Christopher Ludwick - Baker General of the Continental Army
Christopher Ludwick was a simple Philadelphia gingerbread baker who held a very unique position in the Continental Army.
Ludwick was appointed as Baker General, and was responsible for feeding the soldiers throughout the Revolutionary War.
By the time Christopher Ludwick immigrated from Germany to North America, he had already served in several armies, including a stint with the British Navy all the way to India.
When he settled in Philadelphia, Christopher took up his father’s profession: baking.
Specializing in gingerbread, Ludwick became well known for both his confections and his jolly demeanor. City residents loved him and the scent of his shop, despite his unusual habit of referring to himself in the third person.
When the American Revolution broke out, Christopher Ludwick joined the Patriot Cause. Although he was quite a large man, and no longer in the appropriate condition to act as a soldier, Ludwick volunteered his services.
Christopher set about the task of convincing Hessian soldiers (German mercenaries who were hired by Great Britain) to switch sides. He hoped to demonstrate that life in America was better than back home with the goal of convincing them that fighting with the Continentals was in their best interest.
First, he traveled at night to Staten Island where he met in secret with several Hessians to promote his adopted home. He successfully met with them and returned without the British finding him out.
Ludwick then took several prisoners of war around Philadelphia to show them how great a place Pennsylvania could be for expatriated Germans. They were then freed and persuaded to spread word throughout their troops.
By this point Christopher Ludwick had come to the attention of both General George Washington and the Continental Congress.
Congress then appointed Ludwick to the position of Baker General of the Continental Army. Yes, this was a real job. Someone needed to feed the troops, and that responsibility fell squarely on Christopher’s back.
Ludwick organized a team which obtained grained, baked bread, and distributed among the soldiers. It was a massive undertaking, with his team operated throughout the United States.
Feeding the Defeated
Ludwick traveled with the Main Army to Yorktown where, after the American Victory, he was ordered by General Washington to bake 6,000 pounds of bread for their defeated opponents.
IN ONE NIGHT!
Ludwick had an unusual relationship with Washington. George often addressed Christopher publicly as ‘my honest friend,’ a distinctly more casual approach to conversation than we have come to expect from the General.
Kind Words From Washington
Ludwick had refused any pay during his service. Even stranger, he refused to make a profit off his supplying of the troops which (believe it or not) was customary at the time.
Unfortunately, his eight years of generosity had left his business in ruins and him financially broke.
Though he was a proud man who did not like handouts, he was forced to request payment for his service from the Continental Congress. Of the many men who wrote to Congress to validate his importance to the war effort, none was more respected than Washington (who, it should be noted, wrote himself to support Ludwick instead of having a secretary do it as usual).
Christopher kept the letter of praise from the Commander-in-Chief hanging on his wall for the rest of his life.
Ludwick was able to rebuild his business and, with it, his fortune.
His only child had died in infancy and, after his wife passed, he began donating his money to help poor children receive an education. Upon his death, Christopher left a considerable sum in his will which was to benefit several charities in Philadelphia.
The Christopher Ludwick Foundation, which is still in operation today, was organized by his friends and associates in the year following his death and has been driven to make Pennsylvania a better place ever since.
The only real biography I know of about Ludwick was written by his friend Dr. Benjamin Rush. You can read this for FREE here.
I first heard of Christopher Ludwick when I was searching the children’s section of my local library with my son. I came across the book ‘Gingerbread For Liberty’ and was happy to know the story was real. I recommend this book for anyone with children, it lets them know that anyone (even a simple baker) can make a difference in their world. Pick up a copy through the Amazon affiliate link below.
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