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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.

 

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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.
 
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Military Monday: Henrich Horn- American Prisoner of War

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Henrich Horn: Military Career
Uniforms of Hessian soldiers, likely jaegers, via Wikipedia; public domain.
Uniforms of Hessian soldiers, likely jaegers, via Wikipedia; public domain.

McMurray Family, Horn Family (Click for Family Tree)

We last left our Hessian ancestor, Henrich Horn, after he was captured by George Washington’s forces at the Battle of Trenton on 26 December 1776. The von Knyphausen Regiment, of which he was a part, had been unable to join the remaining Hessian regiments in town, and moved south along Assunpink Creek where they were captured. Once Henrich’s unit was surrounded and they had stacked their muskets, they were probably terrified as to what would happen next.

Would they be brutally massacred, like so many vanquished forces in a battle? Injured and stripped of possessions, clothing, etc.? (This would have been a concern, since many of the Americans needed coats, hats, even shoes.) What kind of prison would they be put in- the British had notoriously hellish prisons, so the Germans probably feared for their lives with not knowing what the poor, under-equipped Continental Army would provide. And how would they get to where they would be held? The storm was still brutal, it was frigidly cold, and they were terribly exhausted since they had been on duty almost continuously for more than three days, and after coming off strenuous battles before they had marched to Trenton.

George Washington had heard the firing along Assunpink Creek and rode toward the von Knyphausen Regiment as they were being surrounded. He came across some Hessians who were assisting Major  von Dechow, Henrich’s commanding officer who had been mortally wounded, into a church. Washington spoke with his enemy, and then an aide returned from the bridge to inform Washington that the last Hessian regiment had been captured. Washington shook the hand of the aide as he said, “…this is a glorious day for our country.”

"The Capture of the Hessians at Trenton" by John Turnbull, via Wikipedia, public domain.
“The Capture of the Hessians at Trenton” by John Turnbull, via Wikipedia, public domain.  George Washington is at the center on the chestnut horse, and the wounded officer being held up is the Hessian commander, Col. Rall. Lying behind Rall’s hand is severely wounded Lt. James Monroe, whose life was saved by the physician holding him when he clamped the severed artery of our future fifth President. (Click to enlarge.)

It is said that George Washington also visited the dying Col. Rall, Hessian Brigade Commander. Rall requested that Washington allow his men to keep their possessions, then died that evening.

It was not such a glorious day for the Hessians. Henrich and his fellow soldiers would have seen the elegant, commanding, General Washington- their great foe for the last eight months- astride his chestnut horse as they waited to learn their fate as prisoners of war.

Those remaining of the von Knyphausen Regiment were marched about three-quarters of a mile down to the old South Trenton Ferry on the Delaware River. They must have been somewhat relieved to realize that maybe they were to survive this battle.

The commander of the Continental Army had a big decision to make- should they hold at Trenton? Washington’s troops had been marching and fighting for over 36 hours straight at that point, and needed rest. Or should they capitalize on their element of surprise and attack another British/Hessian post? The inclement weather would have made that difficult, and his fatigued army might lose all it had gained. Or should they retreat back across the Delaware to safer Pennsylvania, with plunder and prisoners? The last was decided upon as the most prudent action.

Meanwhile, the Continental Army was inspecting the town, looking for the famous plunder of the Hessians- they were reputed to always take much plunder as they travelled. (In fact, some writers claim that Rall’s return to town to take the Hessian guns was more about getting his own possessions and plunder. Some sources report that there were 20 wagonloads of plunder hidden at Trenton.) The rebels happened to find 40 hogsheads of rum (a cask that holds about 63 gallons). Washington ordered the rum to be destroyed, but he likely only heard about it after quite a few hogsheads had been tapped and the contents ‘claimed’ by the American troops. The troops celebrated their hard-won victory as they “drank too freely to admit of Discipline or Defence,” per one of their officers. They paraded around in the pointed brass caps of the Hessians, and had a good time despite the cold and exhaustion.

