The information cited in this post comes from the following sources:
Burgoyne, Bruce E., translator and editor. A Hessian Diary of the American Revolution by Johann Conrad Dohla, (University of Oklahoma Press, 1990).
Lewis, James A. Neptune's Militia: The Frigate South Carolina during the American Revolution, (The Kent State University Press, 1999).
These last, known glimpses of the frigate South Carolina come from the diary or journal of Johann Conrad Dohla, a "musketier" (private) in the 4th Company of the Bayreuth Regiment sent to the colonies to assist in the suppression of the social and civil unrest that became the American Revolution. According to the work, A Hessian Diary, page x-xi, "he had already served his prince for eight years before he was sent to America in 1777 in one of several German mercenary contingents hired by England to suppress the revolt of the American colonies, where he served five and one-half years until 1783... Dohla's diary covers the activities of the Ansbach-Bayreuth contingent from the time of their departure from Germany until their return in 1783." He would dutifully serve with the Bayreuth Regiment for the duration of the unit's service here in North America from 1777-1783.
At this point in this post, it would help to provide a brief overview of the services of the Bayreuth Regiment during the American Revolution for the duration of Johann Conrad Dohla's service with the regiment from 1777-1783. This is meant to give a framework for the battles, marches, encampments and activities of the regiment that "Musketier" Dohla could have experienced and participated in. Dohla's diary is invaluable due to the details its provides concerning the everyday existence of the regiment while it served in North America. Not only does Dohla cover the events mentioned above but, he also records the deaths due to disease or wounds of officers, NCOs and enlisted men within the regiment, desertions of specific individuals from the regiment, attacks by rebel forces upon their positions, drilling, mounting guard, attending church services, etc. But, the translator and editor of Dohla's diary, Bruce Burgoyne, is careful to point out through out the text of the diary where Dohla is giving incorrect information, referred to as "...a wealth of misinformation..." (Burgoyne, A Hessian Diary, page xxii). He states that these are also important because these were events that Dohla had not personally experienced but, had only heard of. Thus, these "distant events" and Dohla's understanding of them provides an insight into how the German troops gained their own information and how they interpreted it.
All of the specifics of the following information is taken from the Burgoyne work, A Hessian Diary, pages xx-xxi. Johann Conrad Dohla was eighteen years old when he joined the Bayreuth Regiment in 1768 as a "musketier" or private soldier. In 1775, at the outbreak of the American Revolution, he was twenty-five years old. Two years later, in 1777, as a member of the Fourth Company of the Bayreuth Regiment, Musketier Dohla and the rest of his German comrades sailed for America. It seems that the services of the Bayreuth Regiment can be characterized by being stationed in the vicinity of New York City and sallying out from there for specific duties. With the completion of those duties, the regiment would be returned to New York City. The regiment initially landed at Staten Island where they performed garrison duty briefly. In mid-October, 1777, they left Staten Island and sailed up the Hudson River as a relief force sent to aid General Burgoyne's army marching down the Hudson River towards Albany, NY. News reached the relief force at some point after October 19, 1777 that Burgoyne had surrendered and the force returned to New York City. At some point in late 1777, German troops, among them the Bayreuth Regiment, were sent to reinforce General Sir William Howe's forces in Philadelphia, PA. The Bayreuth Regiment experienced no fighting while they were there in the vicinity of Philadelphia, PA. Eventually, in June 1778, the British saw fit to evacuate Philadelphia, PA and sent at least a portion of its forces back to New York City aboard ship. The Bayreuth Regiment was one of these sent back on board vessels and thus was not involved in the fighting at Monmouth Courthouse. A month later, in July 1778, the Bayreuth Regiment was dispatched to Rhode Island, where it took part in the heavy fighting there that resulted in the ejection of the American army from the colony of Rhode Island. According to the diary of Johann Dohla, the men of the Bayreuth Regiment distinguished themselves in the fighting there. The Bayreuth Regiment remained in Rhode Island until the British evacuated the colony in October 1779, at which point in time it was returned to New York City. The following months were spent mostly in garrison duty, except that In both March 1780 and June 1780, German troops, among them Musketier Dohla, participated in raids into New Jersey. Each time, after the completion of their assigned duties, the Bayreuth Regiment was withdrawn to New York City. In May 1781, the Bayreuth Regiment sailed for Virginia, where they joined forces with those under the command of General Charles, Earl Cornwallis, "...and were made prisoners of war at the surrender of Yorktown in October 1781" (Burgoyne, A Hessian Diary, page xxi). In May 1783, after the end of the war, the Bayreuth Regiment and other German troops were released from their prisoner-of-war status and allowed to march overland from Pennsylvania to New York City. The ships bearing them back to Germany sailed from New York City harbor on August 4, 1783 and reached Bremerlehe on September 20, 1783. For another two months, Dohla and his Fourth Company of the Bayreuth Regiment moved through Germany, both by marching and by boat, until they reached Bayreuth on November 20, 1783. Johan Conrad Dohla received his discharge from military service on December 3, 1783, ending fifteen years of dutiful service to his prince.
