German mercenaries in the American Revolutionary War


July 5, 2022

The German mercenaries who fought on the side of the British in the American War of Independence are uniformly called Hessians (English: Hessians) in the American public perception, but in reality not all Germans serving in the British Royal Army were Hessians. It is true, however, that 65% of the German mercenaries came from the German states of Hessen-Kassel and Hessen-Hanau. In legal terms, the units were not mercenaries, but auxiliaries offered by their country's rulers. However, the British war fund financed their supplies and the German soldiers received regular wages from the British, so their countries did not have to contribute to the costs of the war on a distant continent. The otherwise poor German duchies, where these soldiers came from, did well with the American war, as the British government paid them substantial sums of money in exchange for providing military strength. During the war, in addition to 45,000 British soldiers, 30,000 German mercenaries fought against the Americans in the British army. The Germans fought on American soil in independent units, in their own uniforms, under the command of their own officers, so they were quasi-war participants. The English military leadership highly valued their fighting skills and reliability. At the same time, their presence greatly angered the American revolutionaries, and their fight was deemed completely legitimate, as the British motherland deployed foreign troops against them. In the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, the creators of the document also mention the fact that England stationed German mercenaries on their land as a major grievance of the colonies, and they consider this as a legal basis for their war intended to achieve their independence.


German mercenaries and auxiliaries have long been employed in the British Royal Army. Even in India, German military units fought under the British flag, for example, after the American War of Independence, in the Kingdom of Mysore, against Tipu Sultan. The Hessian duchies in the 18th century tried to profit by offering their military to other states in wars, while they remained officially neutral. In the War of the Spanish Succession, a Hessian corps of 10,000 men served in the army of Jenő of Savoy, first in 1706 and 1707 in Italy, then in 1708 in Spain. During the Great Northern War in 1714, Sweden recruited 6,000 Hessian professional soldiers to fight against Russia. In England in 1715, 12 thousand German soldiers were deployed against the first Jacobite uprising. In the War of the Austrian Succession, also under the British flag, 6,000 Hessians and another 6,000 Hessians fought in the Bavarian army against Austria under the British flag, which can be considered a paradoxical situation, since in this conflict Austria and England were on one side against France and Bavaria. The method was not alien to other states either. Denmark also provided a military in this way, e.g. to the Habsburg Empire. Danish soldiers fought in Hungary during the Kurucs and II. Against Ferenc Rákóczi in almost every year of the Rákóczi War of Independence, and apart from them, the Austrian military also used Prussian and Baden units. The war business of the German duchies developed the textile and arms industry in their countries. The units were filled with conscripted men between the ages of 16 and 30, but vagrants, simple wanderers, and even common criminals were conscripted through forced conscription (not a single one of them was a local). The fact that the German House of Hanover was sitting on the throne of England at the time also contributed to the recruitment of German soldiers into English service. When the American colonies revolted against the British, it was immediately raised in the English Parliament that foreign military