Leopold Phillip von Heister (?1707-1777) was the first commander of the troops from Hesse-Kassel which arrived in America in 1776 to fight for the British. He was a veteran of the Seven Years' War and presumably one of the most senior soldiers in Hessen-Kassel. Despite being of advanced age (and he had accepted command whilst acknowledging to the Landgraf that he might not see out the campaign), Heister was described as cheerful, active and healthy, although he expected to be treated with deference due to his long campaigning experience. He had been wounded so many times that he was almost totally lame in one leg.
His manners were clearly those of an honourable, old soldier. Lieutenant Piel, a Hessian officer who was taken prisoner at Trenton, recalled meeting the American General Lord Stirling. Stirling "conducted himself in a very friendly manner toward us. He received us with these words, ‘Your General von Heister treated me like a brother when I was a prisoner, and so gentlemen, you shall be treated by me in the same manner…" He took great exception to the reports in American newspapers about Hessian brutality, writing to inform the Landgraf that these newspapers were "nine-tenths lies".
Heister seems to have commanded the Hessian troops with efficiency rather than with distinction, but his difficult relationship with General Howe was dealt a knock-out blow by the disaster of the Hessian defeat at Trenton, for which Heister, as corps commander, had to take ultimate responsibility. He was recalled to Hesse in some disgrace in 1777, replaced by Wilhelm von Knyphausen. His spirit broken, Heister died just over a month after his return to Kassel.
I wanted a command stand of von Heister for the White Plains scenario in the "British Grenadier" scenario book, in which he leads the Crown's forces. Perry had not released any Hessian staff figures when I painted this set so I raided various Foundry ranges. Von Heister himself and his two Hessian aides are from the Prussian Seven Years' War range (sculpted by Mark Copplestone). This mounted general figure is suitably jowly for a seasoned campaigner, although I'm not sure that he looks like a man in his late sixties. His uniform is also conjecture, as there are references to Heister being colonel of a "dragoon regiment" which probably involved a different uniform to that shown here. The British aide is an officer from Foundry's AWI range and wears the orange facings of the 35th Foot, a regiment that was present at White Plains. Painted October 2005.