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The Hessian by Howard Fast

The Hessian

by Howard Fast

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834226,902 (4)1
When his entire brigade is wiped out by the colonists, a sixteen-year-old German drummer boy survives with the aid of a Quaker family and the local doctor.



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Set in Connecticut three years into the American Revolution when most of the action had moved south, this is a story about the conflict between religious belief and war tactics.

Three belief systems are portrayed, the Puritan, the Catholic and the Quaker. Revolving around two war related incidents and how a third will be resolved.

Are summary executions of civilians and combatants acceptable? Are ambushes a war tactic or mass murder? Guilt by association. An eye for an eye. Whose faith is superior during wartime?
Christian mercy - real or a delusion during war.

Filled with period details and some lapses. Too many cliches.

A worthwhile examination and probably no coincidence this was written and published during the later part of the Vietnam war.

A easy read and under 200 pages. My copy was removed from a high school library. Was is considered too controversial, too dated, to explicit? ( )
  landschaft_archt | Jun 4, 2019 |
This one seems always to be on the summer reading list in high school. That could be because of its relatively shallow consideration of moral issues surrounding combatants in a war, and what they mean for people's lives.

During the American Revolution a young, addle-brained colonial boy brays obnoxiously at a Hessian detachment, which somewhat petutlantly arrests him, and eventually hangs him. Seemingly in return, a young Hessian soldier is taken prisoner after being hidden by a local family (I forget his transgression - sorry), given a cursory military trial, and hanged. Neither hanging is justified, except to the respective sides.

The story poses a full slate of moral and legal conundrums: what level of proof is needed to prove espionage during wartime?; when is a wartime combatant guilty of murder?; are life-or-death matters, when decided by human beings under pressure of war, conducive to justice?

This is a spare story; there is not a lot of background information on our main characters. I was left wishing for more.

http://bassoprofundo1.blogspot.com/2010/07/hessian-by-howard-fast.html ( )
  LukeS | Apr 15, 2009 |
It is about an incident 3 years into the American rebellion in a Connecticut neighborhood. Dr. Feversham is a Catholic, married to a protestant, with experience at the front lines, but wounded and now doctoring in the area. A group of Hessian soldiers are seen in a back path and a simple-minded young man follows them, making marks on a slate. They capture and hang him, but it is witnessed by a Quaker boy who goes back and tells the village. They gather a group to go take revenge on the Hessians. They ambush them and only the drummer boy escapes. The magistrate is intent on finding and hanging him, but the boy is taken in by the very Quaker family and sheltered and they call the Doctor to come treat his wound, for he had been shot in the back. It is touch and go, but the boy survives and the Quaker girl falls in love with him. Then he is discovered and taken for trial. The doctor tries to seek mercy, but is rebuffed by the judge and the boy is sentenced and hanged. This tale contains a maelstorm of emotions, various religions, love and hate, revenge and mercy, and the aberrations of warfare. It cannot help but touch one’s heart. ( )
  lopemopay | Oct 6, 2007 |
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