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A Lady of the Revolution. Sufferings of herself and Family. Her Husband's Pension allowed her.
“The sun has drunk
**'. T was early in the morning of such a day as the poet refers to that we .."o commenced a ride and a ramble over the historic grounds of Saratoga near Schuylerville, accompanied by the friendly guide whose proffered services I have already mentioned. We first rode to the residence of Mrs. J–n, one of the almost centenarian representatives of the generation cotemporary with our Revoo lution, now so few and hoary. She was in her ninety-second year of life, yet her mental faculties were quite vigorous, and she related her sad experience of the trials of that war with a memory remarkably tenacious and correct. Her sight * and hearing were defective, and her skin wrinkled ; but in her soft blue eye, rego ular features, and delicate form were lingering many traces of the beauty of her early womanhood. She was a young lady of twenty years when Independence ; was declared, and was living with her parents at Do-ve-gat (Coveville) when Burgoyne came down the valley. She was then betrothed, but her lover had shouldered his musket, and was in Schuyler's camp. While Burgoyne was pressing onward toward Fort Edward from Skenesborough, the people of the valley below, who were attached to the patriot cause, fled hastily to Albany. Mrs. J–n and her parents were among the fugitives. So fearful were they of the Indian scouts sent forward, and of the resident Tories, not a whit less savage, who were emboldened by the proximity of the invader, that for several nights previous to their flight they slept in a swamp, apprehending that their dwelling would be burned over their heads or that murder would break in upon their repose. And when they returned home, after the surrender of Burgoyne, all was desolation. Tears filled her eyes when she spoke of that sad return.
“We had but little to come home to,” she said. “Our crops and our cattle, our sheep, hogs, and horses, were all gone, yet we knelt down in our desolate room and thanked God sincerely that our house and barns were not destroyed.” She wedded her soldier soon after
ward, and during the long widowhood of her evening of life his pension has been secured to her, and a few years ago it was increased in amount. She referred to it, and with quivering lip—quivering with the emotions of her full heart—said, “The government has been very kind to me in my poverty and old age.” She was personally acquainted with General Schuyler, and spoke feelingly of the noble-heartedness of himself and lady in all the relations of life. While pressing her hand in bidding her farewell, the thought occurred that we
Remains of the Fortifications of Burgoyne's Camp. The Reidesel House. Narrative of the Baroness Reidesel.
represented the linking of the living, vigorous, active present, and the half-buried, decaying past; and that between her early womanhood and now all the grandeur and glory of our Republic had dawned and brightened into perfect day. From Mrs. J–n's we rode to the residence of her brother, the house wherein the Baroness Reidesel, with her children and female companions, was sheltered just before the surrender of Burgoyne. It is about a mile above Schuylerville, and nearly opposite the mouth of the Batten Kill. On our way we paused to view the remains of the fortifications of Burgoyne's camp, upon the heights a little west of the village. Prominent traces of the mounds and ditches are there visible in the woods. A little northwest of the village the lines of the defenses thrown up by the Germans and Hessians of Hanau may be distinctly seen. (See map, page 77.) The house made memorable by the presence and the pen of the wife of the Brunswick general is well preserved. At the time of the Revolution it was owned by Peter Lansing, a relative of the chancellor of that name, and now belongs to Mr. Samuel Marshall, who has the good taste to keep up its original character. It is upon the high bank west of the road from Schuylerville to Fort Miller, pleasantly shaded in front by locusts, and fairly embowered in shrubbery and fruit trees. We will listen to the story of the sufferings of some of the women of Burgoyne's camp in that house, as told by the baroness herself: “About two o'clock in the afternoon we again heard a firing of cannon and small arms; instantly all was alarm, and every thing in motion. My husband told me to go to a house not far off. I immediately seated myself in my caleche, with my children, and drove off; but scarcely had we reached it before I discovered five or six armed men on the other side of the Hudson. Instinctively I threw my children down in the caleche, and then concealed myself with them. At this moment the fellows fired, and wounded an already wounded English soldier, who was behind me. Poor fellow ! I pitied him exceedingly, but at this moment had no power to relieve him. “A terrible cannonade was commenced by the enemy against the house in which I sought to obtain shelter for myself and children, under the mistaken idea that all the generals were in it. Alas! it contained none but wounded and women. We were at last obliged to resort to the cellar for refuge, and in one corner of this I remained the whole day, my children sleeping on the earth with their heads in my lap; and in the same situation I passed a sleepless night.” Eleven cannon-balls passed through the house, and we could distinctly hear them roll away. One poor soldier, who was lying on a table for the purpose of having his leg amputated, was struck by a shot, which carried away his other; his comrades had left him, and when we went to his assistance we found him in a corner of the room, into which he had crept, more dead than alive, scarcely breathing.” My reflections on the dan. ger to which my husband was exposed now agonized me exceedingly, and the thoughts of my children, and the necessity of struggling for their preservation, alone sustained me.