Being inebriated might have kept the American troops warmer on that frigid day, but it did make getting them back across the Delaware challenging. They also had 848 Hessian prisoners to move, as well.

"Passage of the Delaware" by Thomas Sully, 1819. In the MFA-Boston, public domain via Wikipedia.
“Passage of the Delaware” by Thomas Sully, 1819. In the MFA-Boston, public domain via Wikipedia. Although this is probably on the way to Trenton, the trip back to Pennsylvania would have looked similar. (Click to enlarge.)

The Americans sent the Hessians over the frigid, ice-clogged Delaware  before the majority of their own men crossed. Although the width of the river was only about the equivalent of four city blocks, the continued poor conditions and exhaustion of all the men, rebel or Hessian, made it twice the ordeal as the crossing had been on the way to Trenton.

American soldiers assisted with the escort of Hessians over the river, using flat-bottomed boats or scows. Our Henrich Horn might have been in one of these boats, since the von Knyphausen Regiment was the first to have been marched down to the ferry. One Continental soldier later reported that in the scow they were all knee deep in both snow and rain, and he said of the Hessians: “some of the poor fellows were so cold that their underjaws quivered like an aspen leaf.”

The icy river was still clogged with ice floes, and ice formed on the boats themselves. The additional surface area from the ice caused the heavily-laden boats to be carried downstream in the strong current, as well as increase the weight and make it harder to row or pole across. To remove the ice and keep the boats crossing the shortest distance, the experienced New England boatmen would pound on the boat and stamp their feet. They motioned for the Hessians to jump up and down with them. (Wonder if our Henrich was on one of these boats instead?) The Americans got quite a chuckle out of the sight- the impeccably uniformed Hessians (though battle-worn) had a tight cue/queue (braid or tightly wrapped ponytail) of hair that stuck straight out the back. The jumping made the queue bounce up and down as well. The Americans were quite amused- and probably proud- to see that they had reduced their formerly terrifying Hessian enemy to looking very silly at that point.

Some of the transport boats were carried down the river by the swift current, and there was too much ice along the shore for the boats to land. One group of Hessian prisoners had to abandon their boat and walk for seventy feet through the icy water. Breaking through the ice, they were finally able to go ashore in Pennsylvania. Was our Henrich in this group instead? We will probably never know what he endured after being taken a prisoner during his transport, but whichever scenario, it must have been frightening and miserable.

The Americans had all the same problems with their crossing, although it was even worse for many. Some of the Americans were so drunk  from Hessian rum that they missed when leaping into the boats, and landed instead in the icy river. Others walked out on the thick ice near shore, but then it broke, dropping them into the creek and soaking them, their gun, and ammunition. Most of the Americans had to wait patiently while the Hessians were ferried across, but it was cold and had started to rain. Many were injured or sick, and exhaustion clouded their joy in victory. The snow was melting somewhat from the rain and slightly warmer daytime temperature, and thus they had to march through pools of water/slush, many of them without shoes. The artillerymen had it tough too- in addition to themselves, they had to get heavy guns through the melting snow and mud, despite many of the guns having damaged carriages, wheels, or axles from the firefight.

Our modern-day Google maps tell us that it is 14 miles and 20 minutes via car on the highway from Trenton, New Jersey to Newtown, Pennsylvania, the home base of the Continentals. Google also claims it is an 11.3 mile walk north along the river and then west to get to Newtown from Trenton, and the walk will take 3 hours and 46 minutes today. But how long would it have taken our cold and wet soldiers, both Hessian and American, to make that trip over slushy and frozen ground, through snow drifts, with frozen limbs, fever, dysentery, battle wounds, soaking wet clothes, and feet torn up due to lack of shoes? Think of how far they each had already marched in the previous 2 days, run in battle in Trenton, and the strength needed to fight with bayonets since their ammunition was not working well in the wet weather, plus the exertion of getting heavy boats across the ice-filled Delaware (twice for the Americans). Add in carrying heavy muskets, ammunition, and moving heavy artillery (would the Hessians have been used to help?) on the march to Pennsylvania, and we can only imagine the state of all these weary men as they finally reached camp.

