Travel Tuesday: Henrich Horn, Prisoner of War

This entry is part 6 of 9 in the series Henrich Horn: Military Career
A Map of Philadelphia and Parts Adjacent, With A Perspective View of the State House. Philadelphia: Lawrence Hebert, 1752 source: via Wikipedia. Public domain.
A Map of Philadelphia and Parts Adjacent, With A Perspective View of the State House. Philadelphia: Lawrence Hebert, 1752. Source: via Wikipedia. Public domain.

McMurray Family, Horn Family (Click for Family Tree)

We last left Henrich Horn, our Hessian ancestor, hanging- thankfully, not literally, but that could have been the case had George Washington’s troops not protected their POWs from an angry mob.

After being marched victoriously by American troops through some of the streets of Philadelphia, the march had been cut short by an inflamed mob that the American escorts felt they could not control. They locked the ~850 Hessian prisoners of war in the American barracks for safety. The POWs, including our Henrich, would have worriedly awaited the next move by their escorts from Washington’s troops.

The first Battle of Trenton, where Henrich and his comrades had been captured, had increased the morale of the patriots so much that it turned the tide of the American Revolution. Little did the POWs know that while insults, rotten vegetables, and rocks were being thrown at them as they marched through Philadelphia, Washington had marched back to Trenton with his troops for another engagement. The Continental Army won that battle, then moved on to Princeton, New Jersey, where Washington was also victorious.

The British traveller Nicholas Cresswell, definitely a Tory, commented,

“The minds of the people are much altered. A few days ago they had given up the cause for lost. Their late successes have turned the scale and now they are all liberty mad again.”

He later wrote, after another British loss,

“It is the Damd Hessians that has caused this, curse the scoundrel that first thought of sending them here.”

(That ‘scoundrel’ would be good King George. Those would be treasonous words, had not the British had bigger fights to manage on the North American continent.)

The British and Hessian soldiers were in such a panic at their unexpected losses to the ragtag Americans that they thought they saw Washington and his troops everywhere.  It was in this atmosphere of changing fortunes that the Trenton prisoners were marched from Philadelphia to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Washington wanted the POWs far away from the front, and Lancaster fit the bill.

Philadelphia is about 80 miles almost due west of Lancaster, and it would take over 20 hours to walk today. In January of 1777, however, it took four days, without snowplows and on roads that would have been icy and rough. The cold and tired prisoners arrived in Lancaster on 6 January 1777, probably around mid-day.

Lancaster was the largest interior American city, with 3,300 residents in 1775, and many German-Americans had lived in the area for some time. The Hessians were taken to a barracks “built of brick, with three wings, and surrounded by a stockade.” The stockade had log cabins on each corner, and walls twenty feet high. There were already some British POWs in the barracks, and the Hessians were given the center wing for themselves.

One Hessian recorded in his journal that everything was “peaceful and quiet.” Maybe now the captured Hessians would get a bit of recuperation after their travails of the last few months.

To be continued…


Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Featured image: A Map of Philadelphia and Parts Adjacent, With A Perspective View of the State House. Philadelphia: Lawrence Hebert, 1752
  2. Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett, 2004. Winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for History, this tells the story of the crossing of the Delaware and the Battle of Trenton, mostly from the American point of view. This is an excellent book, and very well-written.
  3. The Hessians and the other German Auxiliaries of Great Britain in the Revolutionary War by Edward J. Lowell. Harper and Brothers Publishers, New York, 1884.
  4. “The Hessians,” chapter VIII, an excellent read-
  5. Journal of the Fusilier Regiment v. Knyphausen From 1776 to 1783, possibly by Lt. Ritter? See
  6. Henrich Horn
  7. Hessians Remaining in America:
  8. Wikipedia articles:
  9. The Hessians. Mercenaries from Hessen-Kassel in the American Revolution, by Rodney Atwood, Cambridge University Press, 1980.
  10. The Hessians and Other German Auxiliaries of Great Britain in the Revolutionary War, by Edward J. Lowell, Harper & Brother, New York, 1884 Republished by Forgotten Books, 2012.
  11. A Generous and Merciful Enemy. Life for German Prisoners of War during the American Revolution, by Daniel Krebs. University of Oklahoma Press, 2013.
  12. Four days between Philadelphia and Lancaster: “From Paths to Roads to Highways to Canals to Railways” at


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