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"The Hessians" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP25 Sep 2021 9:29 p.m. PST

"Howe's failure to launch a full-scale attack at White Plains was one of the vital points of his command, and one for which he had received the most vociferous criticism. Members of the House of Commons may have inched further forward on their seats as Howe came to this point. He had not managed to deal satisfactorily with any of the other debating points covered so far; failure to tackle the White Plains controversy head-on might bring an end to the patience of the House.

Howe, finally, did not disappoint. The delivery of his speech, with its emphasis on the key words "Hessian" and "was," made it clear what had happened. To scotch any remaining uncertainty, Howe added that further details on the affair would "in no degree affect my honour or my conduct." Nobody listening could be in any doubt. The Hessians had refused to go into battle. Howe's "political reasons" were nothing more than an unwillingness to criticize men who were still fighting alongside British troops in North America. Howe had played his ace well, managing to clearly convey his meaning without inelegantly apportioning blame. The general, beloved of his army, was refusing to openly criticize any part of it, even foreigners. He was being generous. He was being noble. And he was lying through his teeth…"



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Part II here


42flanker26 Sep 2021 12:04 a.m. PST

"The British had displayed indiscipline before, on Breed's Hill, before the rebel lines at Brooklyn and on the Harlem Heights. Here they displayed it again, commencing the attack without orders"

An interesting article. The sentence above, though, is a curious generalisation. Who are 'they.'

(On this occasion he seems to suggest an entire brigade surged forward in a spectacular and costly display of indiscipline)

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP26 Sep 2021 2:16 p.m. PST

42, isn't that what happened at Cowpens?

42flanker27 Sep 2021 2:04 a.m. PST

Not that I recall. Is that your interpretation?

Be that as it may, how is Cowpens relevant here?

The author is referring to events in 1775-76 and my query in particular was in relation to the generalised use of 'The British' in reference to the episodes of indiscipline he alleges.

Does he mean 'certain officers,' 'all officers', an over zealous battalion – or two, whole brigades, or the entire bleedin' army?

Indeed, while the cock-up at Harlem is well known- I struggle to think of incidents at Breed's Hill or at Brooklyn of the type he suggests. I was seeking enlightenent.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP27 Sep 2021 4:09 a.m. PST

What 'indiscipline' was demonstrated at Breed's Hill?

Seems to me the discipline of the British troops forming for the third, last, and decisive assault on the American positions was the height of discipline especially when some of the assault companies were reduced to less than ten men and an almost overwhelming number of officers were out of action being killed or wounded, including Major Pitcairn, LtCol Abercrombie, and most of Howe's staff on the field.

As for Cowpens, this paragraph from Lawrence Babits' A Devil of a Whipping, page 97, somewhat characterizes the British infantry's advance after Morgan's second (militia) line withdrew:

'The British infantry, having disposed of the militia, continued their advance with vigor. The British advance was initially a continuation of the bayonet charge. Seeing the backs of the militia, they surged forward in pursuit, breaking ranks as faster men moved to the front. The 'royal troops supposing the victory already gained, ardently pursued, and were thereby thrown into some disorder.' When officers sighted the solid regular infantry line, they halted and restored their own line.'

Another source that might be useful in this discussion is Matthew Spring's With Zeal and Bayonets Only: The British Army on Campaign in North America, 1775-1783.

Virginia Tory27 Sep 2021 7:06 a.m. PST

Spring's book covers the engagement at Chatterton's Hill (White Plains).

The artwork is Morgan's troops storming the Breymann Redoubt at Saratoga.

conflans27 Sep 2021 9:58 a.m. PST

Thanks Virginia Tory. You answered my question before I asked it.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP27 Sep 2021 3:23 p.m. PST



Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP02 Oct 2021 9:41 p.m. PST

The Hessians



42flanker03 Oct 2021 3:40 a.m. PST


Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP03 Oct 2021 3:55 a.m. PST

Spring's book is excellent and should be 'required' reading for anyone interested in the period.

As for the assorted Germans commonly referred to as Hessians, I have found the following very useful, most of which I have:











Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP03 Oct 2021 3:20 p.m. PST

Thanks Kevin!…


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