Given the service cited above for the Bayreuth Regiment while it was here in America during the Revolutionary War, Musketier Dohla was an experienced and travelled veteran soldier by the end of the war. His very detailed journal, A Hessian Diary of the American Revolution, actually mentions the frigate South Carolina four different times towards the end of the journal. All four of these entries will be cited here in their entirety, along with their pagination.
August 4, 1783 - (Burgoyne, A Hessian Diary, page 233) -
"The anchor was raised and we sailed into the ocean with a good west wind... The frigate South Carolina, forty-four guns, sailed with us, on which were four companies of our Jaegers, the Ansbach Grenadier Company, and 60 men of the Colonel's Company of the Ansbach Regiment, with Colonel von Voit as commandant; 600 men all told, including 204 sailors and 60 marines."
August 6, 1783 - (Burgoyne, A Hessian Diary, page 234-235) -
"It became completely calm. At nine o'clock tonight, due to the carelessness of the helmsman, the frigate South Carolina came very close to our ship and caused a frightful alarm, but fortunately, with much effort, was again steered away."
August 10, 1783 - (Burgoyne, A Hessian Diary, page 235) -
"We again had strong winds. This night the frigate South Carolina became separated from us, and we did not see it again until we reached England."
September 4, 1783 - (Burgoyne, A Hessian Diary, page 240) -
"...During the evening the English frigate South Carolina arrived, also. It had departed from America with us and, since 10 August, had been separated from us."
A few observations can be made from these four, dated journal entries of Musketier Johann Dohla concerning the frigate South Carolina as he observed her on his return voyage to Bayreuth, Germany. As pertaining to his entry on August 4, 1783, for not having actually sailed on board the frigate South Carolina, Dohla almost accurately approximated the proper number of cannon (guns) she carried on board of her. According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 1, the frigate South Carolina carried forty guns. Dohla cited her armament at forty-four guns in his diary entry.
Likewise, in the same dated entry, Dohla could not have known that the frigate South Carolina was carrying more men than she had carried in her initial voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. During the frigate's initial voyage as a patriot-controlled vessel, she carried her largest crew - 557 men (315 marines and 242 sailors). According to Dohla, on the return voyage to Europe, as a British-controlled vessel, she carried a crew of "...600 men all told, including 204 sailors and 60 marines" (Burgoyne, A Hessian Diary, page 233). Her naval personnel was slightly less than the original patriot naval personnel - 242 patriot naval personnel compared to 204 British naval personnel - but, her marines contingent was much reduced from a total of 315 patriot marines to only 60 British marines. This was most likely a factor of the frigate's new role with the British - as a personnel transport rather than a ship-of-war.
Pertaining to the entry dated August 6, 1783, Dohla does not clarify if the "...carelessness of the helmsman,..." was due to carelessness on the part of the helmsman on board the ship he was ailing on or the inattentiveness of the helmsman on board the frigate South Carolina. Dohla seems to imply that it was the fault of the helmsman of the frigate South Carolina but, again, there is no way of really knowing from his account of the incident, only that the situation was successfully resolved without a collision occurring between the frigate South Carolina and the ship that Dohla was travelling on.
