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The Hessian Mercenary and the United States.

Updated on March 30, 2015

During the American revolutionary War, the Colonists who settled the Thirteen Colonies of America rose up to demand an end to the abuses by the Crown. The subjects who lived in the new world where a mixture of races, nationalities, religions and often politically diverse. Yet somehow they banded together to create a militia capable of blooding the nose of one of the greatest Empires in the world.

The drafted military of the Republican forces, had to fight against the battle hardened British Infantry and Cavalry. The American Patriot forces also had to battle against the fierce and efficient German mercenaries hired by the loyalist Colonists of the settlements. One of the most used types of mercenaries were the soldiers from the German state of Hesse.

A British Hessian Mercenary
A British Hessian Mercenary | Source

Where did the Hessian's come from?

The Hessian's were soldiers from the German state of Hesse, before 1871 Germany was a collection of Germanic states. The soldiers were enlisted and trained by their Royal benefactors and then used to gather additional revenue as mercenaries for hire. The state of Hesse is still a state with thick forests and many rivers, and finds itself in the middle of Germany. The King of Hesse wanted his lands strong and kept an army which was bloated when compared to the territory it covered. Because of its location it had to have a strong military presence, to maintain it's sovereignty. Although Hesse was powerful, it was soon to be surpassed by Prussia's militaristic power by the time of modern Germany's formation.

The Hessian mercenaries were not the only Germanic troops to be used by the British in the Revolutionary War. Other Germanic states sold their men to be used by the Loyalist factions within the Thirteen Colonies, but the Hessian soldiers were the largest contingent.There are a number of reasons for the involvement of the Germans fighting in the American Revolutionary War. The King of Britain George the 3rd was of German descent and much of the Royalty of Europe was linked together in this way. The British had also formed military alliances with many of the Protestant German states and had by treaty made use of Germanic soldiers to bolster their own ranks. Britain had used 6,000 Hessian troops to fight against the Jacobite rebellion in Scotland in 1745. A thousand Hessian troops had also been used in Ireland in 1798 to crush a rebellion, that helped secured the United Kingdoms existence.

Hessian troops involved in the Revolutionary War.
Hessian troops involved in the Revolutionary War. | Source

At the time of the War of Independence the Hessian mercenaries were seen as bloodthirsty killers who had been shipped to the American colonies to do King George the 3rd's dirty work. The Hessian mercenaries were highly trained fighters who served their employer well, and the Patriot side painted the Hessian's in a poor light as a means of wartime propaganda. Many of the Germanic mercenaries intended to stay in the new world after their service was over, as they wanted a new opportunity in the freedom America represented.

Washington Irving book in 1820 references a ghostly headless Hessian soldier haunting the local population looking for its severed head. The book was written nearly 50 years after the Hessian soldiers had battled in the foreign lands. Such was their lore and legend, that they still managed to install fear generations after they had left or had become Americans.

Of the estimated 30,000 Hessian's who thought in the War of Independence, around 5,000 stayed in the America's after the conflict. In service they were offered large tracks of land to desert, they were offered more than a regular British soldier to lay down their arms. Many Hessian's changed sides after capture, as they were lied to by their officers,as they believed they were to fight Indians not British colonists. The Hessian's who stayed were absorbed into the communities of German settlers and helped shape the Military and the Republic of America.


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