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Hessian soldiers in the American Revolution


Hessian Prisoners in American Hands



By Johannes Helmut Merz

Copied and kindly sent to site by Bill Hawk

with John's permission


During the American Revolution there were a number of significant events which resulted in the capture of large numbers of King George's auxiliary German troops, those so called Hessians. The first of those events was at Trenton, NJ. on the 26.Dec.1776, when General Washington's troops crossed the Delaware, surprising a number of Hessian Regiments under the command of Colonel Rall and took over 900 prisoners. They were taken to Lancaster, York, Reading, and other places in the area, including Philadelphia.
The next losses by the Hessian troops were suffered at the Battle of Bennington, which took place on 16 August 1777, when the Brunswick Dragoon Regt. under Col. Baum, accompanied by an artillery unit of the Hesse Hanau, was ordered by the British General Burgoyne to march to that location in order to secure supplies. They ran into a strong force commanded by Colonel Stark, and were defeated in a bitter and hard fought battle, in which Colonel Baum lost his life. It is estimated that about 300 Germans were captured. Those prisoners were kept primarily in the State of Vermont, and many later married and settled there.
In the meantime the main force of British, German and Loyalist troops with their Indian allies worked their way down towards Albany, N.Y., but encountered a strong defense near Stillwater   Saratoga, and their march forward was stopped on 19 September 1777 at the Battle of Bemis Heights. Burgoyne tried again to attack and break through at Saratoga between the 7th and the 16th of October, but was forced to see the hopelessness of his situation. Negotiations to surrender began.

The British General Burgoyne by signing the Convention agreement 17.Oct.1777, surrendered his army to General Gates of the American troops at Saratoga, N.Y. At this time his army consisted of 2,139 British, 2,022 Germans, and 830 Canadians.

One of the conditions of surrender stipulated that the troops had to leave their weapons on the field of surrender, and from there march to the Harbour of Boston, Massachusetts, to be put aboard ships and never return to fight again.

The route followed by the Convention army:

Saratoga, N.Y. 17.Oct.1777 
Stillwater, N.Y. 18.Oct.1777 
Schatecoke, N.Y. 19.Oct.1777 (Schaghticoke) 
New City, N.Y. 20.Oct.1777 (later renamed Lansingburg) 

Greenbush, N.Y. 21. Oct.1777 
Kinderhook, N.Y. 22: 23.Oct.1777 
Nobletown, MA 24.Oct.1777 
Great Barrington, MA 25.Oct. 1777 
Greenfield, MA 26.Oct.1777 
Blandford, MA 27.Oct.1777 
Westfield, MA 28.Oct.1777 
West Springfield, MA 29: 30.Oct.1777
Springfield, MA 31.Oct.1777
Palmer, MA 1.Nov.1777
Brookfield, MA 2.Nov.1777
Leicester, MA 3.Nov.1777
Worcester, MA 4.Nov.1777
Marlborough, MA 5.Nov.1777
Weston, MA 6.Nov.1777
Cambridge, MA 7.Nov.1777


At Cambridge, called the Winter Hill prison camp, Brunswick and Hessen Hanau Regiments were kept in Barracks for a whole year. The American Congress did not ratify the Convention agreement, and consequentely, British ships to pick up the prisoners according to the original agreement, were refused entry into the harbour. Some of the prisoners went out to work by special permits. Some deserted or joined the American forces. The soldiers themselves were still under the command of their officers, and kept together within their regimental units.
Literature to the Battle of Saratoga:
Saratoga   Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War, by Richard M.Ketchum, 1997
The Generals of Saratoga, by Max M. Mintz, 1990 by Yale University.
The Battle of Saratoga, by Rupert Furneaux, 1971.
The Battles of Saratoga   The Turning of the Tide, by John R. Cuneo,1967.

And last, not least .... The Baroness and The General, by Louise Hall Tharp, 1962, the story of the Baroness Friederike von Riedesel, wife of the Brunswick General Baron Friedrich Adolphus von Riedesel of Lauterbach, who accompanied her husband from Quebec City to Saratoga, Cambridge, to Virginia.

