Despite the fact that Burgoyne's Convention Troops marched in six divisions from Massachusetts to Virginia, only one of them - the German 2nd Division - left a significant written record of impressions of the journey.. I have found nothing at all from the British 1st or German 1st divisions, and only a rough itinerary for the British 2nd Division. There is a bit more from the British 3rd and German 3rd Divisions, and together these sources help to establish general routes and the identities of communities where there were encampments.They do not generally add more colorful observations than this, making those that do all the more delightful for the researcher.
We have, for example, a few observations made in Travels Through the Interior Parts of America: in a Series of Letters by Thomas Anburey, a gentleman volunteer who supposedly subsequently secured a commission in the 24th Regiment of Foot. He and another officer mistook the road on their way to Enfield, CT and ended up in Springfield, MA, home to the main American arsenal. A "friend to Government" put them up on the night and they regained the marching columns without further incident. Anburey later noted in a letter:
"not that it could be clearly proved it was merely accidental: But these Americans will not hearken to reason and no doubt they would have found people ready enough to swear, that we went there either as spies, or to destroy their stores."
Ansburey confined his remarks to describing the nature of Connecticut townships and housebuilding. Regarding the former, he noted;
"It is no little mortification, when fatiqued, after a long day's journey, on enquiring how far it is to such a town; to be informed that you are there at present, but on enquiring for the church, or any particular tavern, you are informed it is seven or eight miles further."
He was more impressed by a mill in Sharon, Connecticut invented by Joel Harvey, which "by the turn of one wheel" could grind, bolt, thresh and winnow wheat and beat and thresh flax simultaneously.
There are several useful diaries from the German 2nd Division under Brigadier General Specht. The best of these is the Du Roi Journal, written by an officer appointed commisary for the Division. A brief journal written by Ensign Johann Heinrich Carl von Bernewitz of the Brunswick Regiment Specht provides corroboration for the line of march and encampments of this divisio. Berenewitz also dryly notes certain sexual conquests (though not his own). In Enfield he observed that there were black girls with the Jaegers. In Suffield he records; "we went to dance in Captains Bartling's quarters. Girl from our quarters with Lt. von Meyern."
The servant of Captain Wilhelm von Geismar, Brigade-Major for the German Division, kept a journal that includes this entry for November 19th, 1778 when the British 3rd Division reached the tiny settlement of New Hartford:
November 19 -- In the morning at 9 o'clock went from here. The whole day we had a very bad road and came about evening to New Harford [New Hartford], where we were quartered in a public house. But we had very bad quarters. Then the militia guard came, who transported our division into a house. The officers indeed had an apartment, a room where two beds stood. But they could make no use of them. About 10 o'clock four farmers came into the room without asking, undressed, and lay down on the two beds. Because the officers were not now in the state of mind of the farmers, they went out of the room and slept partly in their coach, or at the fire which we made near the house. 16 miles. The night was very cold. (Translated by Lion Miles).
The Du Roi Journal is the most complete of any of the accounts of the Convention troops, and in addition to helping to pinpoint possible encampment sites, it includes details of the march itself that show it was not all fun and flirtation (although there were three balls held in Suffield, Salisbury and Sharon where there was dancing until dawn).
“The march through the mountains, or the so-called ‘Green Woods’ to Nortfolk (sic), which we took to day, had been described to us something very bad, and we were expecting the worst road possible. However, our expectations and every idea of a very bad road were still surpassed…Sometimes rock of 3-4 feet circumference lay in the middle of the road. It was very cold, and the water coming down the mountains was frozen, which made the ascents and descents very difficult for men, and almost impossible for horses. In short, everything was surpassed that could be called a bad road, since in addition the valleys were so swampy that it was almost impossible to walk through them. Nevertheless, the regiments would have made it, had not the wagons of the brigade of General Poor barred the way. They had been on the march since 8 o’Clock in the morning when night set in. They stayed about three miles from Nortfield (sic) in some houses in the woods to wait for the next day. I rode on as far as I could and arrived about 4 in the afternoon at Nortfolk, where I met our 1st division, which had been compelled to wait for their baggage. [The next day] The 1st division left Nortfork, and at 11 o’Clock our division took their place. The wagons with the baggage arrived late in the evening, with the exception of four which had broken down and had been left behind in the woods(Du Roi Journal: 1911: pg. 135).”
The Continental escorts of the Convention troops have left a very scant record of their experience, and from the militia none at all has come to light. Lt. Thomas Blake of the 1st New Hampshire in Poor's Brigade records the number of miles marched between townships but no details of his impressions aside from the terrible Greenwoods road. The Du Roi Journal has more to say about the Continentals who guarded the columns;
“Brigadier Poor was very polite and issued strict orders that none of his officers might go to our quarters, that we might be undisturbed…Instead of an escort of 100 men, a whole regiment turned out. Its commander was rather strict at first, but soon as he was how orderly our men behaved, he left them alone (Du Roi Journal: 1911, pg. 134).”
And what did the citizens of northcentral and northwestern Connecticut think of the Convention Troops? Local histories tend to forget that Burgoyne's men were not going the other way, from Saratoga to Boston. They speak of Hessians (though only the 3rd German division had troops from Hesse-Hanau who merited that name) but not of the British troops. In Sharon, the Singing of the German soldiers made a great impression on a young boy who would later become Governor of the state.
"It appears that a large part of this detachment were Hessians. They encamped in Sharon overnight; and when they started in the morning, the whole body sang devotional songs as they marched. The late Governor Smith, then a lad, followed them two or three miles, to hear their singing (Sedgwick, 1897: pg 75)."
Anburey, T (1789);Travels Through the Interior Parts of America in a Series of Letters, By an Officer, Vol. I, William Lane: London.
Bernewitz, J.H.C v.; The Journal of Ensign Johann Heinrich Carl von Bernewitz of the Brunswick Regiment Specht, translated by Helen B. Doblin
Du Roi, A. W. (1911); “Journal of Du Roi The Elder, Lieutenant and Adjutant, in the Service of the Duke of Brunswick 1776-1778”, translated by Charlotte S. J. Epping, Americana Germanica #15, University of Pennsylvania.
Kidder, F (1868); “Lieutenant Thomas Blake’s Journal” in The History of the First New Hampshire Regiment in the War of the Revolution , pgs 25-56, Joel Munsell’s Sons, Albany, New York.
Sedgwick, C. F. (1877) ; General History of the Town of Sharon, Connecticut from its First Settlement, 2nd Edition, C. Walsh: Amenia, New York.
Tagebuch eines Burschen von Stabbs-Capitain Friedrich Wilhelm von Geismar vom Hessen-Hanauischen Erbprinz Regiment und Brigade-Major zu Brigadier General von Gall 15 Maerz 1776 – bis 14 Dezember 1778. Photostatische Kopie in Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Facsimilies from German Archives, Box No. 2443 Unpublished Partial English translations by Lion Miles.