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Melancholy Condition of the British Army. Gates's Kindness to the Invalids. Destruction of Schuyler's Mills and Mansion.
commanded the van-guard and General Phillips the rear-guard. The night was so dark, the rain so incessant in the morning, and the roads were so bad, that the royal army did not reach Saratoga until the evening of the 9th. They made a halt about six o'clock in the morning, and General Reidesel, exhausted by fatigue, went into the caleche in which his wile and children were, and slept soundly for about three hours. Wet and weary, and harassed by the Americans all the way, the poor soldiers were too much exhausted even to cut wood for fires, and they lay down upon the cold, wet ground and slept. The generals reposed in the open air, upon mattresses, with no other covering than oil-cloth. The Baroness Reidesel and other women of the British camp were obliged to submit to these privations. “My dress,” the former says, “was wet through and through with rain, and in this state I had to remain the whole night, having no place to change it; I, however, got close to a large fire, and at last lay down on some straw. At this moment General Phillips came up to me, and I asked him why he had not continued our retreat, as my husband had promised to cover it and bring the army through. “Poor dear woman,’ he said, ‘I wonder how, drenched as you are, you have the courage still to persevere, and venture further in this kind of weather. I wish,” he continued, “you were our commanding general; General Burgoyne is tired, and means to halt here to-night and give us our supper.’” No doubt there was more sincerity than compliment in General Phillips's wish, for the frequent halts and great delays of Burgoyne had dissatisfied his officers, and were, doubtless, chief causes of his misfortunes. His ambition and his love of ease were often wrestling, and the latter too frequently gained the mastery. The retreat of Burgoyne was so sudden, that he left all his sick and wounded in the hospital behind him, together with a great number of wheel carriages and other things collected at Wilbur's Basin. The invalids, amounting to about three hundred, were treated by General Gates with the utmost humanity, which Burgoyne afterward gratefully acknowledged. On retiring, the English burned the houses they had occupied, and many other things which they could not carry away with them. They also wantonly set fire to several buildings on the way, by order of Burgoyne himself; and among others, when they crossed the Fish Creek, the mansion of General Schuyler, his mills and other property, amounting in value to twenty thousand dollars, were destroyed by them. The house of General Schuyler was elegant for the times, and was very pleasantly situated upon the south bank of the Fish Kill or Fish Creek. It was rebuilt after the war. but in a style much inferior in beauty and expense. It is still standing, ~ * and in the present possession of George Strover, Esq: The broad lawn or ~~~~~ in front is beautifully shaded with venerable trees; and the falls of the Fish Creek close by contribute, by their music and wild beauty, ... -- ~~ much to the interest of the scene. The mill was also rebuilt in -the same style. In the engraving is given a correct representation woof it. Many of the logs in the dam are the same that curbed the stream in the time of the Revolution ; and I was told that little was wanted to make -oo or the whole appear as at that oo period, but that the sur-o rounding hills should be o covered with dense woods.” o The rain was so heavy coo on the 9th, that General Gates did not commence his pursuit until nearly noon on the tenth. The
Schuylen's MILLs, SARAtoGA.
* Letters of the Baroness Reidesel.
Situation of Fellows's Detachment. Conduct of the American Militia. Burgoyne's Attempt to Retreat.