The Americans were probably still elated with their victory, and they were relatively safe in their own camp in Newtown. But the Hessians had to worry- what would happen to them next? They were now in the midst of their enemy- a people they had fought, brutalized, plundered, and murdered as they moved through the country before their capture at Trenton. They surely knew how hated the Hessians were to the American people, even those loyal to the Crown who had been indiscriminately attacked as well by Hessian and British forces. To add to their fear, the Hessians had been told by the British that the Americans treated their POWs terribly, with no regard to the conventions of war. The Hessians could not accept the American people wanting ‘liberty’ from a righteous king, and felt they were greedy as they had so much more than a common Hessian family had in Germany, yet wanted more. Although there were quite a lot of Germans who had immigrated to the colonies before the war, the Hessians would stand out and could not easily escape due to their language and cultural differences. How would this enemy now treat them as prisoners?

The officers had been separated from their men, who were thrown into a hurriedly prepared, makeshift, “dreadful prison,” per Johannes Reuber, a captured Hessian common soldier. Food was dropped to them through a hole in the roof, and the Hessians felt they were being treated as animals.

Heinrich Horn and his fellow POWs likely did not rest well that night, despite their utter exhaustion.

 

More to come on Henrich Horn…

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. AmericanRevolution.org: “The Hessians,” chapter VIII, an excellent read- http://www.americanrevolution.org/hessians/hess8.php
  4. 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
  5. Henrich Horn http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~amrevhessians/oh/hwardhorn.htm
  6. Hessians Remaining in America: http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~amrevhessians/a/amhessians10.htm#navbar
  7. Wikipedia articles:
    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
  8. The Hessians. Mercenaries from Hessen-Kassel in the American Revolution, by Rodney Atwood, Cambridge University Press, 1980.
  9. 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.
  10. 10. A Generous and Merciful Enemy. Life for German Prisoners of War during the American Revolution, by Daniel Krebs. University of Oklahoma Press, 2013.

 

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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.
 
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Military Monday: Henry Horn & the Battle of Trenton

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Henrich Horn: Military Career
Battle of Trenton by Charles McBarron, via Wikimedia; public domain.
Battle of Trenton by Charles McBarron, via Wikimedia; public domain. (Click to enlarge.)

McMurray Family, Horn Family (Click for Family Tree)

Two hundred thirty-nine years ago, in 1776, our McMurray ancestor Henry Horn was not having a good Christmas holiday.

The holiday had started out all right, comparatively- he and his fellow soldiers were warm and dry despite the raw, frigid, and stormy weather, with some of the men comfortably billeted in the homes of the locals in Trenton, New Jersey. Although far from home, the excitement of war was likely high in the young men- Henry was just 16 or 18- and a merry time was had by all. Christmas Eve was especially joyous- Germans celebrated Christmas Eve rather than the actual day. Our young Henry was really named Heinrich Horn and German, so likely celebrated in the same ways as his fellow soldiers.

If you are a follower of the blog, you may have read previous posts about Heinrich that reveal he was actually a Hessian soldier, not an American patriot in his early military years. Well-trained and very competent mercenaries, the Hessians were feared and loathed by the Americans, both military and civilian alike.

Battle of Trenton and Vicinity, 26 December 1776, via Wikipedia, public domain.
Battle of Trenton and Vicinity, 26 December 1776, via Wikipedia, public domain. (Click to enlarge.)

Heinrich Horn was a private in the 5th Company of the von Knyphausen Fusilier (light infantry) Regiment, which had been formed on 11 January 1776 in Ziegenhain, Germany. Technically they were, “German Auxiliaries” rather than “mercenaries,” as their ruler had sold their services as whole regiments to the British Crown.

