Book Review: Soldiers for Sale: German "Mercenaries" with the British in Canada during the American Revolution (1776-83)


by Jean-Pierre Wilhelmy

Montreal: Baraka Books/Chicago: Independent Publishers Group, 2012. Pp. 296. Illus., tables, appends., notes, biblio. $29.95 paper. ISBN: 1926824121

Soldiers for Sale takes an innovative look at the “Hessians” of patriotic folklore.

While his aim is throw fresh light on the German troops in the Crown’s service during the American Revolution, in Soldiers for Sale historian Wilhelmy – himself of “Hessian” descent – also manages to give the reader a fresh slant on the war from the Canadian perspective.  As he points out, technically the German troops serving the British in North America were not “mercenaries”, but rather heavily subsidized “allies”.  Wilhelmy discusses British efforts to recruit these troops, the nature of the German states in the “troops for hire” business, the contracts under which various princelings agreed to provide troops (who were often pressed men), their service in the war, not only on the Canadian front, but elsewhere as well, and the consequences of that service.  Along the way Wilhelmy covers numbers, organization, battles, costs and payments (including a brutally callous dunning letter from one German prince to the British government), casualties, desertions, and more, supplemented by a wealth of technical and statistical information.  

A valuable book for the serious student of the American Revolution, of warfare during the Enlightenment, or of the history of mercenary troops.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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