Saturday, April 7, 2012

April 7, 1777: News from New Jersey

Extract of a letter from Morris-Town dated April 7
“The day before yesterday three Walderckers came in, and yesterday 16 British prisoners were brought up from Bonum Town.  It seems a party of ours surrounded a picket of the enemy, kill’d 7...and bro’t off the above 16.”

The Boston Gazette
, 5 May 1777

     Of 34,218 German mercenaries hired by the British during the American War of Independence, the largest group (18,970) came from Hesse-Cassel.  Another 2,422 came from Hesse-Hanau.  Although the German mercenaries became generically known as “Hessians,” five other German states provided mercenaries for the British.  Hannover provided 2,373, who served in Gibraltar and the Mediterranean isle of Minorca.  Brandies Historian David Hackett Fischer wrote that 1,225 came from Waldeck.  Of these, 720 (or 58.8%) returned to Waldeck.  David Hackett Fischer, Washington’s Crossing (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 53.
     Of 1,225 Waldeckers sent to serve the British in America, 720 (or 58.8%) returned.  Sadly, a number probably fell casualty to conflict, hunger or disease.  Like many other German mercenaries, however, some of the Waldeckers probably settled in America.  American Revolutionaries tried to maintain decent treat of prisoners generally, but made a special effort to win Germans by kind treatment.  
Lyman H. Butterfield, “Psychological Warfare in 1776: The Jefferson-Franklin Plan to Cause Hessian Desertions,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 94 (June 1950): 233-241; Carl Berger, Broadsides & Bayonets: The Propaganda War of the American Revolution Revised Edition (San Rafael, California: Presidio Press, 1976 [1961]), 119-138.
American Tench Tilghman met twelve captured Waldeckers in Oct. 1776 who were “amazed at the kind treatment they received.”  Tilghman informed William Duer, “They say if their fellow-soldiers knew how kindly they would be treated…they would lay down their arms and come among us.”  This, of course, is one of the arguments for treating prisoners with consideration.
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