After crossing the ocean and participating in many battles against the American rebels, Henrich had arrived in the small New Jersey town of Trenton on December 14 with 2 other regiments. Trenton was to be the winter quarters of about 1,500 Hessians, 50 Hessian chasseurs (also known as Jägers, a rifle-armed light infantry similar to Army Rangers; Jäger means “hunter” in German, as does “chasseur” in French, the predominant language of the educated of the day) and a contingent of about 20 British Dragoons (infantry mounted on horses). Although the town of about 100 homes was not fortified, the Hessian brigade commander Colonel Johann Rall did not think it would be necessary- traditionally, troops did not move in such terrible winter weather, and he felt his forces so superior to those of the colonists that he denied many requests for fortification. Rall had been more interested in drinking and gathering spoils of war than military strategy. He was also was blinded by the contempt he had for the rebels, with their lack of organization and equipment, and their continued losses; Rall thought the War would be finished soon and easily.

Hessian sketch of the Battle of Trenton, 1776. Click to enlarge, and note the Knyphausen Regiment's quarters to the east of Trenton. Map via Wikimedia, public domain.
Hessian sketch of the Battle of Trenton, 1776. Click to enlarge, and note the von Knyphausen Regiment’s quarters separate from the other two regiments. Map via Wikimedia, public domain.

The Americans had been attacking and harassing the Hessians for days. The Hessians and British in Trenton were exhausted from constant patrols and skirmishes at Trenton, and especially after coming off larger battles like White Plains and Ft. Washington. Many were sick or recovering from wounds. They slept in their uniforms with all their equipment. Each night, one regiment was on duty, ready to respond at a moment’s notice to any attack.

While the Hessian soldiers tried to get some rest in their ‘alert sleep’ in Trenton, George Washington and his ragtag group of Continentals- truly ‘ragtag’ as some had only rags for shoes or clothing- were crossing the Delaware to surprise the Hessians on December 25th. The men and artillery were across the Delaware by about 4 am on December 26th; they then had to march nine miles to Trenton in a driving nor’easter. The cold and exhausted American troops could be tracked by the blood in the snow from their bleeding feet and broken shoes, according to one contemporary account. But march they did.

Some of Trenton’s outermost Hessian guards had sheltered in a small guard house due to the severe weather and how quiet it was that night, with no American troops seen during any of the night’s patrols. The 24 Hessians inside tried to get a bit of rest, as they felt there would not be an attack in a frigid, blinding snowstorm. Once they relaxed their patrols, however, the Americans just happened to arrive near the outpost and attacked. Although they put up a good fight, the Americans were much more than just a raiding party, and the Hessians retreated to town, giving the alarm, “Der Feind!” (“The Enemy!”) The American forces attacked from the north and west, and large artillery began firing into the town from the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River.

The alarm was sounded and Hessian drums awakened the men and sent the German regiments flying to form up and hold their ground. Col. Rall was still in bed, but his under officer was afraid to wake him. After sending men to support the pickets, the adjutant returned to headquarters, where his commander was hanging out his window, asking, “What’s the matter?” He was still “in his cups” from drinking the night before, and had not even heard the guns. (Legend has that all the German troops were sleeping off their celebration, but that is not true, since they had celebrated on the eve of the 24th and would have been sober by the morning of the 26th.) Col. Rall, an experienced military man, however, seemed disoriented and had difficulty forming a plan of defense. The Hessians mistakenly thought they were surrounded on both the left and right, but at that point, the Hessians actually still held the Assunpink Creek bridge, and could have escaped in that direction. (That likely would have changed American history.)