detachment under Fellows was unconsciously in a perilous situation for want of re-enforcements. Resting in supposed security on the night of the 9th, his camp was left so entirely unguarded that an officer, who had been sent forward by Burgoyne to reconnoiter, marched all around it without meeting a sentinel! This neglect would have been fatal if Burgoyne had known the exact position of his enemies around him. The officer urged him to allow him to surprise Fellows, but misfortune had made the British general wary and suspicious, and, fortunately for the Americans, the request was denied. The main army of Gates reached the high ridge between Saratoga Church and the Fish Creek at about four in the afternoon of the 10th. The British had crossed over the creek, and were encamped upon the high grounds on the slope of which Schuylerville is now built." The two armies were within the sound of each other's music. The boats of Burgoyne, with his baggage and provisions, were at the mouth of the creek. A fatigue party began to carry the stores from the boats to the heights, but Fellows constantly played upon them with two field pieces stationed on the flats beyond the river, and they were obliged to retreat to the camp. Several of the bateaux of the enemy, with their provisions, were captured, and immediately became objects of plunder for the raw militia and motley followers of the army. Even the Continental troops were implicated in taking “pay and rations” for services, directly from the enemy, instead of receiving them through the paymaster. These irregularities became so extensive that General Gates issued an order on the 12th, in which he declared that he “saw so many scandalous and mean transactions committed by persons who sought more after plunder than the honor of doing their duty, that it was his unalterable resolution to have the first person who should thereafter be detected in pillaging the baggage and stores taken from the enemy, tried and punished with the utmost severity of the military law.” Finding the ford across the Hudson strongly guarded by the Americans, Burgoyne resolved to continue his retreat up the right bank of the river to the front of Fort Edward, force his way across, and take possession of that fortress. He sent forward a working party, consisting chiefly of loyalists, guarded by Fraser's marksmen, to repair the bridges and open the roads, and also a detachment of troops to take possession of the fort. The Americans, who were spreading out in small detachments upon every height, on all sides, soon drove the workmen back into the camp; and the British troops found the fort in the possession of two hundred Americans, under Colonel Cochrane. The militia were flocking to the fort to strengthen the garrison, and the enemy, believing the Americans to be as numerous in front as in rear, hastily retreated back to their lines.
GENERAL Schuylen's MANsion.
* The village of Schuylerville is on the north bank of the Fish Creek. Old Saratoga, with its church, was on the south side. The church was about eight hundred yards south of the creek, on the road to Albany.
* It is said that when Burgoyne proposed in council, on the 13th, to retreat precipitately, he mildly reproached Major Skene, a stanch loyalist, with having brought him into this difficulty by injudicious advice, particularly with regard to the expedition to Bennington. “You have brought me into this difficulty,” he said; “now advise me how to get out of it.” “Scatter your baggage, stores, and everything else that can be spared, at proper distances,” replied the major, “and the militia will be so engaged in collecting and securing the same, that the troops will have an opportunity of getting clear off.”
* The two victories on Bemis's Heights greatly inspirited the Americans, and when, after the last battle, General Gates, in order to make victory secure, applied to the Legislature of New Hampshire for more troops, the militia turned out with alacrity. The speaker of the Assembly, John Langdon, Esq., upon receiving the application, immediately proposed an adjournment, and that as many members as could should set off directly as volunteers for the cause, taking with them all the men they could collect. It was agreed to, and done by himself and others—Gordon, ii., 262.
Unsuccessful Stratagem of Burgoyne. Perilous Situation of two American Brigades. Deserters from the British Army.
Thus the cloud of perils thickened around Burgoyne. He now abandoned all idea of saving his artillery and baggage, and saw no other mode of escape than a precipitate retreat. The provisions and other stores in his bateaux were captured or destroyed by the republicans, and from every direction he was galled by a desultory fire from cannon and small arms. So overwhelming was the number of the Americans, that to fight would be madness, and Burgoyne lost all hope of saving his doomed army. But in the midst of all these perils and despondencies, a stratagem of the British commander, suggested by an erring apprehension on the part of General Gates, aided by the occurrence of a natural phenomenon, came very near being successful, and for a time greatly cheered the drooping spirits of the enemy. Rumor reached General Gates that the whole British army had moved toward Fort Edward, leaving only a small detachment, as a rearguard, in defense