« PreviousContinue »
Lines by Mrs. Morton. Death of Major Ackland. Second Marriage of Lady Harriet.
When we consider the delicate form, the gentleness and refinement in which she had been nurtured in the lap of rank and fortune, the shining virtues of connubial constancy, heroic devotion, and unbending fortitude stand out in bold relief in the character of Lady Harriet Ackland; and these, in their practical development in her case, furnish romance with a stranger page than imagination can command, and lend to poetry half its inspiration. They gave impulse to the lyre of the accomplished lady of Perez Morton, Esq.; and I will close this chapter with an extract from her poem, suggested by the events above noticed.
“To gallant Gates, in war serenely brave,
return to England, he warmly defended American courage, at a dinner party, against the aspersions of a Lieutenant Lloyd. High words passed, and a duel ensued. The major was shot dead; Lady Harriet became a maniac, and remained so two years. After her recovery, she married Mr. Brudenell, the chaplain already mentioned.
Present Peacefulness at Saratoga. Curious Meteorological Phenomena. Departure for Schuylerville
o, URGOYNE and his army are at Wilbur's Basin, prepared to retreat ' ' toward Lake Champlain, but lingering to pay a last sad tribute of o affectionate regard to the remains of the accomplished Fraser. Night
! has drawn its veil over the scene, and we will turn away for a moment
§ at a picture lovely to the eye, ennobling to the spirit, and fruitful of pleas* ant impressions upon the heart and memory. Like a “ dissolving view,” the smoking ruins, the sodden field, the trailing banmer, the tent and breast-work and abatis, and slaughtered hundreds, and wailing 2^* families, painted in gore by the hand of human discord; and the roar of cannon, so the rattle of musketry, the roll of drums, the hiss and detonation of bombs, the savage yell, the loud huzza, the shriek and groan, the prayer and curse made audible by the boastful voice of physical strength, have all passed away with the darkness, and a bright summer's sunlight is upon the landscape. Turning the eye northward from the American camp, there are the same gentle slopes, and deep ravines, and clustering hills, and flowing river; and the heights of Saratoga in the far distance loom up as of yore. But herds are grazing upon the lowlands, and flocks are dotting the hills; the ring of the mower's scythe is heard in the meadow, and the merry laugh goes up from the russet harvest-field. Art, with its strong arm of industry, has dug another river along the plain for the use of commerce; the forest has been reaped by agriculture, habitations of prosperity are on every hand, and the white wing of peace is spread out over all. It is a pleasant sight; therefore let us enjoy it, and, for a while, forget the dark picture of the past which we have been contemplating. I spent nearly the whole of the day rambling and sketching upon the camp and July 27. battle grounds of Stillwater. It was excessively warm, although a strong breeze “” from the south constantly prevailed. As early as ten o'clock dark clouds began to rise in the west, and the rumbling of distant thunder was audible. All day long, shower after shower arose threateningly, sometimes approaching so near that sharp claps of thunder would startle us; but they all swept along the horizon west and north, and disappeared behind the eastern hills. Not a drop of rain fell at Bemis's. I remarked the phenomenon, and was told that showers never reached there from the west. Their birth-place seems to be Saratoga Lake, about six miles westward from the Hudson, and the summer rain-clouds which rise there generally pass up the lake to its outlet, the Fish Creek, and, traversing that stream until it falls into the Hudson, cross the valley and pass on to the Green Mountains, or spend their treasures upon the intervening country. About half past three in the afternoon a canal packet arrived from the south, and we embarked for Schuylerville, nine miles above Bemis's. As usual, the boat was crowded to excess, and, the sun being veiled by the clouds in the west, the passengers covered the deck. As we passed quietly along the base of the hills whereon was Gates's camp, crossed Mill Creek or Middle Ravine, and approached Wilbur's Basin, it required but small exercise of the imagination, while listening to the constant roll of thunder beyond the heights, to realize the appalling sounds of that strife of armies which shook those hills seventy years before, as it fell upon the eager ears of wives, and sisters, and children whose cherished ones were in the midst of the storm. Proceeding northward, we approached the track of the showers, and, just before we
Approach of a Tempest. A violent Gale. Misfortunes of an Irish Way-passenger
reached Wilbur's Basin, a cloud, black as Erebus, and so low that it seemed to rest upon the hill-tops, spread out above us like the wings of a monster bird; and in its wake huge masses of vapor, wheeling like the eddies of a whirlpool, came hastening on. The experienced boatmen understood these portents, and covering the baggage with strong canvas, lashed it tightly to the vessel. The breeze was still, and a hot, suffocating calm ensued. The passengers, warned by the helmsman, retreated into the cabin, and the windows were closed. The cattle in the fields huddled in groups, and every bird and fowl, conscious of impending danger, sought shelter. A flash of lightning, followed instantly by a crashing thunder-peal, broke over the valley, and seemed to sever the fetters of the wind. A sullen roar was heard in the distance, like the rush of great waters; the trees of the forest began to rock, and from the roads behind us clouds of dust arose and filled the air. In a few moments a tornado was upon us in its strength. It lasted only two minutes, but in its track the results of the labor of the farmer for many days were destroyed. Hay-cocks and wheat sheaves were scattered like thistle-down, and the standing grain was laid upon the earth as by the tread of a giant footstep. As the wind passed by, the rain came down gently, and