European warfare during the 18th century was an international affair. An international martial culture shaped elite attitudes toward the conduct of war, and equally significantly, foreign mercenaries were employed throughout Europe and the European colonies to supplement the small standing armies at the core of each nation's defence. From an American vantage, the most famous of these mercenaries were those drawn from six independent German states that were attached to British forces during the American Revolution. With the overwhelming majority of these mercenaries coming from Hesse-Cassel, the whole force came to be refered to as Hessian.
Frederick Christian Arnold, freiherr von Jungkenn, was the youngest son of a German family of the lesser nobility. Although his youth was spent near the family home in Colgenstein, the military was his only true home. At an early age, von Jungkenn entered a Prussian infantry regiment commanded by a cousin, and by the age of 21, had been commissioned as ensign. Like many military men of his generation, however, his break came during the Seven Years' War when at age 25 he accepted a 2nd Lieutenant's commission in a regiment commanded by Frederick, the hereditary prince of Hesse-Cassel. In this capacity, von Jungkenn earned some notice for himself in campaigns in Silesia and Bohemia, but it was the personal connection with the future ruler of his principality that paved his path to fame. When Frederick was elevated to Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel in 1760, von Jungkenn followed into his court. Transferring to the 1st Hessian Guards as a captain, he was appointed 3rd Adjutant General under Frederick, and from there, his rise through the ranks was as rapid as it was assured. By 1776 he was colonel, by 1777, major general and Lord High Chamberlain at court, and by 1781, he had attained the rank of lieutenant general. In court, von Jungkenn climbed just as steadily, taking a seat in council in 1779, and succeeding Baron Martin von Schlieffen as Minister of State in 1780, an appointment which included the duties of secretary of war. Von Jungkenn's military and administrative acumen was highly prized by the Landgrave and his successor, so much so that his requests to resign his post were refused three times before they were finally accepted in 1789.
The seeds of von Jungkenn's association with America were planted during the spring and summer, 1775, when armed insurrection began in the colonies. With only about 18,000 men at his disposal, and unable to increase his ground forces sufficiently by recuitment in England, George III sought to hire troops from abroad to quell the rebellion. Rebuffed by Catherine of Russia, George loaned himself five battalions from his Hanoverian army, but few Hanoverians ever reached American service. Instead, offers to supply troops from the Count of Hesse-Hanau (a nephew of the King), the Markgrave of Ansbach-Bayreuth, and the Prince of Waldeck formed the nucleus of a mercenary army.
The first contract for the provision of mercenary troops was struck in January, 1776, when an English veteran of the Seven Years' War, Col. William Faucitt, reached an agreement with Duke Charles I of Brunswick. The Duchy ultimately supplied over 5,700 soldiers to the British cause, of whom only about half ever returned to Germany. In short order, similar treaties were arrived at with Hesse-Cassel -- long allies of the English -- Waldeck, Ansbach-Bayreuth, Anhalt-Zerbst, and Hesse-Hanau, each desperate for the infusion of money that mercenary activity afforded. The Waldeck troops served mainly in the Floridas, the Hesse-Hanauers largely in Canada, while the others served variously in the colonies. Von Jungkenn's principality of Hesse-Hanau supplied the greatest number of soldiers, almost 17,000 out of the total mercenary force of 30,000. In another measure of the commitment of the principality to the counter-Revolutionary cause, approximately one of every four able-bodied adult men in the principality saw American service. Among the rulers of other German states -- those that did not contract in mercenaries -- the princes who supplied mercenaries were viewed as traffickers in blood, though the practice was common and widely accepted. In America, the troops were viewed with loathing and disdain, symbolizing the tyranny of the monarchy and the barbarity of British rule.
By agreement, the German mercenaries were required to swear allegiance to the British crown, though without having to renounce their allegiance to their own rulers, and although they had their own commanders, they were under the overall command of British forces. The first contingent of Germans arrived at Halifax in June, 1776, soon numbering almost 22,000, a figure which remained nearly constant throughout the war. By special agreement, the Hesse-Cassel troops were commanded by their own generals -- successively Leopold Philipp von Heister, Wilhelm von Knyphausen, and Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Lossberg. The officers of all of the German regiments regularly reported to Jungkenn as one of the highest-placed officers in the command.
In all, fifteen Hessian regiments were authorized by the Landgrave, including infantry, grenadier, dragoon, jäger, and artillery regiments. During their service in America, they and other German mercenaries took part in nearly every major land engagement, fighting with varying degrees of efficiency and prominence, particularly during the southern campaigns of 1780-1781. Their reputation for rapacity, pillaging, marauding, and plundering may well have been deserved, but Hessian behavior was probably little different than that of other European soldiers -- or that of many American soldiers in dealing with their Loyalist foes.
After von Jungkenn was allowed to resign as minister in 1789, he retired to Schloss Hüffe, Kreis Minden, Westphalia, remaining there until his death on November 11, 1809.