The Hessian became something of a ‘bogey-man’ to the revolutionary period American citizen. Already outraged at the treatment they had received at the hands of the government of the country which they could not fail to regard as a motherland, this new enemy—a veritable viper in the bosom—had the temerity to unleash not only savages upon them, but foreign troops—foreign speaking mercenaries—to subdue its own aggrieved people. This is the stuff that good propaganda is made of and unfortunately, in wartime, events will inevitably occur that underline the brutality of the enemy irrespective of his hue or uniform. Mercenary service was very well known and widely practiced up to and during the 18th century, though the Americas had little opportunity to see anything of it to that date. Furthermore, a German sat on the throne of England and the young men of central Europe offered the Hanoverian household military service until the Napoleonic Wars when the King’s German Legion became highly regarded for its performance in both the Peninsular War and during the Waterloo campaign. This book, written by a German historian, seeks to redress the balance of popular opinion by a re-examination of the activities of German troops under British command during the American War of Independence. Naturally, it is a partial view, but readers may be surprised to learn of the deeds of these troops who, for all that may be said against them, were acknowledged by both sides to be the finest of soldiers.
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On August 30th, a French fleet appeared, and on the land side Washington approached with his army, including Lafayette and a French corps.
The ships in the harbour were unloaded and their lower tier of guns brought on shore and mounted on the defences. In front of the camp and the lines, all the roads were blocked and covered by heavy timber. The heat made the work very severe, and the supplies were scanty. The rations were bad ship’s stores and very small. Sickness soon ravaged the force with dysentery and fever, which carried off many men. Among the victims, was Lieutenant v. Schuchardt, of the Bayreuth grenadiers. Heavy thunderstorms and violent hurricanes broke over the camp, often devastating the poor quarters of the men. The French fleet was lying in Chesapeake bay.<br>
In September, many American troops came from Baltimore, and the Americans seized a picket of the Hessian regiment v. Bose, on the right wing, and then withdrew into the woods.<br>
On the 28th, the whole camp was in alarm, from a strong attack of the American forces. Tents were hastily removed and all the baggage taken into the town. This was repeated on the 30th, and some 30 English and Hessians were killed or wounded. At night, all the troops in the camp were quietly moved into the new lines thrown up around the town.<br>
On the 30th, the Americans stormed for three hours a redoubt in front of the right wing, but by help of a frigate lying in the stream were driven back. Among the attacking party were French grenadiers.<br>
On October 1st, the Americans began to build regular siege works, but had no guns with which to man them.<br>
Two thousand men were at work strengthening the British defences. Every four hours the commands in the trenches were relieved.<br>
On the 2nd, the Americans, who had taken possession of the works abandoned by the English, were heavily cannonaded, and the fire was kept up for succeeding days with bombs and solid shot; this was done steadily until the 9th, but without any return fire. On the afternoon of that day, the first cannon shot on their side came from a battery in the woods, opposite the right wing; it was directed at a redoubt on a hill near the river, about a mile from the lines. After retreat, the fire became heavier, and a frigate lying in the harbour was set on fire by a hot shot.<br>
On the 10th, the fire of the besiegers was still heavier, and there was no cover that could withstand it .or protect the troops. The last of the inhabitants took refuge in caves dug out in the hills near the river, but these were soon in the range of the fire. The camp was changed and the tents struck.<br>
On the 11th, the fire was still sharper, and 3,600 shots from the besiegers were reported. The destruction was fearful, ships and houses were struck, dead bodies and wounded men were seen on all sides. Bombs exploded in the water, spreading the alarm in all directions, and the ground trembled as with an earthquake. The v. Bose regiment, on the left flank in the second line, was the most exposed; balls and bombs fell from every side, and it had daily the most dead and wounded. The Ansbach-Bayreuth regiment, in the extreme redoubt of the left wing, was also a heavy sufferer. Bombs falling in their camp spread destruction far and wide. To get forage was difficult and dangerous, and the German Yägers lost heavily in serving as escort.<br>
Capt. Ewald showed his ability by his success in protecting his men by all sorts of expedients. Ewald led an advance guard of 100 dragoons, 60 Yägers and some rangers, and by moving off on the flank of the column, uncovered a body of French hussars. He quietly told his commander that foraging had better begin here, and by his firmness was able to withstand the attack of the Duc de Lauzun’s legion, with some militia, and Ewald, as rear guard, was successful in protecting the retreat to Gloucester.<br>
On alternate nights, the fire relaxed and then increased. The besiegers attacked the outer redoubts, occupied by Hessian and British troops, and under cover of a heavy fog the French grenadiers made a successful breach and drove the defenders out, displaying the French flag in close position before the weary garrison. The whole camp was alarmed, and every regiment was ordered under arms. The entire left wing began to fire, out of zeal and curiosity, to give the enemy a warm reception, and with no great result.<br>
During the attack, the French and Americans resorted to a clever ruse de guerre, giving commands in German to advance the whole column and to send the batteries to the front—trying to make this diversion appear to be the main attack in force on the centre of the position.<br>
On the 15th, the besieged made a bold dash and captured a number of prisoners, forcing the French supports to fly, when the guns were silenced. At night, 250 Ansbach-Bayreuth soldiers were sent to the further redoubt, when the light infantry, which had before occupied it, were sent in shallops across to Gloucester, to draw the fire of the besiegers on that side.<br>
Cornwallis thought that he could still make a bold sally and escape, but the bad weather prevented his sending more of his troops across. His appeals to Clinton for reinforcements were all in vain, and be saw that resistance was only a matter of endurance; while his fire was maintained, the Americans were steadily pushing their lines close to his front.