THE REIDESEL House, SARAtoGA.
* The cellar is about fifteen by thirty feet in size, and lighted and ventilated by two small windows only. * The place where this ball entered is seen under the window near the corner, and designated in the picture by a small black spot.
Companions in Misery of the Baroness Reidesel. Wounded Soldiers. Kindness of General Schuyler
“The ladies of the army who were with me were Mrs. Harnage, a Mrs. Kennels the widow of a lieutenant who was killed, and the lady of the commissary. Major Harnage, his wife, and Mrs. Kennels made a little room in a corner with curtains to it, and wished to do the same for me, but I preferred being near the door, in case of fire. Not far off my women slept, and opposite to us three English officers, who, though wounded, were determined not to be left behind; one of them was Captain Green, an aid-de-camp to Major-general Phillips, a very valuable officer and most agreeable man. They each made me a most sacred promise not to leave me behind, and, in case of sudden retreat, that they would each of them take one of my children on his horse; and for myself one of my husband's was in constant readiness. . . . . . . . . The want of water distressed us much ; at length we found a soldier's wife who had courage enough to fetch us some from the river, an office nobody else would undertake, as the Americans shot at every person who approached it; but, out of respect for her sex, they never molested her. “I now occupied myself through the day in attending the wounded; I made them tea and coffee, and often shared my dinner with them, for which they offered me a thousand expressions of gratitude. One day a Canadian officer came to our cellar, who had scarcely the power of holding himself upright, and we concluded he was dying for want of nourishment; I was happy in offering him my dinner, which strengthened him, and procured me his friendship. I now undertook the care of Major Bloomfield, another aid-de-camp of General Phillips; he had received a musket-ball through both cheeks, which in its course had knocked out several of his teeth and cut his tongue; he could hold nothing in his mouth, the matter which ran from his wound almost choked him, and he was not able to take any nourishment except a little soup or something liquid. We had some Rhenish wine, and, in the hope that the acidity of it would cleanse his wound, I gave him a bottle of it. He took a little now and then, and with such effect that his cure soon followed; thus I added another to my stock of friends, and derived a satisfaction which, in the midst of sufferings, served to tranquilize me and diminish their acuteness. “One day General Phillips accompanied my husband, at the risk of their lives, on a visit to us. The general, after having beheld our situation, said to him, ‘I would not for ten thousand guineas come again to this place; my heart is almost broken.’ “In this horrid situation we remained six days; a cessation of hostilities was now spoken of, and eventually took place.” The baroness, in the simple language of her narrative, thus bears testimony to the generous courtesy of the American officers, and to the true nobility of character of General Schuyler in particular: “My husband sent a message to me to come over to him with my children. I seated myself once more in my dear caleche, and then rode through the American camp. As I passed on I observed, and this was a great consolation to me, that no one eyed me with looks of resentment, but they all greeted us, and even showed compassion in their countenances at the sight of a woman with small children. I was, I confess, afraid to go over to the enemy, as it was quite a new situation to me. When I drew near the tents a handsome man approached and met me, took my children from the caleche, and hugged and kissed them, which affected me almost to tears. “You tremble,” said he, addressing himself to me; ‘be not afraid.’ ‘No,' I answered, “you seem so kind and tender to my children, it inspires me with courage.' He now led me to the tent of General Gates, where I found Generals Burgoyne and Phillips, who were on a friendly footing with the former. Burgoyne said to me, ‘Never mind; your sorrows have now an end.' I answered him that I should be reprehensible to have any cares, as he had none; and I was pleased to see him on such friendly footing with General Gates. All the generals remained to dine with General Gates. “The same gentleman who received me so kindly now came and said to me, ‘You will be very much embarrassed to eat with all these gentlemen; come with your children to my tent, where I will prepare for you a frugal dinner, and give it with a free will.' I said, ‘You are certainly a husband and a father, you have shown me so much kindness.'
* Arrival of the British Officers and Women at Albany. Courtesy of General Schuyler and Family.
