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Travel Tuesday: Henrich Horn, Prisoner of War

This entry is part 6 of 6 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: http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3824p.ct000294 via Wikipedia. Public domain.
A Map of Philadelphia and Parts Adjacent, With A Perspective View of the State House. Philadelphia: Lawrence Hebert, 1752. Source: http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3824p.ct000294 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
    sourcehttp://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3824p.ct000294
  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. AmericanRevolution.org: “The Hessians,” chapter VIII, an excellent read- http://www.americanrevolution.org/hessians/hess8.php
  5. Journal of the Fusilier Regiment v. Knyphausen From 1776 to 1783, possibly by Lt. Ritter? See http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~amrevhessians/journal1.htm#navbar
  6. Henrich Horn http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~amrevhessians/oh/hwardhorn.htm
  7. Hessians Remaining in America: http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~amrevhessians/a/amhessians10.htm#navbar
  8. Wikipedia articles:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/President%27s_House_(Philadelphia)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Trenton https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_battle_of_the_Battle_of_Trenton https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_von_Knyphausen
  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 http://lancasterhistory.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=372&Itemid=740

 

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Military Monday: Henrich Horn on the March

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Henrich Horn: Military Career
1784 engraving showing the Hessians captured at Trenton being marched to Philadelphia, then the American capitol. via Wikipedia, public domain.
1784 engraving showing the Hessians captured at Trenton being marched to Philadelphia, then the American capital, via Wikipedia, public domain.

McMurray Family, Horn Family (Click for Family Tree)

When we last left our Hessian ancestor Henrich Horn and his fellow prisoners of war, they had been marched by General Washington’s troops about fifteen miles from Trenton, New Jersey to Newtown, Pennsylvania. It was the 26th of December, 1776, late in the by-then dark day after crossing the Delaware River, with the blustery, frigid weather of the northeast making their trek even more miserable. They were exhausted after many days of high alert, skirmishes, brutal weather, and their ill-fated Battle of Trenton that very morning. Once in Newtown, possibly their only meal of the day had been dropped from a hole in the ceiling of their hastily-thrown-togeher prison, and they felt they were being treated like animals. The Americans had left them to sleep, but it was likely not a very restful sleep with not knowing what was in store for them as POWs.

Our Henrich Horn was only about 16-18 years old at the time, and likely had been a soldier for less than a year. Thankfully he was in a large group of fellow soldiers, which would have been a bit less frightening than being by himself. Despite his shared woes, he must have been very frightened, angry at the mishandling of the battle by his Hessian superiors, and concerned for his life, so far from home.

The Americans after the Battle of Trenton, as well as the populace of Newtown, were eager to see what the hated Hessians looked like. They found they were just men, not the ruthless spawn of Satan, as some had feared. One American, a Sergeant Elisha Bostwick, had this to say about the Hessians:

“They are of Moderate Stature and rather broad Shoulders their limbs not of equal proportion light complexion with a blueish tinge hair cued as tight to the head as possible Sticking straight back like the handle of an iron skillet. Their [von Knyphausen’s Regiment’s] uniforms blue with black facings.”

[Could that blueish skin tinge possibly be due to the bitter cold and their clothes soaked from rain, snow, and the river?]

One researcher stated that their uniforms were purposefully made short and tight, to make it look like they were getting larger and more invincible. (True? Or just because the tailors wanted to save on cloth?)

George Washington decided that the hated Hessians would be paraded through Philadelphia, the capital of the colonies. He wanted to show off his triumph- he needed that to boost citizen morale as well as that of his soldiers and Congress, as the Americans had been losing battles and the enlistment of many of his soldiers was almost over; supplies and payroll funds were short, too. The American army had been teetering on the brink of destruction, and it was important to rally at that moment in time, or they would be defeated from within as well as without.

Washington wanted the people to realize that the Hessians were not invincible- they could actually be defeated, even captured, by his brave troops. So with hardly time to warm up and recuperate, the Hessian POWs were gathered into rows and columns on 30 December 1776 and marched to Philadelphia, about 30 miles southwest of Newtown. Google indicates that it would be an eight-hour walk today, but it would be interesting to know how long it took these sick, injured, and exhausted men in the snow and cold. The thought of another march must have been daunting to the captured as well as the capturers, after the exhausting few days they had just survived. But march they all did, as General Washington ordered.

Would the Hessians have been told of the plan, or their minds left to wander as to their next fate? Think about the language barrier, too, although there were German-American patriots who would have translated orders. The minds of Henrich and his comrades would have been teeming with fear of the possibilities: Would the Hessians be executed in another place? Would they be separated, as they had been from their officers right after the battle? Or would they be lucky enough to be a part of a prisoner exchange?

