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Hessians

Hessians is a collective name for German mercenaries who fought on the British side in the American War of Independence.

Hessians got their name from the fact that 16.992 of the total 29.875 men came from Hessen-Kassel[?]. Others came from various other German states like Anhalt-Zerbst, Anspach-Bayreuth[?], Brunswick, Hesse-Hanau[?] and Waldeck. Other Hessians had previously fought in various campaigns for foreign rulers. Many were conscripted peasants but many of them were forcibly recruited criminals, foreigners and undesirables. One of them was future writer Johann Gottfried Seume.

Hessians composed maybe 1/3 of the British forces in the conflict. They included jaegers, hussars, three artillery companies and four battalions of grenadiers[?] but most of the infantry were chasseurs (sharpshooters[?]), musketeers[?] and fusiliers[?]. They were armed mainly with smoothbore muskets. Artillery used 3-pounder guns[?].

Initially the average regimental strength was 500-600 men but their numbers were seriously depleted in battles. Later in the war the regiments had only 300-400 men. Pay was low - some soldiers apparently got nothing but their daily food.

First Hessian troops, about 18.000, arrived to North America in 1776. They landed in Staten Island in August 15 and their first engagement was in the Battle of Long Island. They fought in every campaign but in Saratoga but after 1777 they were mainly used as garrison[?] troops. Only two regiments fought at Yorktown in 1781.

In addition to firepower, American rebels also used propaganda against Hessians. They enticed Hessians to desert to join the German-American population. In April 1778 one letter promises 50 acres of land to every deserter. Benjamin Franklin wrote an article that claimed that Hessian commander wanted more of his soldiers dead so he could be better compensated.

17.313 Hessians returned to their homelands. 12526 of those who did not, 7700 were killed in battles. Maybe 5000 settled in North America, both in USA and Canada - some because their commanders refused to take them back to Germany for being criminals or physically unfit.

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