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Hessian soldiers in the American Revolution


Ages of Young Soldiers


by Nelda Percival

with input from others

copyrights 2005


Again, I am not qualified to even write an introduction for this page but the information gathered in the mailing list archives needs some attention.


We have presently and in the past have had questions arise about the date of birth, (when provided) in the HETRINA Volumes. Are these entries correct? The only way to insure they are is to go to the primary source, the Hetrina is a secondary source since it is a compilation of original documents. For more on this subject search / browse the archives. 


What needs to be addressed here is, was there a standard for the youngest age of a male to become a soldier? There has been no information submitted to the list stating a standard, so we must assume that some of the standards of apprenticeship apply here. Remember this is only an assumption, If you are concerned with the age listed find the source of the entry for your Hessian.


I personally have seen in records of relatives in America 1750 Virginia, at the age of five years being assigned to a family as an apprentice. Does this mean a young male child in Germany could have been given over in peacetime to the armies to raise or  train, possibly, possibly not. Some standing armies were not always on what we call active duty, some were just called up like our National Guard to practice and learn a few times a year. If you are concerned I would suggest a search for primary documents.


Now to list some of the information gathered in the archives:


Source: email dated 19 September 2005

by Bob Brooks, copy rights 2005



When the Hesse-Cassel Regiments were committed by treaty to serve in America, all the regiments were at a peacetime manning level requiring the recruitment of men in order to bring the regiments up to full strength (less the Grenadier
company which was detached and assigned to one of four composite Grenadier Battalions)

_Johannes Schwalm, The Hessian_ (JSHA, 1976), pp. 218-220, includes a composite list of members of KNY5 which was made up from three separate lists found in the Tagbuch of Capitan d'Armes Jermias Kappes. The lists comprise about 150 names and includes some men (a half-dozen or so) joining after the regiment deployed. I have selected a dozen men who had joined as teenagers and who were in the Regiment prior to "call up" as "Group I." "Group II" lists another dozen recruited in January 1776.

Group I : men serving in the Company prior to the treaty
1. Sergeant Grebe, b. 1741, ent. June 1758 [ae ca 17-18], unmarried
2. Sergeant Christoph Schwertzel, b. 1734, ent. 08 May 1752 [ae ca 18], m.
3. Corporal Friedrich Kuster, b. 1747, ent. 17 Dec 1759 [ae ca 12], m. 1769,
linen weaver
4. Corporal Johannes Stumpf, b. 1751, ent. Feb 1768 [ae ca 16-17], unmarried
5. Drummer Johannes Frolich, b. 1747, ent. 17 Dec 1759 [ae ca 12], m. 1776
6. Drummer Heckeroth, b. 1757, ent Jan 1776 [ae ca 18], unmarried, shoemaker
7. Private Johan Henr Bechstein, b. 1739, ent. 15 Dec 1755 [ae ca 16], m.
8. Private Johan Henr Bernhart, b. 1755, ent.29 Jan 1772 [ae ca 16]
9. Private Henrich Ehle, b. 1755, ent. 01 Mar 1771 [ae ca 15-16]
10. Private Johan Henr Engeland Sen, b. 1759, ent. 28 Feb 1775 [ae 15-16]
11. Private Johan Wilh Engeland jun, b.1757, ent. Mar 1775 [ae ca 17-18]
12. Private Michel EĆ¼ller, b. 1753, ent. 22 Mar 1770 [ae ca 17-18]

Group II : Men recruited to bring company to full strength prior to deployment
1. Corporal Christoph Lampertus, b. 1757, ent. -- Jan 1776 [ae ca 18-19],
unmarried, linen weaver [died July 1781 KNY3]
2. Corporal Justus Heyne, b. 1759, ent. -- Jan 1776 [ae ca 16] [HETRINA III
list him b. 1750/51, & Corporal Jan 1779]
3. Drummer Manshaupt, b. 1757, ent. 15 Jan 1776 [ae ca 18]
4. Medic Dickell, b. 1749, ent 21 Jan 1776 [ae ca 26]
5. Private Henr Wilh Boeth, b. 1745, ent. 16 Jan 1776 [ae ca 30]
6. Private Daniel Dedebier, b. 1748, ent. 26 Jan 1776 [ae ca 27], m. 1775,
linen weaver
7. Private Christoph Dohnhardt, b. 1744, ent. 08 Jan 1776 [ae ca 31]
8. Private Adam Daniel Drescher, b. 1754, ent. 16 Jan 1776 [ae ca 21]
9. Private Georg Christoph Eckard, b. 1748, ent. 13 Jan 1776 [ae ca 27]
10. Private Nickolaus Eyll, b. 1751, ent. 13 Jan 1776 [ae ca 24]
11. Private Henr Happel, b. 1750, ent. 18 Jan 1776 [ae ca 25]
12. Private Henr Helwig Homberger, b. 1754, ent. 15 Jan 1776 [ae ca 21]

The list contains some obvious typographical errors. Also presented is residence, height (erroneously converted at 1 Str. = 1/8 in.), religion, married, occupation, and "Comments."