I now found that he was GENERAL Schuyler. He treated me with excellent smoked
tongue, beef-steaks, potatoes, and good bread and butter! Never could I have wished to eat a better dinner; I was content; I saw all around me were so likewise; and, what was better than all, my husband was out of danger. “When we had dined he told me his residence was at Albany, and that General Burgoyne intended to honor him as his guest, and invited myself and children to do so likewise. I asked my husband how I should act; he told me to accept the invitation. As it was two days’ journey there, he advised me to go to a place which was about three hours' ride distant. “Some days after this we arrived at Albany, where we so often wished ourselves; but we did not enter it as we expected we should—victors' We were received by the good General Schuyler, his wife, and daughters, not as enemies, but kind friends; and they treated us with the most marked attention and politeness, as they did General Burgoyne, who had caused General Schuyler's beautifully-finished house to be burned. In fact, they behaved like persons of exalted minds, who determined to bury all recollections of their own injuries in the contemplation of our misfortunes. General Burgoyne was struck with General Schuyler's generosity, and said to him, ‘You show me great kindness, though I have done you much injury.’ ‘That was the fate of war,’ replied the brave man; ‘let us say no more about it.’” General Schuyler was detained at Saratoga when Burgoyne and suite started for Albany.
* General Burgoyne boasted at Fort Edward that he should eat a Christmas dinner in Albany, surrounded by his victorious army.
British Officers at Schuyler's House. Execution-place of Lovelace. Active and Passive Tories. Rendezvous of Lovelace.
He wrote to his wife to give the English general the very best reception in her power. “The British commander was well received,” says the Marquis de Chastellux," in his Travels in America, “by Mrs. Schuyler, and lodged in the best apartment in the house. An excellent supper was served him in the evening, the honors of which were done with so much grace that he was affected even to tears, and said, with a deep sigh, Indeed, this is doing too much for the man who has ravaged their lands and burned their dwellings.’ The next morning he was reminded of his misfortunes by an incident that would have amused any one else. His bed was prepared in a large room; but as he had a numerous suite, or family, several mattresses were spread on the floor for some officers to sleep near him. Schuyler's second son, a little fellow about seven years old, very arch and forward, but very amiable, was running all the morning about the house. Opening the door of the saloon, he burst out a laughing on seeing all the English collected, and shut it after him, exclaiming, ‘You are all my prisoners." This innocent cruelty rendered them more melancholy than before.” We next visited the headquarters of General Gates, south of the Fish Creek, delineated on page 75. On our way we passed the spot, a few rods south of the creek, where Lovelace, a prominent Tory, was hung. It is upon the high bluff seen on the right of the road in the annexed sketch, which was taken from the lawn in front of the rebuilt mansion of General Schuyler. Lovelace was a fair type of his class, the bitterest and most implacable foes of the republicans. There were many Tories who were so from principle, and refused to take sides against the parent country from honest convictions of the wrongfulness of such a course. They looked upon the Whigs as rebels against their sovereign; condemned the war as unnatural, and regarded the final result as surely disastrous to those who had lifted up the arm of opposition. Their opinions were courteously but firmly expressed; they took every opportunity to dissuade their friends and neighbors from participation in the rebellion; and by all their words and acts discouraged the insurgent movement. But they shouldered no musket, girded on no sword, piloted no secret expedition against the republicans. They were passive, nobleminded men, and deserve our respect for their consistency and our commiseration for their sufferings at the hands of those who made no distinction between the man of honest opinions and the marauder with no opinions at all. There was another class of Tories, governed by the footpad's axiom, that “might makes right.” They were Whigs when royal power was weak, and Tories when royal power was strong. Their god was mammon, and they offered up human sacrifices in abundance upon its altars. Cupidity and its concomitant vices governed all their acts, and the bonds of consanguinity and affection were too weak to restrain their fostered barbarism. Those born in the same neighborhood; educated (if at all) in the same school; admonished, it may be, by the same pastor, seemed to have their hearts suddenly closed to every feeling of friendship or of love, and became as relentless robbers and murderers of neighbors and friends as the savages of the wilderness. Of this class was Thomas Lovelace, who, for a time, became a terror to his old neighbors and friends in Saratoga, his native district. At the commencement of the war Lovelace went to Canada, and there confederated with five other persons from his own county to come down into Saratoga and abduct, plunder, or betray their former neighbors. He was brave, expert, and cautious. His quarters were in a large swamp about five miles from the residence of Colonel Van Vechten at Do-ve-gat, but his place of rendezvous was cunningly concealed. Robberies were frequent, and several inhabitants were carried off. General Schuyler's house was robbed, and an attempt was
* A French officer, who served in the army in this country during a part of the Revolution.