Read the Revolution
Read the Revolution with Friederike BaerMay 2022
Author and historian Dr. Friederike Baer joined the Museum on May 12, 2022 to offer a groundbreaking reimagining of Britain's war against American independence from the perspective of German soldiers, a people uniquely positioned both in the midst of the war and at its margins. The event marked the launch of her new book Hessians: German Soldiers in the American Revolutionary War, released on May 13, 2022.
Between 1776 and 1783, Britain hired an estimated 30,000 German soldiers to fight in its war against the American rebels. Collectively known as Hessians, these soldiers traveled along with accompanying civilians, including hundreds of women and children. The German military units also actively recruited Black men as musicians, laborers, servants and, in rare instances, privates. When the British evacuated the United States in 1783, an estimated 200 Black men, women, and children went with the German corps to Germany.
The Germans could not fathom why the colonists would rise up against a king under whose reign they had grown so prosperous. Moreover, the German auxiliaries entered the war with the assumption that they would easily and quickly defeat the rebels. They were mistaken. As one German officer put it, they eventually realized that the Americans had “many natural talents of war and the profession of the soldier.”
Members of the German corps penned a large volume 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. Baer drew heavily from these accounts in her new book, which presents an original, new look at this watershed event in world history.
The program was held in the Museum’s Liberty Hall and was be broadcast live. Following the presentation, Museum Chief Historian Dr. Philip Mead joined the conversation to facilitate a live Q&A with the onsite and online audiences.
About Dr. Friederike Baer
Friederike Baer is Associate Professor of History and Division Head for Arts and Humanities at Pennsylvania State University, Abington College. Her research focuses on the experiences of German-speaking people in North America from the Revolutionary period to the late nineteenth century. Her publications include the monograph The Trial of Frederick Eberle: Language, Patriotism and Citizenship in Philadelphia's German Community, 1790-1830, winner of the St. Paul's, Biglerville Prize for the best book in Lutheran church history.