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British Reverses in the Mohawk Valley. Perplexity of Burgoyne. Advance of Gates to Stillwater. Kosciusko.
visions which the Americans had collected there. The detachment sent thither so weakened his forces that he dared not proceed until it should return, bringing back, as he confidently expected, ample provisions for his army until he should enter Albany triumphant. But the New England militia were on the alert, and they not only saved their stores and live cattle at Bennington, but defeated and dispersed the enemy, capturing a large number, together with arms and ammunition, then much needed by the growing ranks of the volunteers. Burgoyne had hardly recovered from this shock, before a courier, guided by a friendly Indian, came in breathless haste by the way of Saratoga Lake and Glenn's Falls, bearing the direful news of the desertion of the Indians, the defection of the loyalists of the Mohawk Valley, and the complete defeat of St. Leger at Fort Schuyler. These reverses fell like an incubus upon the spirits of his army. The Indians in his camp, already vexed because Burgoyne's humanity had restrained their purposes of rapine and murder, began to waver in their fidelity, and the Canadians and timid loyalists became lukewarm through very cowardice, and deserted by hundreds. Burgoyne was greatly perplexed. To proceed at that time would be madness; to retreat would not only lose him a promised order, perhaps a peerage, but would operate powerfully in giving friends to the republicans. The idea of British invincibility would be dissipated, and thousands who favored the cause of the king on account of that supposed invincibility and the hopelessness of resistance, would join the patriots, or would, at least, become mere passive loyalists. In view of all these difficulties, the British commander wisely resolved to remain at Fort Edward until the panic should subside and stores should be brought forward from his posts on Lake George and Lake Champlain. He was also in daily expectation of advices from General Howe or Sir Henry Clinton, at New York, announcing a movement upon the Hudson for the purpose of producing a diversion in favor of Burgoyne, by drawing away a portion of the American army from the North. These disasters of the enemy greatly inspirited the Americans, and the Eastern militia, among whom Gates was very popular, flocked to his standard with great alacrity. The murder of Jane M'Crea at Fort Edward (of which I shall hereafter speak) was another powerful agency in swelling the ranks of the patriots. Fierce indignation was aroused in every honest heart by the highly-colored recital of that event, and loyalists by hundreds withdrew their support from a cause which employed such instrumentalities as savage warriors to execute its purposes. Perceiving the disposition of Burgoyne to halt at Fort Edward, and the difficulties that were gathering around him, General Gates advanced up the Hudson to Stillwater, and prepared to act offensively or defensively, as circumstances should dictate. It was at first resolved to throw up fortifications at the place where the village of Stillwater now is ; but the narrowness of the valley and the abruptness of the bank on the western margin of the flat at Bemis's offered a more advantageous position, and there, by the advice of Kosciusko, who was an engineer in the army, General Gates made his encampment and fortified it.'
* Thaddeus Kosciusko was born in Lithuania in 1736, of an ancient and noble family. He was educated at the military school of Warsaw, and afterward became a student in France. There he became acquainted with Dr. Franklin, and was by him recommended to General Washington. Before leaving Poland, he had eloped with a beautiful lady of high rank. They were overtaken in their flight by her father, who made a violent attempt to rescue his daughter. “The young Pole had either to slay the father or abandon the young lady. Abhorring the former act, he sheathed his sword, and soon after obtained permission of his sovereign to leave his country. He came to America, and presented himself to the commander-in-chief. He answered the inquiry of his excellency, “What do you seek here?” by saying, “I come to fight as a volunteer for American independence.” “What can you do?” asked Washington. “Try me,” was Kosciusko's laconic reply. Greatly pleased with him, Washington made him his aid. In October, 1776, he was appointed engineer by Congress, with the rank of colonel. In the autumn of 1777 he fortified the camp of Gates at Bemis's Heights, and afterward superintended the construction of the works at West Point, among the Hudson Highlands. He was greatly esteemed by the American officers, and admitted a member of the Cincinnati Society. At the close of our Revolution he returned to Poland, and was made
Fortifications at Bemis's Heights. Their present Appearance. Preparations for Battle.
