany us to Boston. Lieut Breva remains in Bennington;and Ensign Specht, all 6 of whom had been wounded, went along.

p.77 Aug 22nd. ..marching to Gt Barrington. and Ensign Specht.. went along with the Reg. Surgeon Vorbrodt.

27th To Springfield

31st To Boston (note from JR Fisher- I read elsewhere that he may have been held in New Hampshire. I sail past the remains of an old colonial time period fort in the summers in New Castle NH. Would love to know if he was kept there.


p.188-119 September 27 were in Rutland (from JR Fisher -I am told by friends that there is a historic market in Rutland Mass noting the location of a revolutionary war prison-need to find out about that) at 1pm. We met all our officers here since no privates would be exchanged, 6 offocers, i.e. and Ensign Specht, stayed behind. They were to take their quarters in Westminster


Feb 5th Lieut Gebhard and Ensign Specht departed to Rutland from here i.e. Westminster. From the ext these "prisoners" quartered themselves with the inhabitants

1780 Rutland Dec 13

Captain von Bartling, who departed for New York on Sept 11, has not yet returned. Until his return Ensign Specht shall stay with the rest of the prisoners. NB: The officers were waiting to be xchanged.

1780- Johann Specht in New York, New York as POW. From different Source noted as follows. SMITH, CLIFFORD NEAL. Muster Rolls and Prisoner-of-War Lists in American Archival Collections Pertaining to the German Mercenary Troops Who Served with the British Forces during the American Revolution. (German-American Genealogical Research Monograph, 3, in three pts.) DeKalb, IL: Westland Publications, 1974-1976. 177p. (Pt. 1, pp. 1-64; pt. 2, pp. 65-119; pt. 3, pp. 120-177.)

1781 Rutland Jan 13th

Together with Capt. Von Bartling, Lieut. Gebhard has also returned, who, on orders of our Maj, Gen. Von Riedesel, is to stay behind here with the prisoners of war together with Ensign Specht. Note:Ensign Johann Julius Anton Specht of the Braunschweig Chasseur an Jager Regiment; is recorded as having been taken prisoner at Bennington and later discharged from service in America/ Elster p. 423,440

1782 Sept 15th

We received news that Lt Gebhard and Ensign Specht are still in Rutland. 1783 June 3rd

Ensign Specht [is] still in Rutland

So ends the notes about Ensign Specht in the good Doctors Journal. Of confusion is the record I found noted above putting Johann in New York City in 1780 while the Dr. Wasmus' journal has him in Rutland before and after that date. Other info has him mustering out of the Brunswick Corps in New York City in 1783 so perhaps the reports Wasmus recieved were incorrect or perhaps these are more confusion between Johann Anthon and Johann Friedrick?

Next I found this: Regisnation from Duke of Brunswick's troops in America,14 July 1783, to become British subject and settle in Nova Scotia. Source: British Headquarters Papers (Carleton-Dorchester Papers) v.50 n.47. Photo copy (N.8436) NYPL Manuscripts Div. Located in same volume p. 267. One can assume the American's finally released him. From other accounts of prisioners at that time many were just kept in homes with loyalists with their word of honor they would not flee so I don't suspect he suffered to much. Many of the British prisioners in New York/New Jersey did not have it so good and were crammed onto prision ships where many died of disease. It is an interesting fact to note that disease was still rampant in those times. For every Hessian killed in battle 5 died of disease. And from the Hatfield Land grant of 1801- S#303: Ensign Julius Specht was discharged in New York, at which location he was after having been released as a prisoner of war. His whereabout isnot known at this time. (Debor)

Also, the following from the Hatfield Land Grant of 1801 -S#1p238: Specht, Johann Julius Anton. Ensign. Regt. Barner. Brunsw. troops. Remained by permission in America (Riedesel, p273) Anthone Specht, ensign, Brnsw, troops, wishes to avail himself of the Duke's permisssion to remain in this country and become a British subject in Nova Scotia (Carleton Papers, vol.24, #126;vol. 32, #87; vol. 50, #47)

A Free Man

Going to make some more assumptions here: His first child, Thomas William Specht, was reportedly "born at sea" in 1783/1784. The rest of his children were born after and in Nova Scotia. His wife's name was Elizabeth born about 1762 in Massachusettes. No record of her maiden name has been found yet. One can assume he married her 1783 or 1784 after he mustered out and before he set sail to Nova Scotia.

