Chasing Ancient Germans around Modern Maryland

POW reenactor at Fort Frederick, Maryland

POW reenactor at Fort Frederick, Maryland

Drove to and from Fort Frederick, near Big Pool, Maryland on September 13.

I was tracing my great (times five) grandfather, who as a Hessian mercenary had served with the English attempting to subdue the rebellion in colonial America. My predecessor was impressed into the Hessian army and shipped to New York, which his unit helped “liberate” from George Washington.

Records show that Jacob “deserted 24 Sep 1781 from POW status probably at (hospital?) Frederick, Maryland.”  There were two POW encampments in Maryland, both occasionally called Fort Frederick. This first, which I visited today, was built in 1756 as a frontier bastion against the French. It–older, larger, more permanent (note the twenty foot tall stone walls)–housed up to a thousand British POWs captured during the Revolutionary War. The other a wooden stockade near Frederick (then called Fredericktown), some fifty miles away, housed the German POWs. The Continental Congress worried the Germans would escape from the one, but not the other.

Reenactors of Maryland colonial militia who garrisoned Fort Frederick to guard POWs.

Reenactors of Maryland colonial militia who garrisoned Fort Frederick to guard POWs.

The remainder of Jacob’s record is tantalizing: “May have joined American forces.” We have found evidence that several German POWs may have joined a German immigrant unit of Pennsylvania and Maryland (obviously not Amish or Mennonites, who shunned violence) and fought in the southern campaign against Lord Cornwallis, culminating in his surrender at Yorktown, VA on October 19, 1781.

Flint-lock musket demonstration

Jacob, where were you and what were you doing?

We next find Jacob (now Zike) married and settled in Jessamine County, Kentucky (then still part of Virginia) in 1782, the proud father of a son (my great (times four) grandfather).

Wily rascals, those Hessians.


One thought on “Chasing Ancient Germans around Modern Maryland

  1. The title of your piece is great. Wouldn’t it be great if we all could come up with good titles every time? Interesting background, too.
    I have some information that my great, great grandfather Tommy Gay. He joined the Rebels at 16, as a bugler. I have a pile of genealogy papers that I probably won’t ever explore. I’ve already given some of them to the Va. Historical Society.

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