Along the brow of the hill toward the river a line of breast-works was thrown up, about three fourths of a mile in extent, with a strong battery at each extremity, and one near the center in such position as to completely sweep the valley, and command even the hills upon the eastern side of the river. Faint traces of these redoubts and the connecting breast-works are still visible. At the northern extremity, where the largest and strongest battery was erected, the mound is leveled, but the ditch is quite deep, and may be traced many rods westward from the brow of the hill, along the line of breast-works that were thrown up after the first battle. But every year the plow casts in the soil of its furrows, and ere long no vestige will remain of these intrenchments. Within the area of the northeast redoubt, at THADDEUs Kosciusko. the time of my visit, potatoes in desecrating luxuriance were flourishing, except upon a very small spot occupied as a burial-place for a few of the Vanderburgh family. It really seemed sacrilegious for the vulgar vines of the nutritious tuber to intertwine with the long grass and beautiful wild flowers that covered the graves. The elder one of those buried there was an active republican, and had his house burned by the enemy. A few plain slabs with inscriptions tell who lie beneath the several mounds, but no stone marks the grave where sleeps that venerable patriot. From the foot of the hill, across the flats to the river, an intrenchment was opened, and at the extremity, on the water's edge, a strong battery was erected, which guarded the floating bridge constructed there, and also commanded the plain on the east side of the river in such a manner that the enemy might have been terribly enfiladed in case they had attempted to pass down the river or the valley. Near where the road crossed Mill Creek, a small stream nearly half a mile above Bemis's tavern, were a short line of breast-works and a strong battery, which, with those mentioned above, composed all the fortifications previous to the first battle. These being completed about the 15th of September, and the enemy approaching, General Gates made preparations for resistance. Brave officers and determined soldiers, in high spirits, were gathered around him, and the latter were hourly increasing in numbers. The counsels of General Schuyler and the known bravery of General Arnold were at his command; and he felt confident of victory, aided by such men as Poor, Learned, Stark, Whipple, Paterson, Warner, Fellows,
a major general under Poniatowski. He commanded judiciously and fought bravely; and when, in 1794, a new revolution.broke out in Poland, he was made generalissimo, and vested with the power of a military dictator. In October of that year he was overpowered, wounded, and taken prisoner. In reference to this event, Campbell, in his Pleasures of Hope, says,
“Hope for a season bade the world farewell,
He was kept in prison in St. Petersburg until the death of the Empress Catharine, when he was liberated by Paul, loaded with honors, and offered a command in the Russian service, which he declined. The emperor besought him to accept the proffered honor, and presented him with his own sword. But bitterly reflecting that his country had been annihilated, he refused to receive his sword, saying, “I no longer need a sword, since I have no longer a country to defend.” He visited the United States in 1797, and received from Congress a grant of land for his services. He returned to Switzerland toward the close of his life, and died there October the 16th, 1817. His remains were taken to Cracow, and at Warsaw a public funeral was made for him. At West Point, on the Hudson, the cadets erected a monument to his memory. We shall give a drawing of the monument, and a more particular notice, in another part of this work.
Expedition against the Posts on Lakes George and Champlain. March of Burgoyne to Saratoga and Stillwater.
Bailey, Glover, Wolcott, Bricketts, and Tenbroeck, with their full brigades, and the brave Virginian, Colonel Morgan, with his unerring marksmen, supported by the regiments of Dearborn, Brooks, Cilley, Scammel, and Hull. Small successes about this time, important in the aggregate result, tended materially to keep up the spirits of the American troops, and made them eager to encounter the main body of the enemy. General Lincoln, with about two thousand militia, got in the rear of Burgoyne, and, by dividing his force into detachments, operated with much effect. One detachment, under Colonel Brown, surprised the British posts on Lake George, captured a vessel containing provisions for the enemy, took possession of Mount Hope and Mount Defiance, and, appearing before Ticonderoga, demanded its surrender. But the walls and garrison were too strong, and, after a cannonade of four days, the siege was abandoned, and all the troops prepared to unite and attack the enemy in the rear. The threatening aspect of this movement of Lincoln at the beginning, and the probability of having his supplies from the lakes cut off, induced Burgoyne, in self-defense, to move forward and execute promptl what he intended to do. Having, by great diligence, brought forward provisions for . thirty days, he advanced along the left bank of the Hudson to the mouth of the Batten Kill, where he encamped preparatory to crossing the river." His officers were somewhat divided in opinion in regard to the expediency of further attempts to reach Albany; and it had been plainly intimated to Burgoyne that it might be greater wisdom to fall back from Fort Edward, rather than advance, for it was evident that perils of no ordinary kind were gathering around the invading army. Unwilling to act in opposition to the expressed opinions of his officers, Burgoyne avoided any intimations of judgment on their part by omitting to consult them at all; and he assumed the responsibility of crossing the Hudson, resting for his defense, if adversity should ensue, upon the peremptory nature of his instructions.” He constructed a bridge of boats, and on the 13th and 14th of September passed his whole army over, and encamped on the heights and plains of Saratoga, at the mouth of the Fish Creek, where Schuylerville now is, and within about five miles of the American works below. On the 15th, having succeeded in getting his artillery, baggage, and stores across the river, Burgoyne moved down as far as Do-ve-gat (now Coveville), where he halted until the morning of the 17th, for the