The American Revolutionary War Monument at Zion Stone United Church of Christ in Kreidersville, PA. Erected by Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Liberty Bell Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Two Revolutionary War Soldiers Named Jost Dreisbach
There are more than 35 references to “Jost Dreisbach” in sections of the Pennsylvania Archive documents that relate to the Revolutionary War. Until now, it was assumed that all refer to a single person, Jost Dreisbach (1721 – 1794), son of Simon Dreisbach Sr. However careful reading of these references produced a surprising result: most of the citations refer to two different Jost Dreisbachs, both of them active in the Revolutionary War but in very different ways.
Jost #1 was born in 1721 in Wittgenstein, Germany. In 1775, he is 54, married and the father of seven. He owns a gristmill and a saw mill, is a prominent member of his church as well as a respected person in the community and he serves on the Committee of Observation and Safety from 1774 through 1775[i].
When the Northampton County Militia was formed in May 1775, Jost #1 was elected Captain by the men of his company[ii]. Five months later he was appointed to be Colonel of the 3rd Battalion of the Northampton County Militia, a post that would only be given to a man who was already known and respected in his community[iii].
Who then, is Jost #2? The best candidate is the oldest of the next generation of “Josts” – a nephew of Jost #1. Yost (also spelled ‘Jost’) Dreisbach (1754 – 1808) is 22 years old in 1776 and the son of Adam Dreisbach. At 22 he is more likely to be made a 2nd lieutenant than his cousins who are also named “Jost” but who are only 19, 18 and12 years old in 1776. They are probably too young for a commission. Unfortunately, we know almost nothing about this Yost/Jost - The Dreisbach Book[iv] does not show if he married or has any descendants.
The first indication that there are two different Josts is when the Assembly in Philadelphia, in March 1776, appoints “Yost Dreisbach” (Jost #2) as a 2nd Lieutenant in Capt. Henry Shade’s Company of the Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment[v]. At the same time Col. Jost is back home organizing the 3rd Battalion. Clearly the well known and respected Col. Jost Dreisbach (Jost #1) is not about to give up his position as head of about 500 men in his 3rd Battalion of the militia to accept the much lower rank of second lieutenant serving under a captain. These are two distinct Jost Dreisbachs beginning their military service in the Revolutionary War.
As we trace their careers we see, time and again, that the two Josts, Jost #1 and Jost #2, are in different places doing different things at approximately the same time. The inescapable conclusion is that they are two different men.
On 27 August 1776, Lt Jost Dreisbach (Jost #2), serving in Capt. Shade’s Company of the Penna. Rifle Regiment, commanded by Samuel Miles, fights in the Battle of Long Island and is taken prisoner[vi]. According to the PA Archives and Heitman[vii], he is released on 10 Dec. 1776.
During this same period of time, from August to December 1776, Col. Jost Dreisbach (Jost #1) is in Northampton County supervising the 3rd Battalion of Militia. He is not at the Battle of Long Island. Indeed, he writes a letter about Battalion business that is read on 10 Sept 1776[viii] while Jost #2 is in prison in New York. Once again it is clear that two individuals are involved.
As an extra bit of evidence, the PA Archives name them by rank, making reference to Lieutenant Jost Dreisbach receiving money owed to him in Dec 1776[ix] and at the same time, Dec 1776, citing Colonel Jost Dreisbach in a list of officers in service with the militia[x].
In Jan. 1777 Col Dreisbach (Jost #1) launches a complaint against a member of the Militia, Frederick Beck, and Col Dreisbach appears on 30 Jan 1777 to testify in this case[xi]. It is worth going on-line to read about this complaint in the Pennsylvania Archives (see instructions how to do this on last page of newsletter).
When Jost #2 was released from prison in Dec 1776, he found his former regiment was in tatters. At this time Baron Ottendorff was raising a German speaking, independent corps. With no Rifle Regiment company to call his own, Jost #2 joins Ottendorff and is made Captain of Company Number One in March 1777[xii].
At this point a muster roll in the PA Archives introduces a 3rd Jost Dreisbach (Jost #3) - a private in the 4th Battalion of the Northampton Co militia[xiii]. This “Jost” is NOT Colonel Jost, nor is it Captain Jost. It will be a younger Jost who is a cousin of Jost #2, and who has become of age to do his militia service, all men between 18 and 53 being required to serve in the militia.
In June 1777, Jost #2 is serving under Armand in Ottendorff’s Corps and takes part in the Battle of Short Hills[xiv]. Col Jost Dreisbach (Jost #1) is still serving in Northampton County. He does not take part in this battle.
Armand eventually inherited Ottendorff’s Corps and had troubles commanding the existing officers, clashing with them numerous times. One such clash landed Captain Jost Dreisbach (Jost #2) in serious trouble.
On 19 July 1777, Capt Jost (Jost #2) was court martialed with the following charges laid against him by Armand:
1) Absent without leave
2) Said he'd had enough time and declined to join his company
3) When arrested used bad language
4) Questioned why the Col ordered a return to Amboy.
