Johann de Kalb Surveys The Revolutionary Landscape

Johann de Kalb Surveys The Revolutionary Landscape

Baron de Kalb was a German who came to America and served as a Major General in the Continental Army.

De Kalb’s actions were great and he served until giving his life for freedom in the Battle of Camden.


Baron de Kalb

By 1768, German born Johann de Kalb had already fought the War of Austrian Succession and signed on with France to participate in the Seven Years War.

After the hostilities, de Kalb married a wealthy woman and moved into a house just outside of Versailles. Once a peasant, the Baron was now living the life of a nobleman.

Then he was asked to go on a secret mission to America.


Surveying America

De Kalb traveled to the British colonies on behalf of France.  His mission was to determine just how strong the colonist’s resistance to the Stamp Act really was.

Additionally, he was to determine how organized their militia and supplies were. Should they break out into full rebellion, could they win?

The Baron traveled easily through the colonies, simply posing as a wealthy German taking a leisurely trip through the New World (it was not difficult as this was all actually true).

He returned to France impressed by what he saw. Most notably, he noticed the American’s resiliency and dedication to independence.


Major General

Ten years later, the American Revolution was in full swing.

Back in France, de Kalb met secretly with Silas Deane and Benjamin Franklin. These Ministers signed the Baron a commission as Major General.

De Kalb set off for the war, and with him came his protégé, the Marquis de Lafayette.

Upon arrival, Johann was disappointed to find out the Continental Congress was not going to accept his commission. De Kalb was packing up to return to France when, due to the influence of Lafayette, Congress changed their mind and named the Baron as a Major General just before he left.



De Kalb served in several battles during the Revolutionary War. He gained ever increasing respect from both the officers and the soldiers.

In 1780, de Kalb was sent to support the Southern Army. He was disappointed when General Horatio Gates was chosen over him to lead at the Battle of Camden.

Due to Gates’ inadequacy, Camden was one of the worst American losses of the war.

During this engagement, De Kalb’s horse was shot out from under him. After hitting the floor, the Baron was shot several times and the redcoats began bayoneting him.

The respect of de Kalb was so great that he was taken from the battlefield by Lord Cornwallis, leader of the opposition. The Baron was given access to Cornwallis’ personal doctor, though it was too late.

The Baron de Kalb passed away three days later and was buried in South Carolina.

To learn about other Foreign Founders, check out these articles on Bernardo de Galvez and Baron von Steuben.

There is a really interesting biography of de Kalb from 1858 which you can read for FREE here.

For a more modern read, check out ‘The Battle of Camden’ which can be purchased through the affiliate link below.

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