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The tradition of the RK Kassel - the legacy of the Jäger

We are following in the tradition of many famous military units, forces and of our hometown and bastion, the city of Kassel.

Kassel (German pronunciation: [ˈkasəl]); spelt Cassel until 1928) is a city located on the Fulda River in northern Hesse, Germany. It is the administrative seat of the Regierungsbezirk Kassel and the Kreis of the same name and has approximately 195 000 inhabitants. The former capital of the state of Hesse-Kassel (Landgravitate Hesse-Kassel) has many palaces and parks, including the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kassel is also known for the documenta exhibitions of contemporary art.


The Landgravitate of Hesse-Kassel was allied to the British Kingdom in the American Revolutionary War.

The financial basis of the small German states was the regular rental of regiments as mercenaries to fight for various larger nations during the 18th century, Historian Charles W. Ingrao examines The Hessian Mercenary State: Ideas, Institutions, and Reform under Frederick II, 1760-1785 (2003). The German mercenaries were very well trained and equipped; they fought well for whomever was paying their prince. At the conclusion of the war, Congress offered incentives--especially free farmland-- for these Germans to remain in the United States. Great Britain also offered land and tax incentives for German soldiers willing to settle in Nova Scotia.

Frederick II., Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel

Hesse-Kassel Coat of arms (1736-1804)

General Wilhelm von Knyphausen

The Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel, under Frederick II, uncle to King George III, initially provided over 12,000 soldiers to fight in the Americas. Like their British allies, the Hessians had some difficulty acclimating to North America; the first troops to arrive suffered from widespread illness, and forced a delay in the attack on Long Island. From 1776 on, Hessian soldiers were incorporated into the British Army serving in North America, and they fought in most of the major battles, including those of New York and New Jersey campaign, the Battle of Germantown, the Siege of Charleston, and the final Siege of Yorktown, where about 1,300 Germans were taken prisoner, although various reports indicate that the Germans were in better spirits than their British counterparts.

It has been estimated that Hessen-Kassel contributed over 16,000 troops during the course of the Revolutionary War, of whom 6,500 did not return. Hessian officer (later General) Adam Ludwig Ochs estimated that 1,800 Hessian soldiers were killed, but many in the Hessian army intended on staying in America, and remained after the war. Because the majority of German troops came from Hessen, Americans sometimes refer to all German troops generically as "Hessians". Hessen-Kassel signed a treaty of alliance with Great Britain to supply fifteen regiments, four grenadier battalions, two jäger companies, and three companies of artillery. The jägers in particular were carefully recruited and well paid, well clothed, and free from manual labor. These jägers proved essential in the "Indian style" warfare in America, and Great Britain signed a new treaty in December 1777 in which Hesse-Cassel agreed to increase their number from 260 to 1,066.

German armies could not quickly replace the men lost on the other side of the Atlantic, so the Hessians recruited African-Americans as servants and soldiers. 115 black soldiers served with Hessian units, most of them as drummers or fifers.

Perhaps the best-known officer from Hessen-Kassel is General Wilhelm von Knyphausen, who commanded his troops in several major battles. Other notable officers include Colonel Carl von Donop (mortally wounded at the Battle of Red Bank in 1777) and Colonel Johann Rall, who was mortally wounded at the Battle of Trenton in 1776. Rall's regiment was captured, and many of the soldiers were sent to Pennsylvania to work on farms.

Washington Crossing the Delaware

by Emanuel Leutze, MMA-NYC, 1851

The Passage Of The Delaware

by Thomas Sully, MFA-Boston, 1819

The Capture of the Hessians at Trenton, December 26, 1776

by John Trumbull, Yale University Art Gallery, between 1786 and 1828

One of the most famous Hessian units were the Jäger, known to the present day for the story of the headless rider, Sleepy Hollow. The Jäger were and are a special unit.

Jäger (singular [der] Jäger, plural [die] Jäger, German pronunciation: [ˈjɛːɡɐ]) is a German military term adopted in 1631 by the landgrave of Hesse when he first formed an elite infantry unit out of his professional hunters (Jäger) and rangers (Forstleute) in the Hessian Army.

