By Nancy Timmerman Cioch
The Hessians were hired German soldiers whose services were paid for by King George III. Germany was divided into over 300 principalities at the time of the American Revolution. Many of these tiny countries offered soldiers for the British. The Prince of Hesse-Cassel sold the services of 12,000 Hessians to the English at (sterling) 7 4s. a head. With most of the Germans coming from this area, all were called Hessians. There were about 30,000 German soldiers who fought for the British during the American Revolution.
When these men came to America and discovered that many of the Americans were German speaking and that there were rich land opportunities, many were willing to switch sides. General George Washington encouraged this by offering land to any deserters who could give information on the British. By the end of the war, it was estimated that 5,000 Germans stayed in this country. These young men had nothing in Germany to go back for - no land, no future, and possibly no family left. They knew that if they deserted and were caught, they would be killed. Those who were captured during battle by the Americans were allowed to escape. From a "Military Journal" by James Thacher MD 1827: "General Washington allowed the Hessian prisoners to retain their baggage and ordered that they be treated with favor and humanity."
John Alexander Dockey
John A. Dockey was a Hessian soldier in the British army during the Revolution. John Dockey fought under General Burgoyne and was taken prisoner at Bennington, Vermont. He was taken to Albany, NY where he escaped. He came to Fall Hill, Little Falls, NY and hired out to Peter Dygert. Soon afterward he married Gertrude Snell, the widow of Jacob Snell, who was killed at the Battle of Oriskany 6 August 1777.
Jacob Snell was baptized 28 Nov 1734, a son of Johan Jost Snell and Maria Cathrina Kraft. He married, 7 Oct 1760, Gertrude Matthews, baptized 21 Apr 1739 a daughter of Johan Niclaas Matheese and Elisabeth Cos. They were both baptized at the Schoharie Reformed Church. When the Stone Arabia Patent was given, many of the Palatines went there. The Snell name was on the Stone Arabia Reformed Church membership list by 1752. Jacob and Gertrude were married at Stone Arabia. The Snell-Zimmerman Patent of 1752 gave the families 3600 acres of land. The Snell sons cleared the land and settled there. Jacob and Gertrude had 9 children. Jacob had served in the French and Indian Wars. After his death at the Battle of Oriskany, Gertrude married John Dockey. They had 2 children, Gertrude Dockey b. 26 March 1780 and Henry Dockey b. 4 March 1784.
John A. Dockey joined the American cause and fought at the Battle of Stone Arabia. He settled in Manheim and was a member of the Snell's Bush Church and both he and his wife are buried there. Gertrude died 23 April 1821 aged 79. John remarried 12 April 1823 to Maria Elizabeth Moyer, widow of Lt. Johan Jost Dygert. John A. Dockey died 28 Sept 1832, Town of Manheim, Herkimer County, aged 76. Dockey Road, Town of Manheim was named after him.
Henry Hose was born in Germany in December 1756. He came to America as a British soldier with General Burgoyne. He never returned to his mother country. He married Margaret Snell (b 1768/9) daughter of Joseph Frederick Snell and Maria Sophia (Lepper).
Their children were Catharina b 25 May 1788, Jacob b. 1791, Henrich b 28 May 1793, George b 1797 (?), Daniel b 1799, Anna/Nancy b April 1800, John b 1802, David b. 19 July 1804, Elizabeth b. 1808, Peter b 1810, Maria b 1813. (Dates of birth not certain for all of the children). In the census of 1790 Henry Hose was listed as head of household with 2 females.
Henry is buried in Snell's Bush Church cemetery. Henry died June 27, 1832 age 75 -6, a Hessian Revolutionary soldier. The Snell's Bush Church Cemetery listing for Henry states that the stone was recorded in 1932 and 1963 and was still to be seen in the 1970s but no longer found in 1982.
William Altenburg was born Sept 9, 1756 in Hersfeld, Hesse-Cassel, Germany. He was drafted by the British Army, as was his brother.
The Hessian rulers sold the rights of their commoners to the British to fight in their infantry.
Americans offered free land and sanctuary to any Hessian soldier who deserted. Many tried to desert but were caught and executed. Those who made it never could return to their homeland or see their families again.
August 28, 1782, William Altenburg deserted. His Regiment had recently arrived at Long Island. His brother had died on ship during the crossing. He was out foraging for food and supplies when he had the chance to desert. Those who deserted gave a statement to the American military about the British. His statement is in George Washington's Papers in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. He stated that they were weak and very sickly.
William was on the census of 1790 in the town of Balston, Albany Co, (now Saratoga County.) He married Elizabeth Mosher and had 2 sons under 16 on that census. The next census had him in the Town of Palatine, Montgomery County. They had 10 to 11 children. He purchased 3 lots of about 100 acres from the Klock & Nellis Patent. He was listed as an early member of the Snell's Bush Church. He died 1/19/1821 at 64 years of age and is buried in the Snell's Bush cemetery. He was an early town officer. On April 3, 1804 he was elected "Fence-Viewer & Pound-Master". His house was on lot 157. Lot 98 was purchased from Christopher W. & Elizabeth Fox for $750. Lot 13 was the 3rd parcel.
His name was on the deserter list 2nd Hetrina volume.
Henry Burkdorff was another Hessian who came to America with General Burgoyne. Hendrick Burkdorf, Sr. was born in Germany 1736 and died July 12, 1824 in the Town of Oppenheim, NY. He was 87 years 6 months old and was buried on the Burkdorf farm cemetery. He married Nancy ---- b Feb. 14, 1747/48 in Germany (?). She died Oct 6, 1814 in the Town of Oppenheim and buried on the Burkdorf farm cemetery. She was 66 years, 7 months, 27 days old. Their son Henry Burkdorf, Jr. was born July 12, 1790. He married Catharine Morrison.
Henry Burkdorff, Sr. was not a member of the Snell's Bush Church nor was he buried there, but his descendants married into the Snell family. His granddaughter, Elisabeth Burkdorf, was born 1816 and died 1869. She was a daughter of Catharine (Morrison) & Henry Burkdorf, Jr. Elisabeth Burkdorf married Peter A. Snell. Peter A. Snell was born 19 November 1808 and died 14 Feb 1881. He was the son of Adam Peter Snell and Elizabeth Snell, (daughter of Frederick Snell, Jr and Catharine Zimmerman Snell). Elisabeth & Peter A. Snell had 6 children. They are buried on the Burkdorf farm cemetery, Town of Oppenheim.
"The Eighteenth Century Snell Family of the Mohawk Valley" by David Kendall Martin 1982. "Altenburg Family History Since 1756" by John G. Altenburgh 1997, 2001. Snell-Zimmerman-Timmerman family genealogy notes – unpublished. Hardin's History of Herkimer County.
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