Here’s wishing everyone a safe and happy Independence Day!
In thinking about the day this year, after a trip to Saratoga, NY last summer, I find it rather interesting to reflect on my Hessian relatives. So, a quick sidetrack from the American Civil War today…
Sure, I have my fair share of ancestors who were in the Continental Line, State militias, etc, and even civilian Patriots who gave a lot (the Moore line of eastern Md. was particularly generous) of tobacco to the cause, but I find the story of the Hessians rather unique in relation to American Independence. After all, these people came over to help suppress the “rebellion” (and no, they weren’t “Godless Hessians”/aka “the boogeymen” as so often portrayed in “Rev War memory,” but were Lutherans with firm attachments to the church). Anyway, my relatives in the Hesse-Hanau regiment came across in 1776, entered Quebec, and soon began the march South. After passage along Lake Champlain and into New York, my Hessian kin were soon POWs at Saratoga (a family story recorded by a grandson of one of my Hessian kin documented the capture taking place “while straggling from camp by American Cavalry”).
Anyone who reads of the accounts of Hessian POWs can appreciate the strange circumstances that they endured. By late in the war, their circumstances were particularly poor. By that time, one of my two direct ancestors had escaped from the Hessian Barracks near Charlottesville and had integrated into the population in the Blue Ridge. The other (Christian Strohl) was in Reading, Pa. in 1782 and apparently finding it more to his advantage, sold himself into the indenture of a Pa. militiaman (who also actually happened to be from Ruppenheim in Hesse-Hanau and had family ties with the Strohl family… curiously unusual, but clearly fortunate for Christian Strohl). Not long after selling himself, he accompanied the family to the central Shenandoah Valley (which, conveniently, was a great place for people of Germannic origin… since so many spoke the language there), did his time, married his “owner’s” daughter, and began raising his own family in the Valley. Clearly, Strohl could offer a very different take on the meaning of American Independence and his new life as part of that history.