People encountering historical mentions of “Hessian” regiments for the first time are often fatally confused by what they read on that first occasion and what they stumble into on subsequent encounters.
Most people (even many Germans) have no idea – until it is too late – that there was not one state of Hesse after 1567, but two main subdivisions and several minor fractions, the latter of which may generally be ignored.
Post 1567, the major divisions of Hessen-Darmstadt and Hessen-Kassel, both Landgrafschaften (Landgravates) were formed, each going its own separate way, each with its own military establishment, sets of uniforms, colours and standards. The problem – for the uninitiated - is compounded, because both sets of infantry regiments wore dark blue coats, both armies bore the same red and white striped, crowned, sword-bearing rampant lion on their colours, gorgets and other appointments.
Differences between Hessen-Darmstadt and Hessen-Kassel units
The only key to the actual nationality of a regiment lies in the ciphers shown in the finials to the colours and in the corner medallions. These are the initials of the rulers who presented the colours and standards.
For Hessen-Darmstadt (in the XVIII and early XIX Centuries, these will be “LL”, or “LxL”, for Ludwig Landgraf, with the Roman numeral “x” for Ludwig X.
For Hessen-Kassel the ciphers will be “FL”, then “WL” and from 1803 “WK”.
The other decisive clue to nationality was also on the colours. Those of Hessen-Darmstadt bore the motto “PRO PATRIA” on the scroll over the lion`s head; those of Hessen-Kassel bore “NESCIT PERICULA”.
Later in the XVIII Century, the heir apparent (crown prince or Erbprinz) of Hessen-Kassel (Wilhelm, son of Friedrich II of Hesse-Kassel) was made Graf von Hessen-Hanau, which was part of the state of Hessen-Kassel. Both these states sent regiments to America to help Britain fight against the American rebels in their war of independence.
Hessen-Darmstadt sent no troops to America.
Project Seven Years War proposes distinct articles related to the Hessen-Darmstadt Army and the Hessen-Kassel Army. The latter article also covers troops from Hessen-Hanau since this county belonged to Hessen-Kassel.
Digby Smith for the initial version of this article.