Page:The Hessians and the other German auxiliaries of Great Britain in the revolutionary war.djvu/50

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THE HESSIANS.


jects of the neighboring German princelings. Recruiting officers were active all over Germany. Spendthrifts, loose livers, drunkards, arguers, restless people, and such as made political trouble, if not more than sixty years old and of fair health and stature, were forced into the ranks. The present of a tall, strapping fellow was at that time an acceptable compliment from one prince to another, and in every regiment were many deserters from the service of neighboring states. Together with this mixed rabble served the honest peasant lads of Germany, forced from their ploughs. It may be noted, as a general rule, that the regiments sent to America in 1776 were made up of better material than were the bodies of recruits subsequently furnished.[1]

Johann Gottfried Seume, who afterwards attained some prominence as a writer, was a victim of the recruiting system, and has given an account of his adventures. Seume was a theological student at Leipsic, and having conceived religious doubts which he knew would be offensive to his friends, left that city on foot for Paris, with a sword at his side, a few shirts and a few volumes of the classics in his knapsack, and about nine thalers in his pocket. His journey, however, was destined to take a different direction. “The third night I spent at Bach,” writes he, “and here the Landgrave of Cassel, the great broker of men of the time, undertook through his recruiting officers, and in spite of my protestations, the care of my future quar-

  1. In the autumn of 1777 Knyphausen complains to the Landgrave that since the new recruits have joined the army, pilfering within the regiments and plundering outside of them can hardly be restrained.