In the entry dated August 10, 1783, Dohla cites that, during the night of August 10, 1783, the frigate South Carolina became separated from the vessel he was travelling on and that the frigate was not seen until she arrived in Deal, England, off the southeast coast of England, on September 4, 1783, five days after the arrival of Dohla's ship on August 30, 1783. This discrepancy of arrival times of the two ships is interesting. All accounts of the sailing abilities of the frigate South Carolina state that she was a fast sailing ship. Yet, she arrived five days after Dohla's ship arrived. It is completely possible that the captain of the frigate South Carolina decided to take a course that added the additional time onto the frigate's voyage to England. It is also possible that the frigate was being poorly handled and thus her speed not being properly utilized during the voyage. But, it is also possible that the years of inactivity in Amsterdam harbor had begun to tell on the frigate's performance. Also, there is the fact that the frigate South Carolina had never had her hull properly coppered and had spent time in the Caribbean where the boring worms so destructive to a ship's hull were very active. Thus, it is completely possible that the frigate South Carolina was performing her last duties as a sea-going ship before disappearing into the mists of time.
(Note: The ultimate fate of the frigate South Carolina has eluded modern historians. But, the fate of another ship in the same convoy that the frigate South Carolina sailed in may shed some light on this matter. The ship identified by Musketier Dohla as "...our staff ship...", the Sibylle, (Burgoyne, A Hessian Diary, page 241), had been separated from the convoy even earlier that the frigate South Carolina. The Sibylle never arrived at Deal, England but, was also not lost at sea. She arrived in Portsmouth, England, located on the southern coast of England, approximately one hundred and fifty miles west of Deal, England, on September 6, 1783. The Sibylle was carrying an incredible number of people - 834 soldiers, women and children, to be precise. These people, both soldiers and their families, were loaded on board two transports, presumably bound for Deal, England. The Sibylle was condemned. It is possible that ships bound for condemnation were used by the British Royal Navy to transport personnel from America towards England at the end of the war, only to be condemned and either sold to a private party or destroyed there. The frigate South Carolina may have suffered an identical fate after her arrival in Deal, England. Further research may prove this to be true.)
(Note: The following information is drawn from:
Uhlendorf, Bernhard A., translator and annotator. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776-1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces, (Rutgers University Press, 1957).
In Uhlendorf, Revolution in America, page 547, the Sibylle is identified as a French frigate that had captured by the British frigate, HMS Hussar, in late 1782 or early 1783. There is no indication from the above cited text as to the age of the Sibylle at the time of her capture or to her physical, structural condition. Yet, though the French frigate Sibylle was certainly constructed differently than the frigate South Carolina, both warships were indeed frigates and thus of the same class of naval ships-of-war. The Sibylle suffered condemnation, either through selling to a third private party or through dismantling. Thus, did the frigate South Carolina suffer the same fate as the captured French frigate Sibylle once the frigate South Carolina reached Deal, England?)
(Note: On September 5, 1783, one day after the arrival of the frigate South Carolina in Deal, England, another ship of the same convoy also arrived in Deal, England. It was one of the Royal Navy's escort ships sent along to protect the convoy as it made its way across the Atlantic Ocean to England. It was the frigate, HMS Quebec. Ironically, it was also one of the three British men-of-war that had captured the frigate South Carolina off of Cape Henlopen on December 20, 1782.)
This is the last known reference to the frigate South Carolina as far as this blog writer knows. Musketier Johann Conrad Dohla recorded his memories in 1811, twenty-eight years after the events had taken place. There are errors and misinformation in his work, A Hessian Diary of the American Revolution by Johann Conrad Dohla, to be certain. But, he did remember the voyage back to Bayreuth and that the frigate South Carolina carried other German troops in the same convoy. His final diary entry in his diary stands as a poignant finale to his life and service:
December 4, 1783 - (Burgoyne, A Hessian Diary, page 254) -
"I left Bayreuth, returned home, and completely ended my military career."
Musketier Johann Conrad Dohla had served his prince, Charles Alexander, Margrave of Bayreuth, well and faithfully for fifteen years, 1768-1783, in the ranks of the Bayreuth Regiment. He was thirty-three years old at his discharge. He had never risen above the rank of "musketier" (private soldier). He died on January 14, 1820 in Zell, Germany. He was sixty-nine years old.