did we choose the name "Palatinate" for our chapter?
Our chapter name
originates in ancient Rome. According to legend, Romulus and
Remus, the founders of Rome, were raised in the cave of a
wolf on the Palatine Hill, one of Rome's famous seven hills.
Later the Palatine became home to some of Rome's notables
including the orator, Cicero, and several Emperors whose magnificent
dwellings led to our present word "palace." Eventually
certain Roman officials were given the title "Palatine"
when they represented the emperor in far off regions of the
The Germanic emperors
and kings of medieval Europe continued to use this title.
As these rulers traveled about their realms, they needed someone
in charge at their castles between visits. The Count Palatine
(literally "of the palace") began representing the
absent King, and received administrative and judicial powers
over the local inhabitants. Some of these counts became extremely
powerful in their own right, such as the Count Palatine of the
Rhine (Pfalzgraf) who was one of the electors of the
Holy Roman Emperor. He controlled a large territory known
as the Rhenish or Lower Palatinate which included land on
both sides of the Rhine River. Heidelberg was its capital for many years.
In 1329 a portion
of northeastern Bavaria came under the control of the Count
Palatine. This was known as the Upper Palatinate (Oberpfalz)
and bordered the present Czech Republic. Amberg was the
capital and Regensburg eventually joined the territory. Boundaries were rather
fluid in those days as kings, bishops, and knights played in
a grand chess game of alliances and disputes. The Rhenish
Palatinate flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries and Heidelberg
was an important political and cultural center during the
German Renaissance and Reformation. At one time the Palatinate
was one of the strongest powers in the German Empire.
1610, the young Friedrich V became the Elector (Kurfürst)
of the Palatinate. In 1613, he took as his bride,
Elizabeth Stuart, the eldest daughter of England's James
Legend recounts that
the festivities in honor of their wedding in London included
a performance of "The Tempest" with William Shakespeare
taking the part of Prospero. The young couple themselves would
be part of a real tragedy a few years later. A Protestant assembly
in Bohemia deposed their Roman Catholic king in 1618 and offered
the crown to Friedrich who eagerly accepted it. Unfortunately,
Hapsburg forces had other plans and without the anticipated
support from England and other Protestant factions, Friedrich
not only lost Bohemia but his Palatinate territories as well.
This was the beginning of the 30 Years War, a largely religious
war. Catholic nations fought the growing power of the Protestant
states. The area which makes up modern-day Germany was the scene
of many horrendous battles, and some areas, such as the Palatinate,
suffered the loss of a third of its population, as marauding
troops brought destruction, starvation, and the plague. Agriculture
and commerce were brought practically to a standstill. Finally
it became clear that all were losers in this war, and, for the
first time in European history, both sides agreed to sit down
to treaty negotiations.
Five years of negotiation
brought about the Treaty of Westphalia, signed in 1648, which
established the principle of freedom of religion, laying important
groundwork for the development of democracy. The Lower Palatinate
was returned to Friedrich's son, Karl Ludwig, who repopulated
the Palatinate lands by inviting Protestant refugees from Switzerland,
Tyrol, the Savoy, and the Netherlands to settle there.
(By the way, Friedrich's
daughter Sophie married into the family of the Elector of Hanover
and her son became George I, King of England.)
Unrest and crop failures
continued to plague the industrious new Palatinates in the early
18th century. When Queen Anne of England issued an invitation
to Protestants to settle in her colonies in the New World across
the Atlantic, with free travel and the promise of land, over
12,000 Palatinates responded by traveling to London, many of
them Mennonites and Amish. Many of these immigrants settled
in Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia. The first permanent
German settlement in America was Germantown, Pennsylvania. (http://www.ulib.iupui.edu/kade/germantown.html).
The designation "Palatinate" soon came to mean any
German-speaking immigrant no matter which German state they
might have come from.
One of these notable
Palatines was the courageous Nikolaus Herchheimer, a Mohawk
His grandfather, Johann
Jost Herchheimer, emigrated in 1709 from Sandhausen, near Heidelberg.
In August 1777, Herchheimer was in command of a militia force
which fought against a stronger force of English soldiers and
Indians which attacked at Oriskany. Herchheimer's troops forced
the British and Indian forces to withdraw. Herchheimer was severely
wounded and died a few weeks after the battle. He prepared himself
for death by reading the verses of Psalm 38. Today his home
is an historic site in New York.
Another son of the
Palatinate arrived to help the American cause in 1780. He was
Christian von Forbach, son of the Duke of Zweibrucken. Christian
was a colonel in the Infantry Regiment Royal Deux-Ponts, one
of the regiments commanded by the French Comte de Rochambeau.
Christian and his brother Wilhelm took part in the Yorktown
campaign in 1781 and were present when Lord Cornwallis surrendered
to General George Washington.
Thus, newly arrived
Palatinates who were fighting with the French forces and the Palatinates
who had emigrated earlier both contributed to the American victory
and to our independence. As early as 1776, Congress acknowledged
the large number of German immigrants willing to fight in the
War for Independence and established German regiments in Maryland
and Pennsylvania. These regiments were led by first by Colonel
Nicholas Haussegger and later by Colonel Arendt and General
John Peter Muhlenberg.
Many of our members
live in the areas that were once under the jurisdiction of a
count palatine. Although the present state of Rheinland-Pfalz
(Rhineland-Palatinate) includes only land to the west of the
Rhine River, parts of Hessen, Baden, and Bavaria were once part
of the Palatinate. The geographical and historical significance
of the Palatinate as well as the contributions of many "Palatines"
during the American Revolution make it an honored and appropriate
name for our NSDAR Chapter in Germany.