09 April 2012

7YW Artillery – part 4 – HESSE-CASSEL

I decided to turn my research to a Seven Years War army that played a major part in the conflict, but, as yet, has received but little attention to the artillery it fielded. For that reason, I believe, the below presented piece will be a ‘first-time’ ground breaking introduction, for I’m not aware anyone has made an attempt before to reconstruct or present an image of Hessian ordnance of this period. This is why I felt the need to expand somewhat more on what made me do what I did. The below will, thus, be somewhat more extensive.

My illustration of a Hesse-Kassel 3-pounder regimental cannon is for the most part based on the wonderful material provided with the digitalized exhibition of the Kassel Wilhelmshöher ‘Kriegskarten’ (‘war maps’) available from the Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg, Germany (DigAM) at www.digam.net/?str=177
It provides several drafts of barrels and carriages of around 1770 as per the Marburg archivist’s dating. Unfortunately, it has but few documents of the earlier period of between 1740-1763.
Of particular interest is document WHK 43/14 (folder 43, doc. 14). It’s explications are headed Affuitirung nach Schwedischer Manir wonach die Hessische eingerichtet ist,… [sic.] (Engl.: Carriage construction in Swedish manner as to which the Hessian is equipped…)
document WHK 43/14 (folder 43, doc. 14)

I decided to take this reference to Swedish carriage construction rather serious and point my research into this direction. One should be aware that earlier in the 18th century, Landgrave Friedrich I. of Hesse was also King of Sweden, reigning from 1720 to his death in 1751. It is therefore rather compelling to assume, some of the Swedish artillery know-how made it’s way to Cassel during this period.
We know the Hessian artillery was turned from its ancient semi-military guild footing to a regular militarized establishment only in 1741 with the raising of a so entitled standing Artillerie Corps. New pieces of a lightened design were introduced. In 1741 twelve light 3-pounders to serve as regimental pieces for the infantry battalions, along with some 6-pounders as a complement of heavy battery pieces were cast at the Cassel foundry. Some more 3-pounders would have been cast during the next yeas in order to supply the later raised regiments with cannons, replace losses, and to arrive at the regulation 2 pieces per bataillon by 1757. During the War of Austrian Succession (1741-1748) also a battery of 4 Hessian heavy 12-pounders was fielded (see: Rudolf Witzel, Hessen Kassels Regimenter in der Alliierten Armee 1762, Norderstedt 2007).
I’m near certain these M1741 pieces were likewise fielded with carriages adapted in Swedish manner and those drafts of the M1770 pieces illustrate material not so different from the earlier design. Really, for the period well after the 7YW, proportioning a barrel based on it’s caliber – i.e. diameter of the bore, instead of the shot diameter, and also specifying the dimensions of the carriage likewise by multiples of the caliber must be regarded as ‘old school’ and far from latest state of art in gunnery by 1770. A good number of details seen with these Hessian drafts can be found with Swedish scale drawings dating to the 1720’s.
Above image shows a contemporary draft of the Swedish 3-pounder Regementsstycke M1725 (source: Jakobsson, Th., Artilleriet under Karl XII:s-tiden, Armémusei Skrifter I, Stockholm 1943). Aside from this pieces unusual rounded trail, the Hessian draft (WHK 43/14) is very close to this earlier Swedish design. Of special concern are those distinctive ‘lids’ that serve to fasten the barrel to the carriage, which so far, I haven’t seen with any other nations artillery of this period.
The Swedish barrel of the M1725 3-pounder was 18 calibers long. The Hessian 1741 cast 3-pounders may have been also 18 caliber barrels  instead of the 20 calibers with the M1770 piece. We don’t know.
Also the way the straps around the wheel fellows are arranged is rather distinctive Swedish as much as it became distinctive Hessian likewise as the DigAM collection of scale drawings reveals.
Swedish gun carriage of 1698. (Source: Online archive of Stockholm Army Museum, Sweden)

Also of interest is the Swedish machinery driving the elevating screw, a design that comes in a wooden case, which is placed on the pointing transom. It looks much like grandmas’ old coffee mill. We know colonel Dide zu Fürstenstein introduced an elevating screw for the regimental cannons in 1742. The DigAM collection is missing any hint to its design, but as the centre transom of the Hessian piece is placed between the bracket cheeks the very same way as the with Swedish M1725 piece, we should assume the Hessian design wasn’t much different to the Swedish one. The distance between barrel and transom is too large for a horizontally placed screw driven wedge, employed by Prussians and Austrians for example. It must have been of a vertical design.
Source: Online archive of Stockholm Army Museum, Sweden

Here is an image of the real Swedish M1725 piece. Note the iron gears that serve to manhandle the piece in action. The Austrians introduced a much similar design in 1753 with their 3 and 6-pounder filed guns, along with the 7-pounder light howitzer. There is no indication that Hessian bataillon guns also had them. I believe the Hessian pieces were moved with ropes only. The above Swedish gears were designed to manhandle the piece the way illustrated below.
Source: Jakobsson, Th., Artilleriet under Karl XII:s-tiden, Armémusei Skrifter I, Stockholm 1943

Finally, some more words on the distinctive Hesse–Cassel colour furnish for its carriages. No word could be found with the sources available to me. I’m left with this single, albeit, reliable source: an oil painting attributed to Johann Heinrich Tischbein senior, in 1753 appointed court painter to Landgrave Wilhelm VIII. (1753-1760). It is titled the ‘Princes painting’ showing Wilhelms’ grandsons.
To the left we see Wilhelm (later IX), dressed in the officers’ uniform of his regiment Prinz Wilhelm Cuirassiers (K1). The Kassel museum does not date it, but the inducement for this painting was most certainly Wilhelms’ declaration as aspirant of the throne of Hesse Hanau, in 1754. Normally, the son of the reigning landgrave would receive the countship of Hanau, but Wilhelm VIII. son Friedrich had converted from Calvinist to Catholic religion sometime before. The Hanau Estates therefore refused to accept him as their sovereign. For that reason, his son Wilhelm was to become count of Hanau instead. The settling of affairs took a number of years. Wilhelm became count of Hanau only in 1760, it seems. The painting, nevertheless, should be dated earlier or around 1754.