continued to fall until we reached Schuylerville. There came on the boat at Bemis’s “a poor exile from Erin,” with a patched coat and pair of thin pantaloons hanging over one arm. He was immediately introduced to the captain by the attentive steward, when he pleaded poverty, and declared that he hadn't a “cint in the world.” He was ordered ashore, and the boat was guided accommodatingly near the bank. The poor fellow urged fatigue, and the weight of his brogans testified to the truth of the appeal, if he had walked a mile. It was cruel to doubt the honesty of that hard-favored face, and fifty cents were soon collected for him as a peace-offering to the captain. When the gust came on, he refused to go into the cabin. He had been in a three days' gale upon the Atlantic, and was not to be frightened by a squall on land. The first blast of the hurricane wheeled him several times around upon deck, and came very near putting him ashore, willing or not willing. While he was endeavoring to seize a support, the wind grasped his extra pantaloons, and, in utter dismay, he saw them gyrating, like a spread eagle, high in air, and becoming “small by degrees and beautifully less” in the distance. The loss distressed him greatly—far more than the helmsman thought necessary, and he ordered him to be quiet. “Indade,” said the poor fellow, “do ye think a man can be quiet when the wind is rolling him like a bag o' feathers tied fast at one end, and all he has in the world snatched from him by the blackguard gale 7” and he looked agonizingly toward the point where his pantaloons had vanished. “Precious small estate,” answered the amused helmsman, “if a pair of old pantaloons is all you have in the world. I'll give you a better pair than that if you'll stop your noise.” “An' wid three Wickeys sowed up in the waistbands?” eagerly inquired the exile. His cautiousness was here at fault. He hadn't a “cint in the world,” but he had three sovereigns sewed up in the waistbands of the pantaloons which had gone a-ballooning. As soon as the gale passed by, a child of the Green Isle was a foot-passenger upon the towpath, bearing sorrowful testimony to the truth of the ethical maxim, that retributive justice is always swift to punish offenders against truth and honesty. No doubt his thoughts were all with his absconded sub-treasurer, and the prose of Holmes's poem evidently engrossed his mind: - “I saw them straddling through the air, Alas! too late to win them; I saw them chase the clouds as if The devil had been in them. They were my darlings and my pride, They carried all my riches:
It was about four o'clock when we passed the burial-place of General Fraser. It had been my intention to stop there for an hour, and visit the last earth-home of the illustrious
Fraser's Grave. Do-ve-gat or Coveville. Colonel Van Wechten. Origin of “Whig" and “Tory.” Arrival at Schuylerville.
dead. But the rain fell fast, and the day was so far consumed that I was obliged to forego the melancholy pleasure. The canal is so near the base of the hill, that I easily made the sketch of it (printed on page 67) from the cabin-window. Many years ago a distant relative of the general proposed to remove his remains to Scotland, and lay them beside those of his mother; but they are still undisturbed where his sorrowing comrades laid them. We reached the little settlement of Coveville at half past four, the rain still falling gently. This was formerly Do-ve-gat, or Van Vechten's Cove, as it was sometimes called, the place where the British tarried from the 15th till the 17th of September, while a working party repaired the roads and bridges in advance to Wilbur's Basin. Here was the residence of Colonel Van Vechten, of the Saratoga militia, one of General Gates's staff. He was a zealous Whig, and the active Tories, whose plans his vigilance often frustrated, were greatly imbittered against him politically, while they honored him as a brave man and good neighbor." Burgoyne, on his retreat to Saratoga after the battle of the 7th of October, ordered the dwellings of several Whigs to be destroyed; and at Do-ve-gat the buildings of Colonel Van Vechten were the first to which the torch of the invader was laid. His family fled to Albany on the approach of Burgoyne from Fort Edward; and when they returned, late in October, their fine estate was a perfect wreck, and they had no shelter for their heads. Colonel Van Vechten was at Albany, on public business, at the time of the first battle on Bemis's Heights. He had received an order from the Committee of Safety at that city, when Burgoyne marched from Fort Edward, to remove every Tory or disaffected person from his vicinage into Connecticut. This order touched his excellent heart with grief, for many of those included in the proscription were his neighbors, and some were his personal friends, who honestly differed from him in relation to the momentous political questions at issue. Within six hours after receiving the order he was in Albany, and procured its recall. The humanity, policy, and sound wisdom of that step were soon illustrated by the firm support which some of these disaffected ones gave to the American cause. We landed at Schuylerville in the midst of “sun and shower,” for the sky was clear in the west, yet the rain-drops came glittering down profusely. The Fish Creek, which here has a succession of falls and rapids for nearly a mile, affording fine water-power for several mills, was brimful with the showers of the day, and poured its flood, roaring and foaming, under the canal viaduct with such force as to shake the solid masonry. It empties its waters into the Hudson about one hundred rods east of the canal, at the southeast angle of Old Fort Hardy, now among the buried things of the past. Upon the plain north of the creek, near the old fort, the forces of Burgoyne laid down their arms; and on every side of that pleasant village scenes of historic interest lie scattered. The earth was too wet to invite a sunset ramble, and we contented ourselves with viewing the beauty of the scene that spread out before us eastward while loitering upon the upper piazza of the Schuylerville House.
