This print depicts the barracks occupied by the so-called “Convention troops” as they probably looked in the spring or summer of 1779, a few months after these four thousand prisoners had been marched seven hundred miles south to Albemarle County, Virginia, from the battleground or Saratoga, New York, following the surrender of General John Burgoyne’s (1722-1792) army. Most of these troops were Hessian mercenaries. The convention had provided that the troops were to be returned to England, but Congress decided instead to send them south to Albermarle County for imprisonment. Most of the officers who accompanied the Convention troops to Albemarle rented houses in the neighborhood and participated in the social life of the community. The ranking British officer was major General William Phillips (1731-1781) and the ranking Hessian officer was Major Baron de Riedesel (1738-1800). These two officers were frequently entertained at Monticello by Martha (Wayles) Jefferson (1748-1782) and Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) who were in turn entertained by the officers. The ordinary troops remained in their permanent barracks, about three or four miles west of Charlottesville, for a number of years, and some settled in the community after the war.
RELATED OBJECTS: MESDA has on loan various manuscript documents relating to Christopher Wetsel, a Hessian soldier who was held in the camp and later chose to remain in the Shenandoah Valley. (MESDA acc. 5702-2-5).
DESCRIPTION: Line copperplate engraving. There are a number of folds and on one margin the selvage for the binding of the page into the book. There are trees on the left to guide the viewer’s eye into the picture. A road on which numerous chopped tree trunks remain leads around the fortification. Upon this road are a wagon drawn by a horse and oxen and men mounted on horseback, as well as several dogs. There is a house on the right, and people are visible inside through the open door and the window. The men wear uniforms and the ladies bonnets and dresses of the era. Men in uniform also stand outside the house. Inside the fortified area are chopped tree trunks, and again men on horseback and dogs, as well as men walking. In the background are tents or houses close together, houses on hills overlooking the scene, and mountains are visible in the far background.