of the camp. This rumor originated from the march of the detachment already mentioned, which was sent forward to Fort Edward. General Gates, therefore, determined to cross the Fish Creek on the morning of the 11th, fall in full force upon and crush the British rear-guard, and make a vigorous pursuit after the main body. By some means this determination of Gates's became known to Burgoyne, and he resolved to profit by the false rumor. He left a strong guard at the battery on the creek, and concealed his troops in the thicket, a few rods in the rear. In the morning the sky was cloudless, but a thick fog rested upon the whole country and obscured every object. This was hailed as a favorable event by both generals, Gates supposing that it would veil his movements from the British rear-guard, and Burgoyne confidently believing that it would conceal his ambush, and that victory was now certain. The brigades of Generals Nixon and Glover, and Morgan's corps, were ordered to cross the creek and fall upon the enemy's camp. Morgan advanced at about daylight, the fog being so thick that he could see but a few rods around him. He at once fell in with the British pickets, who poured in a volley upon him and killed a lieutenant and several privates. Morgan instantly conceived that the rumor was false, and that the enemy was in force near. At that moment Deputy Adjutant-general Wilkinson, who had been sent by Gates to reconnoiter, rode up, and, coinciding in opinion with Morgan, hastened to report to his commander the supposed peril of his corps. The brigades of Patterson and Learned were immediately dispatched to its support. Nixon and Glover were at the same time pressing forward to attack the camp, while the whole army advanced to the heights immediately south of the creek. Nixon crossed the creek to the plain, and surprised a picket guard at Fort Hardy; and Glover was about to follow him, when a British soldier was seen hastily fording the stream. He was captured, and professed to be a deserter. Glover questioned him, and was informed that the entire British army were in their camp, drawn up in order of battle. The general suspected him of untruth, and threatened him with instant death if he should deceive him. The soldier declared that he was an honest deserter, and solemnly affirmed the truth of his tale, which was soon confirmed by a German deserter, and by the capture of a reconnoitering party, consisting of a subaltern and thirty-five men, by the advance guard, under Captain Goodale, of Putnam's regiment. The deserter was immediately sent with one of Glover's aids to General Gates, and information was forwarded to General Nixon, with urgent advice to halt. Satisfied of the deserter's truth, Gates revoked all the orders of the evening previous, and directed the troops to return to their respective positions. His headquarters were nearly a mile in the rear of his army, and his order -came almost too late to save the troops, who had General Gates's Headquantens at Samaroga."
* This house is still standing. The view is taken from the road, a few rods southwest of the building
Retreat of the Americans to their Camp. Perplexity of Burgoyne. A scattered Retreat proposed.
already crossed the creek, from destruction, for the fog soon passed away and discovered them to the enemy, then in full view, and under arms upon the heights. Nixon, however, had retreated, and the cannonade opened upon him by the British took effect only upon the rear of his brigade." General Learned, in the mean while, with his own and Patterson's brigades, had reached Morgan's corps, and was pressing on rapidly to the attack when Wilkinson came up, not with a counter order from Gates, but with the intelligence that the right wing of the Americans had given way. The brave veteran disliked the idea of retreating, preferring to carry out the standing order of the previous day to the very letter;' but, on counseling with Colonels Brooks and Tupper, and some other officers, a retreat was deemed advisable. As they turned, the British, who were awaiting an attack, opened a fire upon them ; but the Americans were soon masked by the woods, and Morgan took post upon the flank and rear of the enemy. Thus, by the providential circumstance of a deserter flying to our camp, our army was saved from a terrible, perhaps fatal, loss; for, had the several brigades of Nixon, Glover, Learned, and Patterson been cut off, Burgoyne might have so much weakened the American army, and strengthened his own by the adherence of the now wavering loyalists and Indians, as to scatter the remainder of the Continental forces and reach Albany, the darling object of all his efforts. But the breath of the deserter blasted all his hopes, and the incident was, to use his own words, “one of the most adverse strokes of fortune during the campaign.” Burgoyne now saw no way of escape. He sent out scouts toward the north, who reported the roads impassable and the woods swarming with republicans. The few Indians who had remained now left him, utterly disheartened; and the loyalists, feeling that their personal security would be jeoparded in case of a surrender, left the army every hour. It was proposed to make a scattered retreat, each soldier carrying in his knapsack provisions enough for two or three days, Fort George being the place of rendezvous; but