July 1784: Anthony Specht

p 61: Anthony Specht west of Marr's Brook, Barton - this info also from the Hatfield Land Grant of 1801
Below is a satellite view of St Mary's Bay. Of ironic note is the town of Weymouth on the map. We lived in Weymouth Mass for many years as did some of my other ancestors.

The following book also makes more detailed reference to teh families homestead. p.61 1783 Gilberts Point Settlement
Anthony Specht est of Marr;s Brook, Barton
"Along the Shores of Saint Mary's Bay" by J. Alphonse Deveau, 1977 Volume 1 page 9:
(Mr. Deveau is talking about the origins of town & area names) BARTON. It is situated near the head of Saint Mary's Bay. It's Indian name was "Wagweik" or "Wagwitk" meaning "running out to an end". It was sometimes called Saint Mary's Bay. The first Way Post Office was called Specht's Cove. Christopher Specht had a grant, lot no. 42A, at the cove which bears his name. He also left his name to Specht's Brook, which empties into this cove. Barton is named in remembrance of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Barton.

Below is the location of Specht's Cove and brook. They are located south of Barton and north of Plympton on the map above. The Energy, Mines and Resources, Canada, topographical map 21 A/12, Digby, NS, scale 1:50,000, shows a "Specht's Cove" in the St. Mary's Bay near the village of Barton, appr. 8 miles east of Digby.

1786 - Elizabeth Charlotte Specht was born this year in St. Mary's Bay, N.S.

1788 - Mary Specht born 1788 in St. Mary's Bay, N.S.

1790 - Hannah Frederica Specht born 19 Jul 1790 in St. Mary's Bay, N.S.

1796 - Anthony Christopher Spech was born 20 Jun 1796 in St. Mary's Bay, N.S.

1801 - The Hatfield Land Grant was issued on January 29,1801 in order to settle land claims in what was then known as Annapolis County. The land in question had previously been granted under the Botsford Grant in 1784 but the grantees didn't fulfill the conditions of the grant and the property was forfeited to the Crown. The lands in question had been settled by other people who had made improvements and wanted to have legal title to their property. Many of those included as grantees were given their property as a reward for military services during the American Revolution or as compensation because their property in the US had been confiscated because they had remained loyal to England. The Hatfield Grant consisted of 91632 acres and was issued to 275 individuals and one Church. It is also known as the Grant of Confirmation. The area was designated by the name of the Township of Digby and was still part of the County of Annapolis.

Speight, Antho. Town of Digby, Block F,
No. 24, Botsford Grant (2:98).

After 1833 - I have been unable to find a death record for Johann but there are records of him signing deeds as late as 1833, thus his date of death is something after that. Have not found any records of Elizabeth's death either.

Final Thoughts:

There were other stories and info I found in my research that I disregarded as not being accurate or factual. I may be right or I may be wrong in those conclusions thus I want to list here what I discounted in case someone has evidence to the contrary.

"He fought at the battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775, (Actually fought on Breeds Hill , Charlestown MA), and at Fort Ticonderoga, N.Y., 1776-1783. He was a P.O.W., held at Portsmouth NH or Mass." The claim of him being at Bunker Hill in 1775 makes no sense on several counts. First it conflicts with departure and arrival dates noted above. It could not have been Johann Friedrich either due the departure and arrival dates. At first I was wondering if Johann Anthon came to America 1775 or before and did fight at Bunker Hill and then retreated with the loyalist to Nova Scotia when they fled Boston but that does not match the facts. Also, I have not seen anything that says Hessian's were at the battle of Bunker Hill. Also, as noted above Burgone went to Ticonderoga and sent Specht's company to Bennington where he was captured so he was not at Ticonderoga - perhaps this was Johann Friedrich there?

"Although a descendant gambled some of the land away, much of it is still occupied by Specht's and their descendants today." I don't dispute this just cannot find any sources for the story, as interesting as it sounds:)

Other Sources and references John H. Mertz Rootsweb site on Hessians.
German-Canadian Museum of Applied History
John Merz email archive on Rootsweb
"An Eyewitness Account of the American Revolution and New England Life", The Journal of J.F.Wasmus, German Company Surgeon, 1776-1783, translated by Helga Doblin.
"An Eyewitness Account of the American Revolution and New England Life", The Journal of J.F.Wasmus, German Company Surgeon, 1776-1783, translated by Helga Doblin.
German-Canadian Museum of Applied History Story of the Hessians crossing the Atlantic and arival in Canada. Flags of the Duchy of Brunswick until 1918 (Germany) Lake Champlain and Lake George HISTORY TIMELINE Infanterie Regiment von Donop