Objects

Hessian Headgear

These embossed metal pieces once adorned the distinctive military headgear worn by Hessian fusiliers—specialized soldiers who served under British command during the War of Independence. Between 1776 and 1783, about thirty thousand German-speaking soldiers from the principalities of Hesse-Kassel, Hesse-Hanau, Waldeck, and Brunswick served in America. The largest number of these troops came from Hesse-Kassel, giving rise to the nickname “Hessians.” These relics were recovered in 1915 during dredging operations in the Delaware River near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Recent historical research suggests that they were lost in March 1778, when a British transport ship carrying supplies and reinforcements—including Hessian soldiers—sank after striking obstructions that had been placed in the river by the American army the previous year.