such a step would be perilous in the extreme, for the Americans, apparently as numerous as the leaves upon the trees, and ever on the alert, would cut them off in detail. In battle, a fortunate circumstance might occur in their favor; but General Gates, assured that he had his enemy in his power, could not be induced to jeopard the lives of his troops by an engagement. Burgoyne's only hope rested upon aid from Clinton below. Not a word, however, could he get from that general; yet, clinging with desperation to every hope, however feeble, he resolved to await that succor quietly in his strong camp as long as his exhausted stores and a powerful enemy would allow. Burgoyne's camp, upon the heights near the Fish Creek, was fortified, and, extending more than half a mile in the rear, was strengthened by artillery. On an elevated plain, northwest of the village of Schuylerville, his heavy guns were chiefly posted. Directly in his rear Morgan and his corps were stationed. In front, on the east side of the Hudson,
It is of wood, and has been somewhat enlarged since the Revolution. It was used by General Gates for his quarters from the 10th of October until after the surrender of Burgoyne on the 17th. It belonged to a Widow Kershaw, and General Gates amply compensated her for all he had, on leaving it. It is now well preserved. It stands on the east side of the Albany and Whitehall turnpike, about a mile and a half south of the Fish Creek. The Champlain Canal passes immediately in the rear of it; and nearly half a mile eastward is the Hudson River. * John Nixon was born at Framingham, Massachusetts, March 4th, 1725. He was at the siege of Louisburg in 1745, was captain in the provincial troops under Abercrombie at Ticonderoga, and was esteemed a valiant soldier during the whole of the French and Indian war. He took the patriot side when our Revolution broke out. He was one of the minute men at the Lexington battle, was at the head of a regiment in the battle of Bunker Hill, and was made a brigadier in the Continental army in August, 1776. He was then placed in command at Governor's Island, near New York. In the battle of Bemis's Heights a cannon-ball passed so near his head it impaired the sight of one eye and the hearing of one ear. On account of ill health, he resigned his commission in 1780. He died March 24th, 1815, aged 90 years. * The standing order was, “In case of an attack against any point, whether front, flank, or rear, the troops are to fall on the enemy at all quarters.” * Letter to Lord George Germain, dated Albany 20th, 1777.
Relative Position of the two Camps. Exposed Condition of the British Camp. Burgoyne determines to Surrender
Fellows, with three thousand troops, was strongly intrenched. The main body of the Amer ican army, under Gates, was on the south side of the Fish Creek; and in every direction small detachments of Continentals or republican militia were vigorously watching the enemy at bay." Fort Edward was in possession of the Americans, and upon high ground in the vicinity of Glenn's Falls they had a fortified camp. Burgoyne was completely environed, and every part of the royal camp was exposed to the fire of cannon and musketry. The 3& soldiers slept under arms continually. o There was not a place of safety for the sick, wounded, and dying, or for the women and children of the officers and soldiers. There was no secure place for a council. None dared go to the river for water, and thirst began to distress the camp.” The desertions of the Indians and Canadians, --> the cowardice and disaffection of the loy-* . alists, and the losses in killed and wound- ed, had so thinned Burgoyne's ranks, that his army was reduced one half, and a large proportion of those who remained were not Englishmen. There was not bread for three days in store, and of course none could be obtained. Not a word came from General Clinton, and Burgoyne was totally ignorant of his having made any movement up the Hudson. The last ray of hope faded away, and toward the evening of the 12th the British commander held a council with Generals Reidesel, Phillips, and Hamilton. It was decided to retreat before morning, if possible; but returning scouts brought only hopeless intelligence respecting the roads and the strength of the enemy. On the morning of the 13th Burgoyne called a general council of all officers, including captains of companies. Their deliberations were held in a large tent, which was several times perforated by musketballs from the Americans. Several grapeshot struck near the tent, and an eighteen pound cannon-ball swept across the table at which sat Burgoyne and the other generals. Their deliberations were short, as might be expected, and it was unanimously resolved to open a treaty with General Gates for an honorable surrender. It was a bitter pill for the proud lieutenant general, but there was no alternative.
"By reference to the above map, the position of the two armies at this juncture will be more clearly understood. They held the same relative position until the surrender on the 17th.
* The consideration of Americans for women was conspicuously displayed at this time. While every man who went to the river for water became a target for the sure marksmen of the Americans, a soldier's wife went back and forth as often as she pleased, and not a gun was pointed at her.