Heinrich’s Knyphausen Regiment formed up at the lower end of Queen Street, and prepared to meet the enemy. They were to be reserves as Rall’s Regiment and the von Lossberg Regiment marched up Queen (now Greene) Street. The American heavy artillery, however, along with rebel fire from houses along the street (and some fire by townspeople, including a woman who shot a Hessian captain), stopped Rall’s advance and killed half of the Hessians firing their own cannons, which were then taken by the Continentals.  Col. Rall regrouped with his regiment and the von Lossberg Regiment in an apple orchard, and attempted to take the American artillery at the top of the hill north of town. George Washington, atop the hill, saw the advance, however, and was able to ward it off by swift troop movements.

Rall received more bad news- the guns of his own regiment had been taken in town. He turned his men toward the center of town to retake the guns and regain the all-important honor of his regiment. They bravely marched up King (now Warren) Street and were able to retake their cannon despite fire from all sides. The Americans then rushed to the guns with unbelievable determination,  but Capt. William Washington (the cousin of George Washington) and Lt. James Monroe (our future U.S. President) of the Virginia Infantry were severely wounded. One of the sergeants took command of the Continentals and charged forward, and the last of the Hessians ran from their guns. The Americans then used the Hessian artillery to fire on the Hessian troops. In addition to the point-blank firing of cannon within the town, close-fighting had broken out throughout; civilians too were firing at the Hessians but also dying in the melee. Even seasoned military men commented afterward that it was one of the worst scenes of carnage they had ever seen.

The Hessians began to retreat, as the Americans had targeted and killed a number of their commanding officers, and they were confused as to tactics but knew the battle was all but lost. Additionally, the Hessian muskets were not firing due to the driving snow and sleet- some scholars estimate only 1 in 20 German guns fired on that fateful day. Many Hessians took refuge in a church or basement of houses in the town. The remainder retreated east to the orchard, with the Americans following. The Continental German regiment members called out to the Hessians in their native language to stack their arms and surrender, and one of Washington’s men rode up and offered them terms of surrender. The two Hessian regiments, those of Rall and von Lossberg, then lowered their colors and surrendered.

Heinrich Horn’s unit, the von Knyphausen Regiment, meanwhile, was still armed. They had marched to join up with Rall and his regiment at the beginning of the battle, but apparently in the chaos, an order was misunderstood: they marched southeast instead. Many of the weapons of Heinrich and his regiment would not fire either- it must have been a terrifying moment, even for such seasoned troops. Once they became aware of the poor prospects for the other two Hessian regiments, they moved toward the bridge at Assunpink Creek to escape to alarm British troops in nearby towns. There were 300 men and 2 guns in the regiment, but as they neared the bridge that had been held by the Hessians for most of the fight, they realized it was then in the hands of the Americans. The Americans had also surrounded the southern end of the town from that point.

Henrich’s commander, Major Friedrich von Dechow, turned the regiment and headed up the creek, looking for a place that was more narrow and could be forded more easily. Unfortunately the guns got bogged down in soft ground, and the troops lost time trying to free them. Americans followed closely behind and fired, and the Hessians were fired upon from the opposite bank of the creek.

Henrich and his comrades continued to march up the creek, looking for another place to ford. American soldiers jumped into the creek and attacked them, and American troops ran out of the town and attacked the regiment from the rear and both sides. Once they realized they were about to be surrounded, some of the Hessians jumped into the bitterly cold and icy creek to try to escape, but many were shot. About 50 Hessians of Heinrich’s regiment escaped via the creek and made it to Princeton, New Jersey, a distance of about 13 miles that took them 10 hours in icy temperatures with wet clothes, but our Heinrich Horn was not one of them. Major von Dechow was mortally wounded, plus was still suffering from wounds received in a previous battle. He recommended surrender, and was carried off the field. Although his officers did not want to surrender, when the Continental Army had them completely surrounded, there was no choice.

All hope was lost for a Hessian victory, and the von Knyphausen Fussiliers were the last Of Col. Rall’s Brigade to stack their arms as they were captured by the American rebels.

Our Heinrich Horn became an American POW on 26 December 1776.

The battle had only lasted about 45 minutes.