purpose of repairing the roads and bridges before him, when he advanced as far as Swords's house and encamped for the night. On the morning of the 18th he moved down as far as the place now called Wilbur's Basin, within two miles of the American camp, and here he made preparations for battle. His chief officers were Major-general Phillips, of the artillery, who had performed signal service in Germany; Brigadier-general Fraser, commander of the grenadiers and light infantry; Brigadiers Hamilton and Powell; and the Brunswick major general, Baron de Reidesel, with his brigadiers, Specht and Gall. Earl Balcarras, Colonel Breyman, Major Ackland, Lieutenant Kingston, and others of minor grade, were men of tried courage, and ardently attached to their general and the service. When the defeat of Burgoyne, a few days later, became known in England, the crossing of the Hudson River and his persistence in pressing toward Albany, with the American army in front and a wilderness filling with armed republicans in his rear, formed the chief theme for the vituperative assaults of his enemies; and to these steps all his subsequent misfortunes were attributed. But, as we have seen, he retreated behind the peremptory instructions of ministers; and Botta very justly observes, “that at that time he had not
* His place of encampment was about one hundred rods north of Lansing's saw-mill. The farm, till within a few years, was occupied by Mr. Thomas Rogers. Burgoyne had quite an extensive slaughteryard there, which so enriched the soil, that its effects are still visible on the corn crops and other productions.—C. Neilson.
* In his dispatch to Lord George Germain, dated at Albany, October 20th, 1777, Burgoyne alludes to this fact, and says, “I did not think myself authorized to call any men into council, where the peremptory tenor of my orders and the season of the year admitted no alternative.”—State of the Expedition, &c., Appendix, p. lxxxiv.
Material of the American Army on Bemis's Heights. Relative Position of the two Armies. Burgoyne's Plan of Attack.
yet received any intelligence either of the strength of the army left at New York, or the movements which Sir Henry Clinton intended to make, or had made, up the North River toward Albany. He calculated on a powerful co-operation on the part of that general. Such was the plan of the ministers, and such the tenor of their peremptory instructions.” Whether the movement was judicious or injudicious we will not stop to inquire, but, having arranged the two armies within cannon-shot of each other, will pass on to the con
sideration of an event which solved the question by arguments far more potential than logic can command— t
THE FIRST BATTLE of stillwater.”
The morning of the 19th of September was clear and calm, and everything without was white with hoar-frost. The hostile armies, within ear-shot of each other's reveille, were disposed in similar order, each extending from the river westward over the hills. The main body of the American army composing the right wing, which consisted chiefly of Glover's, Nixon's, and Patterson's brigades, was under the immediate command of General Gates, and occupied the hills near the river and the narrow flats below them. The left wing, composed of the brigade of General Poor, consisting of Cilley's, Scammel's, and Hale's regiments, of New Hampshire; Van Courtlandt's and Henry Livingston's, of New York; Latimer and Cook's Connecticut militia; the corps of riflemen under Morgan, and infantry under Dearborn, was posted on the heights about three fourths of a mile from the river, and commanded by General Arnold.” The center, on the elevated plain near the residence of Mr. Neilson, was composed of Learned's brigade, with Bailey's, Wesson's, and Jackson's regiments, of Massachusetts, and James Livingston's, of New York. The left wing of the British army, which included the immense train of artillery under Generals Phillips and Reidesel, rested upon the flats upon the bank of the river. The center and the right wing, composed principally of Hessians," extended westward upon the hills, and were commanded by Burgoyne in person, covered by General Fraser and Colonel Breyman, with the grenadiers and light infantry. The front and flanks were covered by the Indians, Canadians, and loyalists, who still remained in the camp. General Gates resolved to maintain a defensive position, and await the approach of Burgoyne, who, on the contrary, had made every preparation for advancing. Phillips and Reidesel were to march with the artillery along the road on the margin of the river. The Canadians and Indians in front were to attack the central outposts of the Americans, while Burgoyne and Fraser, with the grenadiers and infantry, in separate bodies, and strongly flanked by Indians, were to make a circuitous route through the woods back of the river hills, form a junction, and fall upon the rear of the American camp. It was arranged that three minute-guns should be fired when Burgoyne and Fraser should join their forces, as a signal for the artillery to make an attack upon the American front and right, force their way through the lines, and scatter them in confusion. At an early hour the American pickets observed great activity in the British camp; the glitter of bayonets and sabers and the flashing of scarlet uniforms were distinctly seen through
Otis's Botta, vol. ii., p. 9. * The conflicts at this point are known by the several titles Bemis's Heights, Stillwater, and Saratoga, from the fact that the battles occurred upon Bemis's Heights, in the town of Stillwater, and county of Saratoga. * These were the same troops which formed the left wing of the army when encamped at the mouth of the Mohawk. They were stationed at Loudon's ferry, five miles from the mouth of the river, and there Arnold took the command after his return from Fort Schuyler. * The Hessians were some of the German soldiers, hired by Great Britain of their masters, petty German princes, at a stipulated sum per head, to come to America and butcher her children. The Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel furnished the larger number, and from that circumstance all of the Germans received the general appellation of Hessians. I shall give a minute account of them, and of the debates in Parliament which the infamous bill providing for the hiring of these mercenaries produced, when the battle of Long Island, in 1776, is noticed. They were first let loose upon us in that bloody conflict.