Of particular interest is the collection of arms on the right fore and background. The pair of cavalry standards along with the kettle drums of K1 can be identified and have been regarded as authentic elsewhere before. The pair of infantry flags can be identified as those of the Hesse-Hanau Landregiment (IR 13 in 1763). Note the colouring of the mortar, and also note the pair of bataillon guns seen in the right background. I would identify them as the guns of the Hessian Garde Regiment (IR1), for Wilhelms’ two younger brothers are dressed in the officers’ uniform of this regiment. The painting was certainly done at Cassel and the arms would come from the Cassel arsenal rather than that of Hanau, with exception of the flags, whish should have been the new ones, bearing the arms of Wilhelm.

A close up view of the background cannons reveals both are likewise white with the wooden elements and the metal parts are furnished red. Also the spokes can be seen painted red. I decided to base my illustration of the details found with this oil painting. Red and white are the principal Hesse-Cassel colours. Painting the guns according to the arms colours wasn’t uncommon at all. Examples would include the early 18th century Prussian white wood / black metal, Austrian yellow wood / black metal, and Saxony vice versa – to name only a few.


  1. majestic, truly majestic work,,

  2. fantastic work Christian, worthy of a book I think!


  3. Again - thanks for sharing !

  4. Lovely detailed work, as always. Thanks.



  5. Beautiful work. I had painted my artillery pieces in a very light blue grey instead of white as I have found quotes relating to this as well as white (I have used this painting and one other which if I can find I will forward on). Have you found convincing evidence of white carriages?


    I fully agree with you on the Cassel digitized archive, it is truly wonderous and a great example for county and state archives everywhere.

    Great work

  6. Dave,
    Thanks for the compliments. I'll try my best.
    The sole reference to the white carriage furnish is the above oil painting. No more. I've read a comment at www.drunkendragoonproductions.com that reads a light grey from the same painting. Meeting half way on this one you could say the furnish was a true off-white but entitled "white" similar to the former French "red" which wasn't a true red but red-brown, looking rather red.

    1. That was me at drunken dragoon! I still cant find the other painting that made reference to the guns in the background as being H-C. It's very annoying because I can remember what the picture looked liked. Any information I find I'll forward on.


  7. Dave,
    Good luck hunting for the lost image. I'm very interested. Is it another old oil painting or some other source on armies and uniforms, etc.?

  8. I just wanted to say thank you for your diligent scholarship. Also I did paint my H-K Artillery ( Perry Minis) the colors you depicted.

  9. Take a look at Peale's painting of Washington at Princeton. I was viewing this painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts recently, and the cairrage of the gun Washington is leaning on looks white to me.

  10. Christian, you have done wonderful research. I noticed that in "Geschichte des Kurhessischen Feldartillerie" by Dr. Has, he says that it was 1739 or 1740 that the decision to caste the new light cannon was made, the same time that they decided to reduce the diversity of their calibers. Also, six of the new 6pndrs were caste. He also mentions (Pg.133) that during the SYW, the Hessians were using at least six 6pndrs as regimental guns.

    1. Thanks for confirming my finds by quoting from Dr. Has's book. It wasn't available to me then. Presumably, we won't get it any better or closer, I fear. The 6-pdr design found at the Marburg Archive is a long barrel heavy field gun – a Culverine or German "Schlange" – not a battalion gun. Possibly 2,000 pounds weight upwards for the barrel alone.

  11. Christian, Very clear and informative. Just what I need as I turn my attention to Hessen-Kassel artillery. Best regards, Simon

  12. Simon,
    I'm pleased you like my work. After all, I intend to share all this research of mine.

  13. Christian,
    thanks for your fantastic research! I am no wargamer, but a historian who does casting and painting only on an amateur level. I am esspecially interested in the Hesse-Kassel army, because I am a "Marburg native" and studied History at the Philipps-Universität. During this time I worked for six years as an asistant at the Hessisches Landesamt für geschichtliche Landeskunde.
    For a local museum I would like to set up a range of 40 mm semi-flat figures with examples of all regiments of the Hesse-Kassel Army from the SYW. I started using the Prussian Infantry figures from Prince August for that purpose, which fits quite well. But their SYW artillery moulds are anything but ideal, because PA decided for figures with sleeves and waistcoats. Pretty much the same with the cavalry - until now only Austrian cavalry moulds. So I am looking for alternatives. Maybe you (or somebody else) could give me a hint.

    1. Добрый день, как альтернатива можно использовать фигурки бумажных солдатиков https://i.pinimg.com/originals/c6/18/02/c61802d7d483d7dee97d554df50023cf.jpg

  14. Arman,
    40mm isn't really my range, hence, I'm afraid I can't help you here.
    Two links that may be of help:


  15. Zoom ahead to 2022 and a Hessian 3 pounder barrel was discovered. It was deemed fireable and was indeed fired. You can see it on You Tube. The cannon has a 1768 date, Friedrich II symbol and crown, certified by an expert and for sale at $89,000 . I'm hoping to model a "regiments cannon" for my Regiment Prinz Carl.
    My ancestors came from the towns in this regiment's recruiting zone. I think the closest artillery model that I would start with is the I/R 54mm American Revolutionary War kit.