Military Zollingers


Throughout the family's history in Europe, military conflict was never far from the Zollingers, even though these were interspersed with periods of prosperity. For most of our ancestors, being farmers, any military conflict in Europe meant that troops of foreign countries would be passing through Switzerland, be it Russians, the French or the Habsburg Austrians. And with each conflict, the passing troops needed to provision themselves, and did so by raiding farms, and stealing anything of use. Such raids then resulted in numerous and severe famines over wide parts of the country.

In a more active role, it was as far back as 1300 that the realization sank in, that young mountain farmers were physically much stronger than the starved and impoverished peasant conscripts Europe's armies. This fact initially led to the liberation of the central Swiss Cantons from foreign control through a number of victorious battles against these foreign armies. These victories were also helped by the clever use of the rugged terrain, and by their coherence as a people. And so Switzerland came into being.

It did not take long before foreign rulers also came to appreciate the physical superiority of Swiss soldiers, and so an industry sprang up for hiring mercenaries for the various European armies. And so for several hundred years young Swiss males were enticed to join such armies. Most died from disease and in battle, but a few returned as wealthy men. At least one Zollinger is on record to have been one of these. The agents who provided these mercenaries, and who were wooed by foreign royalty, also became wealthy. The imposing Zollinger farm house in Lautikon was unlikely financed from growing potatoes.

The different regions of Switzerland had different destinations for their mercenaries, as most Catholics came into service in Naples or France, where German speaking Protestants largely ended up in Dutch regiments. One such Zollinger mercenary settled there, and became the ancestor of a Dutch line of Zollingers.

The Reformation then also brought a groundswell against this militarism, and the movement of the Anabaptises was strongly pacifist (and has such a tradition to this day). This became a threat to the lucrative mercenary trade, and these pacifist groups were persecuted and expelled. Many ended up in the Rhineland, and from there emigrated to Pennsylvania under William Penn, among them several Zollingers.

But if they dreamed about settling in a land where everybody would be free to carry out their own religious beliefs, and where peace reigned eternally, they were badly mistaken. The Zollers of the Mohawk Valley had hardly settled there when the "French and Indian War" broke out, where several family members participated, and some were killed in that war. Shortly after, the Revolutionary War started, and again the Zollingers enrolled with all the other new immigrants, who wanted freedom from the colonial master, and fought for self-determination. And finally there was the US Civil War, where again many Zollingers took part. Several of them were hardly off the ship, when they were conscripted, and must have wondered why they came to the "promised land".

Finally came the two World Wars, where in the first World War from 1914 to 1918, Canada, as a British Colony played a key role, while the USA joined relatively late. But then, in the Second World War, the USA devoted all her strength and manpower to the defeat of Naziism, and again many Zollingers took part in these actions.

Zollingers in European Wars

Zollingers in North American Wars

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