Between 1776 and 1783, Great Britain hired an estimated thirty thousand German soldiers to fight in its war against the American rebels. Collectively known as Hessians, the soldiers and accompanying civilians, including hundreds of women and children, spent extended periods of time in locations as dispersed and varied as Canada, West Florida and Cuba. They penned a large body of private and official records that provide detailed accounts of the American war as well as descriptions of the built and natural environment, local customs and manners, the prevalence of slavery, and encounters with Native Americans. Based chiefly on these writings, Friederike Baer’s new book, Hessians: German Soldiers in the American Revolutionary War, offers a ground-breaking reimagining of Britain’s war against American independence from the perspective of the German soldiers, a people uniquely positioned both in the midst of the war and at its margins.
About the Speaker
Friederike Baer is an associate professor of history and the division head for arts and humanities at Penn State Abington. She earned a Ph.D. in early American history from Brown University. Her research focuses on the experiences of German-speaking people in North America from the 1770s to the late nineteenth century. Among her publications is the book, The Trial of Frederick Eberle: Language, Patriotism and Citizenship in Philadelphia’s German Community, 1790-1830, which used the 1816 legal trial of around five dozen German Americans as a prism through which to explore prevalent notions of citizenship, language, and patriotism in the first four decades after the Revolution. Her research has been supported by various grants and fellowships, including a Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati Grant for research in the Society of the Cincinnati’s library collection at Anderson House.