One year later in November 1778, the convention troops started their march towards Virginia, and here is the report of their daily advances:

Sudbury, MA 9.Nov.1778
Marlborough, MA 10.Nov.1778
Shrewsbury, MA 11.Nov.1778
Worcester, MA 12.Nov.1778
Spencer, MA 13.Nov.1778
Brookfield, MA 14.Nov.1778
Palmer, MA 15.Nov.1778
Wilbraham, MA 16.Nov.1778
Enfield, CT 17.Nov.1778
Suffield, CT 18.Nov.1778
Simsbury, CT 19.Nov.1778
New Hartford, CT 20.Nov.1778
Norfolk, CT 21. 22.Nov.1778
Salisbury, CT 23. 24.1778
Sharon, CT 25.Nov.1778
Nine Partners, N.Y. 6.Nov.1778
Beekman, N.Y. 27.Nov.1778
Fishkill, N.Y. 28. 30.Nov.1778 
Otterkill, N.Y. l.Dec.1778 
Goshen, N.Y. 2.Dec.1778 
Warwick, N.Y. 3.Dec.1778 
Hardistonville, N.J. 4.Dec.1778 
Sussex, N.J. 5.Dec.1778 
Andover, N.J. 6. 8.Dec.1778 
Hackettstown, N.J. 9.Dec.1778 
Changewater, N.J. 10.Dec.1778 
Pittstown, N.J. 11.Dec.1778 
Everittstown, N.J. 12.Dec.1778 
Plumsteadville, PA 13.Dec.1778 
Montgomeryville, PA 14.Dec.1778 
New Providence, PA 15.Dec.1778 
Valley Forge, PA 16. 17.Dec.1778 
Salisbury, PA 18.Dec.1778 
Lancaster, PA 19. 20.Dec.1778 
Hempfield, PA 21.Dec.1778 
York, PA 22. Dec.1778 
Hanover, PA 23 24.Dec.1778 
Littlestown, PA 25.Dec.1778 
Taneytown, MD 26.Dec.1778 
Pipe Creek, MD 27: 28.Dec.1778 
Frederick, MD 29.Dec.1778 
Charles Town, WV 30.Dec.1778 
Loudon County, VA 31.Dec.1778   1.Jan.1779 
Leesburg, VA 2.Jan.1779 
Levi, VA 3.Jan.1779 
Prince William County, VA 4.Jan.1779 
Fauquier Court House, VA 5. 6.Jan.1779
Culpeper County, VA 7: 9.Jan.1779 
Rapidan River, VA 10.Jan.1779 
Orange Court House, VA 11.Jan.1779 
Orange County, VA 12.Jan.1779 
Albemarle County, VA 13.Jan.1779 
Charlottesville, VA 14.Jan.1779.


Arriving at the Barrack grounds to find unfinished barracks and deplorable conditions. The Brunswick and Hesse Hanau prisoners stayed until the end of Feb.1781, when they were ordered to march north towards Winchester, VA, and Frederick, MD.

Other locations where Hessian prisoners were kept for periods of time were
Lancaster, PA, York, PA, Carlisle, PA, Lebanon, PA, Philadelphia, PA, Reading, PA,
Mount Hope. Morris County, N.J., Leesburg, VA, Worchester, MA, and Rutland, MA.
(of course, there may have been others which I have missed)

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.

Most records in the U.S.A. are kept in the County Court Houses, once it is established in what County a former Hessian soldier settled, those records should be consulted for land deeds, transfers, wills, etc., perhaps even indenture documents of prisoners who 'sold themselves' for a period of three years to get out of prison camp.


Copyright 1997, 1998, 1999,2000, 2002, 2003,2004, 2005 Johannes Helmut Merz

copied to this site via permission given in an email to list subject New AMREV-HESSIANS Webpage is coming along dated 30 July 2005

This does not release John Mertz's copyrights on this material.



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