New sign honors German soldiers who helped fight for American independence
Anyone who has studied the Revolutionary War likely knows about the Germans who fought on the British side. It was the Germans – often referred to as Hessians – who were famously ambushed after George Washington’s troops crossed the frigid Delaware River on Christmas night.
Less known, though, are the approximately 1,000 Germans who fought on the American side.
“It somehow got lost to history,” said Bill Conley, vice president of the Pencader Heritage Area Association and a retired history teacher.
Recently, Pencader honored those German soldiers with a sign outside its museum on the Cooch’s Bridge Battlefield south of Newark. The Germans marched down Old Baltimore Pike and across Cooch’s Bridge on their way to Yorktown where they helped the Americans win the war’s final battle.
So why were Germans fighting on both sides of the war?
During the time of the American Revolution, the land now known as Germany was comprised of several independent states, each with their own ruler and their own soldiers.
“It was common for them to make a buck by renting out their armies to other countries,” Conley said.
Soldiers from Hesse-Rheinfels and Hesse-Darmstadt – the Hessians – were employed by the British.
Meanwhile, soldiers from Zweibrucken were employed by France and joined French soldiers in coming to the colonies under the command of General Rochambeau to fight alongside the Americans. France and Britain were arch-rivals and, as the old adage goes, the enemy of your enemy is your friend.
Conley said he learned about the German’s contribution to American independence through an article by Revolutionary War historian Robert A. Selig and decided Pencader should memorialize their contribution.
The sign was unveiled Oct. 21 during a ceremony organized by Pencader and the Delaware Saengerbund.
Bill Conley, vice president of the Pencader Heritage Area Association, speaks at a ceremony honoring German soldiers who fought alongside the Americans during the Revolutionary War.