In 1690, the very first American congress was called by Jacob Leisler the lieutenant governor of New York, who was hanged for  his  protest against British tyranny. His first American congress was followed by a number  of others which culminated in the Declaration of  Independence in  1776. In 1735 John Peter Zenger established the first  independent American  newspaper, and by his courageous stand against  the  British oppression  established  freedom  of the press  in  America.  He  also printed  the  first arithmetic book in the colonies. The  first  Bible printed  in America was published in the German language. Bibles  were printed  years later in English. One of the earliest announcements  of the  Declaration of Independence was published in the German language Philadelphia Staatsbote of Henry Miller on July 5, 1776.

German-Americans helped win the American Revolution and fought  with outstanding distinction. On May 22, 1776 Congress ordered the creation of  a German-American  regiment consisting  of  four  companies  from Pennsylvania and Maryland, where many German-Americans  lived.  They fought at Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine and spent the terrible winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge with General Washington. The personal body-guards of Washington were German-Americans under the command of  Major von  Heer, an officer of Frederick the Great of Prussia.  Other  great German-American generals and officers in the American Revolution were: Peter  Muehlenberg, Baron DeKalb, Nicholas Herkimer, Gerhard  von  der Wieden,  Heinrich  Lutterloh,  Johann  Schott  and  many others.  The Continental  Army  was  organized by  General  Friedrich  Wilhelm von Steuben.  In 1778 he wrote the first army regulations manual  for  the United States.  The role of the German-Americans was so vital in the  Revolution that  Washington's last letter before his resignation as commander  in chief was addressed  to Baron von Steuben  in  appreciation  of  his service to America.

German-Americans  came to America for different reasons:  religious, political, or economic. All of these twelve million German  immigrants and their sixty million descendants became devoted citizens  of  the U.S.  They  helped build this nation into the mightiest  land  of  the world and made noble contributions in every field of human  endeavor. Hundreds  of  thousands of them died on the battlefield  for  American Independence, to preserve the Union and to protect American democratic institutions.  Their  devotion and loyalty to America,  their  common sense and sturdiness, their thrift, talent, business insight and their love of life have influenced American life.

It  is  but a mere understatement  to  characterize  German-American contributions  to the building of the American nation as  significant, praiseworthy and unforgettable. These achievements and accomplishments were decisive  and determinative in shaping the  course  of  American history.  But if  we look over the works treating  with  the  origin, history  and achievements of the American nation, to  ascertain  what part the descendent's of the millions of German immigrants took in  the development of the country, we rarely find more than a brief mention.

America's German Heritage- Part 2 presented by


Philadelphia Chapter