In summary, while some "schoolboys" had joined the Regiment during the "Seven
Years War" (1756-1763) [In North America, this was called the "French & Indian
War" were fighting on the frontier began in 1754 and, for all practical
purposes, finished with the fall of Quebec in 1759] there is no evidence in
Kappes' Tagbuch of "schoolboys" being recruited for the War of American

Bob Brooks




source: email dated 19 September 2005 

by Don Fehlings, copyrights 2005


I have enjoyed reading the list messages on this topic that are the results of good research. I am no authority on this subject but did teach military history at the Air Command and Staff College, and have long been an avid reader of history. I descend from a German military family that was once part of the knightly class. During this era of European history there were many German officer's families who had traditionally provided their young men to what was the equivalent of the family business, the army. They attended cadet schools from as early as age 12 and were often destined to serve in their father's regiments, and did, as junior (or aspirant) officers while in their teens. Then there were young boys from approximately age 15 (depending on their physical health and size) who were effectively apprentice soldiers. They lived in barracks and received a small stipend from the regiment. The drummer boys are what frequently come to mind. But other boys as well performed military duties and served in the ranks. This practice was common throughout Europe. It extended into the 19th century when more standardized personnel policies were adapted from the regimental system. During the era of the American Revolution, colonels of European regiments were usually allowed wide discretion in their personnel recruiting and staffing practices. The colonel's regiment was virtually his business. There was a class often known as "Boy Soldiers" who were usually in their mid teens who performed general military duties and who went on campaign (active service) with their regiments. Underlying these common practices was the prevailing shortages of military manpower and the need to fill the ranks with as many volunteers as could be found. The boys usually came from the lower economic and social classes who's families cooperated with an opportunity for food, clothing and shelter for their teen aged boys who had few prospects at home. In the fall of 1944 the German army officially drafted sixteen year old boys for combat service. Army recruiting parties would sometimes select even younger boys to be drafted on the spot from out of the bigger boys on school yards during 1944. Some where whisked away and never seen again by their families. Boys serving in the army has a long history in Europe, and was not unknown during our own American Revolutionary and Civil wars. 


Don Fehlings (Colonel, USAF, Retired)


source: another email: dated 19 Sept 2005 

from Don Fehlings 

copy rights 2005

There were all kinds of corruption that accompanied the European army regimental system. Controls were often loose. Thus the need for Inspector's General who inspected uniforms, arms and equipment, and counted heads at unit musters. The books were sometimes padded with phantom soldiers. Nepotism abounded in some regiments. Some solders were allowed to get a furlough home during harvest season without pay to help bring in the crops while the regimental colonel diverted their pay to his own pocket. Boy soldiers were generally a bargain for the regimental colonel. Some regimental colonel's, like Colonel Rall of Trenton fame, had good reputations, were popular with their soldiers, and were careful to properly administer the funds entrusted to them. 


Don Fehlings


Source: email dated 3 Aug 1999

by James I. Johnston

copy rights 2005



I have traced my Hessian and his two Hessian brothers (the SCHWEND brothers) back to Willerhausen, Germany. From the church records I have traced the family back an additional five generations to about 1600. The information I obtained was birth, christening, confirmation, marriage, and death (sometimes occupation).

All three brothers served in the Hessian ErbPrinz Regiment. The Oldest brother, Johann Kasper Schwend was born March 28, 1752, and Hetrina accurately stated his birth as 1752/53. The middle brother, Wolf Christian Schwend, my ancestor, was born March 03, 1754, whereas Hetrina has him older, being born in 1750/51. The third brother, Johann Heinrich Schwend,
wasn't born until April 28, 1764 (Hetrina has no date, but 0/0). What surprised me was that Heinrich was confirmed in 1777, so obviously he didn't come over with original ErbPrinz Regiment. If he came over in 1777 he would have only been 13 years old! Whereas his two older brothers were Privates (Grenadiers), the Hetrina has him listed "KH", which is Laborer -
(Wagonhand, Packhand, Tenthand).


How does one go about researching when a soldier was actually sent to, or
arrived in, America?

Source: email dated 4 Aug 1999

by Nelson R. Sulouf

Copy rights 2005




Regular shipments of replacements for casualties were sent from Germany
to New York beginning in 1777 and continuing until AT LEAST as late as
the Fall of 1779. It was waiting for a tardy shipment of replacements
from Germany that delayed departure of the ill-fated expedition to
Canada in the Fall of 1779. The expedition finally sailed on 11-12
September without the expected replacements. If I recall correctly, that
tardy shipment of replacements finally arrived later in September or in
October 1779, and I believe it included two shiploads of men from
Germany. How many years beyond 1779 shipments of replacements continued
to be sent from Germany I cannot answer, but I would not be surprised to
learn that such shipments continued right up to 1783. Perhaps someone
else has the answer about the last shipment of replacements.

Your Heinrich Schwend would have been 15 years old by 1779. As the war
dragged on and as casualties continued to mount, recruiters in Germany
took both younger and older men as replacements. It was NOT unusual to
see 15-year-olds being shipped over as replacements in 1779. This could
be especially expected if, as in Heinrich's case, older brothers were
already in America. Of course, Heinrich would have been older than 15 if
he arrived with a shipment of replacements after 1779.

My answers are dependent upon secondary sources written by various
historians. I regret I cannot tell you precisely how to dig up the
primary sources for this kind of information, but I believe you will
find such sources in the Hessian archives at Marburg. You might begin by
looking at the Archiveschule WebPage at:

If it is important to you, I am certain original data about replacement
shipments can be found, because the Hessians kept very good records in
order to get compensation from Britain.

Nelson R. Sulouf





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