"The Capture of the Hessians at Trenton" by John Turnbull, via Wikipedia, public domain.
“The Capture of the Hessians at Trenton” by John Turnbull, via Wikipedia, public domain.

Heinrich and the other Germans were transported across the Delaware River by noon of that same day, and marched on to Philadelphia in the cold, snow, and ice. There were even German women and children, wives, children, and camp followers, who were captured by the Continental Army, although some had escaped early in the attack.

The Continental Army and militias did not have enough food or supplies for themselves, what’s less the large number of POWs they had captured. Our Heinrich Horn, like others of his regiment, must have been very cold, very tired, and very hungry, as well as despondent as to his situation. The Hessians had a reputation for treating their prisoners of war better than the British, but how would the Americans treat Heinrich and his companions? The once-merry Christmas holiday had become a nightmare for the almost 1000 Hessians troops captured that day.

As some of von Knyphausen’s Regiment had escaped earlier to the south, the Continentals pursued and captured 200 more men and their arms, ammunition, plus all of the victuals (food), clothing, bedding, and horses. These supplies were much needed by our armies, and may have made Heinrich’s capture a bit more tolerable if they were shared.

The Battle of Trenton was a turning point in the Revolutionary War. Until December 26, 1776, the rebels had not been very successful against the well-trained and well-equipped British and Hessian forces. Although Trenton was a small battle that strategically was not terribly significant, the fact that the Americans could defeat such an Army gave new life to the hope of freedom for the American colonies.

More to come about the life of Heinrich Horn.

[Editor’s Note: This post was edited 2 January 2016 with more detailed information.]

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. AmericanRevolution.org: “The Hessians,” chapter VIII, an excellent read- http://www.americanrevolution.org/hessians/hess8.php
  4. 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
  5. Henrich Horn http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~amrevhessians/oh/hwardhorn.htm
  6. Hessians Remaining in America: http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~amrevhessians/a/amhessians10.htm#navbar
  7. Wikipedia articles:
    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

 

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Labor Day: Celebrating the Labors of Our Ancestors

First Labor Day Parade in the US, 5 Sep 1882 in New York City. Via Wikimedia.
First Labor Day Parade in the US, 5 Sep 1882 in New York City. Via Wikimedia. (Click to enlarge.)

 

Labor Day officially became a federal holiday in the United States in 1894. “The Gilded Age” included the rise of big business, like the railroads and oil companies, but laborers fought- sometimes literally- for their rights in the workplace. Grover Cleveland signed the law to honor the work and contributions, both economic and for society, of the American laborer. Celebrated on the first Monday in September, ironically the holiday was a concession to appease the American worker after the government tried to break up a railroad strike but failed.

The Labor Day weekend is a good time to think about our ancestors and the work they did to help move our country and their own family forward.

Jefferson Springsteen was a mail carrier through the wilds of early Indiana, traveling for miles on horseback through spring freshets (full or flooding streams from snow melt), forest, and Indian villages. Samuel T. Beerbower, who would be a some-number-great uncle depending on your generation, was the Postmaster in Marion, Ohio, for many years. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Edward B. Payne, circa 1874. Image courtesy of Second Congregational Church, Wakeman, Ohio.
Edward B. Payne, Pastor, circa 1874. Image courtesy of Second Congregational Church, Wakeman, Ohio.

Bad weather, gloom of night, ocean crossings in the mid 1800s, and the threat of disease or injury did not stay our minister, deacon, and missionary ancestors from their appointed rounds either- especially since the felt they were appointed by a higher power. We have quite a number of very spiritual men in the family. Henry Horn became a Methodist circuit rider after coming to America as a Hessian soldier, being captured by George Washington’s troops in Trenton, NJ, then taking an Oath of Allegiance to the United States, and serving in the Revolutionary Army. The family migrated from Virginia to the wilds of western Pennsylvania sometime between 1782 and 1786. A story is told of how he was riding home from a church meeting in the snow. The drifts piled up to the body of the horse, and they could barely proceed on, but Henry did, and was able to preach another day. He founded a church Pleasantville, Bedford Co., Pennsylvania that still stands, and has a congregation, even today. Edward B. Payne and his father, Joseph H. Payne, Kingsley A. Burnell and his brother Thomas Scott Burnell were all ministers, some with formal schooling, some without. Edward B. Payne gave up a lucrative pastorate because he thought the church members were wealthy and educated enough that they did not need him. He moved to a poor church in an industrial town, where he was needed much more, however, he may have acquired his tuberculosis there. He also risked his life, and that of his family, by sheltering a woman from the domestic violence of her husband, and he testified on her behalf.

