Blog-city is closing my personal blog account, and given their spotty service, I’m not going to pay to upgrade to their premium service. For my personal blog, I am going into a joint venture with my blog-buddy CW (who is much more interesting than I am, and is worth reading just for his sleuthing on the missing 727 alone). For the next few months, I’m going to be recycling some old posts, and given Ralf’s post below, I thought that the links in this one might be interesting to some of you:
It is well known that a large contingent of German soldiers fought with the British in the American Revolution, most of whom hailed from the Landgraviates of Hesse-Kassel. These troops were not mercenaries in the traditional sense, since rent-a-regiments were common in 18th Century Europe – it gave the home state revenue, it gave the troops something to do other than cause trouble at home, and it kept the troopers at peak combat readiness. As part of the rental agreement, the Hessian state received guarantees of mutual defense from England in case of attack by France, so in a sense the Hessians were fighting for their homeland by serving the British Crown. What is less well known is that some of those troops stayed in America after the war.
The Hessians were a staunch and often brutal enemy, but one that became increasingly alienated from the leadership that directed them to fight so far from home. The fact that foreigners were being used as George the Third’s enforcers gave the Colonists an effective propaganda weapon. Some of the German troops deserted to fight for the American side, and many others deserted to start a new life in America after capture, hiding with German-speaking settlers wherever they were encamped as prisoners, as the Library of Congress notes:
1783 – As many as 5,000 of the Hessian soldiers hired by Britain to fight in the Revolutionary War remained in America after the end of hostilities.
Hessians were captured and assimilated pretty much from the Battle of Trenton, until Yorktown; the last bolus of Hessian “immigrants” was infused into the body politic after the final British surrender:
The final blow to the British came at Yorktown, Virginia, when General Cornwallis had to surrender his army of British and Germans to General Washington and his French allies on 19 October 1781. Taken prisoner were appr. 270 soldiers of the Hesse Kassel Regt. von Bose, over 900 soldiers of the Ansbach Bayreuth Regiments, 425 soldiers of the Hesse Kassel Regt. Erbprinz, and about 68 Hesse Kassel Jaegers. The prisoners were marched to Frederick, MD, and to Winchester, VA. Whatever was left in May of 1783 was ordered to march to New York for release, but many took advantage of this last chance and deserted in order to remain in the United States of America.
The descendants of those Hessian deserters left their marks all along the areas where they were moved or held (which you can see clearly on this map) – from Canada to South Carolina, but especially in the German-speaking areas of York and Lancaster, PA, Frederick MD (near which many were housed at Fort Frederick, a fortification dating from the French and Indian War), and Leesburg and Winchester VA. The city of Hagerstown, MD (founded in 1762 by a non-Hessian German immigrant in what was then Frederick County) takes a weather vane in the shape of a Hessian soldier as its civic symbol.
This is an odd bit American history with a personal twist for me: I am descended from both a Lieutenant in the Continental Army and from Hessian deserters. I sometimes wonder if the two branches ever faced each other in battle.