Powder horn of Hessian soldier Henry Wilkie
This horn was described in an exhibition of historical artifacts in Hatfield in 18891 as the powder horn of Henry Wilkie, a Hessian in General Burgoyne's army.
While Hessian soldiers during the Revolutionary War were typically pre-issued cartridge boxes, this horn may have been issued to Henry once in America, or could have been taken off a captured or killed soldier from the Continental Army. Since the more prominent initials on one side of the horn do not match Henry Wilkie’s initials, the latter scenario is more likely.
There are two known versions of how Henry came to Hatfield, MA. Samuel Partridge in his reminiscences2 indicates that he knew Henry and described him as follows:
“…Henry Wilkie, who was from Wolfenbüttel, Germany, belonged to General Burgoyne's army, and was taken prisoner at Saratoga. While on his march to Boston for reembarkation to Germany, he made his escape, preferring to remain in this country. He was a barber in his native country, and told me that the barbers there were surgeons to the extent of bleeding patients. He lived in a small one-story house with his wife and four sons. All of these sons attended school in the old brick schoolhouse. One of the sons, Henry, remained in town, where he died at an advanced age. The others left town before their father's death.”
Another version of how he came to be one of the earliest non-English residents of Hatfield comes from an obituary of Henry’s grandson Charles E. Wilkie (donor of the powder horn), in which Henry is said to have been paroled. He, like many of his fellow Hessian soldiers, chose to remain in this country and was allowed to settle on condition that he not take up arms again for the British. Some Hessian POWs were paroled to local farmers, who needed manpower.
There were several paths of march taken by the prisoners from the Saratoga battlefield to Boston following General Burgoyne’s surrender on Oct. 17, 1777. One march led by General James Brickett did pass through Hatfield and another passed through Northampton. These, however, were thought to consist of British soldiers. The Hessians were marched via more southerly routes through Springfield and Connecticut. Along these routes, the Hessian soldiers were encouraged to desert their British armies and settle in the new land.
A more in-depth profile of Henry Wilkie is available from the Hatfield Historical Society.
- PVMA, 212th Anniversary of the Indian Attack on Hatfield (Northampton, MA, Gazette Printing, 1890)
- Daniel White Wells, Reuben Field Wells, A History of Hatfield in Three Parts (Springfield, MA, F.C.H. Gibbons, 1910).