Abraham Green was one of the best tailors in St. Louis, Missouri in the early 1900s, and many in the Broida family, such as John Broida and his son Phillip Broida, plus Phillip’s daughter Gertrude Broida Cooper, worked in the fine clothing industry.

Edgar Springsteen worked for the railroad, and was often gone from the family. Eleazer John “E.J.” Beerbower worked for the railroads making upholstered cars- he had been a buggy finisher previously, both highly skilled jobs.

Sheet music cover for "Bless Your Ever Loving Little Heart," from "The Slim Princess."
Sheet music cover for “Bless Your Ever Loving Little Heart,” from “The Slim Princess.” (Click to enlarge.)

The theater called a number of our collateral kin (not direct lines, but siblings to one of our ancestors): Max Broida was in vaudeville, and known in films as “Buster Brodie.” Elsie Janis, born Elsie Beerbower, was a comedienne, singer, child star in vaudeville, “Sweetheart of the A.E.F” as she entertained the troops overseas in World War I, and then she went on to write for films. Max Broida also did a stint in the circus, as did Jefferson Springsteen, who ran away from home as “a very small boy” to join the circus (per his obituary).

Collateral Lee family from Irthlingborough, England, included shoemakers, as that was the specialty of the town. They brought those skills to Illinois, and some of those tools have been handed down in the family- strange, unknown tools in an inherited tool chest turned out to be over 100 years old!

Will McMurray and his wife Lynette Payne McMurray owned a grocery store in Newton, Iowa. Ella V. Daniels Roberts sold eggs from her chickens, the butter she made from the cows she milked, and her delicious pies at the McMurray store. Franz Xavier Helbling and some of his brothers and sons were butchers in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, and had their own stores.

Some of our ancestors kept hotels or taverns. Joseph Parsons (a Burnell ancestor) was issued a license to operate an ‘ordinary’ or “house of entertainment” in 1661 in Massachusetts, and Samuel Lenton Lee was listed as “Keeps hotel” and later as a saloon keeper in US Federal censuses. Jefferson Springsteen had a restaurant at the famous Fulton Market in Brooklyn, NY in the late 1840s.

From left: Edgar B. Helbling, (Anna) "May" Helbling, Vi Helbling, and Gerard William Helbling, on Flag Day 1914.
From left: Edgar B. Helbling, (Anna) “May” Helbling, Vi Helbling, and Gerard William Helbling, on Flag Day 1914. Note ‘Undertaker’ sign- yes, it was all done in his home. (Click to enlarge.)

Many of our family had multiple jobs. William Gerard Helbling (AKA Gerard William Helbling or “G.W.”) listed himself as working for a theater company, was an artist, then an undertaker, and finally a sign painter. George H. Alexander was artistic as well- he created paintings but also worked as a lighting designer to pay the bills.

Sometimes health problems forced a job change. Edward B. Payne was a Union soldier, librarian, and then a pastor until he was about 44 when his respiratory problems from tuberculosis forced him to resign the pulpit. For the rest of his life he did a little preaching, lecturing, and writing. He also became an editor for a number of publications including, “The Overland Monthly,” where he handed money over from his own pocket (per family story) to pay the young writer Jack London for his first published story. Edward B. Payne even founded a Utopian colony called Altruria in California! He and his second wife, Ninetta Wiley Eames Payne, later owned and conducted adult ‘summer camps’ that were intellectual as well as healthy physically while camping in the wild and wonderful northern California outdoors.

