Archiver > AMREV-HESSIANS > 1998-12 > 0914729180

From: "Nelson R. Sulouff" <>
Subject: Re: How did Hessian deserters become U.S. citizens?
Date: Sat, 26 Dec 1998 20:26:20 -0700

Jack & Betty Trickler wrote:
> Can anyone tell me by what process Hessians who deserted to stay in the
> U.S. became citizens?



Here is one example of how Hessian soldiers became American citizens. It
is quoted from my article on Johannes Zulauf published in the JOURNAL OF

"Though Zulauf was a servant to officers and while in Reading was
considered a non-combatant, he was nevertheless regarded a bona fide
prisoner of war by both sides in the conflict. The procedure provided by
Congress for him to become a legal citizen of the United States is well
documented. Congress declared on 11 July 1782 that any German prisoner
of war who desired to stay in the States could (1) take the Oath Of
Allegiance to the United States and (2) make cash payment of $80 (£30)
to the Finance Minister (purportedly a reimbursement for the prisoner's
subsistence which the English King had
refused to provide) and thereby obtain from the Board Of War a
certificate stating he was (1) discharged from confinement, (2) was no
longer considered a prisoner of war, and (3) was entitled to the rights
and privileges of the free citizens of the United States.{44} Of course,
neither British nor German officials concurred with such pronouncements
by Congress. They would label a POW going this route a deserter. The
phrase "purchase of redemption" in receipts issued upon payment of the
$80 led to the certificates obtained from the Board of War being called
"redemption certificates." If the soldier, himself, had insufficient
funds to purchase his redemption, sometimes he would become indentured
(a maximum of three years) to another person who furnished the money. An
example of receipt for such payment in the case of a Hesse-Hanau
prisoner, John Orbach, was located in the library of Berks County
Historical Society in Reading, Pennsylvania.{45} It was signed by
Brigadier-General Moses Hazen in Lancaster PA on 27 October 1782 and it
included General Hazen's promise to secure a discharge from the
Secretary of War for Orbach. No evidence of Johannes Zulauf receiving a
"redemption certificate" or taking the Oath Of Allegiance has been
found, but any argument from silence to say that he did not take this
route is invalid. Finding such evidence at this
late date is the exception, not the norm.


{44} Kipping, Ernst, THE HESSIAN VIEW OF AMERICA; Monmouth Beach:
Freneau, 1971, p. 46, where applicable passages from Shelburne Papers,
vol. 69, pp. 120-124 are published.

{45} Op. cit., Archives Film MSS 1782-13 presented in JJSHA 3, 2 (1994),
p. 4."

Another well-known method for becoming a citizen of the United States
was to serve voluntarily in a military unit of the United States, more
often in a state's militia unit than in the regulars. A large number of
German auxiliaries who deserted took this route to become citizens.

Nelson R. Sulouf

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