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Old June 29th, 2013, 05:54 AM   #1

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Why the Hessians leave?


In the american revoulutionary war, the british hired Hessian mercenaries from the german state of Hesse Kassel. The hessians were equal in some skills to the british including rifleing. I know in the battle of trenton ( i think)the Hessians were "ambushed" by general washington at night when they were sleeping. The attack damaged or maybe even destroyed the hessian regiments stationed there. So my main question is, did the Hessian/german mercenaries stick around for the entire war or did they leave when britain started losing?
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Old June 29th, 2013, 06:10 AM   #2

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Rifling? Standing armies did not use slow-loading rifles in the 18th century. Actually, the Hessians were more fearsome than the British, and had the training to fire every 15 seconds instead of every 20 seconds. Even their tactics were different - to maximize their reloading advantage Hessians retreated a couple of steps after firing instead of advancing like the British or the colonists in order to get off as many shots as possible before any possible bayonet charges.

I don't have an answer to your question though.
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Old June 29th, 2013, 06:25 AM   #3
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Not sure if they left. There were Hessians captured at Yorktown, as well as large numbers of runaway slaves.

Something like 20% of them stayed after the war.

Germans were of course good soldiers, which is one reason they were used. They were used again against rebels in Ireland in 1798, where they had a worse reputation for brutality.

Last edited by betgo; June 29th, 2013 at 06:36 AM.
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Old June 29th, 2013, 06:43 AM   #4

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A couple of interesting books on the subject. The first was part of the Philip Freneau series done in the 1960s & 70s. It is a tad pricey but I see there are a few copies available through the used book dealers at Amazon.


Amazon.com: Hessian View of America 1776-1783 (Revolutionary War Bicentennial) (9780912480060): Ernst Kipping: Books
Amazon.com: Hessian View of America 1776-1783 (Revolutionary War Bicentennial) (9780912480060): Ernst Kipping: Books



this second book is a first hand account that is a wonderful primary source. Captain Ewald was a Hessian whose Jagers (riflemen) were on hand for a number of battles. I see there are not currently any copies available. Not sure if it is available online or not. My copy was printed by Yale in 1979. I don't know why it has gotten so hard to obtain.

Ewald served in the Virginia Campaign with Arnold and Simcoe. His regiment landed with Arnold for the Richmond raid and stayed active through Yorktown. During the campaign he experienced a number of desertion incidents that likely represent men who remained in America. On a night march away from Richmond he reported that 50 men simply disappeared in the bad weather. Taken or deserted.


Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal: Captain Johann Ewald, Joseph P. Tustin: 9780300021530: Amazon.com: Books
Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal: Captain Johann Ewald, Joseph P. Tustin: 9780300021530: Amazon.com: Books

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Old June 29th, 2013, 07:08 AM   #5

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Rifling-Process of making helical groves in the barrel of a gun. I learned from a hessian soldier at a reeanactment that hesse kassel were skilled riflers and were one of the best at the time. Yes rifles were used in the revoultionary war by the Jaeger Corps (German riflemen) Click the image to open in full size.
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Old June 29th, 2013, 07:20 AM   #6
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I recall the treaties under which the German contingents (not only Hessians) served were for the duration of hostilities. Some of them served as garrison troops in Canada and in the West Indies; some around New York and Trenton as mentioned. Some (Brunswickers) served with Burgoyne in upstate New York.

German (Hessian) POWs were at Carlisle, PA close to my hometown, and some stayed after the war, with offers of land and other incentives. Some soldiers used the opportunity of coming here to stay, often through desertion. Whether that was an original intention or developed from their exposure to the Colonies, is hard to say - probably some of both. POWs, when exchanged, were sometimes persuaded to desert and a good number did.

Of 19,000 Hessians sent to America, about 1/3 remained here as settlers. Of the other contingents, Hesse-Hanau, Waldeck, Anspach-Bayreuth had around half their troops return home. Anhalt-Zerbst with about 1,000 troops in garrison at Quebec had almost all return home.

The German princes who rented out the troops had no incentive to bring them home early as they were being paid.
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Old June 29th, 2013, 11:10 AM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by pikeshot1600 View Post

German (Hessian) POWs were at Carlisle, PA close to my hometown, and some stayed after the war, with offers of land and other incentives. Some soldiers used the opportunity of coming here to stay, often through desertion. Whether that was an original intention or developed from their exposure to the Colonies, is hard to say - probably some of both. POWs, when exchanged, were sometimes persuaded to desert and a good number did...
Here's a little his fun side note regarding British and Hessian POWs with a Thomas Jefferson spin.

