Thursday, November 26, 2020

Headless Hessian of the American Revolution: The Real Life Inspiration Behind the Legend of Sleepy Hollow


Hessians American Revolution mercenaries literature war legends

On October 28, 1776 General George Washington’s Continental Army is heading northward in retreat.

The American army has been forced to flee into Westchester County after having been routed by William Howe’s combined British and Hessian forces in a disastrous attempt to defend New York City.

Now, encamped around the small village of White Plains, the Continental Army literally has its back to the wall and the fate of the American Revolution itself is hanging in the balance.

General Howe has sailed a formidable force up the Hudson River from his base in New York City and he has landed several thousand troops behind Washington’s retreating army.  Howe plans to cut off the American retreat route, smash the Continental Army and end the rebellion once and for all.

On the morning of October 28, 1776 General Howe, headquartered just north of White Plains in the town of Scarsdale, orders a large British force under General Henry Clinton and an equally large force of Hessian mercenaries commanded by German General Leopold Philip de von Heister to attack Washington’s army occupying the hills around White Plains.

The Hessian forces under General von Heister launch an attack on the American flanks.  Their assault on the American lines is relentless and the cannonade is non stop as expert Hessian artillerymen and American cannoneers occupying the high ground above trade thousands of rounds of solid ball and deadly grapeshot that spays hot shrapnel all across the battlefield.

Washington’s troops and artillerymen fight with a sense of desperation rarely seen in the war to that point.  The Hessians have a fearsome reputation among American soldiers and civilians alike.  Recruited by German states and rented out to the British in America as professional soldiers the Hessian’s thirst for battle, stoic discipline and foreign appearance cause many American’s to tremble at their approach.

In reality, despite being despised by patriots in America and despite the propaganda value of their bloodthirsty reputation, many Hessian units during the American War for Independence are plagued by low morale and desertion is common among the Germans.  Many Hessian soldiers choose to live a life in hiding in America rather than face the prospect of being sent back to Germany and rented out to fight once again in a foregin war.

But during the Battle of White Plains, sensing that the war may be concluded in that moment, the Hessians fight doggedly and ferociously, but the Americans are equally steadfast and hold their ground.  (more...)

Headless Hessian of the American Revolution: The Real Life Inspiration Behind the Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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