Henry Limberger & The Hessians

Johann Heinrich (Henry) LIMBERGER (1755-1835), 5th Great Grandfather on the Morris line, arrived Staten Island, New York, 1776. Henry had been press ganged (forcibly conscripted) from his family home, actually hiding in the garden, and sent to America as a Hessian soldier.

Eighteenth-century illustration of two Hessian soldiers. Wikimedia

Hessians were German soldiers who served as auxiliaries to the British Army during the American Revolutionary War, making up approximately 25% of land forces. During the 18th century many of Europe’s modern borders were still undefined and Hesse-Kassel (home of the Hessian) was one of hundreds of loosely organized German states. Conscription was standard practice and professional armies were maintained to defend their territory. When not serving their own state, the professional soldiers would be rented out in their national uniform to serve other countries and generate huge revenues.

All Hessian males were registered for military service at the age of seven, and from the age of 16 until 30, had to annually present themselves to an official for possible recruitment. Only those whose occupation was considered vital to the country could be exempt. Those deemed “expendable”, such as vagrants and the unemployed, could be conscripted at any time.

The family story states that Henry had no intention of soldiering in North America, under the banner of King George III, and slipped away as the troops were disembarking their ship in New York.

Hessians were legally distinguished as auxiliaries: whereas mercenaries served a foreign government of their own accord, auxiliaries were soldiers hired out to a foreign party by their own government, to which they remained in service.

Atwood, Rodney (1980).The Hessians: Mercenaries from Hessen-Kassel in the American Revolution. Cambridge University Press.

Henry stole a horse and rode up the Boston Post Road, over 150 miles, to Connecticut, where he took refuge in a Stonington tavern. The hospitable taverner’s daughter, Rhoda WEED (1762-1830), took a liking to the young Hessian and they eloped! They made their way via Hackensack, New Jersey, to New York City, where he was a successful baker.

Henry opened a bakery in Greenwich Village, living at 97 Amos Street, for the last decade of his life. His only son, John Henry LIMBERGER (1786-1838), also ran a nearby bakery (with liquor sales), and lived at 41 Vesey Street, passing away just a couple of years after his father.

Amazingly, a citrine and seed pearl ring datable to the period and said to be Rhoda’s wedding ring, has been handed down through the generations and currently resides with a distant cousin, Emily Randall, a genealogist whose research contributed greatly to this article.

Family Tree

From one German Limberger ancestor, through surnames Weed, Van Beuren, & West, we reach the Morris family of New Jersey.

  • Johan Heinrich (Henry) LIMBERGER (1755-1835) & Rhoda WEED (1762-1830)
    • John Henry LIMBERGER (1786-1838) & Rachel VAN BEUREN 1784-1822)
      • Agnes Limberger (1805-1882)
      • Helen Van Beuren Limberger (1807-?)
      • Margaret LIMBERGER (1810-1890) & Edward Dennison WEST (1806-1845)
        • Edward D West (1830-1902)
        • Margaret West (1833-1865)
        • Henry Limberger West (1834-1838)
        • Frederick R West (1834-1902)
        • William Henry West (1839-1875)
        • Helen Wenman WEST (1842-1871) & Rufus Hamilton MORRIS (1846-1907)
          • Rufus Hamilton MORRIS (1869-1942) & Maria de la Concepcion VALDEZ Y SUAREZ (1874-1970)
            • Leon Morris (1903-1995)
            • Caridad S Morris (1904-1990)
            • Helen Morris (1906-1907)
            • Robert MORRIS (1911-1989) & Mary Hayden BACON (1912-1998)
              • Direct line…
            • Rufus Hamilton Morris (1911-1976)
          • Helen West Morris (1871-1957)
        • Charlotte Southack West (1844-1926)
        • Sarah Ann Randall West (1846-1924)
      • Sara Ann Limberger (1813-?)
      • Charlotte Limberger (1818-?)
      • John Henry Limberger (1821-1900)
    • John Henry LIMBERGER (1786-1838) & Mary Buckley
      • Charles Limberger (1836-1910)
      • Joseph G Limberger
      • Thomas B Limberger
      • William B Limberger



Family archivist, genealogical researcher, writer, and always open to receive questions, comments, and feedback via JulianClark@mac.com


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