" . . . the Merriest Fellows in the World."
Sir Thomas Pakenham (1757-1836), the third Lord Longford, of the family that has proven so rich in historians in recent generations, was one of the many officers of the Royal Navy who distinguished themselves during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, eventually rising to Admiral of the Red.
Once, when still a captain, he landed at Portsmouth and was ordered to turn his ship over to another officer. As was customary, his relief asked some questions about the ship, concluding with, ". . . and, Sir Thomas, how have you left the crew?"
"Oh, I have left them all, to a man, the merriest fellows in the world."
"Why," replied Pakenham, "I flogged seventeen of them and they are happy it is over, and all the rest are happy that they have escaped."
Frederick William II Drills His Hessians
Landgraf Frederick William II of Hesse-Cassel (1720–1785) , who bears some measure of infamy in American History for being the principal supplier of mercenaries to his nephew, King George III of British during the American Revolution, had a veritable “passion for the military,” one that seems to have gone beyond the mere fact that his army provided his otherwise rather impoverished state a very good living, albeit by dieing.
At the time of the Revolution, the count’s domains, which had maybe 275,000 inhabitants, men, women, and children, had an active army of c. 12,000 troops backed by a very “well regulated” militia of nearly the same size. Altogether 1 in 15 people in Hesse-Cassel was in uniform, including about two-thirds of all nobles of military age, in contrast to the 1 in 30 in allegedly “militaristic” Frederician Prussia.
Frederick William drilled his troops mercilessly. Nor did he leave the job to just anyone. He did it personally, putting individual regiments and other units through their paces on a regular basis. And he did it every day. Including Sundays. Even on Christmas. No matter what, he drilled troops, though if the weather was inclement, out of concern for their well-being, he did it indoors, sometimes in the grand dining room of his palace.
This made his troops very professional, and they brought in good money when they were loaned out. Of course it was money paid for in blood; of 18,970 troops that Hesse-Cassel leased to the British for service in America, only 10,784 returned home (56.8 percent). The rest had perished, mainly of disease, or had deserted to start life over in the New World.