Hessian Electoral Jäger 1835-1843

Jäger from Hesse-Kassel, 1776–1783

During the Age of Enlightenment in German-speaking states (and others influenced by them) Jäger was used to describe elite light infantry, especially skirmishers, scouts, sharpshooters and couriers. Jäger, which means "hunter" or "huntsman" in German, came by extension to denote light infantrymen whose forester background made them suitable for skirmishing as individuals rather than as a drilled and regimented body of soldiers. Often they came from families with a tradition of service to one feudal lord. Initially Jägers made use of their own precision-made rifles: a more accurate weapon with a longer range than the muskets used by line troops.


While the term Jäger continues, in some modern instances, to carry its original and literal connotations, the usage had broadened over time. For instance, Feldjäger was the name given by the Prussian Army, basically for scouts and couriers. In Bundeswehr, Feldjäger is the name of German military police. During the 20th century Jagdflugzeug (short form: Jäger) became the German word for fighter aircraft, while Panzerjäger was the name adopted for tank destroyers.


Jäger, in its original sense of light infantry, is usually translated into English as:


    "rifleman" (in an infantry role) or "Rifles" (in regimental names) and;

    "ranger" (especially in North American English).


In English Jäger is often written as jaeger (both pl. and sgl.) or anglicised as jager (pl. jagers) to avoid the umlaut.


The Hessian Jäger of 1631 kept their tradition and their bastion in Kassel during all periods of time. During the early stages of the First World War the German Jäger maintained their traditional role as skirmishers and scouts, often in conjunction with cavalry units. With the advent of trench warfare they were committed to an ordinary infantry role, integrated into divisions and losing their status as independent units. Their name, tradition and their military knowledge remained in units like the Kurhessische Infanterie Regiment Nr. 82 and Kurhessische Jägerbataillon Nr. 11 (Infantry Regiment No. 82, and Infantry Battalion No. 11, Electorate of Hesse-Cassel).

After the Second World War in the new Bundeswehr the 2nd Panzergrenadier Division followed the tradition of the Hessian Jäger.

2nd Panzergrenadier Division insignia

The 2nd Panzergrenadier Division (2. Panzergrenadierdivision) was a West German mechanized infantry formation. It was part of the III Corps of the Bundeswehr, which also incorporated in 1985 the 5th Panzer Division and 12th Panzer Division. III Corps was part of NATO's Central Army Group (CENTAG), along with the Bundeswehr's II Corps and the American V and VII Corps. In the wake of military restructuring brought about by the end of the Cold War, the 2nd Panzergrenadier Division was disbanded in 1994.

The division was constituted as the 2nd Grenadier Division in Kassel on July 1, 1956 as part of the II Corps (then called "Army Staff II") of the Bundeswehr. At that time, it commanded the "A2" and "B2" battle-groups. In 1957, the division was subordinated to the German III Corps and one year later it received a third battle-group, "C2". The battle-groups later became the 6th Panzer, 5th Panzergrenadier, and 4th Panzergrenadier Brigades. As part of an army reorganization in 1959, the division was renamed the 2nd Panzergrenadier Division and division headquarters was quartered at Marburg.

In 1970, the division was renamed the 2nd Jäger (light infantry) Division. In 1974, the division headquarters was moved back to Kassel. The division once again became the 2nd Panzergrenadier Division in 1980. Following the end of the Cold War, the 2nd Panzergrenadier Division was disbanded in 1994. It was the biggest Division of the Bundeswehr.

Today, the RK Kassel continues that tradition of the Hessian Jäger, the 2nd Panzergrenadier Division, all of their subordinate units in Kassel (like the Nachschubbataillon 2/2nd Support Battalion, Fla 2/2nd Air Defence Battalion and the Jägerbatataillon 42/42nd Jäger Battalion).

2nd Support Battalion insignia

2nd Air Defence Battailon insignia

42nd Jäger Battailon insignia

Source (images and text in parts as an excerpt from): Wikipedia (keywords: "Kassel"; "Jäger (military unit)"; "Germans in the American Revolution"; "2nd Panzergrenadier Division (Bundeswehr)"


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      former Lüttich-barracks, bldg. 25
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