Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Hessian jaeger

The British authorities seems to have taken the decision fairly quickly to use Hessian line regiments as garrison troops. Whether that decision was due to poor battlefield performance or general unreliability and suspicion of desertion is a moot point; from what I have read, the Hessian auxiliaries deserved better and certainly are worth more than their posthumous reputation as brutal "German mercenaries". Some units performed very well under fire and, as noted in earlier posts, many of their officers were veterans of European combat and knew their trade.

The Hessian jaeger corps was an elite unit by any standards, recruited from foresters and huntsmen and better paid than the line regiments. "They possessed the essential virtues of light troops - they were good shots, agile, intelligent and self-reliant" wrote Fuller in his 1925 study of British light infantry in the 18th century. In the Long Island campaign of 1776 the jaeger were used as skimishers and "point-men"; they were so effective in dispersing the Rebels that a British officer wrote "nothing could behave better than the Hessians, and particularly their Jaegers, or Riflemen, who are as much superior to those of the rebels as it is possible to imagine." A jaeger piquet of three officers and seventy men always marched ahead of the Howe's army during the 1777-78 campaigns.
Captain Johann Ewald, the one-eyed son of a postmaster, left a journal of his experiences commanding a jaeger company in America. His writings show a keen awareness of the use of light troops in the Americas, although Ewald was a harsh critic and blamed the jaeger picket at Trenton for the garrison's suprise by Washington. A character model of Ewald appears below.
These figures are from the Perry range. 12 figures. Painted April 2006.

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