After the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga there was a lot of British and Hessian POWs, about 4000 that the
Continental Congress called them "convention army" and decided to march them to barracks near Boston. But overall the
barracks seemed vulnerable to any effort by the British to rescue their soldiers, Congress was confused on what to do next.
In stepped Thomas Jefferson with the idea of sending all the prisoners to Charlottesville on land owned by fellow Virginian John Harvie
and federal money used in supporting the prisoners would be a great bonanza for the local economy. Congress agreed.

The British soldiers leaving Boston would be under the command of General William Phillips and the 'Brunswickers' or 'Hessians', would
be under the command of Major General Friedrich Riedesel. Their final camp would be only a few miles from Monticello.

"Desertions became common, particularly among the Hessians. One Hessian soldier wrote of being attracted to young "nymphs" who appeared
along the roads, exhibiting their "exceeding the white teeth, pretty lips, and sparkling laughing eyes." One "roughisly offered us an apple,
accompanied by a little courtesy," a Hessian soldier wrote, explaining how "the fair sex were the cause of our losing some of our comrades" to desertion."
The German settlements in Pennsylvania and the western side of the Blue Ridge in Virginia also encouraged Hessians to consider desertion."[1]

"Some local German families offered to pay Hessian prisoners. Such Hessians "were persuaded to stay behind, and the girls did their best to keep
them for husbands.[2] By the time the prisoners reached Charlottesville, they had lost between 300 to 400 deserters.

Jefferson, the seed the encampment from his house, had even heard that among the Hessian officers that there were many excellent musicians, he hoped to meet them.

At one point due to the bad weather, roads in and around Charlottesville were very difficult to travel upon. The conditions were so bad that
a rumor was spreading that Congress was born to the moon of prisoners yet one more time, and then Jefferson heard of this rumor, he wrote
a letter to Gov. Patrick Henry, a 3,000 word letter, reminding him that the prisoners were contributing about $30,000 a week to the Albemarle Country
economy. Jefferson then argued that the officers should be allowed to rent local houses.

Jefferson saw to it that General Phillips moved into an estate called Blenheim, just seven miles from Monticello, and was waited on by staff of slaves.
Jefferson sent General Phillips a letter stating, "The great cause which divides our countries is not to be decided by individual animosities, we keep
up the intercourse which has begun between our families." [3] Phillips responded by inviting Jefferson to dinner and taking in a play being put on by British prisoners.

Commander Riedesel, with his wife and daughters, soon moved into a home owned by Phillip Mazzei. Soon Jefferson's daughters bonded with the girls
of Riedesel and often visited with them. Riedesel himself often went to Monticello and played the Jefferson on the harpsichord, pianoforte and on violins.
The friendship between Jefferson and Riedesel was real enough that Jefferson wrote a letter on his behalf, asking for the officer to be freed in a
prisoner swap so that he might build to travel home to visit his sick father.


1. Michael Kranish, Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War (Oxford, University Press, 2010), 105.
2. Ibid., 106.
3. Ibid., 110.
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Old June 29th, 2013, 11:55 AM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by pikeshot1600 View Post
......

Of 19,000 Hessians sent to America, about 1/3 remained here as settlers. Of the other contingents, Hesse-Hanau, Waldeck, Anspach-Bayreuth had around half their troops return home. Anhalt-Zerbst with about 1,000 troops in garrison at Quebec had almost all return home.

The German princes who rented out the troops had no incentive to bring them home early as they were being paid.
as you wrote, maybe 19,000 hessians were sold to America. The figures are not completely clear. maybe it was a number between 16-19,000. Ca. 10,500 went back, 535 died in action, more than 4,000 died of deseases or wounds etc and a bit more than 3,000 remained in the USA and Canada. Among those as well a Küster.

From my duchy Brunswick 5723 soldiers were sold. 3015 did not come home.

All in all were ca. 30,000 germans in the USA as mercenaries of Great britain. A bit more than a half returned. 5000 remained in the USA and canada.
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Old June 29th, 2013, 12:07 PM   #9

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"All told, an estimated thirty thousand Hessians would fight during the seven
years of the war, accounting for nearly one-third of those who fought on the
British side. The soldiers were from six smaller German states and known
collectively as "Hessians" because the largest percentage came from the state
of Hesse-Cassel." [1]

1. Michael Kranish, Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War (Oxford, University Press, 2010), 106.
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Old June 30th, 2013, 08:24 PM   #10
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Great military tradition! The German people are warriors...always have been. But its hard to be a hired gun when a people are fighting for independence. This foreign land a thousand miles from home. "The Brit's are paying me...?" "I don't like the French or the British." Also, perhaps, "I agree with these upstart Americans, to hell with the King."
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