Hessians in the British army

January 15 2008

The British Government employed hired Hessian conscripts as well as voluntarily enlisted native British professional troops in North America in its war with the insurgent people of the British colonies there in A.D. 1775-83; and as late as the time of the Crimean War (gerebatur A.D. 1854-6) it raised a foreign legion of German,
Swiss, and Italian mercenaries amounting to nearly thirteen thousand men, all told.

[Footnote: See Fortescue, J. W.: A History of the British Army, vol. xiii (London 1930, Macmillan), p. 227. When the writer of this Study was a child, he once met an old lady who told him that, in her own childhood, she had seen, encamped on the South Downs, the German mercenaries who, as she put it, had been hired to garrison Great Britain while the bulk of the small native British professional army of the day was on active service overseas. By the time of writing in A.D. 1951, the writer could not recollect his informant’s identity, but the memory of what she had told him some fifty years or more ago was clear enough to send him in search of verification of it. The passage, cited in this footnote, of Fortescue’s classical work shows that, out of close upon 10,000 German and Swiss mercenaries assembled in Great Britain from May 1855 onwards, about 6,000 were in fact retained there, while nearly 4,000 were sent to the seat of war.]

Wikipedia says that approximately a quarter of the British troops who fought the North American war were Hessians. They were not, strictly, mercenaries. As Toynbee also says, they were already conscripts when the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel and other rulers hired them out to the British. Some were direct subjects of George III, who ruled them as Elector of Hanover. Hessians were sent to suppress Wolf Tone’s rebellion in 1798. The article does not mention the Crimean War.

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: