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The Hessians Are Coming! German Soldiers in the American Revolution

Warfare History Network

The Hessians Are Coming! German Soldiers in the American Revolution
Hessians
Hessian jager.jpg
Two Hessian soldiers of the Leibregiment
Country
Part ofAttached to but not incorporated into the British Army
Engagements
Commanders
Notable
commanders

Hessians (US: /ˈhɛʃənz/ or UK: /ˈhɛsiənz/)[1] were German soldiers who served as auxiliaries to the British Army during the American Revolutionary War.[2] The term is an American synecdoche for all Germans who fought on the British side, since 65% came from the German states of Hesse-Kassel and Hesse-Hanau. Known for their discipline and martial prowess, around 30,000 Germans fought for the British during war, comprising a quarter of British land forces.[3]

Although frequently referred to by scholars as mercenaries, Hessians were legally[2] and politically distinguished as auxiliaries; unlike mercenaries, who served a foreign government on their own accord, auxiliaries were soldiers hired out to a foreign party by their own government, to which they remained in service.[2] As a source of funding throughout the 18th century, many German states regularly rented out the services of their troops to fight in wars in which they had no other involvement. Like most auxiliaries of this period, Hessians served with foreign armies as entire units, fighting under their own flags, commanded by their usual officers, and wearing their existing uniforms.

Hessians played a key role in the Revolutionary War.[4] They served with distinction in many battles across North America, particularly in the northern theater, most notably at White Plains and Fort Washington.[4] The added manpower and skill of German troops is credited for greatly sustaining the British war effort, but it also outraged colonists and increased support for the Patriot cause.[4] The use of "large armies of foreign mercenaries" was one of the 27 colonial grievances against King George III in the United States Declaration of Independence, while the Patriots used the deployment of Hessians to support their claims of British violations of the colonist's rights.[5]

  1. ^ Jones, Daniel (2011). Roach, Peter; Setter, Jane; Esling, John (eds.). "hessian". Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary (18th ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-15255-6.
  2. ^ a b c Atwood, Rodney (1980). The Hessians: Mercenaries from Hessen-Kassel in the American Revolution. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^ Alan Axelrod (9 January 2014). Mercenaries: A Guide to Private Armies and Private Military Companies. SAGE Publications. p. 66. ISBN 978-1-4833-4030-2.
  4. ^ a b c "Hessians". American Battlefield Trust. 2017-01-25. Retrieved 2020-06-24.
  5. ^ Benjamin Franklin, “The Sale of the Hessians,” (1777).