* I have already had occasion to use the terms Whig and Tory, and shall do so often in the course of this work. They were copied by us from the political vocabulary of Great Britain, and were first used here, to distinguish the opposing parties in the Revolution, about 1770. The term originated during the reign of Charles II., or about that time. Bishop Burnet, in his History of his own Times, gives the following explanation: “The southwest counties of Scotland have seldom corn enough to serve them round the year; and the northern parts producing more than they need, those in the west come in the summer to buy at Leith the stores that come from the north; and, from a word, whiggam, used in driving their horses, all that drove were called whiggamores, and shorter, whiggs. Now in that year, after the news came down of Duke Hamilton's defeat, the ministers animated their people to rise and march to Edinburgh, and then came up marching at the head of their parishes, with unheard-of fury, praying and preaching all the way as they came. The Marquis of Argyle and his party came and headed them, they being about six thousand. This was called the Whiggamore's inroad, and ever after that all that opposed the courts came, in contempt, to be called Whigg; and from Scotland the word was brought into England, where it is now one of our unhappy terms of distinction.” Subsequently all whose party bias was democratic were called Whigs. The origin of the word Tory is not so well attested. The Irish malcontents, half robbers and half insurgents, who harassed the English in Ireland at the time of the massacre in 1640, were the first to whom this epithet was applied. It was also applied to the court party as a term of reproach.-See, also, Macaulay's History of England, i., 240.
Beautiful Evening Scene. Commencement of Burgoyne's Retreat toward Saratoga. His Retreat anticipated by Gates.
It was, indeed, a charming scene, enhanced by the associations of the vicinity. The face of nature was washed clean by the drenching showers; the trees and shrubs were brilliant green; and from the clustering knolls or loftier hills beyond the Hudson, once bristling with bayonets or wreathed by the smoke of cannon, the evening sunlight was reflected back by the myriad rain-drops lying upon trees, and grass, and blooming corn. Nor was this all. Upon the dark background of the hills was Iris, “That beautiful one,
Whose arch is refraction, whose keystone the sun;
In the hues of its grandeur sublimely it stood
O'er the river, the village, the field, and the wood.”
Springing from the plain, its double arch spanned the whole ground where British pride was humbled and American valor acknowledged. I never gazed upon the “bow of promise” with so much interest, for thought unconsciously bridged over the chasm of seventy buried years, and it seemed for a moment as if the dark hours of our rebellious conflict had returned, and that in the covenant seal before me the eye of hope read prophetically the history of the happy present. As the sun went down and the bow faded, the Spirit of Beauty left traces of its pencil on my thoughts, and I felt, with “AMELLA,” that
“There are moments, bright moments, when the spirit receives
In the evening I visited the son of Colonel Van Vechten just named, a man of three score and ten years. His memory is unclouded, and extends back to the closing scenes of the Revolution. His father stored that memory with the verbal history of his times, and every noteworthy locality of Saratoga is as familiar to him as the flower-beds of his beautiful garden. He kindly offered to be my guide in the morning to all the places here made memorable by the events connected with the surrender of Burgoyne.
While awaiting the dawn, let us turn to the past, and view occurrences from the burial of Fraser to the closing scenes of the drama. October, As soon as the funeral ceremonies at Fraser's burial were ended on the evening
” of the 8th, Burgoyne, fearing that the Americans (whose forces constantly increased,
and whose activity denoted preparations for some bold movement) might succeed in turning his right and surrounding him, commenced a night march toward Saratoga. A retreat was anticipated by General Gates, and, previous to the action on the 7th, he sent General Fellows with a detachment of fourteen hundred men to occupy the high grounds east of the Hudson, opposite the Saratoga ford, intending, in case the enemy retreated, to follow so closely in pursuit as to be able to re-enforce that officer from the ranks of the main army. He also sent another detachment, after the action, to occupy ground higher up near Fort Miller, and ordered a selected corps of two thousand men to push forward and occupy the heights beyond Saratoga, in the direction of Lake George. But the retreat of Burgoyne was at a time when Gates least expected it. The troops of the former had been in motion all the night before, and under arms all day on the 8th, and he supposed that they would tarry for rest until the morning of the 9th.
At sunset on the 8th a lurid haziness in the west indicated an approaching storm, and before midnight the rain began to fall. The enemy felt that his situation was too perilous to be maintained, and the whole British army commenced its march at nine o'clock in the evening. The loss of Fraser was now severely felt, for he had always showed as consummate skill in managing a retreat as bravery in leading to an attack. General Reidesel