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The Voyage of The First Hessian Army from Portsmouth to New York, 1776   By: (1839-1907)

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Heartman's Historical Series No. 3


The First Hessian Army


One hundred and ten Copies printed for CHAS. FRED. HEARTMAN, New York City

The following Historical Sketch is a translation from the German of A. Pfister. It was published some fifty years ago in a German periodical and is interesting enough to be reprinted in English as it contains hitherto very little known details of this voyage. At the end will be found an Extract from the Diary of the German Poet and Adventurer, J. G. Seume, a Hessian Soldier and Participator on the Voyage.

January, 1915 CH. F. H.

Number of 110 copies printed. Also six printed on Japan Vellum.

The troops belonging to the first Hessian Division had as yet not all been assembled in the harbor of Portsmouth, for, on account of the lack of transport ships, General von Mirbach with his regiment and that of Commander Rall, a Knyphausen Company, and a part of the Commissariat still remained at Bremerlehe, when the fleet was ready and the wind often long in coming, was just then very favorable to leave the channel. Then a rather peculiar circumstance occurred to prevent the start. Heister, the Hessian Commander in Chief, refused to start, feeling bound by the land grave's express orders to keep all his divisions together. The king became exceedingly impatient, for the delay set an incalculable amount at stake at last the Hessian minister at London, General von Schlieffen, took upon himself the responsibility of this urgent matter, and Heister, with a spirit of true faithfulness to service, went over with his Hessian troop ships to the remaining squadron at anchor at St. Hellens in the immediate vicinity.

The fleet as gathered here numbered 100 sailing vessels, among which were 2 men of war with 50 cannons, 4 frigates of 36 cannons, and 2 fire ships for the protection of the transports and provision ships. These vessels carried in all about 12,500 land troops, of which the 7400 Hessians were distributed in 52 ships. William Hotham, their Commodore, was on the man of war Preston. When the ship captains had received from him the signaling directions and their sealed instructions (which may be opened only after a ship has sailed in order to learn its destination), he gave the signals to weigh anchor and to sail by means of a cannon shot and the displaying of a flag. This was on the evening of the 6th of May.

Very soon an adverse and violent storm arose, the sea became turbulent and there was much seasickness. No one could stand upright in the cabins, everything was tossed about pell mell and sailors fell overboard and could not be saved; yet the fleet by the evening of the 9th was sailing with calmer weather through the dangerous region of the Scilly Islands, where, over a mass of rocks and reefs a warning lighthouse stood. After sunset the last land was seen to disappear under the horizon, the promontory, Landsend. On the next day the cables, which usually are on the capstan, were coiled on deck; still greater waves, and more violent motions of the ship indicated that the vessels had reached the great ocean. Who may be the master of the ocean was made evident during the very next few days to the astonished soldiers, when a Danish and later two Swedish East Indian ships were passing through the fleet; these then lowered their flags and a sail of the middle mast, as soon as they were within the distance of a shot. This was the mark of esteem which every foreign ship on meeting an English man of war or squadron in the Atlantic Ocean was to render to it, as indicating the recognition of Great Britain's sovereignty there... Continue reading book >>

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