Approach of the two Armies. Engagement between the Advance Corps. Maneuvers of Arnold and Fraser,
the vistas of the forest as the troops of the enemy marched and countermarched to form the various lines for battle. These movements were constantly reported to General Gates, yet he issued no orders and evinced no disposition to fight. About ten o'clock it was clearly perceived that the whole of the enemy's force was in motion, and separated into three divisions. Phillips and Reidesel, with the artillery, commenced marching slowly down the road along the river; Burgoyne, with the center division, followed the course of the stream, now forming Wilbur's Basin, westward; and Fraser and Breyman commenced a circuitous route along a new road partially opened from the basin, and intersecting the road from Bemis's about two and a half miles north of the American lines. Arnold was fully apprised of all this, and became as impatient as a hound in the leash His opinion, earnestly and repeatedly expressed to the commander during the morning, that a detachment should be sent out to make an attack, was at length heeded. About noon, Colonel Morgan with his light-horse, and Major Dearborn with his infantry, were detached from Arnold's division, and, marching out, made a vigorous attack upon the Canadians and Indians who swarmed upon the hills. They met at the middle ravine, south of Freeman's cottage." The enemy was repulsed; but so furious was Morgan's charge, that his men became scattered in the woods, and a re-enforcement of loyalists under Major Forbes soon drove the Americans back. Captain Van Swearingen and Lieutenant Morris, with twenty privates, fell into the hands of the British. For a moment, on finding himself almost alone, Morgan felt that his corps was ruined; but his loud signal-whistle soon gathered his brave followers around him, and the charge was renewed. Dearborn seconded him, and Cilley and Scammel hastened to their support. The contest was quite equal, and both parties at length retired within their respective lines. About the same time a party of Canadians, savages, and loyalists were detached through the skirt of the woods along the margin of the flats near the river. They were met by the American pickets on a flat piece of ground near Mill Creek, and a smart skirmish ensued. The enemy was much cut up and broken, and finally fled, leaving thirteen dead on the field and thirty-five taken prisoners. In the mean while, Burgoyne and Fraser were making rapid movements for the purpose of falling upon the Americans in front and on the left flank. The center division marched through some partial clearings to Freeman's farm,” while Fraser, having reached a high point about one hundred and fifty rods north of the “cottage,” moved rapidly southward for the purpose of turning the left flank of the Americans. Arnold, at the same time, made a similar attempt upon Fraser. He called upon Gates for a re-enforcement from the right wing, but the commander deemed it prudent not to weaken it, for the left of Burgoyne's army was then within half a mile of his lines, and spreading out upon the heights. Arnold resolved to do what he could with those under his command, which consisted of General Learned's brigade and the New York troops. With these he attempted to turn the enemy's right, and, if possible, cut off the detachment of Fraser from the main army. So dense was the forest and so uneven was the ground, that neither party fairly comprehended the movements of the other, or knew that each was attempting the same maneuver. They met suddenly and unexpectedly upon the level ground near Mill Creek, or Middle Ravine, about sixty yards west of Freeman's cottage, and at once an action, warm and destructive, began. Arnold led the van of his men, and fell upon the foe with the fury and impetuosity of a tiger. By voice and action he encouraged his troops; but the overwhelming numbers of the enemy for a time repulsed them. By a quick movement, Fraser attacked the left flank of the right wing of the American army; but fearing that Arnold (who had
* The attention of the reader is called to the small map or plan of thc engagement, upon page 46, while
perusing the notices of the battle. * Freeman's farm, as it was called, was a small cultivated clearing, about half a mile east of the present
road leading to Quaker Springs. The farm was an oblong clearing in front of the cottage, about sixty rods in length from east to west, skirted by thick woods, and sloping south-Neilson, p. 141.