He was acquitted of the first charge and found guilty of the remaining charges and sentenced to be reprimanded in General orders and to ask pardon of Col Armand in the presence of the officers of his corps. On 7 Aug he was reprimanded by George Washington who said that "the conduct of Capt. Friesback must be deemed highly criminal, and of a very dangerous tendency." [xv]
On 1 Aug 1777, Capt Jost (Jost #2) resigns his commission and leaves Armand’s Corps[xvi] – for a while.
In July 1780, Capt Dreisbach (Jost #2) is listed as commanding 40 men in the Corps of German Volunteers under Armand[xvii]. He takes part in the Battle of Camden, South Carolina on 14 Aug 1780. Uncomplimentary things have been written about Armand’s Legion in this battle and it appears that Capt Jost (Jost #2) may have resigned again and this time he went home – back to Lehigh Township, Northampton Co where in 1782 and 1783, he is shown as part of the Militia’s Light Horse[xviii] and makes up the “Cavalry” for the 7th Co of the 3rd Battalion[xix]!
There is no proof that 2nd Lieutenant Jost Dreisbach who is in Henry Shade’s Company in 1776 is the same person as Captain Jost Dreisbach, who joins Ottendorff’s Corps which later becomes Armand’s Legion. However it is much more likely that a Lieutenant, newly freed from a British prison camp would be promoted to Captain than that a young Jost Dreisbach, straight from the backwoods militia, would be appointed a Captain in Ottendorff’s Corps.
Conclusion: This is the first time that the exploits of the Revolutionary War Veteran, Col. Jost Dreisbach, previously seen as the experiences of one man, have been shown to be the exploits of two separate individuals!
Colonel Jost Dreisbach served his country well – in Northampton County, PA. He was on the Committee of Safety. He helped to form the Northampton County Militia and initially was chosen by his men to be Captain of his company. Subsequently, the Committee of Safety appointed him as Colonel of the 3rd Battalion of the Northampton County Militia where he had command of about 500 militia men. He had great responsibility, and his efforts contributed to the military success of the American Revolution, however he never fought in a battle, nor was he ever taken prisoner.
The young Jost Dreisbach was a military man. He was appointed 2nd Lieutenant in the Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment in Philadelphia and he served in the Continental Line. He fought in the Battle of Long Island, was captured and imprisoned and subsequently freed. He joined Ottendorff’s Corps as a Captain and took part in the Battle of Short Hills. He was court martialed and resigned but later apparently rejoined Armand’s Legion as Captain of the Corps of German Volunteers. Although not recorded in the PA Archives, a number of reliable sources say he took part in the Battle of Camden, South Carolina. After this it appears he returned home to Lehigh Township, and finished out the Revolutionary War, serving with his local militia company.
Scattered here and there, throughout the muster rolls of the Revolutionary War in the documents of the PA Archives, there are other listings for “Jost Dreisbach”. This is (Jost #3), and could be Johan Jost Dreisbach (1757-1813), the son of Col. Jost, and/or Jost Dreisbach (1764 – 1854), son of John. Both are first cousins of Jost #2. Currently it is not possible to differentiate between them but both served in the Northampton Co. militia.
Researched and written by Marcia Dreisbach Falconer, PhD
[i] Pa Arch, Ser 5, Vol VIII, Muster Rolls Relating to Associators & Militia of Northampton Co. p 4.
[ii] Pa Arch, Ser 5, Vol VIII, Muster Rolls Relating to Associators & Militia of Northampton Co. p 9.
[iii] Pa Arch, Ser 5, Vol VIII, Muster Rolls Relating to Associators & Militia of Northampton Co. p 16.
[iv] Ardis G Dreisbach, Bruce J Dreisbach, Rev Charles V Dreisbach, The Dreisbach Book, Klamath Falls, OR. 1998. p77
[v] Pa Arch, Series 5, Vol II, Penna. Rifle Regiment, Col. Samuel Miles, March 6, 1776 p 258
[vi] PA Arch, Ser 2, Vol X, Pa Rifle Reg. Col. Samuel Miles, p220.
[vii] Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army During the War of the Revolution April 1775 to December 1783. Washington D.C., 1914. p 204.
[viii] Pa Arch, Ser 5, Vol VIII, Battalion Not Stated Northampton Co. Militia, p 535
[ix] PA Arch Colonial Records, Vol XL, Minutes of the Council of Safety, pp 44-45
[x] Pa Arch, Ser 5, Vol VIII, Muster Rolls Relating to Associators & Militia of Northampton Co. p 14
[xi] Pa Arch, Ser 2, Vol XIV, Muster Rolls & Papers Relating to the Associators & Militia of Northampton Co. pp 622-624
[xii] PA Arch Ser 2, Vol XI, Continental Line, The German Regiment, July 12-1776 – Jan 1, 1781, p 90
[xv] University of Virginia Library, Electronic Text Center, found at: www.etext.virginia.edu which has online: Washington, George, 1732-1799. The writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources: Volume 9, August 6, 1777, August 7, 1777