An angry mob had already gathered outside the city when the Hessians arrived at Philadelphia. By that time the Hessians had been told of what was to happen next. They were joined by their officers, who had been marched to different towns after the capture, and been wined and dined by American officers, as was often the custom. (Officers often treated each other very well and respectfully after capture or defeat, and some of the Hessian officers had actually dined with George Washington and discussed the tactics that had led to their defeat.)

The Hessian officers rode in covered wagons through the city which protected them, but the common soldier captives were hit, pushed, yelled at, etc. as they marched through the angry mob. The old women screamed at them that they had come as mercenaries to take away the freedom of the American people and they tried to strangle the men; dirt and rocks were thrown at them. The Americans hated the German auxiliaries, as for the past year, even before the Hessians had arrived on American shores, newspapers had whipped up terrible fears- one paper stated the Hessians were soldiers who:

“… will exhibit such a scene of cruelty, death, and devastation as will fill those of us who survive the carnage, with indignation and horror, attended with poverty and wretchedness.”

(Sadly, this had been often true earlier in 1776.)

It was recorded that some Americans brought brandy and bread for the captives, but the old women would not allow them to help the Hessians.

"Presidents House" at 524-30 Market St., in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Hessians would have paraded before this home which was built in 1767. Later, Presidents Washington and John Adams lived in this home.
“Presidents House” at 524-30 Market St., in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Hessians would have paraded before this home which was built in 1767. Nine months after the Hessian POW parade, the house would be lived in by General Howe during the British occupation of Philadelphia. Later, Presidents Washington and John Adams lived in this home. Wikipedia, public domain.

The Continentals paraded their prize of about 850 German POWs for all to see, down Market Street, Front Street, and then Walnut Street. The guards had been told to lead them throughout the streets of Philadelphia: “We became a spectacle for the entire city,” wrote one German captive. The Hessians must have been a sorry sight after their ordeals, and the Americans were therefore embarrassed that they had run in terror from “such vagabonds.”

Washington had ordered that the prisoners should be protected, and the escort realized that with such an angry mob around them, it was impossible to guarantee the safety of their charges. As the mob numbers and violence increased, the Americans cut short the path through Philadelphia and marched their prisoners to the city barracks rather than continue the dangerous parade. The American small escort had to fend off the townspeople while the German prisoners sat inside the barracks, listening to the cries for their death from the mob outside. Even though they were battle-hardened, well-trained troops, being so outnumbered in the midst of an angry enemy must have been very frightening, especially for a soldier no older than about eighteen, like Henrich Horn.

Why were the Americans so protective of their prisoners, especially when the Hessians were so hated by all, even British Loyalists whose homes and businesses had been raided by the Hessians on their fierce march through New York and New Jersey? One of the American plans was that the POWs would be paroled or exchanged, and go back to their Hessian regiments with stories of how well they were treated, and “sow the seeds of dissension between them and the British troops.” The Americans had even gone so far as to publish and distribute tracts in German offering land and money for desertion of the Hessian troops. Additionally, Washington was afraid of attacks on the prisoners alienating them, making them even more fierce opponents once they had been released.

Henrich Horn and his fellow POWs would have been quite relieved to have survived the march through an angry Philadelphia. They would have been wondering as to what would happen next in the saga of their capture.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Re: 1784 engraving showing the Hessians captured at Trenton being marched to Philadelphia, then the American capital. Translation is approximately:  “The Hessians captured by General Washington on December 25, 1776 at Trenton are introduced as prisoners of war in Philadelphia.” Note that the Battle of Trenton was on the morning of December 26, 1776, not the 25th as written in caption.
  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. AmericanRevolution.org: “The Hessians,” chapter VIII, an excellent read- http://www.americanrevolution.org/hessians/hess8.php
  5. Journal of the Fusilier Regiment v. Knyphausen From 1776 to 1783, possibly by Lt. Ritter? See http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~amrevhessians/journal1.htm#navbar
  6. Henrich Horn http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~amrevhessians/oh/hwardhorn.htm
  7. Hessians Remaining in America: http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~amrevhessians/a/amhessians10.htm#navbar
  8. Wikipedia articles:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/President%27s_House_(Philadelphia)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Trenton https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_battle_of_the_Battle_of_Trenton https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_von_Knyphausen
  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.

 

Please contact us if you would like higher resolution images. Click to enlarge images.

We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.
 

Original content copyright 2013-2015 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted.
 
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
 
Please contact us if you have any questions about copyright of our blog material.