J. R. (Hessian) journal  1776-1784
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Revolutionary War journal of Hessian soldier, J. R., spans the full period of his service in the British auxiliary forces, beginning with his departure from home in February, 1776, and continuing through his return with British forces to England during the winter of 1783-1784. This period of time is not, however, uniformly well documented. Almost half of the journal covers the author's first trip across the Atlantic and their service in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, and the Philadelphia Campaign, 1776-1777. Unfortunately, the latter portion of the Philadelphia Campaign and the next three years of the war are covered summarily in only a few pages. Late in 1780, the author briefly returned to more regular entries, at which point the regiment was stationed in the area around New York city, followed by a two years lapse in recording anything at all. He again provides good coverage for the return home across the Atlantic and their stay in Chatham.

Written in old script German in a clear, legible hand, the journal reflects a degree of education on the part of its author. Reading of the journal is made difficult only by the occasional use of phonetic spelling (typical of pre-standardized 18th century language). J.R. is not, however, a particularly reflective writer, commenting only occasionally on the new sights in America, rarely discussing military matters in great detail, and virtually never considering larger strategic issues or the effect of the war on civilians or military personnel.

Although the journal's author is identified only by his initials, J.R., but the broad outlines of the author's identity can be reconstructed. The clearly came from Europe with the first division of Hessian troops, and given the particulars of his regiment's movements throughout the war, one can conclude with some confidence that he belonged to the Leib Regiment. In particular, the combination of service in the occupation of Newport (December, 1776-May, 1777), at Brandywine, and at other engagements in the Philadelphia Campaign makes any other attribution unlikely. Furthermore, it appears that the author is most likely to have been either a private soldier or non-commissioned officer, in that no commissioned officer listed on the regimental roll provided by Eelking bears those initials.

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