Reading: "Washington's Crossing" David Hackett Fischer
Before I started reading this book I had no idea that the British were actively trying to contract other states to help them fight in the American rebellion but indeed they did.
The British had the most effective Army and Navy in the world but were very stretched from recent fighting on five continents. The sun literally never set on the British Empire and they wanted more than the 35,000 troops they had mustered to put down the rebellion.
They tried to hire out part of the Russian army from Catharine the Great, but she refused. They tried to get the Netherlands to let them rent their Scottish brigade, but they refused as well. The Prussians were also courted, but did not agree to lend their services.
Finally, the British turned to Hesse-Cassel, a small state in what is now in central Germany. In this period, continental Europe was in a constant state of War. The small European states maintained large armies for defense of their territory and rented them out for a high price when they were not in use.
The Hessians were a very effective fighting force, sort of like the special forces or Spartans of their time. The 'soldier trade' was one of the biggest industries in their impoverished area of Germany at the time.
The Hessian Army was not run the same way the British army was. While the British army used a combination of reward and punishment in training it's officers, the Hessian army was drilled by brute discipline. This made them more aggressive fighters and prisoners, including Americans were not spared when captured.
I still can't get over two things:
1) Nations of the 1700's would rent out entire sections of their military forces.
2) It wasn't just the British George Washington's militias were fighting.
On the first point, I know that in ancient times, this practice was common and some empires (the Carthaginians especially) had their militaries made up almost exclusively of mercenaries, but I didn't think that this practice continued in the Western World after the age of Nation States.
I had always thought that nations went to war with/against each other for treaties, expansion etc., but I did not believe that a king would 'rent' his military out.
On the second point, I mean come on- isn't this supposed to just be the 'good' Americans against the 'bad' British?
I never learned the 'World War' perspective in school.