Other times, health problems- those of other people- are what gave our ancestors jobs:  Edward A. McMurray and his brother Herbert C. McMurray were both physicians, as was John H. O’Brien (a Helbling ancestor), who graduated from medical school in Dublin, Ireland, and came to America in 1832. He settled in western Pennsylvania, still wild and in the midst of a cholera epidemic that was also sweeping the nation; he had his work cut out for him. (It appears he did not get the same respect as other doctors because he was Irish, and this was pre-potato famine.) Lloyd Eugene “Gene” Lee and his father Samuel J. Lee owned a drugstore in St. Louis, as did Gene’s brother-in-law, Claude Aiken. Edith Roberts McMurray Luck worked as a nurse since she received a degree in biology in 1923.

We have had many soldiers who have helped protect our freedom, and we will honor some of those persons on Veterans Day.

We cannot forget the farmers, but they are too numerous to name them all! Even an urban family often had a large garden to supplement purchased groceries, but those who farmed on a larger scale included George Anthony Roberts, Robert Woodson Daniel, David Huston Hemphill, Amos Thomas, etc., etc. We even have a pecan farmer in the Lee family- William Hanford Aiken, in Waltham County, Mississippi, in the 1930s-40s.

Lynette Payne, December 1909, wearing a purple and lavender silk dress.
Lynette Payne, December 1909, wearing a purple and lavender silk dress. (Click to enlarge.)

We must also, “Remember the ladies” as Abigail Adams entreated her husband John Adams as he helped form our new nation. He/they did not, so 51% of the population-women- were not considered citizens except through their fathers or husbands. Many of these women, such as Lynette Payne McMurray, labored to get women the right to vote, equal pay, etc. (Lynette ‘walked the talk’ too- she was the first woman to ride a bicycle in Newton, Iowa! Not so easy when one thinks about the clothing involved.) Some men, like her father, Edward B. Payne, put their energy into the women’s suffrage movement as well. Many of our ancestors worked for the abolition movement too, including the Payne and Burnell families.

A woman worked beside her husband in many families, although she would get little credit for it. Who cooked the meals and cleaned the rooms for the Lee and Parsons innkeepers? Likely their wives, who also had to keep their own home clean, laundry washed, manage a garden and often livestock- many families kept chickens even if they didn’t have a farm. They raised and educated their many children too, sometimes 13 or more. Oh yes, let’s not forget that women truly ‘labored’ to bring all those children into the world that they had made from scratch. (Building a human from just two cells makes building a barn seem somewhat less impressive, doesn’t it?) Some of them even died from that labor.

June 1942- Claude Frank Aiken and his wife Mildred Paul in their drugstore.
June 1942- Claude Frank Aiken and his wife Mildred Paul Aiken in their drugstore in St. Louis, Missouri.

Working alongside one’s husband could be frightening due to the dangers of the job. A noise in the Aiken family drugstore in St. Louis, Missouri in 1936 awoke Claude and Mildred Aiken since they lived in the back of the store. Claude look a gun and went into the store while Mildred called the police. Claude fired the gun high to frighten the intruder- Mildred must have been very scared if she was in the back, wondering who had fired the shot and if her husband was still alive. Thankfully he was, and the police were able to arrest the thief, who wanted to steal money to pay a lawyer to defend him in his three previous arrests for armed burglary and assault.

 

We applaud all of our ancestors who worked hard to support their family. Their work helped to make the US the largest economic power in the world, and a place immigrants would come to achieve their ‘American dream.’ We hope our generation, and the next, can labor to keep our country prosperous and strong.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. There are too many folks listed here to add references, but using the search box on the blog page can get you to any of the stories that have been posted about many of these persons. Of course, there is always more to come, so stay tuned!

 

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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.
 
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