Date of Award

Winter 1982

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The thirty thousand German soldiers who served with the British Army in the American Revolution enabled the British to attempt to successfully wage war without affecting the stability of British society. The six German states that sent troops to America did so as a result of hundreds of years of normal troop trade. Few Britons questioned the legality of the hiring of foreign troops. Britain could not fight the war without such troops and even the critics of the war acknowledged this truth. The Germans often made up half the forces facing Americans on the battlefield.

This dissertation analyses the reasons for the troop trade, the treaties between Britain and the German states, the recruiting of the forces, and their organization for battle. This is followed by a narrative of battlefield actions from Long Island in August 1776 to Yorktown in October 1781 and stresses the contributions and limitations of the German troops. Finally, several chapters deal with the place of the Germans within the British military establishment, a statistical analyses of selected German units, American blacks as German soldiers, Germans' images of the American Revolution, German atrocities and plundering, and German prisoners of war and deserters.

The Germans represent just about the last major European army to fight for mercenary payment, but they also prefigure the professional peacekeepers of the twentieth century, soldiers fighting not for national preservation, but rather for some conception of societal order. In terms of utility, the British made a good bargain.